Judge Roman Martel's knows from experience that he wouldn't look good in yellow spandex.
Fox brings out the film that resurrected the super hero movie concept on Blu-ray. Just how well does the original X-Men movie hold up?
Back in 2000 when the movie was released in theaters, I was disappointed. I felt that too many changes had been made to my favorite characters (the ones that actually made it into the film) and the overall plot was weak. The whole thing just seemed to lack the serious punch I expected. Seeing it again, I'm actually really impressed with what Bryan Singer (Valkyrie) did. Instead of giving us a dull origin story for any of the characters, he throws us into the world of the X-Men and gets the plot rolling.
In the not too distant future, mutant humans have it tough. They are looked at as dangerous and fearsome freaks. Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison, Mame) wants to make sure that all mutants are catalogued in case it becomes necessary to deal with them. It's during this boiling point that Magneto (Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) throws down the gauntlet. Gathering a group of mutants on his side, he decides to make an example of the world leaders by planning a very special event during a summit meeting.
But his old friend and colleague, Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Star Trek: First Contact) is well aware of Magneto's anger and daring. He has his own group of mutants, the X-Men. Trained by Xavier, they are ready and willing to stop Magneto's plans and attempt to create understanding between mutants and non-mutants.
Thrown into this are two mutants Rogue (Anna Paquin, The Piano) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, Australia) who are destined to play a key role in the battle between Magneto and the X-Men. The crux of the movie is the ideological war between Magneto and Xavier. Because we have two great actors facing each other down on either side of this battle, the weight behind their words and actions resonates. This is a good thing because most of the characters in this film are terribly thin, by necessity. The X-Men universe is filled to bursting with tons of characters and backstory. Singer and his team had to cut to the chase and pick who they could feature in this film based on fan popularity as well as budget and time.
That means this movie pretty much revolves around Wolverine and Rogue. With Wolverine, Jackman's performance is on the money. He combines bad ass and smart ass really well. X-Men wouldn't have worked with a weak Wolverine. Rogue's character, as the newbie, acts as our introduction to Xavier and his school. And since she plays a vital role in Magneto's plan, her character leads to more information about him. Paquin is good in the role and her interplay with Wolverine provides an interesting dynamic that spreads across all three films in the X-Men trilogy.
The bulk of the cast is solid in the roles with one exception. Halle Berry (Catwoman) just doesn't click for me as Storm, not one bit. She lacks the innate power that the character needs to exude. Granted, her part is underwritten, but physically she isn't imposing or threatening or anything really. When I watch the film, I see Famke Janssen (Taken) and say, "It's Jean Grey." When I see Halle Berry, I just see Halle Berry in a Storm costume.
Another key to making this whole film work was placing it in a realistic setting. The Batman films of the era were set in very stylized worlds that dipped heavily into fantasy. I think Singer made the right decision to follow Richard Donner's framework from his Superman films. I remember in 2000, people were a bit surprised at how level headed this movie turned out to be. In fact, the lack of fantasy does make it a little dry in places. But I think the overall effect is a positive one.
The movie clocks in at 104 minutes and it's really amazing what Singer was able to accomplish in the running time. He sets up the world, the main conflict and the basics of all the key characters. Then he spins it around a simple plot to get some adventure and fun mutant battles in there. The result is a fine introduction to one of the more complicated comic book universes out there.
Fox has released a fine two disc set of X-Men. The transfer looks very good, with nice sharp black levels, vital to so many scenes late in the film. In addition the sound balance is handled well on the DTS track. The sound effects had punch, and Michael Kamen's score never overpowered the dialogue.
The extras are where the set really impresses. On the first disc alone you get a commentary track featuring director Bryan Singer and Brian Peck, deleted scenes, a featurette, an interview with Singer, animatics, character and production design stills and behind the scenes footage. On Disc Two you get an introduction by Singer followed by a five part documentary that covers everything from special effects to a look back at the film now that a few years have passed. Disc Two also houses the trailers, TV spots and other marketing materials.
All in all, it appears that nearly all the extras from the standard DVD version X-Men 1.5 have been ported over with a great transfer and sound. Those looking for a sweet high def upgrade won't be disappointed.
Some time and distance has made me appreciate the effort Singer and his team put into this film. They crafted something that served as a perfect introduction to one of the most well known and loved super hero franchises. It proved popular and laid down the foundation for something even more interesting in the sequel.
Not Guilty, Bub.
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