Okay, okay. Listen. This entry has to start with a disclaimer.
I’ve technically seen this film before. I’m adding this to my “First Watches” list anyway because although I’ve seen it, I watched it on a laptop and paid very little attention. Therefore, it gets the Quayside Review treatment. I genuinely remembered absolutely nothing that I witnessed in this movie on this (technically) second watch, mainly because I was probably too busy texting my friends at university to see which bars were doing £1 Jagerbombs that night. It was pretty much one of those movies that was on, but the extent to which I watched it was less than avidly.
Call me a cheat if you want. I do not care.
Now that’s out of the way, I’m quite sure that 95% of the Western world knows what X-Men is about or – at the very least – knows what it is. This being the original 2000 movie, I’ll give you a brief plot breakdown anyway. X-Men is pretty much an introduction to mutants, the lore of where they come from, and some of the most recognisable heroes in film. Wolverine, Rogue, Professor X, Magneto, Storm… They all get their first introduction here, and you learn a little bit about each of them. This debut is a tale of how the X-Men learn of terrorist mutants led by Magneto (Ian McKellen), and what they do to stop them from destroying humanity.
God, Hugh Jackman just is Wolverine, isn’t he? Whoever thought to cast him is a genius and I applaud them.
It’s not just Jackman who nails it though. As with all Marvel properties, the casting is simply spot on across the board. Other stand-outs include Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, and Anna Paquin as Rogue, plus many more. Again, excellent casting and an example of choosing the right actors, rather than just selecting who is popular at the time. (Something that movies are getting increasingly wrong in this day and age.)
As a whole, X-Men has aged remarkably well for a 20 year old movie. (You read that correctly – it’s two decades old at this point…) The quality of the camerawork and the special effects hold up extremely well in 2021, and it still feels brand new due to its high production values. I’m not saying it’s quite as seamless as today’s technology, but it’s still very much modern-looking. There are some critics who view the CGI as ‘amateur’, but again, it was the year 2000, for pity’s sake! Expecting something on the level of Avengers: Endgame when it just wasn’t possible back then is clearly ludicrous, and it’s through no fault of the director or the writers, so why even point it out? For the time in which it was created, it’s pretty darn good if you ask me.
The film itself is a perfectly good introduction to the lore and the world of mutants in terms of its script and the narrative they choose to adopt. Fun fact: this is the only X-Men movie that’s completely new, with the rest of them following its comic book counterpart in one way or another.
What’s particularly impressive here is that they managed to squeeze so much background into a relatively short film in superhero movie terms. Somehow though, there’s a lot of ground to cover yet it feels like there’s very little in the way of overarching plot. Perhaps its greatest positive is that it sets up the entire universe concisely and informatively in only 104 minutes. Concise, well-made, and just enough entertainment to leave you wanting more.
The downside? I don’t know, there’s just something about the X-Men universe that’s less exciting than the MCU/Avengers. Whilst the characters are interesting, they’re not Iron Man. You know what I mean? After the latest episode of WandaVision though, these films are pretty much essential watches.
I will say that despite not loving it quite as much as any of the MCU films, X-Men piqued my interest as a solid opener, so I look forward to (finally!) watching the rest of the series!
X-Men is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.
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