X-Men

Being a big fan of the comics when I was younger I was very much looking forward to this, but I was sadly disappointed. It’s directed by Bryan Singer, responsible for the brilliant ‘The Usual Suspects’. It stars heavyweight RSC actors Patrick Stewart (also Captain Picard of Star Trek NG fame) & Ian McKellen. The rest of the characters are well-cast & include the wonderfully talented Oscar-winner Anna Paquin (‘The Piano’). It features by far the coolest, meanest & moodiest super-heroes in the super-hero universe: this film should have been terrific. Unfortunately it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a pretty good film, but it should have & could have been so much better. You would expect this to be an action movie, but there’s surprisingly little action in it, & what there is should have been better. With such a superb collection of super-heroes & all the power of 21st-Century SFX technology to play with, the action sequences here should have some of the best ever seen. As it is they are merely good, & I think the bottom line is that Singer is just not an action director.

To his credit he seemed determined to make this much more than just an action movie, but to do that a director needs to replace the missing action with strong components – plot & characterisation – & I think here Singer falls between the 2 stools by achieving neither. There is nowhere near enough action for this to be a great action film, but neither is there sufficient plotting & characterisation for it to work as a more mature film. The first half or so is largely for establishing some of the main characters’ backgrounds & personalities, & while it succeeds to a certain extent in this, you never got to the point where you identified enough with anyone to really care much what happened to them – which I think is an essential component of good characterisation.

There are some good touches – I particularly liked giving the Magneto character (McKellen) a background of Nazi persecution as a Polish Jew as it gave his character a lot of believability, & the early scenes of him as a child with his family in a concentration camp are powerful. I thought this tied in very nicely with the comic series’ strong sub-text of racial intolerance, with the mutants representing racial minorities. Overall though the 1st half of the film was too slow: OK, introduce the main characters & their backgrounds – but these are super-human mutants with spectacular powers & these should have been showcased more, especially early on.

As I mentioned earlier, the cast are very good: Aussie newcomer Hugh Jackman is wonderfully mean & moody in the main role of Wolverine, he has by far the film’s best lines which he delivers superbly, & hopefully we’ll see a lot more of him. Stewart is pretty much the perfect Dr. X; his mirror image McKellen is of course excellent; & Paquin injects a lot of teenage angst into her role. Halle Berry looks the part as Storm, as does wrestler Tyler Mane as Sabretooth; Ray Park (remember Darth Maul?) was surprisingly good as Toad; & model Rebecca Romijn-Stamos suitably sexy & slinky as Mystique.

Overall though, this was disapponting – it is a good movie & well worth watching, but it should have been so much better, & I hope whoever makes the inevitable sequel gets it right.

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