Monday, May 30, 2011

X-men Marathon: X-men (movie)

I don't know if I can properly describe the amount of excitement and anticipation I had when I heard they were making an X-men film. I'm sure there was also a lot of fear as well. Could they possibly get these characters I loved so dearly correct? Or was it going to be a disaster like many of the earlier Marvel films?

I don't think it was very far into the movie before my fears subsided. From the opening scene, I loved it. Sure, there were changes from the comics, but overall it was true to the characters and the spirit of the X-men in general. I have no major complaints about this film.

They really did a great job of making it feel epic in scope, particularly the rivalry between the Professor and Magneto. You can literally feel the history between these two men the moment they face each other on the screen. Of course using two classically trained English actors for these roles was a huge help in that regard.

In terms of casting, I think only three mistakes were made. Halle Berry, Oscar winner or not, lacks any real range as an actress. While I wouldn't call her performance bad, she just doesn't have the demeanor of a woman who was onced worshipped as a goddess for her powers. Similarly, Rebecca Romijn was obviously chosen for her looks rather than acting talent. I realize that, before the movie was a proven success, it probably would have been hard to cast a high quality actress who would be willing to paint her skin blue for a role. I also think the nudity part is unnecessary. I've never seen the comics Mystique as a temptress as much as a woman who is always looking out for herself. And finally, we have Taylor Mane as Sabertooth. Around this time in movies, any time they needed a large character, they would cast a former wrestler. While Sabertooth is certainly a savage character, someone who could actually deliver more lines would have been a big help.

It's really quite extraordinary to me just how much this movie changed everything. These days, not only are the casting issues above a thing of the past, but so are the costume changes. Had this movie shown everyone in their brightly colored uniforms, the vast majority of people would never have set foot in a theater to check it out. But because this movie happened, we've been able to see Iron Man, Thor, and soon Captain America and Green Lantern feature in movies with outfits very close to their classic costumes, and we'll soon see outfits very similar to the original X-men's uniforms in X-men: First Class.

This movie proves that to do an adaptation properly, you don't have to reenact every single established plot device or get the story exactly right - you just have to show respect for the source material and have the characters do things you would expect them to do. Since these are already great, well developed characters, the general public latched on to it as well. I generally don't like to assume that everyone has already seen a movie, no matter how popular it is. So if there are some of you reading this who haven't yet, do yourself a favor and sit down to watch it. Chances are you'll be very happy you did.

I thought I'd list some differences for those of you who haven't really read the comics.

1. In the comics, Rogue is from a fictional town called Caldecott, not Meridian. I also noticed that the boy she kisses in the movie is called David instead of Cody. It's stated in the movie that her powers can kill, when in the comics it's generally just resulted in leaving the person in a catatonic state. She's had that white stripe in her hair from birth, though I do like the way they add it here.

2. As far as I know, Jean has no real medical training in the comics.

3. The Wolverine of the comics has always been stated as between 5'3" and 5'5". Hugh Jackman is well over 6 feet. While as a fellow short person I've always loved that Logan is a shorter guy, the fact is Hugh Jackman is so great in the role that you have to look past it. As you may have noticed in my Fatal Attractions post, Wolverine's claws are seen coming out of holsters in the back of his hands in the comics, whereas here they come about between his fingers. However, since the movie was made after the point of which they'd revealed the bone claws in the comics, I think this actually makes a lot more sense as to how they would work. (Bonus fact: This Wolverine is Australian too! Listen when he and Rogue are in the truck, shortly before they crash. "Look, kid, I don't need advice-" is spoken in Jackman's natural voice.)

4. Toad was completely reinvented for the movie. He had an ugly but mostly normal appearance and could jump very high. However the changes here make so much sense that they were eventually added into the comics as well.

5. The Professor says he met Magneto at 17, which sounds a bit too early to me. I wonder if this is proof that X-men: First Class will already have a continuity error, as they are obviously not that young. Xavier also says that they built Cerebro together which didn't happen in the comics.

There's also a lot of cameos and mentions of other mutants from the comics. The ones I was able to recognize/name are: Kitty Pryde, Quicksilver(or at least a kid with his powers), Pyro, Jubilee, Henry Gyrich, and I spotted a kid who may or may not be Blob.

Watching the movie again, I felt like they didn't really expect to be given the opportunity to make a sequel. While there are certainly hints at what is to come, it also wraps up very neatly. Fortunately, the movie was a huge success and we did in fact get one.

2 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    I know what you mean about Hugh Jackman. While I would never have cast him as Wolverine (Remember when Jack Nicholson was the actor of choice?), now I can't imagine anyone else in the role! But I'm still ambivalent . . . =/

    And I know it's all because of the portrayal of Scott. He was such a dopey boyscout throughout the whole movie--and they just had to cast pretty boy James "Nice Guy Who Never Gets the Girl" Marsden to play him--that if I had been Jean, I wouldn't have had to dump him for Logan because I wouldn't even have been with him in the first place! And that totally goes against my sense that all the drama and conflict in Scott and Jean's relationship is mostly stuff manufactured by the writers and nothing deeply rooted in either their histories or their characters.

    And ditto about Halle Berry. A friend who watched this movie with me protested, "She's too cute!" (LOL!) I know I imagined someone more like Iman. (Now there's a goddess for you! I don't know if she can act, though. And now why am I trying to figure out who her husband David might have played? Magneto? ROFL! But seriously, I think Ian McKellen was superb.)

    For all this film's flaws, I like your analysis that it paved the way for all the better quality superhero movies we have now.

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  2. Wow, I forgot all about that, but you're right - a lot of people did want Jack. Man, what a different film that would have been!

    I read recently that David Hayter, who wrote the first two films, really wanted to give Cyclops more screen time because he felt like Marsden would have shined if given more material. It's hard to say if that's true or not, because he really hasn't ever gotten to play much other than that "nice guys finish last" role, has he?

    I remember a lot of people naming Iman for Storm, as well as Angela Bassett. It's been so long since I've seen the latter in a film, but I seem to recall thinking she would have been the better choice.

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