It has been almost two decades since the merry mutants first debuted on the big screen. X-Men was Marvel’s second major attempt at bringing some of their comic book characters to the big screen. Before Avengers, the X-Men were the first superhero team to get the silver screen treatment.
Directed by Bryan Singer and written by David Hayter, 20th Century Fox’s X-Men was released on July 14th, 2000. Upon initial release, X-Men was received decently well by critics. While an overall fun experience, this first film started the trend of focusing more on Wolverine than the rest of the X-Men, despite their prominent roles in the comics. This led to many great actors, including James Marsden as Cyclops, Halle Berry as Storm, Ian McKellen as Magneto and Patrick Stewart as Professor X, to get sidelined. This is not to say they do not still give fantastic performances. McKellen and Stewart were brilliant choices to play their respective characters.
The casting of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was highly controversial among X-Men fans. Not only was he almost a foot taller than comic book Wolverine, but he was also primarily known for his musical roles. He did not seem like an “action star.” This all changed when he first appeared on screen. Jackman perfectly captured Logan’s personality, even if his physical appearance was inaccurate.
The only casting that bothers me slightly is a young Anna Paquin as Rogue. While I enjoyed her chemistry with Jackman, she had trouble carrying scenes without him.
The special effects still hold up decently all these years later, although that is mostly due to the dark settings for most of the action sequences in the film. However, the costume decisions have not aged well. The departure from the bright spandex costumes of the comics to the dark leather outfits they use in the movie is particularly glaring. At the time, the crew behind the movie thought that the traditional yellow suits would not work on screen. The crew behind the movie received so much backlash from fans about this decision that they included Cyclops’s line “Well what would you prefer, yellow spandex?” This has since been proven wrong by films like X-Men: First Class and Deadpool.
As the first film featuring these characters, X-Men is an adequate adaptation. It covers the racist/homophobic allegory of the comics well, while maintaining the core dynamic of the characters, especially Professor X and Magneto. However any X-Men character not named Wolverine is ignored heavily by the film’s story. Overall, it a fine film that paved the way for films like 2012’s Avengers. It may have its problems, but it is still a fun action film with some thoughtful commentary that is still important today.