I’m an X-Men freak. It’s one of the things you should know about me before I start in on talking about a comic book movie. For me, these characters and their stories really represent the pinnacle of the graphic story, from its inception in the late 60s through its rough patches in the 80s and early 00s to today. I love that these guys are reluctant heroes at best and tragic ones at worst. I love that they do what they do because its right, not because it will get them anything. When I was an awkward teenager, the X-Men helped me realize there were really much bigger freaks out there than me. Jason McIntyre, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you in particular. They helped me escape for a few minutes when my life just sucked beyond all measure or when I woke up on Saturday mornings and realized that the X-Men animated series was on Fox. For those of you in your teens, this was before Fox sucked (I’m excluding the Family Guy and well… I guess just that).
The first thing to notice in this film is the special effects. Particularly Nightcrawler. Not his blue inverted-Pictish makeup and crazy tinted contacts. I mean Nightcrawler teleporting all over hither and yon in his efforts to be up to no good. Considering that this series to date has largely consisted of powers that are (1) invisible, (2) obvious CG work or (3) Storm lighting up toad, this is the kind of tech leap that might have occurred if humanity had discovered fire, thought “this isn’t quite good enough,” and immediately afterwards developed nuclear power. Not only are these efforts true to the comic series in the way MOST of the powers demonstrated are not, this was my go-to example of “movie magic” until the release of Avatar in 2009. I like that they upped the ante for a lot of my favorite mutants in this film, although a few of these guys are just destined to look lackluster against some of their co-stars. I’m not going to say “Cyclops and Rogue,” but I’m thinking it really hard.
The second thing to note is, like in the first film, the cast. Somehow, Marvel has again managed to hit its film project anthill with nuclear star-power. It’s an odd world when Shakespearean, classically trained actors find themselves in a cast with a huge ego backed by a single Best Actress win as well as the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award. I find this odd, because this pattern continues in X-Men 3: The Last Stand with the additions of Kelsey Grammar and Ellen Page. This would have been a good place to make someone’s career, but I guess that they can smack us around with talent, instead. That works for me.
I was moderately disappointed that there was so little direct confrontation with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil mutants. The shapeshifting special effects around Mystique are nice, but let’s face it, most of us have been seeing that image transfer since Michael Jackson’s…. I think it was Black Or White video in like ’88. I’d also be more impressed if one of her forms wasn’t just Rebecca Romeijn without her Mystique getup on. And, since I find it hard not to have a little nerd rage about this: I’d be happier if they’d made character decisions based on the actual progression of membership of the X-Men, rather than just working hard to find look-a-likes. It would have been fifty kinds of awesome if Gambit or Beast could have made an appearance physically in this film, since they’re both referenced in it.