20 years ago, what a wild time to be alive. Y2K was a near miss, Destiny’s child and DMX were both on the charts, and we got a glimpse at what would soon be a near two decade long cinematic universe. X-Men wasn’t the first superhero movie, nor the first comic book movie to grab our attention, but it sure brought a whole lot more. We’ve had several Superman and Batman films before then, but X-Men really brought the first super team up movie into the mainstream, sorry Avengers! All jokes aside, it was a milestone for superhero movies and movies in general, though time hasn’t been as kind as one would think.
The movie begins with a few words spoken by none other than Professor X, giving the bones of what we should expect, Mutants. Mutants in this film are just like humans, with some extra steps taken into the evolutionary chart. We see a few different kinds here, some with the ability to move metal (Magneto), psychics (Jean Grey, Charles Xavier), people who can do wonderful and magnificent things. Unfortunately, not all see it that way. The X-Men have always been a parallel to the equal rights fight in our real world, so it’s not surprising to see how that translates into the film. Debates made by non mutants about how to “control” or “contain” them, a blind hatred for mutants everywhere, mutants having to go into hiding or staying quiet about their gifts. Once noticed, it’s hard to forget. They are still human after all, wanting the right to be able to live in peace and not have to look behind their back, or keep their gifts hidden only to be used for emergencies. But their world is not a perfect world, and the fear humans have of their mutant brothers and sisters is strong. Many times throughout, Magneto tries to use violence or other means to bring his plan into action. Wanting to bring his enemy into the same situations he endured, both as a mutant and a Jewish child during the holocaust.
Professor X on the other hand, wants a smooth integration into the normal world for his mutants. Going so far as to make a school to teach what he calls Gifted Youngsters how to control their powers. Charles (Prof. X) comes into contact with Wolverine and Rogue, who are arguably the lead characters in this film, pretty quickly. He serves as sort of a plot explainer at times, giving Logan (Wolverine) a brief run down of what he does, why he does it, and how Magneto wants to stop him.
Overall, the film has no troubles balancing politics and action, keeping a nice pace between the two without really losing its touch with either. We see how mutants act around other mutants in the school, how some can overpower others with their gifts, and what powers against normal humans can do. Our first glimpse into fighting comes with the introduction of Wolverine, played near perfectly by Hugh Jackman. A cage fighter winning money by exploiting his powers, he meets up with our other main, Rogue. After that, it’s an all out mutant fest a plethora of powers and abilities most humans only dream of.
Now, considering this movie in 20 years old, after a recent rewatch I was not as surprised as I thought I would be by the CGI and effects. Sure, if it dropped as is today, I wouldn’t be so kind. The year 2000 and prior had not yet seen the likes of Avatar, or current MCU films to show just what movies can really look like. still, the lasers shot by Cyclops are almost laughable, resembling the beams shown in the original Star Wars blasters (which was released in 1977). The shape shifting belonging to Mystique was almost laughable, and a certain magnetic field looked like it belonged in the previous decade. Some stunt work was also on the campy side, with cuts and wire work being very obvious. But, everything starts from somewhere and these were the humble beginnings of a new era of film making.
Great actors were at the helm of these characters, theatre alums Sir Ian McKellin and Sir Patrick Stewart brought a strong finesse into shaping how we say Magneto and Professor X, respectively. The one and only Hugh Jackman cemented himself as the only Wolverine to millions of people, and we loved it. The script is definitely 2000’s level writing, but it is a 2000’s film, so that is expected.
All in all, the film has few moments of boredom, and large moments of excitement and intrigue. Aside from a few old school effects and stunt work, the action is fun and entertaining. The parallels to former (and let’s be honest, current) equal rights activism is very prevalent and can be used as a sort of explainer to these ideas, just as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby intended with their original comics from the 60’s. If you want a fun time, a look into a cinematic time capsule dated 20 years, or just ran out of stuff to keep you entertained during quarantine, definitely revisit this film.
The Future of the X-Men
Now that the X-Men have been brought over to Big Daddy Kevin Feige, we have a lot of expectations. What he has been able to do with the Avengers franchise is nothing short of cinematic magic, and we’re darn near foaming at the mouth to see what he has up his sleeve for the mutants. There are a few ways they can be introduced, though the quantum realm and multiverse could be the tool they needed. Perhaps they were around the whole time, even fighting for The Battle of Earth. Maybe the two snaps caused some humans who weren’t dusted to gain mutations and powers, or they could come in with the help of Doctor Strange and Wanda in Multiverse of Madness. Whatever the choice will be, we’re sure that Marvel will do them justice and bring them into the MCU in a phenomenal way.
How do you think they’ll be introduced in the MCU? Leave your theories and what you thought of the first X-Men movie down below!