When it comes to the X-men, I watched the 90s animated show, but I never read the comics as a kid, so when I sat down to watch the movie, I wasn't sure if I would like it or not, well I can say that X-men is a fantastic movie from it's themes about discrimination and bigotry to it's acting and it's faithfulness to the source material, in fact had it not been for this movie, the comic book movie renaissance may never have happened.
The movie starts with a young Erik Lehnsherr is taken from his parents, inadvertently reveling his mutant abilities, later the Senate attempts to pass a registration act for mutants which deeply concerns Lehnsherr's former friend Charles Xavier, meanwhile Marie D'ancanto flees her home and arrives in Canada where she meets another mutant named Logan, the two are soon brought to Xavier's school and now must stick together to stop Magneto's evil plans.
Unlike many of Marvel's and DC's heroes, X-men is a more socially and morally complex comic series about individualism and injustice as the heroes are not accepted and have to fight for a place in the world and unfortunately suffer because they're not only different but also possibly deadly. The bigotry that humans display towards these mutants provides an interesting metaphor for our own recent climate of political, ethnic, sexual and homophobic intolerance as well as the anxiety teens and young adults face as they seek their own place in the world. Some have equaled the battle between Magneto and Professor X to the clash between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X while others have commented on mutants as badges for any persecuted group of people compelled to classify themselves whether they be minorities, LGBT, or gun owners. Even the narration at the beginning of the movie aptly captures the X-men's background as well as the deep-seating battles they will have to face.
While many comic book movies open with sweeping credits and fabulous music, Bryan Singer decides to set this movie up a little different by showing us the horrors of the Holocaust which recalls several scenes from Schindler's List while Lehnsherr unleashing his power evokes the prom scene from Brian De Palma's Carrie and as far as movie intros go, the opening scene at Auschwitz grasps the viewer with its sadness and clearly, this appalling and gloomy scene isn't the traditional way to open a comic book movie not to mention the way the scene also shapes the villain's perception of mankind and allows the viewer to feel sympathetic for Magneto and realize that he isn't like Darth Vader or Norman Bates but rather a ill-guided radical who has seen the dark side of humankind and sees them as inferior making for a much more interesting comic book villain than what some comic book films try to do with their villains.
As for the director, Bryan Singer, he deserves all the praise given to him over the years because apart from a few other directors, he has been able to make a truly great comic book film by giving each character, be them hero or villain, enough development to in order for us to care about them as well as addressing the themes that the comics touched on without preaching or hitting the audience over the head with it and a lot of that comes from the acute and insightful dialog from the screenplay by David Hayter and an unacknowledged Christopher McQuarrie whose fingerprints can be viewed throughout the movie like the argument between Senator Kelly and Jean Gray at the beginning of the movie is enlightened but it also sets up the events of the movie to come while the conversation between Erik and Charles towards the end of the movie interprets what a discussion between MLK Jr. and Malcolm X would should be like. The film is nearly perfect with it's editing and music as we move from scene to scene with every moment benefiting the scene and never overstaying it's welcome while the music by composer Michael Kerman is truly magical but also dark and foreboding at time, perfectly complementing the dark tone of the film. Unlike a lot of more recent superhero movies, there isn't a lot of action in the movie as it isn't the focal point but it's still impressive to watch and is more than fulfilling and incredibly elegant like the fight between Wolverine and Sabertooth in the snow or the final battle at the Stature of Liberty while the visual effects are also fantastic and seem to add to the film rather than distract from the viewing experience.
As for the cast, they're all flawless, Ian Mckellen is outstanding as Magneto and what might have come across as a corny performance instead gives us a distinguished and authentically enraged villain as Ian appears to create layers of cruelty and discrimination within himself, making for a more sympathetic villain rather than a power-hungry madman and he could have easily made the movie his own. Famke Jessen is admirable as Jean Gray and brings a lot of deepness to what otherwise could have a poorly written character while James Marsden brings the overly firm Cyclops to life in a wonderful way, Rebecca Romjin brings a lethal edge to the shape-shifter Mystique while Halle Berry brings a certain believability and truthfulness to the role of Strom. Patrick Stewart was born to play Charles Xavier and gives a wonderful performance, conveying all the characteristics of a father figure and leader. Anna Paquin is perfect as Rouge, bringing a level of anxiety to her performance but also still managing to be a strong interesting character, but Hugh Jackman as Wolverine makes the movie and plays the character with every dose of hotheaded and depressing enthusiasm and it's a joy to see.
There's really nothing more that can be said about X-men, it changed comic book movies and should be watched.