DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer
May Contain Spoilers!
Following the success of Blade (1998), which is often overlooked as the beginning of the comic book and particularly the Marvel revival of the 2000’s, Bryan Singer took a stab at one of their most popular and creatively lucrative properties, X-Men. This also came at the dawn of the digital age, with this, along with Toy Story 2 (1999) being two of the first films to seen in the screen right down at the back of the cinema, the new digital theatre.
Since then, technology has come along way, ‘evolved’ for want of a better word and now we live in a world without celluloid for most part. X-Men did a lot for the comic book world, but in doing so, sacrificed pace and action in the process. Opening with a scene in a concentration camp as Magneto (Ian McKellen), a child, demonstrates his metal bending powers as the themes of persecution run through the entire piece.
But complex issues and Sci-fi go hand in hand and Singer understands this. What he’s failed to understand or at least deal with here, is the pacing. The film is thoughtful, well-directed in terms of artistry but when it comes to having a good time, X-Men falls short. The cast is good, with early performances from Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Anna Paquin, though all had made their names before, but the glue was McKellen and Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier.
There’s a lot of exposition and set up, but the action is tame, almost a rough cut of effects and moments, cobbled together in the right order. Michael Kaman’s muted score is also a let down. This is the man behind Die Hard (1988) and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991) and what do we get? Low key melodies, without a single action cue to speak off.
I feel that Singer was trying so hard not to make a comic book film that he forgot that he was actually making a comic book movie and summer blockbuster! But this was the tone at the time, with the year 2000 producing a whole host of dull films. So what we end up with is a well constructed first course, wetting the appetite for the main, which was defiantly X2 (2003), which with John Ottman’s bombastic score, better action set-pieces and a greater understanding of the subject, gave us the X-Men movie which this should have been.
A must see for X-Men fans and a decent way to start the franchise, but it all becomes a lot more enjoyable in the next instalment. This pacing issue is Bryan Singer all over though.