(2003) dir. Bryan Singer
I had a period in my life, like many teenage boys, in which reading and collecting comic books was one of my primary activities. And like many others, too, one of my particular favorites was The Uncanny X-men. This period for me ran between ages 13-15 or so, I think, and it petered out completely. I mean, I haven’t read one of these comics in probably 15 years. Still, I am familiar with the characters and storylines (since in some ways they don’t seem to have significantly progressed in that timeframe.
The first of these live action adaptations, X-Men (2000), also from director Bryan Singer, was a decent flick whose greatest strength was getting the characters right, and namely getting the character of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) right. And in many ways, that is more of a feat than making a good movie and is probably what won the film its positive reaction from fans.
This time around, the film isn’t that much more interesting overall, though it’s entertaining pretty much throughout. The most significant development is the addition of the character of Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) who is similarly well-cast, designed, and rendered (all except for his tail which looks like a badly animated tag-along).
The themes of the comic and the film have always been one from a culturally “outsider” perspective, dealing namely with equivalents of racism and potentially homophobia, and certainly any negative cultural fears of the “other”. The narratives side sympathetically with the good, dynamic, cool mutants and general human society is rendered as fearful, hateful, and harsh. This has been probably one of the characteristics of the series that has appealed to fans, the strength of a fairly clearly defined subtext and one that is easy to identify with.
It is interesting how in this adaptation the contemporary political landscape is shed in a harsh light. The government and military is full of fear and loathing for that which they do not understand and mobilizes against the mutants, utilizing flashpoint words like “terrorism” to justify actions for rounding up mutants and forcing them to register with a government agency so that they can be “tracked”. As I said, you don’t have to dig deep for the subtext here. It is interesting how the film strives for relevance in the contemporary world schema.