“Let’s Just Say God Works Too Slowly.”

Last year, I watched and reviewed all of the live-action Batman films prior to watching The Dark Knight Rises. (I will almost certainly review all of the animated films at some point, too.) Mekaela — who I might remind you still wants to see The Wolverine, despite the eternal sadness that was The Last Stand and Origins — suggested I do the same with the X-Men films.

xmen

I’m still not promising to watch The Wolverine, Mek. But here’s a look back at our first encounter with the glorious Mr. Hugh Jackman.

DISCLAIMER:

This totally professional review list of random musings is full of SPOILERS.

SUMMARY:

In the not-too-distant future, people with strange, mutated abilities are feared by the rest of humanity. Two such mutants — Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) — find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the X-Men, a group of peaceful mutants led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and the Brotherhood of Mutants, a group who believe that normal humans have become obsolete.

NOTES:

1. X-Men was made in 2000 and kind of kicked off the modern superhero craze. Obviously, there were superhero films before this — most notably the Superman and Batman franchises — but the genre was never as popular as it is right now. Certainly things looked bleak in the late 1990’s when the abysmal Batman & Robin looked to have killed the genre for good. I think it’s fair to say that no one was expecting X-Men to be as successful as it was or for the ridiculous boom of superhero films that followed.

Naturally, there has been significant growth in superhero movies over the past thirteen years, so when I rewatch X-Men, it feels . . . early. Not bad, exactly, but not particularly complex, either. There’s potential here that I’m not sure gets fully explored, although — all in all — it’s a decent enough film.

2. As an adaptation, though? It’s . . . tricky.

As some of you may already know, I didn’t read comics as a kid. I did, however, obsessively watch superhero cartoons every Saturday morning, and X-Men was one of my favorites. (Other favorites: Batman: The Animated Series and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.) And there are some rather significant character deviations between cartoon and film. For instance:

r2

In the cartoon, Rogue is absolutely my favorite character. (Okay, that’s a lie. Rogue and Gambit were my favorite characters, and I kind of took them together as a packaged whole.) In the cartoon, Rogue is sassy and loud, chock full of personality. In the movie, Rogue has, well, less personality. Also, she’s considerably younger and, inexplicably, her name is Marie.

Despite the wild reshaping of my favorite character, I’m not quite as outraged as you might imagine. I am, however, still a little disappointed, even after all these years. What Bryan Singer basically did was this: he took Rogue’s initial power (being able to absorb energy/mutant ability from anyone she touches) and transplanted it into Jubilee (a teenage mutant with a close bond to Wolverine). Then he stripped this new composite character of Rogue’s southern sassiness and Jubilee’s mall-girl spunkiness in favor of a sort of everygirl, damsel-in-distress type personality.

Though it definitely bugs me, I actually understand why Singer made Rogue a teenager. Thematically, I see how it fits, even if I miss adult-Rogue and not cameo-Jubilee. (I am one of the few people I know who actually likes Jubilee. The second I find an affordable bright yellow trenchcoat, I’m dressing up as her for Dragon Con.)

But I still don’t see why Rogue had to be stripped of all her flair and fire — and no, a vague Southern accent doesn’t count as flair and fire. I actually don’t blame Anna Paquin for this — I think she gives us exactly the vulnerable Rogue that Singer wanted — but there’s no reason a balance between the two couldn’t have been accomplished. Rogue in the movie isn’t awful; it’s just that she easily loses the most when it comes to translation, and I think that makes her a much less intriguing heroine.

And as far as her revealing her birth name goes . . . I actually don’t really care so much. (In the comics, her birth name is unknown — or at least it was in 2000, although I believe that’s changed since then.) But it does seem unnecessary to the story told, so I’m not really sure why they bothered. The creators had to know they’d be unleashing all kinds of nerd rage, right? If you’re going to do something like that, I feel like there oughta be a reason, like it should b a BIG moment, not just your standard meet-and-greet between fellow superheroes.

3. On the plus side, I like both Cyclops (James Marsden) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in the movie a whole lot more than I ever liked them in the cartoon.

cyclops

Especially Cyclops because at least Jean Grey had Dark Phoenix, occasionally.

I can’t stand either of these characters, and I’ve never understood the people who like them — which is actually a lot of people, including a few friends of mine that do at least occasionally read this blog. Perhaps they can help me: I can only assume Cyclops and Jean are much more interesting in the comics, yes? (I did like Cyclops considerably more in X-Men: Evolution. Jean, not so much.) In the 90’s cartoons, though, I mostly remember Jean Grey saying things like, “Oh, Scott!” And Cyclops — aka Scott — is just obnoxious. I know it’s hard to make a boy scout leader type compelling, certainly harder than, say, a temperamental Canadian with claws or a sexy Cajan with a bo staff , but seriously. In the animated series, Cyclops has all the personality of a block of wood.

In the movie, however, Jean and Scott are likable enough — I actually wish I got to spend a little more time with them for character development, especially since the whole love triangle between Scott, Jean, and Logan could use some work. (More on that in a bit.)

4. Most of the acting ranges from decent to good. Tyler Mane is easily your weakest link, which is kind of what you get when you cast a wrestler purely because he’s tall. Then again, no one actually asks him to act — he just growls at shit, and he’s perfectly adequate at that. (Also, I can’t find it in my heart to be too mean about Mane, not since finding out about the apple box prank: even though James Marsden isn’t particularly short, he had to wear heels to look taller than Hugh Jackman, who’s 6’2″. So Mane apparently put an apple box in Marsden’s bathroom with a note that said, “This is so you can reach the sink.” Love it.)

Everyone else, though, is pretty good. Even Halle Berry and her incredibly wavering accent is okay. She has one small scene with Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) that I actually kind of like. I will not, however, be as kind to her when I get around to reviewing X2 and X:Men: The Last Stand.

The best of the bunch, though, are probably Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and the then unknown Hugh Jackman.

eye

Hugh Jackman’s eye. And claw.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen should just be in movies together all the time. They are both considerably better than the material they actually have to work with and, as such, elevate the movie immensely. McKellen, in particular, is enjoyable to watch, especially in comparison to his most iconic role, kindly, pipe-smoking Gandalf.

And while he’s technically way too tall (and Australian) for the part, Hugh Jackman does a good job with Wolverine. (His accent, by the way, only slips super noticeably once, right when he’s telling Rogue he doesn’t need advice on automobiles — that’s not American OR Canadian there, bub.) When you think that Dougray Scott — best known from Ever After — was originally cast for the part, well, it makes you grateful. Which isn’t fair at all because maybe Mr. Scott would have made a wonderful Wolverine, but it’s pretty hard to picture.

5. Let’s go back to that Wolverine-Jean Grey-Cyclops love triangle I mentioned before and talk about why it kind of sucks. I mean, other than the fact that it’s a love triangle, of course.

Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen have decent enough chemistry, but unfortunately that doesn’t help when they only have about seven minutes of actual screen time. And those seven minutes? Not actually all that romantic. First, Wolvie tries to choke Jean out. Admittedly, he doesn’t exactly know what’s going on, but it’s still not the best start for a potential relationship. He later apologizes, which is nice, before acting like kind of a creeper with his whole, “Where’s your room?” thing. Like, honey, you tried to strangle me earlier today. I’m not telling you where I sleep.

Honestly, this is pretty much how their relationship goes:

Wolverine chokes Jean and leaves her gasping for air.
Jean runs a couple of medical scans on Wolverine.
Wolverine insults Jean’s boyfriend.
Jean reads Wolverine’s mind for three seconds.
Wolverine nearly dies, recovers, and heavily implies that his heart belongs to Jean.

WHAT? You’ve known her for like a day, you asshole! How does your heart already belong to her? Jean’s clearly supposed to be attracted to him too, although at this point, it’s kind of hard to see why. (I mean, other than the fact he’s Hugh Jackman. Obviously.) Also not helping: we never really see Jean and Cyclops together much, so it’s hard to get a bead on their relationship and decide if we even want Wolverine and Jean together.

It’s hard to blame Wolverine/Rogue shippers, honestly, because at least I buy these two having a connection, even if their relationship would be kind of inappropriate, you know, with the whole underage thing.

6. The special effects budget of this movie was limited, I think, which is sort of unfortunate, considering we only get one scene with Cerebro in a story that kind of calls for three. At the very least, I wish we’d get to see what Cerebro looks like through Jean’s eyes — it would be interesting to see if the machine worked differently for different users.

Also, at one point it appears that Magneto’s machine of DOOM has been taped to the Statue of Liberty with duct tape. It’s not good.

7. About Magneto’s machine of DOOM, though — I think I’d like the story a little bit better if the machine wouldn’t have meant the death of every human in New York City. (Oh, New York. Can’t you ever stay out of trouble?) Cause you know Magneto’s plan of turning humans into mutants? It’s actually kind of interesting. It’s still a huge violation, of course, and would mean the death of one innocent girl, but it’s easy to see where Magneto’s coming from — if humanity won’t accept us, we’ll just make our problems theirs. (Although Wolverine’s also right, when he accuses Magneto of being full of shit. Wolvie’s all like, “Why aren’t you sacrificing your life in the machine, huh? Why’s it gotta be Rogue?” and Magneto’s like, “I don’t have to answer that. I’m flying away now.” Magneto is kind of a ridiculous show-off.)

By turning the Making Some Sweet Sweet Mutants Machine into DEATH FOR HUMANITY Machine, I feel like we’re turning this story into something more black and white than it ought to be. I mean, it’s not horrible — I just feel there’s more room for complexity and moral discussion, that’s all.

8. A few things about fashion — which, of course, is far more interesting than moral discussion:

A. Some characters seems to change their outfits at random. Storm, in particular, chooses to take a time-out and switch shirts between scenes cause, you know, that’s the priority when a supervillain is about to kill a bunch of people. (Although perhaps she still had a bit of Senator Kelly juice on her. I’d want that off too.)

B. On the other hand, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) doesn’t get to wear anything at all when she’s blue because of Reasons. This is sad. I miss her white dress and skull belt. Mystique would also be pretty awesome to dress up as for Dragon Con. (Although I’m not sure I have the dedication. Even clothed, it’s a lot of blue.)

C. Cyclops has the stupidest visor known to man. He should never be allowed outside.

D. Also: Magneto’s helmet will always be impossible to take seriously.

helmet

E. I completely understand why the individual costumes from the comics were problematic, but I find the black leather team uniforms almost as unrealistic and not very fun. I wish there could have been some kind of compromise between the two. I’m not sure what it would be. I’m just slightly underwhelmed by their team outfits.

9. True story: I cringed pretty hard the first time I watched Storm say, “You know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” Cause it was terrible. Terrible. The second time I watched the movie, though, I thought, You know, it’s actually not such a horrible line on its own. The delivery is just all wrong. Cause it’s supposed to be a funny line, right, something you say with a shrug or a grin. It’s not a solemn threat.

Years later, when I found out this line was one of the last few pieces from Joss Whedon’s version of the script, I laughed my ass off.

(As an aside: I’m a pretty huge Whedonite, but I don’t actually consider myself a Whedon apologist. The guy’s a genius and I always look forward to his stuff, but I also don’t think every little thing he does is magic. {Unfortunately. How cool would that be, if his stories were literally magic?} Still, I thought it was pretty cool, pulling out a single line and realizing one of my favorite story-creators was behind it. Yeah. I’m awesome.)

10. Finally, I kind of love Ray Park as Toad, although that’s purely because I like how he says, “Weren’t you supposed to bring someone back with you?”

Shut up, you. My accent fetish is totally a valid reason to like a character.

QUOTES:

Wolverine: “It’s me!”
Cyclops: “Prove it.”
Wolverine: “You’re a dick.”
Cyclops: “. . . okay.”

Wolverine: “Well, this certainly is a big, round room.”

Professor X: “The man who attacked you is an associate of his called Sabertooth.”
Wolverine: “Sabertooth?”
(looks at Storm)
Wolverine: “Storm.”
(looks at Professor X)
Wolverine: “What do they call you, Wheels?”

Toad: “Don’t you people ever die?”

Magneto: “Your sacrifice will ensure our survival. I’ll understand if that comes as small consolation.”

CONCLUSIONS:

Enjoyable enough film, despite some serious deviations from the source material. Better cast than script, I think, although it’s not a terrible story. There are moments I really like. Ideas, too.

MVP:

Ian McKellen

GRADE:

B

MORAL:

You wanna wake up a dude with claws from his horrible nightmare? Try something from a distance — like yelling his name and flicking the light switch on and off a lot. Maybe throw a pillow at his face.

Also, mutants have another advantage the rest of mere mortals don’t get: amazing bed head, at least if Anna Paquin’s hair in this movie is anything to go by.

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2 Responses to “Let’s Just Say God Works Too Slowly.”

  1. Teacups says:

    I don’t know, I think Wolverine’s hair balances out Anna Paquin’s. It looks like it has wings and is attempting to take off and fly. Also, it just makes me think that he must spend fucking hours every morning using an entire tub of gel to sculpt it into shape, which is funny, but probably not how Wolverine is meant to come off.

    I like Toad too, because dude was the biggest badass in the movie. Power-wise, he should have been way outstripped by Storm, Jean Grey, or Cyclops, but he was able to take them all down – multiple times, in some cases.

    • Cyclops was taken out of commission a couple of times by Toad, but since those were both basically sneak attacks that didn’t give him much chance to fight back, I’ll give him an out. And while Jean Grey should really know that you ought to follow-through with your whole freezing in mid-motion technique — like this is the perfect opportunity to knock Toad’s ass out — I’ll admit, people don’t really expect guys to spit suffocating green goo out of their mouths. So, okay. That’s understandable.

      Storm, though, has no such excuse. She makes some vague fighting pose, and I’m like, What are you doing? You don’t need kung-fu for this! You can call LIGHTNING!

      It’s unacceptable.

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