Re: X-Men: feasibility

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Mon Jul 17 2000 - 17:48:11 MDT

My friend Michael Goldfarb sent me this well-written review
today, and with his permission I'm re-posting it here, since the
movie deals (however fantastically) with issues of relevance to
this list, and since Michael's review complements Robert
J. Bradbury's post from last Friday.

Jim F.

Subject: X-Men... in a word, eXcellent!

Friends - If you've ever enjoyed a Marvel comic, there is cause
for rejoicing this weekend: the new X-Men film represents
Marvel's long-delayed arrival as a purveyor of classy film
material. Whereas DC got there decades ago with the '78 Superman
and '89 Batman films, Marvel's wondrous creations haven't fared
very well in film or TV adaptations... until now.

What is most impressive about the medium-budget (around $75 or
$85 million) film is that absolutely captures the heart and soul
of X-Men comics both old and recent, and the "realistic" Marvel
approach in general. As opposed to the
flashy-spectacle-and-almost-nonexistent-substance of last year's
far more expensive and higher-profile Star Wars Episode I, this
film has a high degree of solid characterization, and a
discernible story and moral. Sure, there are also way-cool
special effects, makeup, sets, and action sequences... but they
serve the story, rather than being the raison d'etre for the film

X-Men distills almost 40 years of X-lore into a new synthesis
that keeps the best aspects of each approach, a la the recent
animated Batman series, and quickly gets to the ideas that are at
the center of the X-Men's attraction: the pain of being
different, the horrors of baseless fear and prejudice, the threat
of power corrupting, and the awful spectacle of man's inhumanity
to man... not to mention all those cool mutant powers. Along the
way, it skillfully sketches in the familiar characters, some in
brief but effective strokes (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey) and some
in substantial detail (Wolverine, Rogue, Professor X and his
friend/adversary Magneto). The character writing is very well
done, with the essential "reality" aspects that are the highlight
of the Marvel approach (e.g., superpowers don't make it easier to
be a success with the opposite sex or pay your bills) very much
in evidence.

The performances are excellent right down the line, with Patrick
Stewart - as expected - as fine a Prof. X as he is a
Capt. Picard. (He actually has far less screen time than you
might expect, but he certainly makes the most of it.) Ian
McKellen brings a dignity to Magneto that you may not expect -
this is not the original Lee/Kirby supervillain, but a later
variant that contains many shades of gray. Anna Paquin's young
Rogue is very touching, and Famke Jansen's Jean Grey, Halle
Berry's Storm, and James Marsden's Cyclops are all
good. Magneto's henchmen are mostly far less interesting, though
Ray Park's acrobatics as Toad bring his performance last year as
Darth Maul into sharper focus.

Then there's virtual unknown Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in a
performance that can only be described as "star-making". This guy
commands the screen whenever he's in sight, and more than holds
his own against heavyweight thespians Stewart and McKellen. He is
the central character in the film, and he carries if off
beautifully. Though his Wolverine is a bit less larger than life
than the comics version, he absolutely makes the film... it's not
unlike when Christopher Reeve first played Superman, a wonderful

To be sure, the film isn't perfect: the pacing is sometimes off,
some of the pseudoscience is questionable even in comic-book
terms, and there are plot twists that don't make much sense. And
at 95 minutes, it's just not long enough, with a "big" ending
that doesn't play out all that well, and a very rushed
resolution. Even with these minor problems (which I still think
are smaller than those of the '78 Superman and the '89 Batman
movies), the film is a total joy to the 10-year-old in all of us,
and I just can't wait for the sequel(s).

Stan Lee is reportedly thrilled with the film (and supposedly has
a cameo as a hot dog vendor, though I didn't spot him), as are
more recent X-creators Chris Claremont and others. And somewhere
in the big bullpen in the sky, Jack Kirby is definitely

Bryan Singer and company have done a fine job with this film. It
certainly bodes well for the upcoming big-budget Spider-Man and
Fantastic Four projects now getting into production. (And the
other dozen Marvel adaptations in various stages of preproducton
planning as well.) It's high time that these 20th-century
classics came to the screen in their full glory. Find yourself a
10-year-old to see it with (or just access your inner
10-year-old) and enjoy. Excelsior!

Nuff said. - MSG
(Michael S. Goldfarb)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:34:49 MDT