This is an entry in Nathaniel Rogers’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, which takes place every Tuesday, and is hosted at The Film Experience.
Like every person who isn’t a lunatic, I love X2: X-Men United, but I never had nearly the same affection for the original X-Men. This is probably because I only ever saw it in its entirety once, close to the time when it was released in theaters, when I was either eight or nine years old, which is honestly, too young an age to appreciate this movie. Mainly because the pleasures of Bryan Singer’s X-Men don’t come from the action (which is pretty clunky), but from the way it approaches the idea of mutants with a level of social realism that was unprecedented for comic-book adaptations at the time. Let’s just say liked seeing some of my favorite characters on the big screen (I have been an X-Men fan ever since I can remember), but I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate the civil rights analogies.
Nowadays, X-Men is regarded as the movie that opened the door that led in the flood of superhero movies that have been ruling the box office ever since. What you think of those movies will surely influence how you regard X-Men as a historical artifact, but as a movie, it is a very solid one, and as far as I’m concerned, there is no denying that this whole superhero thing started because X-Men did something right. Case in point, the last superhero movie before X-Men was the disastrous Batman and Robin, which everybody loves to make fun of, but which wasn’t much more detached from reality than the previous Batman movies. The great thing about the best superhero franchises of the early 2000s (I’m referring to X-Men and Spider-Man), is that the directors knew how to make the movies as close to reality as to be accepted by audiences, while retaining their ridiculous comic-book origins.
An now, finally, let me talk about my favorite shot in the movie, which involves one of the visual effects in the movie that still looks cool these many years later. One of my favorite subplots in X-Men is the story of Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison), and his transformation into a mutant. I’m struggling to think what exactly this all means in terms of the civil rights allegory (Magneto’s plan in this movie makes very little sense), but there is no denying that this character’s journey provides some of the movie’s most emotional moments. His whole transformation is tragic, and scary, but also playful. Just like this shot right here.