Directed by: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), Anna Paquin (Rogue)
There’s a moment in X-Men when Wolverine questions the black leather uniform he’s just been given to wear. “What would you prefer – yellow Spandex?” comes the rather deft, tongue-in-cheek response.
With those few words, the joy of X is plain to see. It’s a funny line, not simply because it summons the ridiculous image of Hugh Jackman wearing a skin-tight, banana-coloured cossie, but because it pays tribute to the readers of Marvel’s X-Men series (which did indeed feature the clawed Canadian slug in Spandex). A tip of the hat, a nod and a wink, and a clever homage to the roots of what was to become a multi-million dollar movie franchise that ranks among comics’ biggest. As far as loving attention to detail goes, writer/director/all round good guy Bryan Singer didn’t fail us.
He created a self-assured, confident and amusing movie with only one fault, namely that it’s too short – a mere 100 minutes long. Not that the lack of length is a problem in itself, as X-Men is a tight, taut film that knows exactly how to get from A to B without boring the audience. But you’re left wanting so much more when it ends…
Given a whole universe of characters to choose from, Singer wisely chooses to focus on just two to draw us into the world of the X-Men: Rogue and Wolverine (having achieved this, he was then able to take a more ensemble approach in the sequel). Young Oscar winner Anna Paquin brings just the right amount of vulnerability and determination to Rogue, and there’s a sparkling chemistry between her and co-star Jackman (but not that kind of chemistry, thank you; it’s more of a brother and sister vibe). Jackman, meanwhile, upped himself from a virtual nobody to a mutton-chopped Hollywood heartthrob. His portrayal of Logan is cocky, self-assured and surprisingly comedic. Together, Paquin and Jackman nail the pivotal relationship of the film.
Though the weight of X-Men rests on the shoulders of its two stars, they have help from bravura thesps Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, both as at home in a comic book world as they are on the stage at the Old Vic. Perhaps it’s their gravitas that gives the film a much-needed dose of reality (one that could quite easily have been scuppered by Halle Berry’s rather unflattering Storm wig and disinterested performance), or perhaps we just love seeing them on screen, full stop. Either way, their inclusion makes it much harder to dismiss the film as being just another slice of celluloid superhero nonsense.