Roughly two weeks ago, I saw the feature film version of Marvel's Avengers.
What did I think? Well the short version is that I loved it. I think it might actually be my favorite superhero movie ever. Right now, my top 10 superhero movies of all time looks something like this:
2. Dark Knight
3. The Incredibles
4. Iron Man
5. Spider Man 2
6. X-Men 2
7. Hellboy 2 (why are the second films in superhero franchises usually so much better than the first?)
8. Batman Begins
9. X-Men First Class
10T. Spider Man
You may have noticed the the original X-Men is no longer on this list. It's basically been knocked off by the Avengers. Which is fitting in some ways because Avengers did one huge thing better than X-Men. That thing is this: Every single member of the Avengers was given a chance to shine, where X-Men featured Wolverine as the primary character and used the other X-Men primarily as one-dimensional foils for ol' Canucklehead.
That's a problem for me. Wolverine is on the X-Men, but he isn't the only character on the X-Men. Did you know that the X-Men were created in 1963 and Wolverine wasn't even added to the team until 1975? It's true!
Now, I understand why the director, Bryan Singer, made the choice to focus so much on Wolverine. For one, he probably thought that the movie would be messy and hard to follow if he tried to focus on 5-7 characters and give them all equal screen time. Also, while there have literally been hundreds of X-Men over the years, Wolverine is far and away the most popular character in the book's history.
And...I always kind of agreed with that directorial decision until I saw the Avengers. And they did focus on 5-7 characters, and it was awesome. It was more awesome than that first X-Men film.
With that thought in mind, I've decided to list off some other general problems I had with the first X-Men film. Keep in mind, I still really like the movie. I think they nailed Wolverine. I think the action was great. I loved the special effects. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen put on an acting workshop. The story is sad and compelling. But you can like something and still have issues with it. Here are some of mine.
1. It looks like the Matrix. In the late nineties, the Matrix came out, and made an absolutely insane amount of money. It also had a very cool look- lots of leather and sunglasses and trenchcoats. For the next 6 or 7 years, nearly every action movie that came out tried to copy this look. X-Men was one of these Matrix copycat films. Instead of brightly colored superhero costumes, the X-Men wore outfits that looked like a cross between flight suits, and something you would see at an S+M convention. Now, I understand that this was kind of a result of the time the movie was released, but I would really like to see an X-Men movie that featured movie versions of the X-Men's costumes from the comics rather than drab leather faux Matrix suits.
2. Cyclops is a weenie. This is actually my biggest issue with the X-Men films. Cyclops is my favorite superhero ever. When I was 10, I wanted to be Cyclops. In the comics, he is the leader of the X-Men. He is a brilliant tactician. He can blow a hole in the side of a mountain by opening his eyes and looking at it. In the X-Men films, and especially in the first film, he comes off as kind of a wimpy jerk. And that's all there is to him. He's basically there to make Wolverine look even cooler by contrast. There are alot of characters who the movies get wrong- Storm, Rogue, Sabretooth- but Cyclops is the guy who is most egregiously mis-characterized.
3. Magneto's plan doesn't make any sense. In the movie, Magneto builds a machine that turns regular people into mutants. It's kind of a throwback of a plan- very Silver Age-y. Bad guy builds a machine that does something kind of silly. But here's the thing- a mutant in the world of the X-Men is someone who is born with super powers. You can't turn someone who isn't a mutant into a mutant. Is Spider Man a mutant because he got bitten by a radioactive spider? No. He wasn't born with his powers- he got them through artificial means. Magneto believes in the inherent superiority of the mutant race. First, he wouldn't turn humans into mutants because he believes that people who aren't born with super powers are inherently inferior. Next, he wouldn't turn humans into mutants because to him, they wouldn't REALLY be mutants.
4. Anna Paquin is really bad in X-Men. As good as Captain Picard, Gandalf, and Wolverine are in the movie, Anna Paquin is bad.
5. Wolverine is too handsome. Oh, and he's too tall. In the comics, Wolverine is 5'3" and is kind of...busted. In the movie, he's 6'3" and looks he belongs in a Harlequin romance novel. This isn't as big of a problem as the others, and Hugh Jackman is great as Wolverine, but really there aren't that many less than attractive superheroes, and Wolverine is one of them. It would have been nice if they'd let him be an angry looking short guy.