Marvel Movie Madness! Part 10: X-Men

The beginning for Marvel's beloved franchise.

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.

Part 10: X-Men (2000, 82% @ 154 reviews)
Directed by Bryan Singer, starring, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Alex: I see now X-Men isn't about superheroes. It's about mutants. About the fear, the isolation, the terror of inhabiting a world that seeks only to shun or bury you. This movie has a hard edge, likely because in 2000 it represented some risky filmmaking. An ensemble comic book movie? The furthest thing from a sure bet. So then kudos to Bryan Singer for knowing what he had in Hugh Jackman and sticking with him. If you're watching X-Men again with us, I hope you took note how much Singer challenged Jackman and what a fantastic performance he gives back. Check out the compelling single-take, zero-dialogue scene of Wolverine scampering through Xavier's school, running up against walls, avoiding detection. Jackman, a thespian with a background in dance, moves like a feral animal. His presence makes the movie feel robust and physical. And Singer makes the rest of X-Men feel real: Magneto's effective (if exploitative, whatever) holocaust origin story; the melting horror of Senator Kelly; the way Mystique hisses in agony when Wolverine slices off a part of her body. The powers are mutant, but their pain is human all the way.

Luke: I agree. I really like this film. I know a lot of the kudos conventionally goes to X2, but for me this is just as good: a lean, character-driven introduction that hits most of its marks with well-crafted finesse. X-Men is a great character movie. It takes its time to establish the players and their relationships, which is tricky when you've got so many to deal with, to the point where you feel for them individually -- even through the more routine pyrotechnic climax on Liberty Island. I like that Singer spent time building the backstory of Magneto and Xavier -- McKellen and Stewart, both all class; as ever -- and how he handled the Nazi experimentation stuff (echoed later in Del Toro's Hellboy intro, even), a subject he seems to return to with fascination (see his previous Apt Pupil and later Valkyrie.) I wonder how First Class can top this, frankly.

What Alex said about Jackman is spot-on: I don't know that he's ever been better, in anything, than he is here -- he's hungry as a performer, able to combine limber physicality with a gruff sensibility, and he brings a real thread of sardonic humor to what might have been an overwrought exercise in superheroes-as-metaphor. Considering he got cast last minute when the film was already shooting, it's even more impressive -- can you imagine the first choice, Russell Crowe, or Dougray Scott, who began and then dropped out? Never. Also, I dug his protective relationship with Rogue and her look-but-don't-touch bind, and the comic sparring with Cyclops over Jean (that throwaway gag where he flips the adamantium bird is great.) It's a solid bit of filmmaking that didn't presume it could coast on existing fanboy sentiment, probably because it was sort-of out on its own as a comic-book franchise opener at the time, and maybe because Singer approached it as a filmmaker rather than simply a slavish fan -- he'd turned the project down originally a couple of times before agreeing. It works hard to set itself up as a series, which then duly paid off (well, at least until the third part made a popcorn meal of things, anyway.)

Tim: Alex, the key word is indeed ensemble. X-Men has a lot of characters to introduce, and it does the job without shortchanging anyone (or getting bogged down in the details). Take Rogue, for example: she's as much a victim of supernatural teen angst as Bella Swan, but X-Men deals with her predicament more poignantly and economically in 104 minutes than all three of the Twilight movies. Her relationship with Wolverine is wonderful as well -- the X-Men are all outsiders, and it's touching the way they bond over their shared idiosyncrasies. Plus, the fight scenes are coherently edited, which allows us to see the mutants? powers in action, without shaky-caming things into a blur. The film's gay rights subtext seems brave for an early 2000s blockbuster, but the movie never gets didactic -- instead makes its points within a briskly-paced, richly compelling action movie framework.

More Marvel Movie Madness:


Stepping Razor

Stepping Razor

I think this movie is still best of all X Men movies thus far. We'll see if First Class can top it.

May 30 - 01:44 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

I don't think First Class will have too hard of a time topping any of the X movies. Considering the source material, the movies are so much wasted potential. I will give X1 credit because it was good for it's time and did a lot for comic films. I also think the opening scene is extremely powerful and had the rest of the movie been as bold, it would have lived up to the X name. I had every reason to doubt First Class, yet it's done nothing but impress me little by little so far from the first trailer to the early reviews. It's certainly the only comic movie this year that has potential if you ask me.

May 30 - 04:04 PM

Odd E.

Odd Even

I'm sorry but I just didn't like Wolverine and the X-men. Because if I remember correctly it is called THE X-MEN. But that is what this movie and it's sequels felt like. Wolverine and the X-men. It's like someone in development had a man crush on the character.

And don't even get me started on the TOAD line.

And Rogue looked like a skeleton. Not hot at all.


May 30 - 04:25 PM


Andrew Nguyen

The TOAD line was one of the lamest lines in cinematic history, especially coming from Halle Berry who was totally wrong for Storm.

May 30 - 07:35 PM


Mike Kavanaugh

For the record, the infamous "Toad" line was written by Joss Whedon as a throwaway, to be delivered with a deadpan shrug. If Halle Berry had done so, it would have been mildly amusing. Unfortunately, Ms. Berry was clueless (She has admitted as much in interviews.)

Jun 1 - 04:01 PM


Matt St. John

Still gotta go with X2 for sheer scale, and... Fuckit, that scene when Wolverine thrusts his claws into some dude's chest for the first time might be the single coolest thing I've ever seen in a movie PERIOD.
(It just felt pointless in X3 when he was slicing everybody up running through the forest)

May 30 - 02:00 PM


Jonathan Y

I agree with you on how well they did that scene. The really did a good job working up to the part where his claws came out. We all knew it was coming, we all wanted to see it, they just held off until they went after him with a knife. X2 just never had a dull moment. Every time I watch it its just one good scene after another.

May 31 - 05:57 AM

Jonathan Edward O.

Jon Owens

Nightcrawler!!! X2 Fu%# YAh!!

Jun 1 - 03:17 AM

Nights D.

Nights Domain

I agree that Xmen was the best of the series so far and it had a major factor in helping to usher in the era of comic book movies. For the first really good enesemble film it showed that you can make a movie with multiple super characters and make it work. Hopefully Xmen FC and next years Avengers took good notes on how to do it right.

May 30 - 02:03 PM

Daniel P.

Daniel Petersen

I think you guys give this a little too much praise. It was a good faithful X movie but the over all vision was pretty bland. It was ok. Best part= Wolverine, worst part= Sabertooth. He sucked big time.

May 30 - 02:03 PM


The Watcher

I really liked this one, and still do, but I prefer X2 over this any day. Jackman as Wolvie was some truly inspired casting and I didn't know that he was hired at the last minute - interesting. Friday can't come soon enough, I'll be first in line to watch First Class, shouting FIRST first... well, not really, but I am excited, and this is the first time this year that I can truly say that for a new movie.

May 30 - 02:05 PM


Chris Moore

Gotta give the devil it's due. X-Men did for comic book films what Jaws did for big budget summer movies.

May 30 - 02:23 PM

Phillip K.

Phillip Kissell

The casting in these movies are amazing. I really need to get around to watching them over again.

May 30 - 02:29 PM


First Last

Angela Basset should have played Storm (with Storm having a bigger part in a better script) I thought RAy PArk (Darth Maul?) was a wierd choice to. Couldn't they get someone freakishly short?

May 31 - 08:01 AM


M Mikell

Ironic that in a movie with an anti-discrimination message, all the heroes are attractive and white (or Halle Berry) and the villains--except for their leader--are "freaks." (That's another reason X2 gets more kudos; for giving us Nightcrawler.) Daniel P. is correct about there being a certain blandness about "X-Men," and the Good Mutants = Dry White Toast element is probably where that comes from.

I don't have a huge problem with Sabretooth, but it's sad that he (and Lady Deathstrike in X2) had too much backstory to squeeze into the plot and thus got the Bane-as-Oddjob treatment of "Batman & Robin"--turned into wordless goons who kick ass for a few minutes then get squelched.

But wordless is okay, because the dialog is awful (Storm's "toad struck by lightning" bit is particularly embarrassing). And there's a general disrespect for the audience's intelligence ( energy field that can be retracted after it's emitted, just by yoinking its power source? A bullet that maintains inertia after being stopped cold in mid-air? Seriously?) But yeah...the casting. The casting overcomes a LOT. Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman get the most attention but I think everyone involved does the absolute best anyone could with the material they were given.

May 30 - 02:49 PM


The Watcher

lol, for being a Cancer, you make some good points, but I don't think the bullets maintain their inertia so much as being forced to fly fast again by Magneto - I mean, he controls metal, right? Either that or I'm missing/forgetting something, haven't seen this movie in YEARS.

May 30 - 03:18 PM


DJ Hawkes

yes, the energy source thing doesn't make sense. but as it has been said, magneto has the ability to control metal, and obviously he pushed the bullet forward again.

besides all that, what about the fact that cyclops can shoot lasers from hsi eyes, or that wolverine can regrow muscle without eating anything(essentially creating matter from nothing).

you have to suspend disbelief a little bit before watching a superhero movie.

Jun 1 - 12:08 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

that is one of my bones of contention with the X Movies (Especially First Class); they white wash all the characters. Storm is no longer Kenyan, Banshee is no longer Irish; hell even McKellan's Magneto seems like an English dandy and not a European Jew.....The appeal of the 70's X-Men was the international quality of the characters. It wasn't just 5 suburban American kids, but a global outreach program

Jun 28 - 04:09 PM

Pammie B.

Pamela Bryant

X Men was a very good movie. As everyone else has said, Hugh Jackman was a great Wolverine! He was gruff when he needed to be and he handled the soft moments without being too tender, which is what you would expect from a man named Wolverine. His lines were great!

Magneto and Charles Xavier were perfectly cast as well. Halle Barre, not so much. I became a fan of X Men with the Saturday morning cartoon series in the 90s, then read some of the comics. Storm was more regal and majestic then she was played by Halle. (side note: She got her butt kicked all over this movie! I think she got the worse beat downs of anyone in the movie, more than any guys, just sayin. What's up with that?) And sometimes Halle had an African accent and sometimes she didn't. It was definitely gone by X2. So I thought the Storm character was definitely the worse cast.

But the movie flowed well. It was a good origins movie without taking too long to build up the characters. And speaking of characters, this was more of a character movie than a special affects movie...which is what a movie should strive to be. In order to keep people interested, they have to care about the characters. I think this movie was directed in such a way that you cared about the characters.

Visually it was pleasing and the action was top notch. I thought the fight between Wolverine and Mystique was the best. Bryan Singer did a great job with this movie. This was a good start to the Superhero blockbuster movies to follow. (not to down play Blade which came out before it...Blade was great, but more people knew the comic book characters of XMen then the character Blade)

I can't wait to see First Class this weekend!

May 30 - 02:55 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Imo Patrick Stewart as Professor X and the guy who played Scott Summers are the only spot on casting calls. I can look past the fact that Hugh Jackman is too tall and not stalky enough, but I just don't buy into him as a tough guy. As top class as Ian McKellen is, he's too old for Magneto and therefor not intimidating enough to play Erik. Halle Berry was indeed poorly cast, but the biggest inconsistency with the comics was Rogue who was basically an amalgamation with Jubilee or Kitty Pryde. All this could have been easily forgiven had the movie been bolder with the rights issues that X-Men is all about and not the bland forgettable action flick that it turned out to be. Funny thing is, the 90s cartoon does a much better job portraying the sense of ostracism of mutants and the fear and thus hatred from mankind.

May 30 - 03:43 PM

Pammie B.

Pamela Bryant

I agree with the comment, "Funny thing is, the 90s cartoon does a much better job portraying the sense of ostracism of mutants and the fear and thus hatred from mankind". Yeah, we only saw a few cases of people feeling like outcasts and then we see the school where everyone appears happy. Maybe there wasn't enough time to do the origins story and build up this element. I hear that maybe in the sequel to First Class, they may deal with some of those issues.

May 30 - 04:21 PM


Big Brother

Magneto is a holocaust survivor, how young did you want him to be? And if you thought Jackmans height was an issue imagine him played by the weightlifter dwarf they'd need to make him accurate to comics standard. Loved Magneto in this movie and "I thought you lived in a school?" Is still my favorite line.

May 30 - 04:33 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Like I said, the physical appearance wasn't really my main gripe with Wolverine. As for Magneto, well I was expecting a more virile 60 something. Ian was actually the right age at the time, but he comes off as an old man.

May 30 - 05:06 PM


The Watcher

@Alan - This is the definition of Fanboy nit-picks that 99.999999% of the world doesn't give two shits about.

May 30 - 05:51 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

@Watcher: True that. Like I said, at the end of the day none of that means a damn as long as the movie has substance, which it didn't.

May 30 - 06:36 PM


AL Green

@ Watcher *fanboy* is not a derogatory name/insult around here. You should know this. I agree with everything Smithee wrote and then some.

Jun 1 - 02:06 AM


The Watcher

@AL - That wasn't intended as an insult, I think Alan understood this as well. I was simply stating a fact.

Jun 1 - 05:28 PM


AL Green

I can dig it Watcher. To Non comic book readers and people who are not into comic books, this was just another movie they might or might not enjoy. Yes this is a fact. But you used the word *nit pick* When I read what Smithee wrote it was not unjustified criticism, trivial, unnecessary, and/or faultfinding. It was all very true. I probably would not have responded to you if you did not use the word nit pick.

Jun 1 - 05:54 PM

Odd E.

Odd Even

Oh yes 90's cartoon gets 100% freshness.

May 30 - 04:41 PM

Captain Terror

Captain Terror

I never read the comics, so I didn't really have an opinion about how any one character should've been played. But I have to admit that I pretty much peed my pants when the elevator doors opened to reveal Storm in all her glowing-eyed glory. That's probably in my top 10 moments of comic-film geekery.

May 30 - 06:14 PM

Bloody Mathias

Mathias N/A

I remember watching this in theaters when i was 14.

But the only seats available were in the 3rd row and all the way to the left.
I got a crink in my neck but the first thought that went through my head was, "Huh, that was short." And it is, it's actually 95 mins long with 9 mins of end credits.

Should've been at least 15 mins longer and i also wish Singer explored Cyclops and Jean a bit more.

May 30 - 03:04 PM

Captain Terror

Captain Terror

Funny--I remember when this was about to be released. I told a friend, "Even if this movie sucks I'm going to see it 20 times, because if this is a success maybe they'll make some more superhero movies." Little did I know........

May 30 - 03:18 PM

Pammie B.

Pamela Bryant

How many times did you see it? :)

May 30 - 04:49 PM

Captain Terror

Captain Terror

Ha! Pretty sure only once, even though I liked it. I didn't exactly put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.

May 30 - 06:04 PM


The Watcher

lol, for being a Cancer, you make some good points, but I don't think the bullets maintain their inertia so much as being forced to fly fast again by Magneto - I mean, he controls metal, right? Either that or I'm missing/forgetting something, haven't seen this movie in YEARS.

May 30 - 03:18 PM

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