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ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘X-Men’ (2000), Part One

In our latest series of super-hero movie reviews, we take on the films chosen by you, the readers: X-Men!

Chris Sims: I was convinced that the Punisher franchise or Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Street Fighter was going to win, but when we let our readers vote on which film series would be the next subject of ComicsAlliance’s in-depth review series, the response was overwhelming: The X-Men won in a landslide victory with 56% of the vote — presumably because our readers wanted to subject us to the ultimate horror that is X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

Matt Wilson: How’d Uzumeri weasel his way out of that one? And why am I being punished for his transgressions?Chris: That’s right everyone, Uzumeri can’t be with us for this one, so please welcome my new partner in reviewing, War Rocket Ajax co-host Matt Wilson!

Matt: Howdy folks.

Chris: Before we get started with the actual review, I want to say that for me, moving straight from Superman Returns to the X-Men franchise is going to be jarring to the point of whiplash. We’re going from a Bryan Singer movie that I hate to a downright vicious degree to the films that got him started in the super-hero genre, which are generally regarded as being pretty well-done.

Matt: His second X-Men movie is still considered one of the best superhero movies ever made, and this one gets a lot of things right, too. It is to wonder why these succeed while Superman Returns misses the mark in so many ways.

Chris: I think it has everything to do with the fact that Singer was building something new here – or at least translating things from the comics in a new way – rather than creating an homage to a previous film. As viewers, we got really lucky that Singer wasn’t a huge fan of, say, Pryde of the X-Men.

Matt: Also, the soap-opera-style melodrama that bogged down Returns is basically everything that people love about the X-Men.

Chris: That’s true, and it’s also pretty key that the cast here is genuinely great. It’s really a lineup that’s almost everything the fans wanted, to the point of pandering if everyone wasn’t so good. Patrick Stewart had been the top choice for Professor X ever since he first stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise-D, and while that was mostly because he was a bald guy on a genre show, he kills it. Same goes for Famke Janssen, whose role in Goldeneye made her a perennial choice for the old Wizard “Casting Call” articles.

Matt: Only relative newcomers like Hugh Jackman and James Marsden weren’t veterans of the Casting Call columns, and the producers tried to cast fan favorites for those parts. Glenn Danzig screen-tested for Wolverine! Kevin Nash tried out for Sabretooth!

Chris: I was about to say that Kevin Nash as Sabretooth would’ve been the cherry on top for Wizard readers, but they still got a pro wrestler for the part. What’s interesting to note about Jackman is that he was the third choice for the part, only getting it after Russel Crowe and Dougray Scott dropped out, but he completely stole the show. He’s genuinely great in the part.

Matt: To the point that he’s still playing the character, two Spider-Men later. It’d be tough to recast it. He’s Wolverine.

Chris: It is hilarious that Jackman has managed to outlast two Spider-Man franchises, three Hulks, an Avengers mega-series, and the rebooting of the actual X-Men series that he’s a part of.

Matt: And now he’s got his own breakoff movie series! In every way, he is Wolverine, multiple series and all. I’ll put odds on him showing up in the next Avengers movie.

Chris: Meanwhile, poor Dougray Scott doesn’t even have a picture in his Wikipedia article. I wonder if there’s an alternate universe where he got the job and went on to star in the robot boxing epic, Real Steel.

Matt: Hostin’ the Tonys and all.

Chris: Looking back, even from just a dozen years later, it’s hard to remember how much anticipation there was for X-Men. Today, when we’re getting three and four tentpole movies every summer based around comics, it seems crazy that something as popular as X-Men had been languishing in development for a decade. Blade had been a surprise success that opened the door, but this was really Marvel’s first real shot at building a big-budget franchise, and it worked.

Matt: It’s fair to say this movie kicked off the superhero movie trend that looks to be a Hollywood mainstay. Marvel’s planning movies three years from now. It reinvigorated interest in the genre after interest in the Batman movies died off. We can’t lay everything at X-Men‘s feet, but it surely was the first domino in a progression that’s still going.

Chris: And what it really comes down to is that it’s a pretty good movie. Singer was able to give fans so much of the stuff that they wanted to see with a ton of action while still keeping those themes of prejudice and persecution that make the X-Men so relatable and relevant, and did some really strong character work with great actors – there are two Oscar winners in this thing! It’s so good on that front that you almost forget that a huge chunk of the actual plot makes little to no sense.

Matt: It is kind of a mess. So let’s get into it!

Chris: After a quick voice over where Captain Picard’s dulcet tones explain what mutation is and give the “evolutionary leaps” premise behind Marvel’s mutants, we open on the Holocaust. So right away, we’re dealing with some pretty heavy stuff that hits the themes of racism and persecution.

Matt: And let me mention that this movie has the mutant power of having Fight Club’s opening credits, sans Dust Brothers. But yes, we get notice right away that there will be no Rube Goldberg chaos scenes or Schwarzenegger puns here. I can’t imagine something more clearly saying, “This movie isn’t silly like those other ones.”

Chris: It really hits home for comics readers, too. The X-Men have never really been subtle in their metaphors, and Magneto’s backstory of being a Holocaust survivor has grown to become a key part of his character, but putting so much emphasis on it right at the beginning of a movie for twelve year-olds that’s ostensibly about a guy who can shoot knives out of his fists is a pretty bold choice on Singer’s part. Plus, it’s just a well-done scene – the separation of Young Magneto from his mother is really emotional and affecting, and the twisted metal of the fence is a really, really nice reveal for anyone who went in cold.

Matt: The lack of dialogue (or at least subtitles) is a good choice, along with it just being a brisk scene. It doesn’t explain too much, and trusts the non-comics fan audience to get it. It’s heavy material, but not heavy-handed.

Chris: It’s not a surprise at all that they kept it more or less intact for First Class. From there, we move from one origin to another at a pretty brisk clip, as we go to Mississippi in “the not too distant future” (next Sunday, A.D.?) to watch Rogue’s ill-fated pubescent make-outs.

Matt: I mentioned the soap-opera stuff earlier. Singer and the screenwriters (David Hayter, a.k.a. Solid Snake himself, is credited with the screenplay, though dozens of uncredited writers contributed) do not mess around getting to it.

Chris: I remember reading an earlier draft of the script where the opening was just everybody’s origin, one right after the other, with Cyclops at the prom being offered Visine because his eyes were getting red, har har. I’m really glad they did away with that in favor of just showing us Magneto and Rogue, because it puts the focus exactly where it needs to be. It lets us sympathize with Magneto and his motivations, and Rogue makes a great viewpoint character for the rest of the film.

Matt: Right, and though Wolverine is ostensibly the protagonist, Magneto and Rogue are the real plot drivers. But we are not even six minutes into this thing and we’ve got kissin’ and killin’ (or severely disabling) and screamin’ teenagers. It nails the whole feel of the X-Men.

Chris: Exactly. I’ve never been a big fan of Rogue as a character – that accent, sugah… being from North Carolina, you can sympathize – but she has the absolute perfect power to be a metaphor for being a teenager. It literally isolates her and makes her afraid to get close to people, and the movie really does great stuff with that.

Matt: Next, we’re whisked off to Washington and its “near future” Senate hearing chamber that looks suspiciously like the UN. Jean Grey is giving testimony against a proposed Mutant Registration Act and Senator Kelly is being a real thorn in her side. He’s demagoguing like crazy up there.

Chris: It’s weird how prescient this movie is, in that it came out a year before 9/11, and how the scenes of people in the government debating what are essentially “people of mass destruction” feel like they could’ve been ripped from the headlines three or four years later.

Matt: Yeah, the Senator Kelly’s lines about “taking away our God-given free will” come right out of the playbook. And you know what? He’s not entirely wrong. I’d be pretty freaked out about the notion of someone reading my thoughts. There’s a real moral ambiguity.

Chris: I also love how much of a dick Senator Kelly is. It’s a really nice touch that he refers to Jean as “Miss Grey,” even though she has a doctorate in the movie. What a jerk.

Matt: Yes. Despite the fact he kind of has a point, he sure is an ass about it. Man, I cannot get over how much the Capitol has changed in the “not too distant future.” They really did some work on it!

Chris: This is also the part of the movie where the semi-subtle fan-service really begins, with Kelly’s mention of “a girl in Illinois who can walk through walls,” Deerfield’s own Kitty Pryde, who we see later. And again, in light of Superman Returns, it’s really surprising how well it works here considering how overboard he went with the same kind of thing in that film.

Matt: It’s just a lot of little nods, split-second cameos. It works. In the next scene, Professor X and Magneto lay out their debate about peaceful resistance vs. force, and it gets everything in there pretty succinctly. This script really packs a lot into these first minutes. Also: Like I said about the Capitol, they look like they are in a space station.

Chris: The conflict that’s set up here is done really nicely, too. We’ve already seen that Magneto’s at least partially justified in what he does, but Xavier is really sympathetic to him. Singer, Stewart and McKellen do a great job of really casting these guys as former friends, and underlining the tragedy of their relationship. Professor X just wants his bro back. And, you know, for him to not murder everyone.

Matt: Also, check out how young Ian McKellen looks here! 61-year-old Ian was a spring chicken. A lot of stories would do flashbacks and stuff here, but we get everything we need in about a minute of dialogue. You know, until we get a whole movie flashback 11 years later.

Chris: Which I still ended up liking quite a bit. Even though super-hero movies are kind of a legitimate going concern these days, I still think it’s pretty remarkable that we got two completely different, really good sets of Magneto and Professor X. You have to imagine that the casting of Fassbender and McAvoy and their performance had a lot of pressure to live up to from how good Stewart and McKellen were.

Matt: Oh, for sure. The fact they didn’t fall back on doing imitations really helped. But we’ll get to that movie after enduring some hardship.

Chris: From the capital of Space-America, we then move to the scene that everyone really wanted to see: A roadhouse with a steel cage octagon in Canada, where we are introduced to “The Wolverine.”

Matt: Jackman makes a great choice to play Wolverine with a sort of contained fury rather than all-out nutso rage. It makes the character so much more palatable than he could have been.

Chris: I really love this scene. The ring announcer warning the challenger not to kick Wolverine in the junk because “he’ll take it personal,” the metal “clang!” sound effects that were added in when Wolverine’s hitting the dude to represent his metal bones rather than just telling us about them, everything. Also, if hair stylist Patricia Medina didn’t win an award for figuring out how to do hair that actually looks like comic book Wolverine’s but isn’t completely f***ing ridiculous, she should’ve.

Matt: Everything about Wolverine had the potential to be ridiculous, but wasn’t. It’s downright mind-boggling.

Chris: That’s the real core strength of Singer’s X-Men movies: They don’t do anything to hide the weirdness that fans love about the X-Men, but they present it in a way that feels logical and… I guess “real,” for lack of a better word. Well, for the most part, but we’ll get to the Magnetic Genetic Rearrange-o-Tron hidden in the Statue of Liberty later.

Matt: After the fight, Wolverine joins Rogue at the bar for a drink. He’s accosted by some guys who think he cheated, and after they won’t let up, we get the popped-claw money shot. And I mean that. The shot of the claw coming out of Wolverine’s hand is almost pornographic.

Chris: And straight from the comics, too. That thing where he puts the outer claws on each side of a dude’s head to hold him in place and then threatens them with the middle one is a classic Wolverine move. Again, total fan-service, but totally appropriate. Also great in that scene? The guy’s friend who’s like “yeah, we should probably not do this.” He definitely heard metal bone noises when they were back in the ring.

Matt: A sliced-up shotgun later, Wolverine leaves, Rogue stows away in his camper and we get a quick introduction to Wolverine’s penchant for mentoring young women. That sounds creepy, but it really isn’t.

Chris: The lack of creepiness all comes down to Jackman, too, because he plays it as this tough guy who really does have a soft spot of concern for others that he’s actively trying to hide, which is a very cool take on the character. It comes up in comics a lot as a way to make this guy who just slaughters ninjas on a daily basis seem likable, and it translates well here. Also, did you ever see The Final Sacrifice on Mystery Science Theater 3000? Because this is exactly like that, except that “Wolverine” actually might be a more ridiculous name than “Zap Rowsdower.”

Matt: Before landing on the not-at-all-on-the-nose name Howlett, Marvel considered the name James Rowsdower for Origin, I heard or just made up.

Chris: Introducing his healing factor by having him tell Rogue he doesn’t want to bother with a seat belt – because why would he? He’s indestructible! – and then flying through the windshield in a crash is a really efficient and visually interesting way to get that aspect of his powers across, too. The only thing that’s not true to the character in this entire sequence is that he has a bottle opener on his keychain. Pretty sure that dude would just tear the caps off with his bare hands and/or indestructible claws. Even the “Does it hurt?” “Every time.” bit about his claws, which is so unbelievably melodramatic, works with Jackman’s delivery.

Matt: It’s also got a sexual undercurrent that could verge into creepy, but plays more like an inquisitive teen just finding out some realities from an adult. The special effects on his disappearing head wound are a little dated now, but don’t look bad.

Chris: And then Sabretooth shows up, and we get our first example of this movie being slightly goofy as all hell.

Matt: It’s really all the potential goofy happening at once. Giant animal man! Weather control lady! Laser-beam-eye fella! It just knocks that all right out.

Chris: I’m not sure why, but it feels so jarring to get all that stuff, even after we see Wolverine pop his claws and use his healing factor. I guess it’s a matter of scale? The Wolverine stuff just feels very low-key, probably because we can relate to knives and forehead gashes, when you compare it to Storm and Cyclops. Also, remember those two or three years where comic book Sabretooth looked like Movie Sabretooth? That was a weird time.

Matt: It was! I mean, we did have Magneto controlling metal from the get-go and discussion of mind control, but let’s face it, Storm’s always been the mutant who strains disbelief the hardest. Ripping the Band-Aid off is probably the best way to go about it.

Chris: Exactly: From here on out, we’re pretty much going all superpowers, all the time.

Matt: Storm and Cyclops save Rogue and Wolverine from Sabretooth, who heads back to Magneto with his proverbial tail between his legs. I’d say this most interesting thing about this scene is Magneto’s casual use of his powers. This is a guy who just hates to move anything by touching it.

Chris: The little five-metal-balls tchotchke on his desk that’s floating without strings is quite possibly my single favorite special effect in this movie, no kidding. It’s so subtly evocative of Magneto’s power and how fine his control is without even paying attention, and it makes a great visual addition to the scene.

Matt: Also: He is just wearing that maroon shirt like a baller. In terms of the plot, Magneto isn’t too mad Sabretooth didn’t get Wolverine. He’s satisfied to have made the first volley and is preparing to do…something at a big UN summit at Ellis Island.

Chris: Oh, the big summit where every leader in the entire world is going to show up and talk about mutants?

Matt: At a symbolic hub for “different” people! Look, we already discussed the X-Men’s relationship with subtlety.

Chris: Yeah. But to be fair, the whole “all the world’s leaders hanging out” thing is a pretty standard-issue plot point in comics. If we can accept a dude with laser vision, we can probably accept the monumentally poor decision-making that would lead to that summit.

Matt: And to be fair it isn’t too far removed from, say, the G20.

Chris: Meanwhile, back at the X-Mansion, Wolverine wakes up from being unconscious for an amount of time that is completely implausible given his healing powers, grabs Jean by the throat, sniffs her hair, and then starts running through the futuristic hallways of Professor X’s basement without a shirt on.

Chris: Basically, it’s 50 Shades of Jean Grey. The safeword is “Weapon X.”

Matt: I could totally envision a wave of romance fiction where the dudes are all Wolverines instead of vampires.

Chris: I think that would be called “Marvel Comics.”

Matt: Ha! To the disappointment of many viewers of both sexes, Wolverine grabs a hoodie and puts it on right about the time Professor X jumps into his head and asks where he’s going.

Chris: Professor X’s Psychic Nudgings (another potential erotica title) lead Wolverine up to the school and into a classroom, where the Prof is teaching a few cameo mutants about physics. Once that lets out, a few of the X-Men show up, and he immediately begins busting on them for having goofy names. Once again, those insults are coming from a guy named “Wolverine.”

Matt: “What’s your name, Marvel Girl?” he probably asked Jean Grey in an earlier draft. Instead, he makes fun of Professor X’s disability.

Chris: Wolverine: Not great at making friends. But speaking of “Marvel Girl,” I do think it’s pretty weird that we have Cyclops, Storm, Professor X, Wolverine, Rogue, and… Jean Grey. Given that Famke Janssen is an adult, “Marvel Girl” might not have worked and “Phoenix” doesn’t really make any sense given her powers, but it really sticks out, just like it did in the ’90s when that was her official codename in the comics.

Matt: It was how they handled it on the X-Men cartoon, too. It’s the weirdest that Claremont and other writers never thought up another name for her. Anyway, it’s montage time now: Professor X gives Wolverine the rundown on his school while we catch glimpses of not-Alan Cumming Nightcrawler and a bunch of other recognizable mutants doing school stuff.

Chris: It’s a really nice way of getting across the school stuff, which is one of my favorite aspects of the X-Men. Plus, Kitty Pryde and Jubilee! Jubilee made it into a movie before SPIDER-MAN!

Matt: Rogue meets Iceman during this sequence, and he greets her by making a block of ice on her desk. Is that a display of affection I’m unfamiliar with? “Hey, you’re cute. Here’s some frozen water. You can keep it.”

Chris: Did you not bring your dates an ice sculpture in high school?

Matt: I knew I was doing something wrong!

Chris: Poor Matt. If only you knew that the best way to learn to interact with people you’re attracted to was by taking cues from the X-Men. That’s why whenever a girl I like has a boyfriend, I call him “soldier boy,” cut the roof off his car, and go out to the woods to sulk.

Matt: I hope you wear flannel when you do. So Professor X shows Wolverine the plane he has for some reason, and asks him to hang around so they can figure out what Magneto’s up to.

Chris: Professor X also kind of blackmails Wolverine into sticking around by telling him he’ll help find out his Mysterious Pastâ„¢, which sets up the events of X-Men 2 pretty well, and also indicates that Professor X is not above throwing his psychic weight around to get what he wants. Which may explain why his prized students dress up in sexy, super-tight leather outfits to go run around fighting terrorists.

Matt: It’s great if you imagine Patrick Stewart in his cameo from Extras when you think about that. “I’d seen it all. I’d seen everything.”

Chris: While Professor X is giving Wolverine the sales pitch into joining his anti-government strike force, Senator Kelly is out campaigning for the Mutant Registration Act. He’s warmly greeted by the Tea Party of the Marvel Universe, one of whom is carrying the single greatest sign in the history of protesting:

Matt: Man, there’s a blue area up there. They’ll be OK. Kelly wants to claim he’s not a mutant, but he can get cell phone reception flying in a helicopter in the year 2000. That’s pretty suspect.

Chris: Unfortunately for the senator, his assistant has been replaced by a naked Rebecca Romijn. Wait, did I say “unfortunately?” I meant the opposite of that.

Matt: I remember seeing this movie in the theater with my mom and my aunt when I was 17. This scene was difficult.

Chris: Because they were pro-registration?

Matt: Uh-huh.

Chris Sims: Rebecca Romijn is, of course, playing the shape-shifting Mystique, who kicks the bejeezus out of Senator Kelly and kidnaps him off to Magneto’s secret hideout. Back at the Mansion, we get both an infodump breakdown of Wolverine’s powers, and an example of how quick he is to start romancin’ his new teammate. He apologizes for trying to choke Jean out earlier, then flexes his pecs and asks her where her bedroom is. Seriously.

Matt: He’s been around a long time. No messing around anymore. Despite the infodumpiness of this scene, I do think it’s neat that Jean Grey fills the Hank McCoy role in this movie. It works really well.

Chris: Beast was definitely in an early draft, and even got a design from Industrial Light & Magic, but I imagine Singer ditched him because the technology of the time wouldn’t have been able to pull it off on their budget. He looks pretty rough when he finally shows up in X-Men 3, but by the time we got to First Class, CGI seems to have caught up well enough.

Matt: In an act of blatant foreshadowing, Professor X wonders aloud if Magneto is after Wolverine after all. Then, well, things get pretty silly.

Chris: At his mysterious island hideout, which I don’t think we ever see from the outside but I assume is definitely shaped like Magneto’s head, he uses his Magnetic Genetic Rearrange-O-Tron to turn Senator Kelly into a mutant. This… is dubious.

Matt: We also see Ian McKellen’s O-face, which makes me wonder what he’s doing to make that big, only-in-sci-fi gadget work.

Chris: On the one hand, I really like the idea behind this. The fact that Magneto’s plan isn’t to kill people, but to turn them into mutants so that they can relate to his struggle and see that what they’re doing is inhuman is really smart, and again, makes him very sympathetic as a villain. On the other hand, in practice, it’s just goofy.

Matt: At least the explanations of how it works are kept to a minimum. What could they say?

Chris: Given the metaphor that we’re working with, it’s like Magneto has a laser that turns you gay.

Matt: Be careful. Drudge is going to pick this up if we say too much more about Secret Project Gayzer.

Chris: To be fair, they don’t need a laser as long as they have shirtless Hugh Jackman. Am I right, fellas?

Matt: Speaking of shirtless Hugh, the next scene cements the love triangle between Wolverine, Jean and Cyclops by having the three of them stand around and talk about their love triangle.

Chris: Which is 100% accurate to the comics. If Rogue would’ve busted in and yelled “AH CAIN’T TOUCH YUH, REMY!” it would’ve hit everything.

Matt: After Cyclops tells Wolverine to stay away from his girl, Wolverine gets some restless shuteye, dreaming about green bubbles and his bones in the past. Rogue tries to wake him up, and gets some claws to the shoulder area.

Chris: I had a very similar experience to this when I woke my dad up one night when I was a kid, but fortunately he did not have a set of steak knives surgically implanted in to his fist. He did have a metal replacement bone in his spine, though, so I guess he was like a .005 on the Wolverine scale.

Matt: I feel weird bringing this up now that you told that story, but I have to. The sexual symbolism ramps up to 1,000 in this scene. Rogue goes into Wolverine’s bedroom, he claw-penetrates her, it causes her discomfort and she takes some of his life essence. It’s like they’re already married, am I right, fellas?

Chris: In the interest of stirring up that conflict that our readers love so much, I think you might be reading a little too much into it. This is just a perfectly normal, non-sexual scene of a man dreaming about the hardest bones science can produce and then stabbing a teenage girl.

Matt: Well, when you put it that way. Professor X tells Wolverine Rogue’s going to be OK, and we’re back to the senator, who’s learning some things about himself.

Chris: Specifically, he is learning that he is now a totally gross version of the T-1000 from Terminator 2.

Matt: Less “liquid metal” than just “liquid.” Magneto, dressed to the nines–he really does get some great costumes–has some fun at Kelly’s expense as he tries to escape, but then Sabretooth can’t hold onto him.

Chris: There’s really cool stuff with Magneto’s powers in this scene, too, like building the metal bridge as he walks across it and opening and closing the bars to the cell by bending them. Plus, he is rocking a cape, which just looks baller as hell on him.

Matt: Kelly drops off the edge of Magneto’s prison into the ocean, and washes up on naked on a beach, traumatizing many children. He grabs someone’s clothes because apparently laws don’t apply to these greedy government fat cats.

Chris: It’s also revealed in that scene that Kelly’s mutation involved the removal of his butt-crack, and I really have to question the evolutionary advantage to that. Plus, the very first Stan Lee movie cameo!

 

Matt: It’s considerably more brief than his later ones. I do love how he usually just plays regular, working stiffs.

Chris: For some reason, Stan never showed up in the Blade movies, which sucks because hearing that dude say “some motherf***ers are always trying to ice-skate uphill, True Believer” would’ve resulted in the single best motion picture of all time.

Matt: He could have been a Stanpire!

Chris: You’re right about the brevity of his appearance, though. You almost have to be looking for it to notice him; he’s actually in the background rather than the focus. I guess at the time, Stan wasn’t the well-known pop culture figure that he is today, largely because of his appearances in these movies. I mean, us comics readers certainly knew who he was, but I don’t think the average person on the street did. It’d be like having John McTiernan show up in every movie that was pitched as “Die Hard in a ____” as a thrill for people obsessed with action movies.

Matt: He’d be in every movie, then. Back at the school, Mystique, posing as Iceman, tells Rogue she better get out of Dodge because Professor X is mad she used her powers on Wolverine. Seems a little hard to believe, given that we’ve never seen Professor X mad about anything, but she barely knows him.

Chris: This is one of the bigger plot holes in the movie: If Mystique can just roll up onto the front yard in disguise and convince Rogue to leave, why doesn’t she just lead her to Magneto then? Why go through all the rigamarole of getting her to go buy a train ticket and then trying to kidnap her from a very public place?

Matt: I guess you could say it was so it’d take longer for people to notice that she’s gone, but by the next scene Professor X and the crew are on the case.

Chris: I do really like this scene and how it goes back to hammering the themes of isolation and paranoia of being a teenager, though. Looking at it as an adult, it’s such an obvious setup – “Bobby” tells Rogue that the students are freaked, when we’ve seen them running on water and teleporting and shooting lasers out of their eyes, it’s impossible to believe they wouldn’t sympathize – but you can see how she’d buy it. Paquin does a really good job selling it, too.

Matt: She’s scared, upset with herself. The whole “don’t use your powers on another mutant” thing is out of left field, but again, she’s new.

Chris: But it totally fits as one of Magneto’s rules.

Matt: To find her, Professor X uses Cerebro (after telling Wolverine Magneto helped build it) and the visualization of it is pretty cool, like a THX graphic, even though I’m not sure how it could work in any practical way.

Chris: Cerebro is interesting, in that it’s one of those things where the helmet looks exactly like it does in the comics, but the idea of this big round chamber was something that then influenced the source material and became the standard visual for it. Unless I’m mistaken and there was, as Wolverine says, “a big round room” that showed up somewhere before the movie.

Matt: I remember it being smaller in scale. But the way Professor X actually uses it, at least the way we’re shown on screen, is basically that he has to search for a needle in a haystack, or one mutant out of millions that pop up in his field of “vision.”

Chris: It’s pretty cool, and does help to highlight the idea of mutants as normal people leading normal lives, and not just dudes in leather motorcycle suits shooting at giant robots with laser beams from their eyes.

Matt: Like I said, a neat visual, but it makes it seem like a real pain to actually use. Luckily, it only takes Xavier a few seconds to discover that Rogue’s at the train station.

Chris: Professor X tries to tell Wolverine that he can’t leave the mansion and go get Rogue because that’s what Magneto’s waiting for – I think we glossed over it, but everyone thinks that Magneto’s looking for Wolverine, which is reinforced rather sloppily early on when Magneto asks Sabretooth if he captured “the mutant.” Here’s the thing, though: you’re not Wolverine’s dad, old man!

Matt: Cyclops notices his motorcycle’s missing, and we see Wolverine tearing out of there on it. Man, that guy could not be happier to be on a motorcycle.

Chris: At the train station, Wolverine has a heart-to-heart about how Xavier seems like a pretty cool guy who really does want to help (and who just happens to run a secret paramilitary strike force), but before they can head back, the Brotherhood attacks.

Matt: There’s also a quick reminder that Mystique’s still skulking around the mansion. The action sequence at the train station is pretty great, and the X-Men do considerable property damage.

Chris: Not Kevin Nash takes on Storm and Darth Maul fights Cyclops, and while you’d think that would be a pretty one-sided fight, the Brotherhood acquits themselves pretty well, right up until Storm starts blasting everybody with lightning. They’re just the advance guard, though, and eventually Magneto himself shows up and we get a pretty awesome scene of Ian McKellen being a total super-powered badass.

Matt: He manhandles Wolverine (without actually touching him) and snags Rogue with a syringe full of sedative after making a serial-villain pronouncement, “Whoever said I wanted you?” Also of note: Everyone else on the train sits calmly and watches.

Chris: Singer does a great job building up Wolverine as a super-tough badass – which is exactly what he is – and the effortless way that Magneto takes him out really has impact. We see how much of a Final Boss this guy is, even before he walks outside and starts throwing cars around. And McKellen does an amazing job with Magneto’s sneering arrogance, too. I imagine it was a pretty fun role to play.

Matt: “Young people” is a terrific line.

Chris: The way he spits out “You homo sapiens and your guns” is great, too. I think we can just come right out and make the bold statement that Ian McKellen is pretty good, yeah.

Matt: Magneto makes short work of the cops outside — I remember the part where he flips the cars and controls the guns blowing my mind– but he hits a roadblock when Professor X takes over Sabretooth’s mind.

Chris: It’s a really neat set-up, with Professor X working around not being able to get into Magneto’s mind by taking over the henchmen to threaten him physically, and Magneto holding all the cops hostage with their own guns. Magneto comes off as ruthless and insanely powerful, and Professor X as someone who isn’t willing to sacrifice lives to get what he wants. It’s well-done. And if you hadn’t mentioned it earlier, I wouldn’t have noticed it, but you’re right: Magneto does not like to be touched. McKellen just bristles when Sabretooth grabs him.

Matt: He’ll only really let Mystique touch him. The standoff here is pretty tense, but Magneto gets the better of Xavier by threatening to off a few cops, and he waltzes out with what he came for: Rogue.

Chris: I love the bit where he stops the bullet at the guy’s forehead and then twists it in with his powers. It’s just cold. So at the midpoint of the movie, Magneto has kidnapped Rogue as the key to his master plan – abducting her in the Senator’s official helicopter, which is a pretty cool touch – and the X-Men have just had their collective ass handed to them. Join us again next week when we pick back up and see how weird this whole thing gets!

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