Well, seeing as how we're starting to get more info these days about the new X-Men First Class film by Matthew Vaughn, I thought maybe it was time to look back and talk about the original X-Men films, from Bryan Singer.
First off, I wasn't all that taken with Ian McKellan as Magneto in the film trilogy. I mean yeah, the guy is a good actor, but he seemed far far too old for the role. When I think of Magneto, I think of this guy here:
Ya know, the guy from the comics and the 90s animated series. That's just my own personal bias, I admit. But Ian McKellan looked nothing like that. And the thought of him and Mystique having any sort of romantic relationship was really bizarre, because of that age difference.
Now, that's a Jim Lee picture of Magneto. Jim Lee does draw everyone as looking like Mr Universe, but it's an exaggerated appearance. That happens a lot in comic books. You can get somewhat close. Somewhere in the ballpark. There's no need to go off in the exact opposite direction. Bottom line... Magneto should've looked somewhat imposing. The guy's a big supervillain, and the main antagonist of the film. Ian McKellan did not look imposing. He looked like an old frail man who would break a hip if someone tripped him.
And the WWII origin is problematic. That is going to become less and less believable as time goes on, and WWII fades further back into the history books. It's just not going to be workable. Look at Iron Man, and what happened there. Tony Stark originally built his Iron Man suit to escape from the Viet Cong, for God's sake. Then Warren Ellis updated it to the war in Afghanistan in his excellent "Extremis" arc. It made sense and brought the character's origin back into relevant memory. They're gonna need to do something similar with Magneto, I'd wager. The origin itself is very good, and certainly provides motivation for the character, but the age is unfeasible as time goes on. In 20 or 30 years, they're still going to be making X-Men films of some sort. Are we going be getting 100+ year old Magnetos then?
Deviating from the comics is fine, if it's done well and makes sense and just... improves on the comics. A great example is Venom from Spider-Man TAS. I think just about everybody who's a fan of comics is aware of this one. In the original comics, Spider-Man got the black symbiote suit from Secret Wars, some stupid crossover that probably made no sense and had cosmic beings doing weird stuff. I dunno. But in Spider-Man TAS, they wisely just had it come back from a space shuttle coming back from Mars. Sorta like the beginning of Species 2, now that I think about it. But yeah, it worked so much better as an origin. Even though the origin deviated, we still got Venom. He was still the Venom we knew and liked. He wasn't some old and sickly Venom that looked as thin as a twig.
Also, the first film itself, made back in 2000, felt kinda lame. It seemed like there should've been more going on there. Everything felt cheap and budget-y. I guess because it was rather cheap and budget-y, as a film. But that harmed the experience while I was watching. For example... does anybody actually remember what Magneto's lair looked like? Any real notable characteristics? No? Yeah, I don't remember either. It was just this dark circular place, without any distinct identifiable features. It should tell you something.
Probably the lowest point in the film, in my eyes, was the scene right in the middle of the story when we're taken to Xavier's school for the gifted and there's a montage of mutants exercising. And there's this one rather goofy shot of Cyclops doing target practice with clay pigeons. That for me felt incredibly silly and almost campy. Here's this powerful X-man, the leader of the entire group, gifted with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, and he's just shooting at clay pigeons with his visor. That's what we get to watch? This is how you show us the powers of these mutants? It was also just comical, watching him rapidly swiveling his head this way and that, shooting the pigeons out of the air. I dunno, it got to me. The whole scene felt like a really lame way to show off these uncanny X-men. There's nothing extraordinary about popping some clay pigeons. Instead of building up the power and wonder of this character, it just diminished him in my eyes. And yeah, there's fine control and accuracy involved, sure. That's all well and good. But did it have to look so damn unimpressive and ordinary? A Danger Room session would've shown the same sorta skill, but without horribly underwhelming the audience. These X-men are supposed to protect mutantkind from threats like gigantic Sentinels and what have you, and this is how they train? By shooting at some clay targets? Cmon.
And then with X2... I actually didn't think X2 was all that special. The opening scene with Nightcrawler was great and incredibly kinetic, but... the film never really had anything interesting after that. I mean, the final setpiece is just this... dam breaking apart. It's certainly a big step up from X-Men, but there's not enough there to make it a really memorable theatrical experience. You need more then one great scene. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you don't start the show with a showstopper. X2 started with a showstopper. Plus, having two films in a row with Cerebro as a main plot device? Cmon... think of something new. Someone fucking with Cerebro and Prof. X... that stuff gets old.