Thursday, 29 May 2014
Pull X-Men apart and see what works. The screenplay, credited to David Hayter but featuring work by at least Christopher McQuarrie, Joss Whedon, Bryan Singer, Ed Solomon, and Tom DeSanto, does a decent job juggling X-Men and their introductions, building a central framework kin to Warner Brothers' 1990s political thrillers. You know the type. Easily digestible hook, usually starring some combination of Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, and Julia Roberts. Probably based on something people read in airports.
The first act's the best, invoking the Holocaust to give us a gauche sense of stakes, then flashing forward to a blustery white politician arguing down a beautiful mutant with homespun, right-wing rhetoric. This sense of solemnity is matched by Singer and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel's insistence on framing the actors against chicken fencing and complicated mechanical / architectural backgrounds. Cages are continually stressed with mutants either close or already in them.
Hugh Jackman's Wolverine - basically a quick healing version of Clint in Every Which Way but Loose - takes Anna Paquin's runaway Rogue under his wing and ends up at Professor Xavier's school for dorks. X-Men begins to wobble. The filmmakers are so desperate to push Wolverine as cool dude number one that they forget to give any of the other X-Men traits beyond party pooper. Halle Berry in particular is treated with contempt - barely photographed and saddled with an appalling Kenyan accent that somehow made it past rehearsals.
X-Men ends up being structurally unsound too. Action scenes are, correctly, built around each of the mutant's individual abilities. Unfortunately, no-one found a way to make these acts visceral, physical experiences. The film frequently stops dead for feature computer effects that read as impoverished and primitive. Singer and Sigel's deep focus framing splayed open for lame effects plates. X-Men then has no sense of release. Its attempts at kineticism as dull as the voluminous clouds of cosmic cum Magneto summons up for the finale.