It's Mutant Week! With X-Men Days of Future Past, the 4th X-Men movie upon us nearly upon us -- Yes, fourth, shut up...Last Stand and both Wolverine solo movies do not exist...lalala ♪ I can't hear you -- we should celebrate Marvel's homo superior this week, even if we have to do so by way of 20th Century Fox.
Herewith a retrofitted piece celebrating my choice for "Best Shot" from the first movie. (If you'd like to play the Best Shot game, post your choice by tomorrow night and I'll link up in the index)
In some ways the original X-Men (2000) is a tentative and mediocre movie: the budget limitations are obvious, Halle Berry is as lost as you remembered (though Storm is a strangely minor character), and the central evil plot is just dumb. But in other ways it's undervalued and not just because of the downward spiral that followed after the sequel.
X-Men makes smart choices about narrowing its focus for a first film (centering on Wolverine & Rogue) and the one character it totally reimagines -- that'd be Mystique -- is a major success.
What's more director Bryan Singer actually makes use of the widescreen in his mise-en-scène. Too few filmmakers do, just shoving everything into the center of the frame or shooting everything in relentless close-up. Even action sequences are shot with a preference for top of head and chin shaving close-ups these days but, much like musical numbers, action sequences are more memorable and coherent when they include whole bodies in the frame. And even though Singer's compositional tricks get a bit repetitive, like the recurring out of focus introduction of characters in the background, which you can see above, they're aesthetically pleasing.
X-Men was lensed by Newton Thomas Sigel, who has shot all of Singer's movies since The Usual Suspects (1995). This is my favorite shot in the film, Wolverine lost in the X-Mansion, bewildered by the new sites. He sees his reflection multiplied, across the team uniforms. Isn't it a beauty, narratively speaking? And Jackmanically speaking, too.
What are your fondest memories of the first film?