Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hugh Jackman is Sleeping. (And Other X-Men Memories)

Shhhhhh. It's a day of rest and Hugh Jackman is sleeping. Let him be.

Wait. Anna!? What are you doing?!? Don't tiptoe up to deadly people while they're having nightmares.

AakHHGGGgghHNnnHhh! ouch

Well, don't say we didn't warn you. Anna Paquin is always hovering carelessly around killers, isn't she? Whether they be clawed or fanged. The girl can't help it.

The X-Men movie franchise was launched 10 years ago in July 2000 and I watched it again last week with the intention of celebrating it with lots of prurient screencaps of Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn and some discussion about the casting for X-Men: First Class (2011) aka Muppet Mutant Babies or "it's time for yet another reboot" but the time got away from me, it did. But better late than never for a couple of observations.

In some ways the original X-Men is a tentative 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.

It 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 sometimes. 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 close-ups these days (see Inception for an up-to-the-minute example) but, much like musical numbers, they're more memorable and coherent when they include whole bodies in the frame.
And even if some of Singer's tricks get a bit repetitive, such as the out of focus introduction of characters in the background, they're aesthetically pleasing.

X-Men was lensed by Newton Thomas Sigel, who is Singer's constant collaborator. This is my favorite shot in the whole movie, Wolverine lost in the X-Mansion, bewildered by the new sites.

Isn't that a beauty narratively speaking? And Jackmanically speaking?

P.S. The Film Experience will be back tomorrow with Craig's Take Three column. I'll personally be scarcer than usual in the next week (off-web deadlines) but there will still be daily postings. We'll figure it out. We just keep putting it out there even though we don't have the recuperative powers of Logan/Wolverine. We sure could use them.


Michael B. said...

The sequel is one of the best comic book movies ever...

This is solid work though. And kudos for whoever got Jackman, Marsden, McKellen, Romijn, Paquin, Stewart and Janssen on board.

They were pitch perfect for each character.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

I think it's really pretentious to use the phrase "mise-en-scène" on a film blog. Please discuss films for the common man. Didn't Ben Lyons teach us anything?

Kyle said...

I've always disliked the X-men film super-hero movies simply don't work from a character building stand-point. Literally, the only people you get to know in the films feel like Wolverine, Magneto, and to some extent Charles Xavier...everyone else is window dressing...little bit of Rogue here and there maybe.

Rob Bartlett said...

I always feel the criticisms of "too many characters" somewhat unfair. We don't get those complaints for the Ocean's movies, or Lord of the Rings. (Which tended to do it better, mind you, but Legolas and Gimli's arc wasn't that complex)

Speaking of Nolan, however much he may have surpassed Singer, I don't think people give the latter credit for the former. Nolan's career followed very much in the pattern of Singer's. Which is why his being tapped to revive Superman made me chuckle.

Luke said...

*SNIKT!* Oh Stan Lee and your silly on-paper sound effects. Wolverine's claw noise was always one of my favorites...

Lara Jane said...

I'm with Kyle, but it's not so much the team dynamic, just that they shifted the dynamic from everyone else to Wolverine.

Cyclops was the leader of the X-Men, yet he and Storm weren't even worthy of subplots. It was all Wolverine, all the time. What they did to Cyke (in all three films, but particularly the third, where they crapped all over the Phoenix saga), and how they emasculated him, was one of the greatest tragedies known to geekdom the world over.

(And you wouldn't know it from that comment, but I am not a 35-year-old virgin living in his mother's basement!)

Daniel Armour said...

While it certainly has its flaws, I thought - and still think - that X-Men was a four star film through and through. X2, of course, is the superior film but I wouldn't of had ANY confidence in Singer had the first film been mediocre.

Anonymous said...

The Xmen trilogy was robbed of at least one Oscar nomination and that is for X3 because of the grounbreaking use of visual effects in the faces of Magneto and Professor Xavier in order to make them younger.

Benjamin Button went on to win the award for that technique.

adri said...

This summer we toured an old mansion/museum where they had movie posters of the films that had been shot there. We got excited when we saw "X-Men" and we went back and looked at everything again saying oh, yes this was the classroom, this was Professor Xavier's study, these stairs are where they shot that scene. Kind of silly that film history was more interesting to us than the actual people who had lived there.

Wild Celtic said...

Yes, that is a beautiful shot. Jackman is someone I don't mind watching no matter what he's doing, but if he's standing shirtless in front of a mirror I am also fineeee with that. Good post. ;)

chris na Taraja said...

I actually don't mind seeing Hugh Jackman in relentles close up.

adam k. said...

Jackman ten years younger as Wolverine = dead sexy. I love that Bryan Singer obviously sexualized him all through the film. Not enough gay directors in superhero films.

I love the term Jackmaniac. Something about it feels a bit "Will & Grace" though.

Also still pissed about the casting of Halle Berry as Storm. Such a monumentally stupid decision on every level. I can't understand why they did that at all. She wasn't even that famous at the time.

Also still would've liked to see Rutger Hauer as Magneto.

Also, I hated the "younger" visual effects in X3. Stewart and McKellen just looked like old men with weird digital makeup. It was kind of gross. But while watching them, I was admittedly already on the film's bad side based on everything else that was utterly terrible about it.

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