My wife wanted me to mention the only reason we watched X-Men was because she wanted to see Hugh Jackman with his shirt off… I watched it to insure she didn’t have a cardiac arrest.
Back in the old days, before IMDb edited their trivia section, the X-Men trivia featured defenses of some of the terrible performances. There was some excuse for Halle Berry’s terrible accent and another for Anna Paquin’s mysteriously appearing and disappearing one. It’s too bad IMDb got classy and took them down, because there were even more defenses and they were a lot of fun.
But if one is trapped and watching X-Men, in between parts where Hugh Jackman’s giving a fine performance, there are amusements. It’s fun to see Bryan Singer composing his shots for a pan-and-scan VHS version (faces occupy one half of the screen while empty space occupies the other or the action is in the center, with empty space on the sides). There’s also the obviously Canadian sets–which make the Statue of Liberty finale all the more amusing. I mean, X-Men is an action movie where one of the big sequences takes place in the Liberty Island gift shop. Not many movies can make that claim. Or the train station… wow, that one’s exciting.
There are more amusements, some not recognizable at the time. It’s not really an amusement, more an unfortunate reality–Michael Kamen’s embarrassing score, which would be terrible on a razor commercial, is one of his last. But on the more amusing things–like trying to take Tyler Mane seriously. The guy’s 6’8″ but the make-up and costume are so silly, he looks like he’s performing at a kid’s birthday party.
The most fun, however, is trying to figure who gives a worse performance, Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellan. The script, which has some of the worst dialogue in any major motion picture I think I’ve ever seen, does neither any favors, but I do think Stewart edges McKellan out. Though McKellan is worse, he’s in it a little bit less and doesn’t have the long expository monologues Stewart gets to deliver.
The plot is smartly bound to Jackman, which kind of makes the thing deceptively okay in parts. Thankfully, the moronic ending (it’s Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, get it?) erases any memory of his fine performance.
Speaking of performances, there really aren’t any good ones other than Jackman. James Marsden is hilariously bad, as is Berry, as is Rebecca Romijn. Famke Janssen’s bad, but nowhere near as terrible as the others. Bruce Davison, who really sets off those made in Canada flags, is awful.
I’ve seen X-Men three times now and I still don’t understand how it was a hit or how it is considered “good.” It kicked off the modern superhero movie genre, which has produced some worse entries, and maybe it just doesn’t seem as bad in comparison to those. But with the exception of Jackman, the whole thing feels like a syndicated, shot-in-Canada TV show. It’s like “RoboCop: The Series.” Only worse.