Oh these days of comic book film adaptions are something of a treat for those at the top half of Generation X. Ya know, those fast aging comic book heads who dared imagine the current landscape in which film after comic book based film is released every summer.
That is the generation that longed for film studios to take comic books seriously. Their youth was a time in which we only had those ancient Superman films from the late 80s, and the uber-cartoonish Batman films from the early 90s was all we had to go on. Yes, the 90s did have a considerable amount of cartoons that are based on such popular comic book titles as X-Men and Spiderman. The latter of which earned itself some big screen love with Tobey McGuire playing Peter Parker in Sony’s three film Spiderman arc starting in 2000.
But one of the problems that fans have always had with single character based comic book movies is, other than the antagonist and the protagonist, there weren’t many other super powered representatives from their respective universes. Comic book nerds always want as many elements of the original material to show up on the big screen as humanly possible. We are aware that each hero has his respective relationships with other heroes, either as part of a team or simply by fighting crime in a certain geographic area.
The earliest attempt at featuring a broader comic book film from a character perspective was Batman: Forever, starring Val Kilmer, Chris O’Donnell, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones. That film was followed up by the equally cartoonish Batman & Robin two years later. But we were getting tired of these campy, poorly edited, kid friendly films that were more like real life cartoons. We wanted films that captured the grittiness and dread of the actual comic book. The best we had come across prior to the turn of the century was Blade, starring Wesley Snipes.
However, that blockbuster film seemed to occur in a completely different universe from the rest of Marvel because no mention was ever made of anything even remotely related to the Marvel Universe aka Earth 616. Fresh off the overwhelming success of multiple X-Men animated television shows, fans and laypersons alike were salivating for the introduction of a film indicative of an expanded comic book world. We saw "Generation X" premiere on Fox and were gravely disappointed that our generation lent its namesake to a stinker. This movie had to be good. It just had to be.
On July 14, 2000, 20th Century Fox and Brian Singer composed an ensemble of high-quality actors and combined them with the cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel and editing prowess of Steven Rosunblum, Kevin Sitt and John Wright to create what quickly became the bar to which each of the following comic book related films through to the first Iron Man film strived to match. The cast members quickly became synonymous with their characters. Patrick Stewart became Professor X, Hugh Jackman is the Wolverine, and Halle Berry will forever be tied to the role of Storm.
Indeed, the plot was less connected to the comic book as many of us wished it were, and certain characters (like Juggernaut and Sabretooth) didn’t play as central a role as we had hoped or imagined, but it was a start. A great one at that. Not only did it show Hollywood that serious actor would be interested in appearing in a comic book-based film, but it also showed that it is feasible from a character and storyline standpoint as well. Blade may have re-birthed the idea of blockbuster films adapted from comic books, but X-Men proved that superhero films didn’t have to be campy or goofy to garner international success or acclaim.