Upon rewatching this for the first time in years, I actually found myself liking it more than ever. In fact, there aren't a lot of things to complain about. Fundamentally, this is a pretty solid movie, but there are still some things that can be improved upon.
Here is a list of what I feel are the errors of the film, and how I would have fixed them if I had been on the creative team in some fashion.
Core Problem #1: Toad
What a stupid character. Out of all the villains to choose from, why was he the fourth member of The Brotherhood? Magneto, Mystique and Sabretooth are all classics, but Toad?? Obviously, the next best choice was Juggernaut, but even someone like Avalanche would have made more sense. For that matter, why has Avalanche still not been in a movie after 9 of these being made?
Getting rid of Toad also gets rid of one of the most ridiculous things in the movie: Storm's dialogue about toads being struck by lightning. It's an awful line that people make fun of all the time.
Ray Park is cool and all, having brought Darth Maul to life in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, but Toad just felt like a studio executive's note rather than something for the story. "Hey, this martial artist did some cool pole stuff on that movie, so why not have a character do the same thing here? Maybe he can be like, a frog guy too?"
Core Problem #2: Fight Choreography
This is something that would improve as the series went on, but it's terrible in the first entry. There are far too many moments where people are being thrown across a room in ridiculous fashion that I've seriously lost count at how many times it happens in the movie. Once or twice is okay, but only when the context fits it, too. For example, when Magneto launches Wolverine, it's because he has control over the metal in his body. That makes sense. Why, on the other hand, does Sabretooth fly backward when struck by lightning, or do people get kicked or punched and just sort of flip around?
That type of choreography is unrealistic to a point where audiences laugh at it and scoff at the idea that it's supposed to be believable, as it clearly is amped up to a level that's supposed to make you feel it's over the top and more like a comic book. Nowadays, the superhero film genre is succeeding because it's being treated in a more earnest fashion as if things were real, rather than trying to stylize it to give you the feel of watching a more campy comic book cinematic experience.
Core Problem #3: Missing Characters
There's only a limited amount of space in this movie, so the number of characters needed to be cut down to just a few in comparison to the vast amount from the comics. I understand fully well that there may not have been any room for some more characters to be added to the mix, but it was still disappointing going to the theaters to see this and not come across a few of my favorites from when I was a kid, watching the animated series.
For example, it floored me that Beast wasn't involved. In retrospect, I can look at the decision to keep him out and replace some of his character aspects with Jean Grey, making her a doctor to give her something more to do in the script, as a good call. However, part of me was just sad that Hank McCoy wasn't a big part of the school like he should have been. Later films would retcon this, and I'm happy about that.
How cool would it have been, though, to see Forge working in the garage on Cyclops' car for a split second or something like that?
Core Problem #4: The Costumes
Again, this was a different era for film, so I can forgive them to a degree. The uniforms in this movie never looked bad to me, but they still got under a lot of peoples' skin for not being more reminiscent of the comics. I think there could have been a way to incorporate more of the designs from the comic book counterparts while still maintaining a level of realism with the leather outfits. Later movies would try to do this, and I don't see why that couldn't have been done from the start. Magneto's look, for example, is close enough that people didn't really complain, and you buy it being something that he could actually be wearing. I'm not expecting yellow spandex, but maybe some yellow and blue piping on the leather outfits could have gone a long way.
Miscellaneous Extra Flaws & Nitpicking
Basically, those big problems above are the things that would have saved these movies and made them better as a whole, but there are smaller things that could have been changed as well. I'm obviously not going to nitpick every little detail, but a few things that stand out to me are as follows:
- Storm's Accent – Either do it, or don't. Halle Berry fluctuates throughout the movie and it's terrible when she does it, so she should have either had a better dialect coach or the first time she tried it, they should have realized it wouldn't work and kept her natural speaking voice like they did in future movies.
- Mr. Guyrich Has Been Dead for Some Time – Why? He was such an important figurehead of the anti-mutant agenda and could have been used in future movies! Mistake.
- Rogue Casting – While I don't think this severely hurts the film, I do think someone else could have fit the role of Rogue better than Anna Paquin. I love the idea that Christina Ricci almost had the part, and I think she could have killed it.
Well, there you have it—some insight into how I would have changed things in hindsight if Marvel and Fox magically gave me the ability to do so. Thankfully, despite the bumps in the road along the way, the overall grand picture of the franchise has been a positive one, and I'm hoping this continues with X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27th.