X-Men: When comic book movies stopped sucking

When the first X-Men movie was making a mad-dash rush to the finish line, everything was so top secret, trying to get any advance word on anything was impossible.

Fans were certainly trying to brace themselves for the worst, because previous comic book movies really missed the mark. (Actually more like couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn…)

Three days before the movie came out, I got invited to a screening by my good friend Erik Bauer, who was my editor at Creative Screenwriting magazine.

Finishing the movie went down to the wire, it could have been wrapped up that afternoon for all I know, but I met with Erik at the Avco Theater in Westwood, where I saw many movies growing up.

It was definitely an audience of geeks, because when Wolverine’s claws first popped out, the place went apeshit, and by the time we got to the mutants showing their powers in the school, you could feel a big sense of relief that this was going to be a good movie. 

Bryan Singer turned out to be an excellent, left of center directing choice, and seeing Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine was a wonderful “A Star Is Born” moment.

When the rights for Spider-Man were finally untangled and Sam Raimi was chosen to direct, as opposed to say, Michael Bay, you finally got the sense that the major studios were taking comic book films, and comic book fans seriously. 

After the genre hit the nadir with Batman and Robin, comic fans were dreading the worst with many big screen adaptations, and while the first Spider-Man wasn’t the greatest, it was thankfully nowhere near as bad as it could have been in the wrong hands. (Spider-Man 2 however is one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen, and it was also nice to see Hollywood was setting higher standards for sequels by this point as well).

Of course, another major milestone was Batman Begins, which was the first time I had heard the term “reboot” in describing a movie. 

And indeed, starting over from scratch was a great idea, and it was also nice to see the sequel again blowing away the first one, which has set the bar very high for the third one, not to mention it will be Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s last Batman movie. (Warner Bros. has announced they’ll reboot Batman again after this, and I think they’re pressing their luck if they go through with it).

Obviously fans were on pins and needles before they saw Batman Begins, and the first Spider-Man and X-Men movies. These were the three of the most important comic characters in history, and it would have been dreadful to see a confederacy of Hollywood dunces screw everything up. (Who can forget Kevin Smith’s classic story of producer Jon Peters wanting Superman to battle a giant spider?)

There will certainly be good, bad and mediocre comic movies to come, that’s just the law of averages, but once word was out that X-Men was pretty damn good, and that the sequel was even better, you got the impression that comic films had finally turned a corner.