The first X-Men film is not really perfect, but in terms of it's timing and what it meant might be coming down the pike with regards to cinematic interpretations of comic books (specifically Marvel comics) it is pretty darn close to perfect. Lets face it, this is the harbinger of the comic book movie age that has, like it or not, made some exciting and high-grossing films. I personally think the majority of comic book movies fail and could care less about how much money they make, but X-Men is a bit more than that. It's a very good movie too.
I didn't get a chance to see this in theaters but that actually served the film well in terms of how I viewed the hype. I didn't care because so many did...that's the old punk in me in guess. So I waited and received the film as an early Christmas gift the following year. I actually watched it Christmas eve and found it to be incredibly refreshing and enjoyable.
It begins by showing us a young boy being separated from his parents at a German concentration camp in Poland. His parents are going into the camp and will be killed. The boy is desperate to save them and as the German soldiers hold him down he reaches out and somehow begins to bend the metal gates that close in his parents before being struck down by the [...] of one of the soldiers' guns. The boy is Eric Lehnsherr, one of the great all-time Marvel comic villains known as Magneto. In one fell swoop, Bryan Singer does something that I've always been glad X-Men writers did consistently, and that is allow us to sympathize with this villain.
We are then introduced to the primary plot of a modern day Senator bent on the granting the government the ability to force registration of all mutants. Then it shows how telepathic and mind manipulating mutant Charles Xavier and his old friend and rival Magneto fundamentally disagree on how mutants as a race must react to this oncoming repression. This is followed by the introduction to our primary protagonists; Rogue, a young girl who drains the life of all people her skin makes contact with, and Wolverine, an enhanced mutant with the ability to heal himself enough that his body endured somking of skeletal replacement surgery. His skeleton is made of an indestructible metal and he also has claws made of this metal that break through his skin anytime he wants to kill someone. Great characters that Anna Paquin and Hugh Jackman are able to portray well here. Again, Singer introduces these characters with relatable depth.
In short, Magneto wants to destroy humanity and the X-Men must stop him in an environment where they are not appreciated in the least by the public. Singer attempts to make sociological insights on those terms in addition to bringing great character depth. When you consider the number of characters and the length of the movie, these are not easy tasks to say the least. Then again, when watching the Usual Suspects it's quite obvious Singer has a knack for just this sort of thing.
X-Men is a very good movie but I won't give it five stars because it also contains some fairly annoying dialogue that I absolutely refuse to forgive. For example, the character Storm asks the villain Toad what happens when a toad is hit by lightning and answers her own question by saying "the same as everything else." It's not funny or witty. It serves no purpose other than to make Storm look like a big cheese ball, and that isn't really fair. Not to mention, who really cares what happens to a toad when it gets electrocuted and why is that even a question to begin with? Let's just watch the lightning bolt strike and see toad explode. That is really just a nit-picking though, as X-Men is still a very good movie and it actually gets more and more important in terms of movie history with time.