(Not) A Movie Review of X-men: Why the Story Works

I am a big fan of the X-men universe. The comics, cartoon series (old and new), I dig them all... especially the movies! 

The most attractive trait about the X-men is that it is about a group of outcasts. Anyone who has ever been a teenager knows the feeling. And everyone wishes they had hands that could freeze your opponent instantly... or a handy set of kitchen knives popping out of their knuckles when the going was tough, or any other number of awesome powers shown in the X-men universe.

From a writer's perspective, I love the X-men stories because I can only imagine the effort and planning it takes to work with so many different characters, and yet allow them to all have their say (without stepping on each other's toes) in two cinematic hours. 

So this is not a review. 
It's my own subjective analytical view as to some of the reasons why the story works.

Taking a look at one scene from the first X-men movie, (which personally, I would have called "Scene 7: Never Wake Up a Wolverine") we have two of the story's pivotal characters, Logan and Rogue as the newest arrivals in the X Mansion. We have established at this point that they have begun to develop a platonic friendship formed from their meeting as two loners in an outlandish town.

In this scene, it is the dead of night when all occupants of the mansion are meant to be asleep. Logan is very unsettled (which has an important reason in itself) and tosses and turns from the nightmares of his lost memories. Rogue is sleepless because of this, and goes to Logan, concerned about his well-being. It's a typical scene in any ordinary life ("Wake up, you're having a nightmare!" etc) - which becomes drastically different when you layer in a few evolutionary induced powers.

Rogue cannot touch him to wake him up, because if she does she will extract his life force. So, gently, easy does it, she tries to get him to wake up by talking to him. Meanwhile, the nightmare reaches a point where it's too horrific to bear, and Logan wakes with a roar. While that is scary enough for anyone, let's not forget,

Logan has knives in his hands.

It takes a moment for him to get out of attack-mode, but when he does, Logan realises that he has stabbed a friend. In an instant he is in remorse, but has no clue what to do. In desperation he calls for help - a moment when you can see that a dozen unspoken thoughts are going through his mind. Rogue is clearly in pain and unable to speak. 

Then, with what seems to be pure survival instinct, Rogue reaches out her fingers to Logan's face. From regret and panic, he shows a new emotion - fear. Even shaking his head as he sees those deceptively gentle-looking hands get closer. But he doesn't move away, which might have been due to being paralysed by the deep guilt (along with panic) he would feel at that moment. And so it happens, as Rogue touches Logan's skin ever so lightly, energy is drained from him.

We haven't forgotten that Logan also has the power to heal himself instantly. The tables are now turned as Rogue heals, while he becomes the one in mortal danger... Of course she lets go just in the nick of time, and although greatly weakened (temporarily), Logan survives.

Why is this scene genius?  
Because it could not have worked with any other characters. Think about it, if Logan had stabbed someone with ice powers, that wouldn't have helped anyone. If Rogue had been stabbed by someone with ice powers, extracting them would just make her mortal wounds colder. But because it was those two characters specifically, she was able to extract his healing powers enough to heal her wounds completely.



  1. Never would've guessed that you're a fan of the X-Men. Interesting opinion. I agree that it's remarkable how the story-writers develop more than one character's story at a time. It's no mean feat.

  2. It is so awesome. I will continue to study the greats and who knows? Hollywood here I come! :-P

  3. I think that you'll find a lot of character development articles on the web if you don't mind using that resource as well. I remember coming across a few when I was was working on story a while ago. There are charts to help you delve into each character's motives and journey. Pretty cool stuff.

    Have you written any stories?

  4. I've seen quite a few character development resources, there are many different types. I am yet to decide which method works best for me.

    I have indeed written a few stories! If all goes well, they should be available for public consumption too :-)

    You'll hear about it here first!

  5. the genesis of the writers theory was to bring into play two different charecters with two different powers but how those powers proved to work out to the good of both depsite the differences. one really wonders what would have happen if Rogue did not have the life sucking powers and on the other hand if wolverine did not have the self-healing powers. the beuty of the scene however is how the viewer reacts to the scene in the hat of the moment..one wonders whether Rogue will die,or get to taken to bed with serious injuries and how that will alter the plot of the movie...on the other hand one wonders what Wolverine's next move would be considering he has almost killed a friend. for me the climax is when it all starts to change and the viewer sees how the two differnt characters with ppotentially dangerous powers to each can actually co-exist with no repercussions

  6. That's a very interesting thought RJ. This is not the only example of how the writers creatively use the powers of the many characters of a scene to create a problem and then subsequently solve it in unpredictable ways. That is one of the elements that has made me a fan of the films - the out of the box problem solving.

    And it's not just life-threatening situations! In X-men 2 Wolverine wants his bottled drink to be cold... Iceman, make yourself useful!

    PS Good news! http://screenrant.com/x-men-4-5-development-rob-108012/


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