Avengers Assemble opens today, 26 April 2012, but the journey to what looks like – by our review, at least – the biggest and best superhero team-up movie of all time didn’t begin when Robert Downey Jr jerry-rigged a nuclear pacemaker in 2008 Iron Man, but 12 years earlier.
Bryan Singer’s X-Men, in retrospect, is ponderous and po-faced, bogged down by origin stories and scene-setting, and its action stilted and unconvincing, but in terms of bringing a comic-book property into the real world, and giving superhero movies a purchase in the popular imagination after the crass and absurd Joel Schumacher Batman movies, it was downright revolutionary.
Though its an ensemble movie, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, with a secondary performance from Anna Paquin as Rogue (honing the Southern belle patter that would guarantee her future in True Blood as serial supernatural shagger Sookie Stackhouse) and Iain McKellan’s icy Magneto, quickly dominates.
He has the coolest lines, and the coolest moves – he’s a rugged alpha male with a protective streak, who gets sweaty and physical at the first sign of danger, and quickly began to overshadow the entire franchise to the point where he wound up with one of his own… even the cartoon was eventually rebranded Wolverine And The X-Men.
Giving every Avenger a shot, Joss Whedon has clearly learnt from this as much as he has the sheer logistically challenges of getting so many characters, powers and special effects, on screen at once.
And like Bryan Singer’s X-Men, it’s a whole paradigm shift for superhero movies.