THE X-MEN (2000) 

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Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen
Hugh Jackman
Anna Paquin
Famke Janssen
James Marsden
Halle Berry
Tyler Mane
Rebecca Romijn
Bruce Davison

Bryan Singer



Time: 93 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Science Fiction/Super Heroes

As with all films made from TV series or comic books, I was somewhat skeptical that the X-MEN could be translated to the big screen without completely ruining the joy and mystery of the work. There's just so much that has to be trimmed to fit into the time restriction that films made from these works are generally innately inferior to the original product from the get go. Having been a collector throughout the 80s, I consider myself to be an avid fan of the series, and though I have always wanted a live-action version, I secretly hoped it would never happen just so the coolness of the comic could stay intact. However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the film. I know as a fan I should have been their opening weekend, but fear and life conspired against me. Is it the best action movie ever? No, but it captures the allure and excitement of this classic comic and that's not an easy feat. Even though the film doesn't follow the comic's storyline exactly, it does re-create the world and mood accurately, condensing several of the books major ideas into the plot.

It can't have been easy for director Bryan Singer to choose the story and characters to include. This comic has an especially rabid following and it would be virtually impossible to please everyone. I think all of the casting choices were brilliant with the exceptions of Halle Berry as Storm and Anna Paquin as Rogue. Neither disgusted me outright, but Berry just isn't forceful enough and Paquin is just too young. Plus, this is not the way Rogue was introduced to the group. However, I can't complain too much because her early addition served the plot well. Her character is the only one of the X-Men who's power would suffice for this particular story. The other actors, from Patrick Stewart to Ian McKellen to Famke Janssen and especially Hugh Jackman were absolutely perfect. Thank god MI2 went past it's shooting schedule, causing Dougray Scott to fall out. He would have made a horrible Wolverine. As a virtual unknown, the audience has no baggage attached to Jackman and he pulls off a bravura performance as the lethal, angry scrapper with a heart...and sex appeal.

"We are the future, Charles, not them. They no longer matter."

The major thrust of the story will be all too familiar to fans, but sets up the X-Men's universe quite well. It takes place in the not-too-distant future when humanity has evolved, giving certain humans extraordinary powers. There are forces within the government who are scared of these "mutants" and want to register them and their powers. Of course, there are "good" mutants, those who want to be accepted by humanity and live side-by-side as they have always done, and the "evil" mutants, those who believe that the human race will destroy them out of fear because they are different.

Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) is the leader of the X-Men and the founder of the School of Gifted Youngsters. Magneto (McKellen) is his oldest friend and current foe. A concentration camp survivor, Magneto is only too aware of the callousness humanity is capable of and he is not about to become a victim of prejudice a second time. With his group of evil mutants, – Mystique (Romijn-Stamos), a shape-shifter; Toad (Park), who has the powers of his namesake; and Sabretooth (Mane), a powerful mutant with great strength, claws and the ability to heal quickly – Magneto hatches a plan to equal the playing field between humans and mutants.

Of course, Professor X and his loyal team of X-Men – Storm (Berry), who controls the weather; Cyclops (Marsden), who shoots high-powered lasers from his eyes; and Jean Grey (Janssen), a psychic and telekinetic – are forced to stop his evil plan, which they believe will be the nail in the coffin of understanding between humans and mutants. The X-Men are joined by Wolverine (Jackman) and Rogue (Paquin), outsiders who seek the professor's protection and counsel. Having been attacked by Sabretooth and Toad, the group must discover who Magneto is really after and why. The professor enrolls the young Rogue into his school, where she finally starts to feel normal and promises Wolverine that if he stays and fights he will help him uncover his past. Needless to say, the group must join together and trust in one another in order to defeat Magneto and his allies. Of course, they succeed in the end, but the battle is far from over. This is only the beginning.

Which is why I found the plot to be somewhat thinner than I had hoped, but it was definitely more intelligent and thought out than many of the other season's big action films. Though I would have preferred more ass-kicking, the character development was quite well-done and interesting none-the-less – especially the development of the animosity between Cyclops and Wolverine and the sexual tension between Jean Grey and Wolverine, which are both key themes throughout the series. The film doesn't really get into depth on all the characters – it's mainly the Wolverine and Rogue show – but it does give viewers a decent base to build on. Hopefully in the sequel, and there will be one, they can expand on some of the others like Cyclops and Storm, who are key players in the X-Men world.

THE X-MEN walks a fine line between character and plot, but this is definitely an action movie and the sequences that showcase the various member's powers are awesome. I really don't think this film could have been done any earlier. It needed the latest special effects and they are definitely worth the wait. Everything is incredibly well-done, even Storm's weather effects, which had the potential to be fairly lame. Wolverine's claws are everything the fans could hope for. Even the dialogue is intelligent and true to the characters.

The art direction and costume design, despite the fact that they're not wearing the original costumes, were very cool as well, giving the film a great, futuristic look without being overly comic-booky. The main reason this film works is because the film makers took the world of these characters seriously, creating a well-developed and believable universe. One that I look forward to visiting again. Even if you're not a fan, THE X-MEN is a film that will have you glued to your seat with enjoyment. As a fan, I wasn't disappointed and that means everything. It may be pure summer entertainment, but it's worth the money, which is hard to accomplish these days.

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