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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: X-Men

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
Director: Bryan Singer
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Tyler Mane, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Shawn Ashmore

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

I find that the trick to superhero movies is to let the audience in on the joke, otherwise you wind up with disasters like "Batman and Robin," which turned the Batman franchise into such a sex-plagued travesty that all of its noir origins dissipated as a result. On the other hand, there are superhero movies that make you gasp in wonder at all the wondrous sights, and also make you identify with the protagonists, namely the superheros. Superman and Batman are two classic examples. "X-Men" is a close second - the first comic-book movie since Tim Burton's "Batman" that not only feels like a comic book yarn, it looks like one too. While watching it, I got the feeling that every sequence, every shot, was unspooling before your eyes like the dynamic sights of color and information that often leap from comic books. Stan Lee should be proud.

The X-Men, for those who have not read the comic books, are essentially powerful mutants - men and women with extraordinary powers that they seemed to have been born with. There is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who has metal claws that elongate from his hands when he gets mad; Cyclops (James Marsden), who has deadly laser vision protected by a visor; Storm (Halle Berry), who can conjure rainy weather when necessary; and Rogue (Anna Paquin), who can turn people to stone if she touches them (she is not popular on the dating scene). These are the good mutants, presided by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who has the ability to read minds.

The evil mutants are presided over by Magneto (Ian McKellen), a former Holocaust survivor who wants the world population to be converted into mutants so they can be accepted into society. His minions include the tongue-lashing Toad (Ray Park), a human frog-of-sorts; the shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), covered in blue-colored scaly skin; and finally Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), a growling animal, not unlike Wolverine though not as beastly.

The plot concerns an anti-mutant revolt started by a senator (Bruce Davison), who feels mutants present a danger to society. One can't quarrel with his view when witnessing the deadly emotions of Wolverine, seen at the beginning to be a bare-knuckled fighting champion for some kind of fight club, or the tragic, existential Rogue whose lips and mere touch warrant a coma-like paralysis or even death. Naturally, Magneto is at odds with the senator, as is Professor Xavier, though Magneto's plans are more dastardly - at least the kind-hearted professor is a believer in hope for his race.

"X-Men" rivals other recent comic book extravaganzas in its character-driven story - these mutants are suffering because of their condition and unfortunate deviance from society. I tend to quarrel with people when they say entertainment is just sheer entertainment - even in something as hackneyed as "The Matrix," there is the sense that the filmmakers are sharing their thoughts about the world of today and how it is envisioned in these trying times. The best character in "X-Men" is Wolverine - an almost half-werewolf mutant with the ability to heal himself. He has a great line (that could sum up most of the mutant characters) when asked if the retraction of the blades from his knuckles urt: "Every time," he says.

My main quibble with "X-Men" is that it is simply an introduction to these characters - they come across as more than character types but they only seem defined by their powers. I know that it is too much to ask a blockbuster for some insight but consider what might have been. Wolverine is the most full-bodied character, but where does that leave Rogue and her emotional connection to him? What about Cyclops, Storm, the Professor or Jean Gray (Famke Janseen), the smart doctor who may have a thing for Wolverine? They are fun characters to watch, but who are they? And what about Magneto and his plans? He somehow does not seem to be such a major threat after all the sound and fury of the special-effects on display here.

Still, "X-Men" is sheer fun to watch, and every moment gives us something to look at. The fights, the battles, and the characters (particularly the titanic Ian McKellen) contribute highly to the sense of fun it instills. And if this is what it takes to get the rumored "Spider-Man" movie rolling, then I am all for the "X-Men."

Copyright 2000 Jerry Saravia

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