X-Men - movie review (July 21, 2000)

We kill what we don't understand.

In the not-too-distant future, the concept of "us" and "them" is very much alive, only this time, the new category of "them" are the mutants - humans whose genes have naturally mutated to give them special abilities - whether it be to control the weather elements, laser eyesight, telepathy, telekinesis or a host of other talents. But of course, any difference is met with fear and hate, in this case, led by Senator Kelly, who proposes that all mutants are dangerous and therefore need to register and be monitored. The Senator's fears are almost founded when it comes to Magneto (Ian McKellen), the leader of one band of mutants who have responded to humans' fears by deeming humanity unfit to survive and who have waged an undeclared war against all humans. Magneto's group is opposed by another group of mutants, led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who runs a school for "gifted children". Xavier is more interested in helping humans to accept the mutants rather than getting rid of humanity altogether. The battle between the two factions wage on as humanity looks on virtually unawares.

I thought this was a terrific movie. Now, to give some perspective, I know of the existence of "X-Men" comic books, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything about any of the characters or even what the comic book was about. This film did a great job of providing me with enough information about each character and about the premise so that I never felt lost because I'm not familiar with the comic book. The characters were interesting and the interactions between the characters (especially between Wolverine and Cyclops) were fun to watch. There are also a number of nifty fight sequences and a few cool blow 'em ups to boot. And the underlying story of prejudice never goes out of style.

I found it unusual that a movie based on a comic book would have talents the likes of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in lead roles, but that just goes to show you that they were taking this film very seriously.  Both Stewart ("Lady Jane", "Jeffrey", "L.A. Story" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation") and McKellen ("Cold Comfort Farm", "Richard III", "Gods and Monsters" and the upcoming "The Lord of the Rings") are excellent in this film, and the few instances when they share a scene are great. Bruce Davison ("Deadman's Curve") does a terrific job as the Senator who gets to understand mutants more than he'd prefer. Hugh Jackman does a good job as Wolverine, the non-lead mutant that we most get to know and the character who presumably will be the main thread in sequels (and you know they're coming). Halle Berry ("Bulworth") is ok as Storm, but she seemed a bit stilted and not altogether comfortable in her role. She didn't seem more at ease until she started to use her cool abilities. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (TV's "Just Shoot Me") is good as Mystique, though with her makeup/costuming, it's hard to tell when it's her and when it's the (presumably busy) stuntperson. Ray Park (Darth Maul in "Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace") is fun to watch as the ever-agile Toad. The person to watch, however, is Anna Paquin (Academy Award winner for "The Piano"), who plays Rogue, the young girl who is bewildered by and afraid of her abilities until she is among her own, in a place where she feels accepted and secure - kind of like when Rudolph found the island of misfit toys. Like Christina Ricci, Paquin has grown up from being a precocious little girl into a pretty and talented young woman.

Go see this movie. I know I'm going again.


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