X-MEN (2000) **** movie review by COOP

Posted on May 14th, 2008
Posted on May 14th, 2008

The X-Men have been around for awhile. The first X-Men comic book debuted in 1963 and, in time, became a Marvel Comics phenomenon. It was long surmised that Hollywood would never be able to pull off this film version of one of the most recognized comic titles of all time. It appears Hollywood was wrong and be prepared… the sequels are on their way.

The story takes place in not-too-distant future where human evolution has taken a giant leap forward. Mutants (people born with superhuman powers) have revealed themselves to the world, causing fear and controversy. A political movement led by the McCarthy-like, Senator Kelly (Bruce Davidson), aims to register and oppress the mutant population. An extremist and militant mutant, named Magneto (Ian McKellan), plans to enslave the humans to protect mutantkind, using his immeasurable power to control magnetic fields. In the middle sits Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), also a powerful mutant with the ability to read and control minds. He creates a school/refuge for mutant children as well as an elite mutant force, called the “X-Men”, to protect the humans from evil mutants and vice-versa.

I have mixed reactions about the ensemble cast. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan were perfectly cast as the patriarchs of the opposing sides. Hugh Jackman, does a great job as the surly, razor-clawed hero “Wolverine”… However, early reports indicated that Russell Crowe originally had the part, but backed out due to other commitments. Tragic due to the fact that Crowe was born for that role. Although too young for the part, James Mardsen does a passable job as the X-Men team leader “Cyclops”. The part would’ve been better served by power-actor Jim Caviezel who also backed out of the role at the last minute. Famke Janssen gets little notice as the mysterious mutant “Jean Grey”. British actress, Anna Paquin does an excellent job as “Rogue”, the runaway from Meridian, MS who can steal the powers of other mutants.

This marks Bryan Singer’s fourth directorial effort. Singer hit pay dirt with his phenomenal, 1995 film “The Usual Suspects”, winning two Academy Awards and overwhelming acclaim. Despite the lukewarm reaction to his 1998 film “Apt Pupil”, I was initially excited to learn that Singer was helming “X-Men”. His style does seem to be a bit more restrained and didn’t always keep the momentum of the action going. Regardless, I think he did a decent job and I recommend you watch out for his next film.

On the weak side, much of the film spends its time introducing the characters, their backgrounds and their powers. Although interesting and necessary, it doesn’t leave much time for plot. The ending also seemed a bit anti-climatic, but still delivered the goods.

I admit that I could be a little biased in favor of “X-Men”. I began reading the comic book as a kid, quickly becoming a loyal fan. My old friend, Sebo, and I would stay up late, pre-teen nights, debating who would win in fights between the characters. It’s safe to say that I’ve been waiting for this film for close to fifteen years and I glad the filmmakers finally did justice to a comic book that deserved it. Many fans will be pleased, not only by the film, but also by the little surprises and inside jokes provided for those who know their “X-Men” history. The film will also spike the interest of non-fans, bringing them into the fascinating world of the “X-Men” and entertaining them with a fun story and great special effects.

Although PG-13, I see no reason not to bring the younger kids. The profanities are sparse and the plot allows no time for sex. I recommend this film for everyone, especially action, adventure or sci-fi fans. “X-Men” has all three.

Scale of 1-5:

Most refreshing aspect of the film:
A comic book movie that works. The writing, costumes, sets, and the story are all outstanding and very loyal to the comic book that inspired them. It is said in Hollywood that films made from the Marvel Comic franchise have a curse on them. Frankly, almost all of them stink (if you want proof, watch the pitiful 1992 film version of “Captain America”). “X-Men” was expected to break that curse and it definitely succeeded. Because of its anticipated success, Hollywood has resurrected their interest in movies based on Marvel Comics. Expect to see new film versions of “Spider Man”, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man”(my personal favorite) in the next few years. Tom Cruise himself has vocally expressed his desire to wear the armor in “Iron Man”. It just may happen due to the word that some of these films are already in pre-production.

Biggest gripe:
Michael Kamen’s musical score. It was anti-climactic, uninspired and wasn’t the least bit memorable. Most people know the “Batman” or “Superman” themes by heart, but no one will ever recall the dull “X-Men” score. Also, the overrated actress, Halle Berry did a terrible job as the living weather machine, “Storm”. She seemed completely miscast and her African accent sounded as phony as they come. Lastly, Ray Park (better known as Darth Maul in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”) got to show off more of his martial art talents as the evil mutant “Toad”. Regardless of my admiration of Park, Toad was a ridiculous and disgusting character, completely divergent from his comic book counterpart. Who wants to see a character that can swing like Tarzan from his tongue and vomit green slime? Maybe the kids, but not me.

Biggest Surprise:
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as the evil shapeshifter, “Mystique”. Applause to the supermodel-turned-actress for taking a minor-league, comic book character and turning her into the most interesting and menacing villains in the film. Much like Darth Maul in “Star Wars: TPM”, she speaks few lines, but makes up for it through sheer intimidation. I definitely hope to see more of her character in the “X-Men” sequels to come.

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