X-Men (2000)

X-MEN *rocks*.  The most intensely geek-critiqued comic-book film 
of all time-- or at least since the first BATMAN movie-- is, for 
starters, astonishingly faithful to the decades-popular periodical.  
No, not literally.  Nor even with the same-colored costumes.  (In-
stead of yellow spandex, the mutant heroes wear MATRIX-style black, 
a change even commented on by the characters!)  Rather, Charles Xa-
vier and Company-- along with arch-nemesis Magneto and his *own* 
hench-people-- have undergone a successful... "cinematic massage."  
Rogue, for example, is now a teenager.  Same power; same Southern 
drawl.  Mystique is still a shape-changer, yellow eyes included; 
she's just a lackey this time.  Not to mention one helluva martial 
artist.  Other X-perts, like Wolverine, have been cut and pasted 
whole.  Claws, healing power, missing memories, adamantium skeleton; 
it's all there.  Right down to the creepy "Weapon X" flashbacks!   
(Nice touch.)  And there are *dozens* of other X-references.  Blink 
and there's Kitty Pride, phasing through a wall.  Blink again and 
that's a young Iceman, making eyes at Rogue.  Cerebro is here; the 
X-Jet flies; and Logan even flirts with Jean Grey.  (The latter to 
the frustration of a certain Mr. Summers.)  Best-est of all is how 
well the various "powers" are depicted.  Some are special effects-
generated, like Cyclops' eye-beams.  Others are as simply rendered 
as the over-dubbed dialogue demonstrating Professor X's telepathy.  
You know, hearing voices in one's head.  

The plot is pleasingly complicated, opening with engaging introduc-
tions to Rogue (Anna Paquin, suddenly lovely), then Wolverine (new-
comer Hugh Jackman), and finally the Professor (Patrick Stewart).  
And while also keeping tabs on a U.S. Senator (Bruce Davison) push-
ing a "mutant registration" bill.  (For those not in the know, the 
latter is a person born with paranormal talents.  Such as telekine-
sis, super-healing, etc.  Professor X, AKA Charles Xavier, runs a 
private school that teaches young mutants how to develop these pow-
ers.  He also has a "strike team" of adult mutants for assorted du-
ties and/or emergencies.)  Soon enough, the Senator crosses paths 
with Magneto (Ian McKellen), an evil "mutie" with a potentially mur-
derous plan to wipe out genetic discrimination once and for all.  
(Forget the core-motivating alley-murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, 
X-MEN opens with the young Mag watching his mother and father being 
dragged away at a concentration camp!)  And, opening segment excep-
ted, every single *one* of these scenes is played with an absolutely 
perfect tone.  Serious enough, yet never descending into camp.  Hum-
orous enough, yet never crossing the line to wacky.  (Most of the 
guffaws go to Wolvie, the earthiest of them and whose deadpan obser-
vations echo what *anyone* might say under similar, seemingly absurd 
circumstances.  My fave, upon seeing cerebro:  "This certainly *is* 
a big, round room.")  Blend it all together, baby, and you're look-
in' at one of the summer's surest bets:  a slick, sleek, high-tech 
mix of megalomania, super-heroics, and Can't We All Just Get Along 
prejudice-bashing.  Talk about a license to mint money!

Rave rave rave, gush gush gush, but there *are* quibbles.  The en-
semble cast is a mixed bag.  For every Shakespearean mover 'n' shak-
er, there's a more glamorous-looking under-performer.  Like Halle 
Berry's Storm.  Or James Marsden's Cyclops.  (The most believable 
and, thus, most appealing players-- Paquin and the star-ready Jack-
man-- fall somewhere between these extremes.  Er, rather, X-tremes.)  
Another demerit, probably more apparent on repeat viewings, is the 
weak choreography of the action scenes.  None of the "super encount-
ers" have a continuous-enough "flow."  Instead, they lurch.  Villain 
fires at hero.  Hero is struck by villain.  Pause.  Hero fires back 
at villain.  Villain is struck by hero.  Pause.  And so on.  (Said 
sequences are still exciting, mind you, lurching or otherwise!)  In 
fact, I daresay, I do say, and I do believe I say, the film *itself* 
feels lurch-y.  (Lurching?  Lurch-like?  Lurcherous?)  Shots are 
held a couple seconds too long.  Others feel truncated by split-sec-
onds or more.  Overall, a sort of... lumpiness, as if director Bryan 
Singer (APT PUPIL, THE USUAL SUSPECTS) hasn't finished working the 
kinks out.  Maybe he'll get that chance with the inevitable "deluxe" 
DVD that's sure to happen...  With Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), Tyler 
Mane (Sabretooth), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique), and Darth Maul 
himself, Ray Park (Toad).  Or, if you agree with the above assess-
ment, feel free to argue *this* point:  what's your pick for best 
four-color film of all time?  For tone, costumes, special effects, 
and everything else?  SUPERMAN II?  BATMAN FOREVER?  (Rated "PG"/100 

Grade: B+
Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: X Marks the Spot

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros