movie film review | chris tookey

X-Men / X Men

  X-Men / X Men Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
5.80 /10
Logan/Wolverine: Hugh Jackman , Xavier: Patrick Stewart, Magneto: Ian McKellen
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Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: David Hayter, from a story by Tom DeSanto and Bryan Singer

Released: 2000
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 104

X-Men is based on a Marvel Comics cartoon which was born in the Sixties out of the Civil Rights Movement. Instead of black people struggling for their Civil Rights, the strip showed powerful but oppressed Mutants suffering at the hands of opportunistic, invariably Right-wing politicians. In this big-screen version, the Mutants could be just about any minority group: Jews, Gays, Aids-carriers, Paedophiles…
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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As if to point up the sexual connotations of the strip, director Bryan Singer - best known for The Usual Suspects - has chosen to concentrate on two attractive, lone outsiders. Rogue (Anna Paquin) is a teenager whose kiss can send a man into a coma and is therefore doomed to spend a life without physical intimacy. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, pictured) is even less likely to pull, since he resembles an Elvis impersonator with a short fuse, but he does possess retractable claws and amazing powers of self-healing.

Both are helped by the benign Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the world's most powerful telepath. Like them, he is vulnerable as well as strong - he is confined to a wheelchair. His mission is to enable Mutants and ordinary humans to work together.

If Xavier is the Martin Luther King of Mutant Politics, his opponent Magneto (Ian McKellen), is the Malcolm X: a militant Mutant whose experience as a Jew in the Concentration Camps has convinced him that humans are beyond redemption. In a sense, he's Critic-Man. I'm not sure whether this is intentional or not, but Mr McKellen appears to have based his austere demeanour, upright bearing and bouffant hairstyle on one of Britain's veteran film reviewers, Alexander Walker.

A lot of people enjoyed The Matrix. A few people even claimed to understand bits of it. To you who are among this group of superior beings, I commend X-Men. You will find it superior sci-fi, with state-of-the-art special effects and a couple of leading characters with whom it is easy to identify.

Punters hoping for a carefree Summer romp in the tradition of Men in Black will be disappointed. Despite a grandiose special-effects climax with plenty of fighting, X-Men is pretty serious and at times ponderous. It relies for its power on the audience becoming involved with the problems of the two principal mutants.

Fortunately, Anna Paquin is touching in her vulnerability, and Hugh Jackman - an Aussie last seen on stage at the National Theatre in Oklahoma - has the sort of over-the-top masculine charisma which will make him a star.

None of the other Mutants make much impact beyond the physically dramatic. Halle Berry (as Storm) looks cute and brings bad weather. Ray Park (Toad) looks horrible and has a very long tongue. Rebecca Romijn-Santos (Mystique) has an extremely nice body, even if it is blue.

The film's main fault is its heaviness of touch. There's an air of intellectual pretension that bogs the film down in exposition without delivering any worthwhile insights.

The big action climax left me cold because I couldn't work out whether the Mutants were indestructible or not (seemingly they are, which makes their battling as trivial as the characters competing in a game of Pokemon). The open ending left me feeling cheated rather than looking forward to the next, exciting episode.

In a poor summer for blockbusters, X-men was a big hit; but too much of it is reminiscent of the previous year's comic-strip spoof Mystery Men, which had a wit that Singer's film lacks. If you want a hoot, watch X-Men and then rent the video of Mystery Men.

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