Film Reviews

X-MEN

By • Jul 14th, 2000 •

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I’ve never read an ‘X-Men’ comic book so I’m not an afficionada of X-World. I don’t know if director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) got Storm’s outfit right or if Sabretooth’s growl appropriately personified his mutant hagiography. What I do know is that Singer succeeded ably in bringing a strong, sophisticated, menacing vision to a genre without falling – for one moment – into camp. Blessed be!

X-Men plays like a straight drama with a heightened conundrum at its core – some human beings are born into a new species nicknamed homo superior. They have what everybody wants (after money and good looks) – supernatural powers!

In X-World the most powerful, super-mutated being is Professor Charles Francis Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart). Unfortunately, Professor X (as he is affectionately known) is wheelchair bound. This must make him really peeved-off (as I found out recently when I was wheelchair bound for 2 days with a broken bone in my right foot, everyone looks down on you because you are perpetually sitting. Lack of mobility certainly infringes on one’s sense of power). This could get psychologically but he hides it well in an insular world of his own making: the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, located in Westchester, New York. It is staffed by other hyper-virulent mutants, such as Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry). The school is home to dozens of charmed students with extraordinary powers. Professor X’s fabulous wealth is right now unaccounted for, but presumably he made it in the human world, or, through inheritance.

Professor X’s former best friend and now meanspirited homoerotic rival (who seeks world domination over humans) is Magneto (Ian McKellen). He too has a cadre of mutant-disciples (called the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants) hell bent on his vision of seeing all humans unobtrusively evolve into homo superior (whether through birth or other means). Not a bad idea, huh?

Perhaps I wasn’t able to grasp the conflict here. Essentially, doesn’t Professor X and Magneto want the same thing? Leave mutants alone! Except both want – in their own ways – to manipulate and control the new breed of humans. Are they self-anointed mutant dictators with personal agendas or spokesmen for the New Darwinism? For some reason the rest of us – humanity – has to put up with this squabble of warring wannabe leaders.

Into this mess of quarreling mutant-ideologists comes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). He is a mysterious mutant who has been getting by just fine without even noticing the spew between the non-mutant political faction in Congress that just wants to let mutants be and a group that advocates monitoring and controlling them by passing an international Mutant Registration Act. Considering all the structural damage Professor X’s and Magneto’s mutants do in homo sapiens’ world, they should all be arrested and jailed and made to clean up.

Unfortunately, Wolverine runs into teenage mutant Rogue (Anna Paquin), who can drain the lifeforce out of anyone she touches (a great, cruel weapon but ruinous for dating), and gets embroiled in the Mutant War for World Dominance fought by Professor X and Magneto. The mystery of who Wolverine is and what the heck happened to him will be resolved for the movie-going public based on boxoffice receipts.

Wolverine is a hostile outsider who stumbles into Professor X’s peculiar world. Singer has triumphed in making a comic book hero sexy, masculine, and dangerous without moody lighting and affected poses in a leather-tight costume. Jackman plays Wolverine with a wryly suspicious, and not altogether gung-ho, attitude. Wolverine may have stumbled into Professor X’s enclave but he’s not willing to take off his jacket and get comfortable. He’s a superhero who doesn’t want a costume. Jackman is the new face of comic book hero and he’s perfect.

The special effects are terrific, but most importantly, Singer has delivered a film in a genre that Hollywood considered Joel Schumacher to have single-handedly killed. Singer has resurrected the comic book as a film franchise.

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