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X-Men
Review written by: Alex Sandell


Why does Captain Picard have a blue
thing coming out of his head?

What's the story?

In the near future, human evolution is jumping ahead by leaps and bounds in select individuals (mutants).  Unfortunately, most politicians haven't evolved (and who says comic book movies are unrealistic?), causing them to develop a whopping inferiority complex and irrational fear of the mutants.  Due primarily to this mass-paranoia, there is strong support for a new law proposed by Senator Robert Jefferson Kelly (Bruce Davison) which would force mutants to register themselves with the Government, so they couldn't do things such as teach our children without our children knowing that they are being taught by a mutant.  Fearing a new Holocaust, two teams of mutants set out to stop the law from ever passing; both in their own unique way.  One team, led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) believes that the mutant-bashers must be stopped, through any means necessary.  The second team, known as the "X-Men," and led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), believes things can be resolved peacefully, and that humanity will learn tolerance, if only given a chance.  Neither group of mutants can accomplish very much without the other mutant team stepping in and screwing everything up.  Nobody said that mutants were evolved enough to figure out that violence doesn't solve anything (and how exciting a movie would THAT be?) . . .

So how is it? (Get to the point, already)

Movie studios have never gotten a comic book right.  Superman became a hit at the box-office faster than a speeding bullet, but never quite got its feet off the ground in the creativity department.  Batman and Batman Returns succeeded in being dark, but weren't quite worthy of a Knight.  Comic book adaptations such as Spawn, Judge Dredd, Captain America, and The Fantastic Four are so bad that suicide is a viable alternative to spending 2 hours staring at them.  Yet, Hollywood keeps trying, hoping that they hit upon the next lucrative franchise.  Their newest attempt at billion-dollar profits and cross-over success?  The X-Men.

Hollywood has been thinking about turning the wildly successful Uncanny X-Men comic book series into a movie for decades, now.  The comic has remained a favorite with pimply-faced teenagers, generation after generation.  With nearly 40 years worth of wonderful story lines to choose from, the potential for a franchise is there for the taking, yet no studio was taking it.  Why?  Adapting The Uncanny X-Men to film in a way that would have the diehard fanboy shooting his wad, and the general public willing to embrace it (read into that comment any way that you want to), was nearly an impossible task that nobody wanted to take on.  But, those studio execs can't resist the thought of rising stocks and fatter offshore banking accounts, and it was inevitable that the day would come when the X-Men, for better or for worse, would be released.  On July 14th, 2000, that day came, and it was definitely "for better" that it did.

This movie did what I previously thought was impossible - a comic book justice.  It succeeds in nearly every way that it could have, and gets as much out its paltry 95 minutes as it can. For the first time ever, I felt like one of my favorite childhood reads was truly coming alive before my eyes.  The reverence the creative team had for the source material is amazing.  This movie doesn't have dollar signs in its eyes as much as it has a knowing smile on its face, and a wink for the comic book fans who are going to stumble out of the theater with a happy glow so powerful it will clear up their complexion.

Are there weak points?  Sure.  It's not easy to crush 36 years of material into 95 minutes of film.  Even though only 5 of the X-Men were used to any great degree, that is an awful lot to squeeze in in that short a period of time, and if you are not familiar with the comic, you will probably be disappointed with the hurried introductions you'll get to a few of the heroes, their personalities, and their powers.  You may also find that the special effects are a bit below par, in certain spots, but this is really irrelevant to a movie that relies more on storyline than CGI.  Last, but not least, Halle Berry, as Storm, spits out what may be the worst line of dialogue in movie history ("you know what happens to toads . . .").  All of these complaints are petty compared to the compliments.

The majority of this movie is enormously entertaining, and far more compelling than any summer action blockbuster deserves to be.  Clever little touches of magic that even some of the most diehard fans wouldn't have thought of are in abundant supply throughout the film.  The sound of metal clanking when Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is punched.  Magneto's maniacal plan to avoid going through a Holocaust like the one he lived through in Germany, during World War II.  Mystique's (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) few spoken words to Senator Kelly, and the angry, vengeful actions his emotionless face elicit from her.  Rogue's (Anna Paquin) sense of isolation on the train, when she sees a mother comforting her child with one "power" she can no longer use, and so desperately wants; touch.  The already famous "you're a dick" line (you have to be there).  Xavier's and Magneto's ongoing love/hate war with one-another, and the nearly poetic dialogue that flows between the two of them.  There's plenty more, but if I say anything else, I'll be giving too much away.

From beginning to end, X-Men is full of surprises.  I look forward to the 45 minutes that was edited to prevent the mainstream audience from getting bored.  There is where we will find the missing character development, and possibly watch the film go from the best comic book movie ever made to one of the best movies ever created. 

What are you selling us here???

There isn't really any product placements, outside of the fact that nearly every damn character is in toy form at a store near you (get ready to max out those credit cards).  I betcha all the fast-food restaurants are kicking themselves over not signing on to sponsor this film.  One of the biggest openings in cinematic history, and Ronald McDonald didn't even endorse it!  

If it won an Oscar, what would it be?

"Best Comic Book Adaptation Ever" - X-Men

On a scale of 1-10?

9 (One point deducted for the lack of character development a few of the characters were cursed with, thanks to edit-happy money-men.)

Agree? Disagree? Need free counseling from an unlicensed movie junkie? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com I want to hear any and all opinions on this film! 

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Text (Copyright) 2000 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. Copy this, without my permission, and I'll have Wolverine "FINGER" you!

Picture is 2000 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics.