Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
July 15, 2000

It's always interesting to watch Hollywood take a fresh, young talent and force it to conform to their own standards. This year we already saw John Singleton make his first big summer action picture with Shaft. This time, indie hotshot Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) makes his very own comic book movie. However, unlike Tim Burton's bold approach to Batman, this film is unlikely to cause any big revolutions (since it is still just riding the trend that Burton started eleven years ago).

Fans of The Uncanny X-Men comic books should already know the basic premise and characters, but for the rest of humanity, I'll give a brief description. The X-Men film is set in the not-too-distant future, where the presence of mutants among the human population is quite apparent. Senator Robert Jefferson Kelly (Bruce Davison) doesn't trust the mutants, and wants legislation to force each of them to register themselves, as if they were lethal weapons. Taking the most offense to this is Erik Magnus Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), a.k.a. Magneto, who grew up as a Jew in Poland, where he saw similar persecution at the hands of the Nazis. He believes that humankind must be punished for such thoughts.

Indeed, it is Magneto's kind that Kelly should be afraid of, but there also exists a faction of mutants led by Professor Charles Francis Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X, that seek to serve the human race in fighting against the hostile mutants. Joining his fold is a runaway girl named Rogue (Anna Paquin), who drains the life force out of anybody she physically touches. She fled to the Canadian Rockies after nearly killing her boyfriend with one kiss, then met Logan (Hugh Jackman), a.k.a Wolverine, another mutant with self-healing powers and surgically implanted metal blades in his arms. After an attack by one of Magneto's hench-mutants, they were rescued by Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry), and taken to Professor X.

OK, so maybe it's impossible to briefly describe the premise. There are a lot of other mutants, on both sides of the battle, but the plot elements at work here are their powers. Professor X has to stop Magneto from killing off the leaders of 200 nations, who have met at a World Summit on Ellis Island, with a contraption that he has installed in the torch of the Statue of Liberty, which he needs Rogue to operate after touching him and absorbing his magnetic powers, etc., etc. This battle requires matching Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, and Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) against Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park), and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). It's all in the extents and combinations of their powers, who can do what to whom, and under what circumstances.

Sure, that's what the fans would expect, but what about the characters, and how (or if) they develop? If that's what you're interested in, then try seeing a different film. All Singer wants to do here is use the resources at Fox to show off these powers in several well-orchestrated set pieces, then throw in enough humor to keep people interested. In the end, it's a typically unsatisfying Hollywood experience, only meant to grab your attention in the moment, then quickly release you to buy whatever products were placed within the film.

I can't remember any product placements at this moment, so I'm probably just lashing out. There certainly were some, but the eye candy kept me distracted through most of it. I really enjoy Singer's work, and I hope he goes back to making more films for adults. No, not "adult films" -- get your mind out of the gutter.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
X-Men (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
X-Men (2000) -- VHS
X-Men (2000) -- DVD
X-Men, a screenplay novelization by Kristine K. Rusch and Dean W. Smith -- Paperback
X-Men: Original Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan