X-Men (Film)

They suck the life force out of people when they touch them, walk through walls, and have built-in knuckle-blades that rival Edward Scissorhands.

They’re evolutionary mutants in the year 2005.   Not surprisingly, humankind is a little wary — the girl who shared an innocent kiss with her boyfriend, which put him in a coma for three weeks, didn’t help matters — and parents’ rights groups and legislators are crying out for mandatory mutant registration.

The mutants can’t explain their freakish propensities either.  Their lives are a living hell: once puberty hits, their diabolical powers operate at full capacity.  Afraid of being found out, they roam the earth. . .but keep their distance from each other.  You never know who’s telepathic, telekinetic, or a shape-shifter, or who has laser eyes or lightning bolts up their sleeves.  Or a tongue the length of a football field. . . .

Marvel Comics editor, Stan Lee, created the X-Men in 1963.  The complex characters were a top seller for decades.  In this film adaptation, Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: Insurrection”) plays Professor Xavier, the wheelchair-bound, world-class telepath who runs a stealth school for mutants.  The empathetic professor, who knows “they’re a danger to the world and to themselves,” keeps the mutants off the streets, gives them a proper education, and teaches them how to harness their powers for the good.

Xavier’s archenemy is a former friend and fellow mutant, Magneto (Ian McKellen).  He’s a concentration camp survivor who lives for revenge against society.  His grandiose plans to subvert the world’s gene pool are shaping up nicely:  leaders from 200 countries are converging on Ellis Island.  Xavier and his protégés battle Magneto and his evil buddies.

This futuristic flick is grim from the get-go.  There are only three brief quips during the unrelentingly tense 105 minutes — and they all occur toward the end (one is hilarious because it’s so unexpectedly contemporary).  The opening scenes of Nazis in Poland brutally separating Magneto from his parents are emotionally wrenching:  a movie in itself.

Australian actor, Hugh Jackman, is intriguing as the lean-and-mean Wolverine (he wears Elvis-type sideburns).  “X-Men,” while not a perfect vehicle, is a decent enough American debut.  Jackman’s character is allowed to open up about his retractable knuckle-blades.

“When they come out, does it hurt?” a teenage mutant girl queries him.

“Every time,” the mostly bare-chested, hairy mutant responds.

That’s what viewers need.  Characters with a little depth.

(Rated PG-13:  some profanity; very grim storyline; futuristic violence)

(Written by C.E. Chambers and published August 8, 2000 by The Journal Newspapers Movie Edition.)

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