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Is it wrong to be turned on by a cartoon character? If a drawing of a beautiful, impossibly shapely woman wearing painted-on spandex makes you think impure thoughts, should you seek therapy?
THE X-MEN was directed by Bryan Singer (APT PUPIL) and written by Mr. Singer and first time screenwriters Tom DeSanto and David Hayter. It is the well-known comic book brought to life.
The movie opens with a flashback to 1944, as Jewish families are being led into a concentration camp. At the gates a young boy is forcibly separated from his parents, presumably to be used for immediate slave labor, while his parents are taken into the camp to be executed. The boy cries out and tries to rejoin his parents, but is restrained by Nazi soldiers. Suddenly the closed metal and barbwire gate begins bending toward the frantic boy. More and more soldiers join the effort to subdue the boy but all are steadily being dragged toward the gate. Finally one of the Nazis strikes the boy, knocking him out. The strange force vanishes and everyone falls in the mud. The gate has been almost twisted off its hinges.
This boy grows up to be Magneto (Ian McKellen: APT PUPIL, LORD OF THE RINGS), a powerful mutant who despises humans as inferior beings. The opening does a great job of showing where he got such a bad attitude and also sets the mood for the whole film, as the mutants are portrayed as a persecuted minority.
Jump forward to the near future. A young midwestern girl is alone in her bedroom with her boyfriend. Their first kiss proves disastrous, however, as the act of touching Marie (Anna Paquin) drains the boy of his life force and nearly kills him.
Marie, who now calls herself Rogue, runs away and ends up in a rough bar in the Canadian wilderness. She sees a cage fight match where a mysterious man named Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) with out of control sideburns takes on all challengers. He quickly dispatches a much larger opponent. Afterwards, while the bar TV shows Congressional testimony about the existence of mutants and the plan being promoted by Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison: APT PUPIL) to force mutants to register with the government, the big bruiser beaten by Wolverine puts two and two together and realizes that this much smaller man (without a mark on him after the fight) must be a mutant. Of course in a movie world nobody ever has any bruises, fat lips, bloody noses or missing teeth after a fight, no matter how brutal. Even so, this is a nice touch because they make the fight more realistic by noting the absence of the normal aftermath.
Rogue makes the same deduction and the two misfits end up traveling together. Not for long, though. A mutant named Sabretooth (professional wrestler Tyler Mane) attacks and almost takes them captive, but he is interrupted by the timely arrival of Cyclops (James Marsden: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, X-MEN 2) and Storm (Halle Berry: X-MEN 2). Storm was the one that always made me wonder if I had a problem with cartoon characters. I feel much better being turned on by the luscious Halle Berry than by a large breasted drawing. Oh well, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
Wolverine who is, well, an asshole, has no interest in saving humanity. The only thing about the school that is at all interesting to him is Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen: DEEP RISING, THE FACULTY, THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL) a powerful psychic and girlfriend of Cyclops.
I really enjoyed this movie but I must say that it felt more like a pilot for a TV series than a feature film. After the major conflict is resolved there's an extra few minutes of teasers for future plotlines and a sequel is already in the works. I can see how someone who's never read the comics might find the characters confusing, although my daughter has never read the comics and she loved it. But then again, she is MY daughter.
The action is wild and the fight scenes between the good mutants and the bad mutants kicks ass. I was left wanting more. Keep an eye out for Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: X-MEN 2), the evil shape-shifter, who is essentially naked.
It could have used some more depth and more detail about the characters and I have to take points away for the TV series ending, but even so it's a lot of fun.
THE X-MEN gets four Shriek Girls.
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