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IN SHORT: The best "based on a comic book" movie. Ever.
Yep. Better than Superman, which was pretty damned good except for Lex Luthor's sidekicks. Better than Batman, which was pretty damned good though it screwed with continuity and made Gotham more impressive to look at than the Bat -- and other than Catwoman in "Returns" everything else was fit for the toilet. Much better than Mystery Men, which I liked even knowing it was one big in-joke. That only leaves Men In Black, which I never knew as a comic. Feel free to enlighten me.
Cranky's first X-Men was (Uncanny) 57, by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams. Yes, I've been hooked that long. This review specifically addresses fanboy issues and assumes you know the basic history and/or powers of the primary characters: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden), Ororo Munroe/Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) and Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison)
Let's cut to the chase: Jackman so absolutely nails Wolverine, from the animal fighting style to the tenderness he can show for Rogue or the no question about it attraction to Jean Grey, and all that entails, that he steals the picture.
From a concentration camp sequence in WWII to a young girl's first kiss down in Mississippi, X-Men manages the incredible feat of staying true to almost all of the continuity that has come down the pike, once you make allowances for how developed each mutant power is. It also clears up some long speculated things hinted at in the comics, but never clarified or revealed. I'm going to lay it all out in the next SPOILER PARAGRAPH which you can see by swiping your cursor over the blank area:
Erik Lensherr is, as has long been speculated, Jewish. Rogue has a name -- though you'll only get the first part. Jean has telekinetic powers, though her telepathy is as weak as it was in the earliest days of Volume 1. Cyclops must touch his visor to fire his beams. There have been great enhancements made to Toad's power, all through special effects. The character is less comic relief and more nasty than ever.
Long time readers will walk into the theater with their ideas of what the characters should be well formed in their heads. And while that will carry you through, the emphasis of the story falls on the two "new guys," Rogue and Logan. There is no explanation of the origins of Cyclops or Storm or Sabretooth or Mystique. All of the Mystique/Rogue/Ms. Marvel background has been stripped from movie continuity as young Marie is set back to the point where Claremont added her to his stories, identified at age eighteen. For more info, check out our special set of X-Men pages. Click here to start.
The point of the X-Men movie is to take the idea of mutation and apply it to "reality". Any minority group can read anything they want into the language of the script, it's pretty open to interpretation and it's simple as hell to follow. Which means another SPOILER WARNING:
Magneto has a machine that can force evolution. Problem is, it will kill everyone it kicks up the ladder. The X-Men have to stop him, and this means including the loner Logan in their plans. At the center of it all is the terrified Rogue, who will die in the course of Magneto's ultimate plan.
What is impressive about this first X-Men movie is the attention it pays to trying to bring the non-fans up to speed. Xavier's School is now a working school. The adult X-Men are teachers and the students -- well, there's enough of 'em there to make fanboys go nuts picking out who is who. As Rogue attends "mutant high school" she is befriended by Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore), whose image will play a major role in what is to come. Screen credit goes to Kitty Pryde (Sumela Kay) and Jubliation Lee (Katrina Florece). I counted at least a dozen others (there may be more), including members of the New Mutants and Power Pack.
There's no Danger Room and Xavier never calls out "Come to me, my X-Men" but Logan does drop a "bub" or two and there's enough fanboy gloss laid over a realistic script with great effects that you'll want to see it a couple of times. We saw it twice before it opened. Still wondering why Cyclops hasn't figured out glove controls for his visor. Maybe in X-Men 2 . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to X-Men, he would have paid...
X-Men truly and honestly holds up magnificently. Were this fanboy to drop dead tomorrow, I'd be one happy camper. ('course, now I have a reason to live -- there will be a sequel. ihopeihopeihope...)
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