X-Men (2000)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 7/14/2000
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: David Hayter (from "Guyver 2: Dark Hero")
Music: Michael Kamen
Martial Arts Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Tyler Mane, Ray Park, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos

Fantastic! What a novel idea - let's take a popular and serious minded superhero comic book and give it a serious and mature film treatment. Well what do you know? Them funny books ain't just for kids afterall! Possibly the best film adaptation of a comic book that I've ever seen, especially considering the superhero angle. I must admit that I was extremely pessimistic about the film, after a slew of unimpressive trailers and given Marvel Entertainment's poor track record in the film business (with the sole exception of "Blade"). However, my fears were immediately laid to rest as soon as the film got underway - this is the real thing, folks. To summarize, "X-Men" is all about the social and political ramifications of mutants in society. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has dedicated his life to helping mutants by teaching humans and mutants alike to understand and accept each other. His lifetime rival, Magneto (Ian McKellen), has dedicated his life to helping mutants by overpowering their human oppressors, with violent force if necessary. The film focuses on the stories of two mutants in particular, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), whom both opposing parties are interested in. This leads to an all out showdown between Xavier's forces and Magneto's forces with spectacular results.

Amazingly, the film captures the very essence of what the "X-Men" comic is all about - the desperation and isolation of society's outcasts on a personal level, and the global socio-political climate created out of the animosity and misunderstanding between homosapiens and homosuperiors. An extremely well made picture with a superb cast. Patrick Stewart as Xavier is an obvious and excellent choice. Hugh Jackman gives an excellent portrayal of Wolverine, carefully weaving together a tough exterior with a gentle kindness, wrapped in the pain and desolation of a loose cannon loner without a past. Anna Paquin surprised me with her tragic and very human portrayal of a young Rogue. It's through her that we experience what isolation is all about. Ian McKellen makes a great nemesis for Xavier, portraying Magneto with intelligence and sensitivity (and a little madness). Beautiful Famke Janssen makes a good Jean Grey, and James Marsden does an excellent job with the arrogant pretty boy role of Scott Sommers. Halle Berry's Storm is adequate, although not as commanding as she should have been. The only real weakness was in Magneto's army of hired thugs. Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Mystique, and Toad (Ray Park) are little more than thoughtless and faceless mercenaries - dehumanized foes for the heroes to beat on. Visually, the film really delivers, and even though many of the effects aren't overly impressive, they never detract from the look and feel of the film. One area where the film really stands out is in the martial arts direction, thanks to Hong Kong veteran Corey Yuen. The fight between Wolverine and Mystique is very well staged, executed, and filmed, making it extremely rewarding to watch. Michael Kamen provides an appropriately dramatic score which completes the tone of the film. What's most impressive about the film is that it's dead serious. For a PG-13 film to present such material in a mature fashion without ever resorting to formulaic camp or a hip-hop soundtrack is a remarkable accomplishment. It's not a perfect film, but it's close. I seriously hope this raises the bar for the entire sci-fi/action/fantasy film industry. Great stuff!