Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Bruce Davison
Director: Bryan Singer
The Marvel comic book story of X-Men comes to the big screen for the first time under the direction of Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects”). Oh boy, big budget sci-fi, outlandish storyline, special effects galore, no Hollywood stars…this has got to be a complete riot. And, eh, it is.
Sometime in the future, an unknown factor in human genes has caused the mutation of some of the human race and given them ‘special powers’. The powers vary but some are capable of mind-reading, transmitting telekinetic energy, walking through solid objects, and in the case of Rogue (Paquin – “The Piano”, “Amistad”, “Almost Famous”), touching another human being causes her to drain their life-force. Because of these unusual powers, Senator Robert Jefferson Kelly is leading the charge to force all mutants to register as a mutant as he feels they are a threat to American security.
Mutant, Magneto (McKellen), has decided that the only way to stop the singling out of his kind, is to go to war with non-mutants. He builds a machine that will convert all non-mutants to mutants therefore making everyone equal. His former friend, Xavier (Stewart – “Star Trek”), believes that a peaceful solution is the only way forward and his team of so-called X-Men lead the fight against Magneto and his plans.
When Magneto’s henchman, Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), tries to capture Rogue (on the run after almost killing her boyfriend by accident) and fist-fighter, Wolverine (Jackman), Xavier sends Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Berry – “Flintstones”, “The Last Boyscout”, “Jungle Fever”) to save them. The question is, what does Magneto want with the pair, and how can Xavier stop the powerful mutant?
“X-Men” would not normally be my cup of tea (ref “Batman”, “The Phantom” etc), but Singer has pulled things off extremely well here. Quality casting and script-writing is the film’s forte, with Hollywood unknown, Jackman, excellent as the embattled Wolverine, and Stewart and McKellen perfectly cast as the mutant leaders. There is not even enough time to fully explore the main characters beyond the introductory ‘how-do-you-do’ that we get in the movie, and with more characters in the wings, this is a franchise that has a big future.
The special effects are impressive but still not overbearing as to steal the show and the mixture of subtle humour and sensitivity through what is a fairly dark storyline, help to lend a lighter edge. The direction is sharp, interesting, and paced very well. From the World War II opening sequence, “X-Men” shows what it is all about and doesn’t mess around delivering that message.
All in all, a hugely successful start to what should be a killer sequence of movies – no, don’t mention “The Matrix” thanks very much.