Cinema Signal:


"X-Men" Soundtrack album

"X-men"

This is a movie that raises the question, is it better to be a reader of the comic strip or better to come to this material for the first time through the movie version? In part, the answer to the question depends on how good the movie is on its own merits. In the case of "X-Men", the characters are so strongly represented by a team of brilliant actors; the effects so seamlessly rendered; and the action so appropriately conceived and staged, it's fair to say you don't need to have been a reader of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Marvel Comic strip to thoroughly enjoy the movie.

Not that it's for everyone. When Sen. Kelly (Bruce Davison), for example, turns to water, more than one audience member rose from their seats and sought the quiet comfort of the summer streets. There are some who should stay away from anything with stomach churning events -- even ones without bloodshed.

For a comic strip, "X-men" is particularly dark, pounding on the theme of bigotry with heavy metaphorical relentlessness. Perhaps that's why it has gone out of favor (though with surges of wider appreciation) throughout its publication history. It is also one of the best drawn strips, with a cinematic style that been begging for screen rendering. With Stan Lee occupying one of the executive producer chairs, it got what it deserved.

The theme of prejudice, purposefully reminiscent of modern objects of hatred, are in this story aimed against "mutants", who seem to be forming a subculture only slightly out of the mainstream. Congress, or whatever it is that's serving as national government, is sufficiently alarmed that the anti-mutant invective by Sen. Kelly is being listened to above all others. Shades of McCarthy, need we say.

But the conflict is not merely between us and them. Them has two sides. There are the good mutants, led by the relatively benign, well-intended Professor Xavior (Patrick Stewart), and the villain of the piece, his archenemy and nemesis, Magneto (Ian McKellen) who, as a boy, witnessed his Jewish parents being led to the Nazi gas chamber and exhibited, for the first time, his incipient mutant power, by twisting the iron gates of the concentration camp through sheer force of will. The rest, for him, is a life of revenge.

The way this all plays out is a mix of the various "powers" each mutant applies to the battle. None are the same, so they tend to complement each other as one side vies against the other, amidst a somewhat deadly respect between the two leaders. The "regular people", us, are caught up in the maelstrom of effects brought on by the very colorful and sometimes clever forces at the mutants' disposal.

Set designs are nothing less than masterful with the globular mutant-monitoring room as, perhaps, the set piece of particular scale and grandeur. With an artist spawning the concepts, one can only guess that the visual aspects of the film were duly inspired.

But, perhaps even more inspired, was the casting, with every part fully fleshed out by a team of players cannily chosen for their parallel to the best feature of their comic strip part as well as for their visual aptness.

While I'm not a particular fan of "The Piano" (1993), I certainly welcome the sight of the grown up, 18 year-old, Anna Paquin (Rogue -- whom you can't touch without losing your power) of whom I became a front-of-the-line fan as a result of her performance in that film at age 11. Hugh Jackman, playing the central identifying role of Wolverine, fills out his role with good depth and considerable magnetism. We should be seeing more of this Aussie.

Finally, a pat on the back for director Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects", "Apt Pupil") and the studio execs for keeping this movie to a very appropriate and effective 104 minutes. It's a model of discipline in that respect.

Estimated cost: $75,000,000. Projected U.S. box-office: $150,000,000.

Rated S, for Socko.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


Reader Reactions:
Helpful & Insightful Review
Well written
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This was a very good review of the movie. I have seen the movie and also have it on tape... and have watched it more then once.

                                                           ~~ TweeTer
Very well written
This review will influence me to read more by this reviewer and to get my local newspaper to hire this reviewer.
Site rating: 8

I agree because I couldn't accept all the obvious cliches in action, close-ups, dialogue etc...

                                                           ~~ Sepp


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