Genetic mutation has spawned a new breed of humans with extraordinary
powers, but fear has bred prejudice against such mutants.
As a result, some attempt to conceal their true natures, while
others view themselves as the new master race. But under the
tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier, some mutants have learned
to use their abilities for the good of mankind...
the increasing silliness of the Batman franchise and
the pointless liberties that were taken with the premise of
the cinematic Judge Dredd, comics fans breathed a collective
sigh of relief when the X-Men movie came out. This
was before the excellent Spider-Man, remember. Some
changes had been made, of course, such as the loss of Wolverine's
mask, but every production decision seems to have had a good
reason behind it. The Usual Suspects director Bryan
Singer managed to combine the essential action and spectacle
with a coherent story, and made comics-based movies cool again
for the first time since Batman Returns.
film opens with the poignant origins of two of its principal
characters, separated by a generation in time. In the first
instance, a young mutant exhibits his magnetic powers as the
result of Nazi oppression; in the second, a teenager discovers
to her horror that she may never again be able to experience
physical contact with another human being for fear of draining
their life force. These scenes establish the mutants as potentially
deadly, but also as the innocent and sympathetic victims of
fate. Ironically, the seemingly more dangerous mutant, Rogue
(Anna Paquin), ultimately teams up with the good guys, while
the young boy grows up to become the villainous Magneto (Ian
McKellen). Both sides of the non-mutant/mutant prejudice -
Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) with his dislike of the
unlike, and Magneto with his disdain for the comparative weaklings
who seek to denigrate his kind - are all too believable.
the respective leaders of the bad guys and the good, McKellen
and Patrick Stewart (as Professor Xavier) balance each other
perfectly in terms of charm, eloquence of argument and strength
of performance. One is very much the darker half of the other.
Inevitably, the ghost of Captain Picard refuses to die, so
when Stewart dons the Professor's brain-boosting headgear,
you almost expect him to declare, "I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance
is futile!" However, there is never any sense that he or McKellen
is treating this action-packed movie as any less deserving
of their professionalism than an RSC stage production.
Jackman also demonstrates a great screen presence in the pivotal
role of Wolverine. Jackman's screen test, which is included
on disc 2, leaves us in no doubt as to how right he is for
this role. Only poor Halle Berry, playing Storm, comes across
as a bit wooden, but then she is lumbered with some rather
naff dialogue. If you thought she had some duff lines in Die
Another Day, they're nothing compared to: "Do you know
what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning? The
same thing that happens to everything else!"
terms of those all-important visual thrills, we are treated
to spectacularly choreographed fight scenes a-plenty, as well
as some cool computerised effects, which help to bring Magneto's
amazing abilities to life and transform Mystique (Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos) into all manner of characters. But the reason
X-Men works so well is that beyond the visual elements
this is a movie with a soul.
mention must go to the "costume" that is (almost) worn by
Romijn-Stamos. Careful editing and minimal screen time (possibly
in order to meet the requirements of the feature's original
12 certificate) ensure that this risqué conception really
does create mystique as far as heterosexual male viewers are
concerned. All will surely ask themselves at some point during
the movie, "Is she naked or what?" In answer to that question,
the DVD's extra features reveal just how much the actress
suffered for her art during cold night-time shoots. The certificate
of this two-disc set has been upped to a 15, possibly because
of the increased - ahem - exposure given to Ms Romijn-Stamos,
but also because of some coarse language that is uttered during
the many behind-the-scenes sequences.
1 allows you to play the movie in a number of different modes:
with commentary; with extended scenes; with extended scenes
and behind-the-scenes clips; and with extended scenes and
commentary. To be honest, the backstage sequences do interrupt
the flow of the movie, and they have a habit of jumping in
just as the dramatic tension is being raised. A couple of
them, such as the making of the Senator Kelly "conversion"
sequence, seem to have been inserted at the wrong place. However,
the deleted and extended scenes are well worth incorporating
when you view the film; one in particular adds dramatic irony
to Kelly's "conversion".
2 contains more than three hours of documentary features,
plus image galleries and multi-angle views of several scenes.
It's possible that this DVD contains too much information.
For example, do we really want to see production personnel
falling asleep in meetings or Bryan Singer apparently licking
ice cream directly from a carton? However, X-Men 1.5
is well worth the asking price, even if you are not entirely
fascinated by all of its special features.
certain questions about Wolverine's origins unanswered, the
first X-Men movie offers plenty of scope for the imminent
sequel to develop, rather than merely rehash, the ideas of
its predecessor. This is a good thing, because X-Men 2
has a lot to live up to following this, one of the best comics-based
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