X-Men   5 Disembodied Jet Wolf Heads out of Five
"Is that the sound of a star being consumed I hear?"
Wednesday, 19 July 2000

Jet Wolf Says ...If you've never picked up an issue or seen an episode of the cartoon, then I would still recommend it, though it's impossible for me to know if you'd the same level of enjoyment out of it that I did.

Ahh, the X-Men. Allow me a moment to wallow and to explain a bit about myself and my tawdry love affair with them.

I was but a wee lass of 11 or 12 when I first encountered the Merry Mutants. I have been a comic book fan for as long as I can remember, but I had never ventured into much outside of the Archie family, excepting a few scattered issues of Hanna Barbara and comics from other shows I watched like He-Man and Thundercats. But one day a comic book store opened up at a local mall, and I went in, amazed at how much else there was out there. Though at first, being the enterprising little pre-teen I was, potential value was more important to me than reading value. I asked the guy working at the store that day, and he suggested X-Men to me. I nodded eagerly as he told me how each issue went up in value every month, and picked up two old issues in my price range -- #s 111 and 114 for those of you curious. A few days later, in a bookstore, I was browsing their rack of comics, and to my great joy, found that this X-Men thing was still being published! Confused as hell but still thrilled, I picked up all I could find -- if it had "X-Men" on it anywhere, I bought it. Yes, I was Marvel's ideal target audience. (Again, for the curious, what I walked away with was Classic X-Men #22 and Uncanny #247. Yup, I picked Inferno to start. I think it was 6 months before I figured out what was going on.) A few reads later and while I didn't understand half of what I was reading, I was compelled to learn more. So I bought more. And read more. And bought more. You see the trend. Which brings us to today.

I have just returned to reading X-Men, what with Marvel's brain making an attempt to restablish communication and their patching things up with Chris Claremont, bringing him back to the books (if you do not read the X-Men comic, I won't bore you with details on this, but if you do read it, then you know what I'm talking about). But I held out as long as I could, only finally giving up the ship with that whole "Trial of Gambit" crap when the writers completely betrayed my girl Rogue. But anyway, until that time, I had amassed the jewel of my rather extensive comic book collection: My X-Men. #s 77-79, 106, 111, 114-115, 122 and the granddaddy of them all, a complete run of #s 127-350.

To sum it up, I'm a long-time X-Men fan.

Who's been waiting with both anticipation and dread for Marvel to make a movie of her favourite super-heroes for over a decade.

The purpose of the above? To ensure you know that I'm biased. With that said, to the review.

I'll get the basics out of the way first. I liked it. When I first heard Marvel was coming out with X-Men, I hoped with every possible mutant gene I possessed that it wouldn't turn out to be another Fantastic Four or Captain America. Hell, I didn't even want to see Blade-quality, I wanted something that looked, smelled and tasted like my X-Men. This having been said, I didn't really expect it; Marvel's not got the best track record in Hollywood. These paradoxically high and low expectations resulted in my great enjoyment of the movie version.

We'll start with the eye-candy. The visual effects in X-Men are excellent, about what you'd expect from summer blockbusters in this day and age. The mutant powers were very impressively portrayed, particularly Magneto's. I could've done without the added ickiness when showing Rogue's absorption powers at work, but I can understand the need to actually show something going on. And Jean's powers were ultimately unimpressive, but then I think it would've been too silly for the CGI team to come in and paint everything Jean's doing pink, so it was probably done for the best. But these aside, they actually managed to make the powers look not only impressive but natural, which is no small feat.

The story. You won't find this in any issue (well, any non-movie related issue), so don't bother looking. Given the members they chose to put in the movie, they were much better off with an original script, not to mention the fact that doing so made it clear that this movie (and the sequels sure to follow) is completely separate from the comic book universe. It's good to get this established, especially for fans such as myself, so we don't cripple ourselves by making too may comparisons.

For those of you with no knowledge of X-Men in any form, here's the skinny: Humans are headed towards the next stage of evolution with the emergence of the "x-factor," which grants super-powers. These can be anything from being able to understand any language to wielding the powers of the sun. These super-powered humans (homo sapien superior) have been dubbed "mutants," and they're popping up with such regularity these days that the "normal" humans are getting scared. One such person is Senetor Robert Kelly, who is running for president and whose main platform deals with mutants. He wants to institute the "Mutant Registration Act" which would require that all mutants file with the government. Obviously, this doesn't sit well with mutants, particularly with one Erik Lehnsherr, aka, Magneto. Mags, as a boy, was separated from his parents while they were being shuttled to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, so he in particular understands about racial descrimination taken to the extreme. He has vowed to never let that happen again, and with mastery over magnetic forces and his own Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, he could very well do something to stop it. The only thing opposting him is his long-time friend Professor Charles Xavier and his X-Men, who (altogether now) protect a humanity which hates and loathes them.

This is what the X-Men series in its purest form boils down to: bigotry and hatred. It's always with these stories that the book shined most, and I was very pleased to see it in the movie.

The characters. The mutants, anyway.

As was often the overwhelming choice in those seemingly endless "Cast the X-Men movie!" polls I'd seen since waaaaay the hell back on my old Prodigy days (any old COMXers reading this? Send me mail, we have catching up to do), the "unknown" actor was preferred for most roles, excepting perhaps good ol' Patrick Stewart as the Prof. I think our hunches were right and this ultimately worked out for the best. We were able to see not the star, but the character they were portraying, and the lack of big names encouraged a focus on the movie itself, which can never be a bad thing. Sure, X-Men set out to be a blockbuster, but there's no law that says just that just because a movie's successful doesn't mean it can't be good. And good is definitely what X-Men is.

As we approach our final decent, I would like to make some special notice to things which either particularly tickled me, or I think were tossed in just for fans like myself, and I greatly appreciated.

Ahh, I could go on all day, but I'll spare you. Here's the long and short of it: If you're an X-Men fan, then you probably saw this movie long before you saw this review. If you've never picked up an issue or seen an episode of the cartoon, then I would still recommend it, though it's impossible for me to know if you'd the same level of enjoyment out of it that I did. But I would definitely give it a try. It's well-acted, well-written, and is entertaining, if not too terribly deep. That's more than I can say for most other movies out there.

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