Film Review: X-Men
Comic book-based movies have, with some notable exceptions, been disastrous. Did anyone even see 'Spawn'? 'Blade' was an ultra-violent mish-mash of martial arts and vampirism. The less said about the execrable 'The Phantom' the better. However, Richard Donner's pioneering Superman provided lots of cheesy fun and a typically brilliant turn from Gene Hackman as arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. But probably the most brilliant and faithful adaptation of a comic book world was Tim Burton's troubled Batman in a gothic Gotham City.
And then there are the movies that just feel like a comic book adaptation. The best example, and a CLUAS favourite, was last year's brilliant The Matrix.
Bryan Singer was Hollywood's bright young thing after 'The Usual Suspects', though he stumbled somewhat with 1998's 'Apt Pupil'. In the hype leading up to the release of X-Men, the fact that Singer revealed he was a childhood fan of the comic was heartening. Would he be able to translate the conflicting personalities and indulge the fan and the audience members unfamiliar with his fantasy? The answer, thankfully, is a resounding 'yes'. Singer has managed to attract some pretty heavy-weight acting talent too. Patrick Stewart leads the way as the telepathic Charles Xavier and Sir Ian McKellan as arch-enemy, Magneto, add gravitas to the central issue of the film - how the ostracizing of mutants from society by mobs whipped up by ambitious politicians.
The story centers on two young mutants: Rogue (played by Anna Paquin) who drains the life-force from those unfortunate enough to touch her skin, and the aggressively emotional Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) with his great strength and indestructible metal skeleton. Like fellow Australian Russell Crowe, Jackman brings a strong masculinity to the role and a ferocious desire to burn up the screen in every scene he is in. It is a star-making turn. The two form a touching friendship but are accosted by Xavier's X-Men and brought to his school for children with "special talents" i.e. a school for mutants.
But McKellan's Magneto wants them too. What follows is an extremely exciting adventure with great action sequences, wonderful one-liners (specially for the older comic fan) and loads of sexual tension between Wolverine and the stunningly beautiful women in the X-Men (don't accuse me of being sexist, ok!). The movie is short, snappy and very faithful to the original intentions of the comic artists while the villains are suitably villainous. In fact Toad, one of Magneto's henchmen is played by Ray Park, previously seen as Darth Maul. Whereas I suppose, in hindsight, The Phantom Menace didn't bring out the kid in me, the X-Men is just so goddamn enjoyable that you just have to grin. And (I'm kicking my principles into touch here), I can't wait for the sequel.