X-Men Review

Apr 25, 2001 | 2:56pm EDT

Critics have reserved the term "comic book-like" for the most juvenile and banal of films. That's all about to change. "X-Men" is the collision of two dueling ideologies. Professor X/Charles Francis Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is a mutant (one born with exceptional abilities) who trains other mutants to deal with their designer genes and protect humanity. Magneto/Erik Magnu Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen) is a Holocaust survivor and a mutant who has lived the horrors of human prejudice. He's formed a brotherhood of mutants to destroy humans before humans destroy them. Mix in a congressional grandstander (Bruce Davison) who taps into the public's paranoia to further his own career and you've got the best adventure film since the original "Star Wars" series.

A wrestler a supermodel award winners and a stuntman. It's this eclectic ensemble cast that provides the real superpower in the film. Amazingly there's not a weak link among them. The commanding presence of McKellen and Stewart give the film weight. McKellen is especially excellent shaping a complex villain with a sympathetic motivation. Get used to Hugh Jackman (the feral Logan/Wolverine). This Aussie's going to be big.

Bryan Singer can now take his place among Spielberg Lucas and Cameron modern masters of the imagination. The spectacular special effects look as if they came not from prosthetics and computers but directly from a vivid daydream. "X-Men" is a high-budget blockbuster with an indie edge. "This is the most stupid thing I've ever heard " the mysterious Logan proclaims after being briefed about the "X-Men." But Singer doesn't think so. He constructs a hyper-real brushed metal world all too similar to our own using the mutant "menace" as a metaphor for our own intolerance. Note: Keep an eye on the way the "X" in Twentieth Century Fox fades more slowly than the other letters during the opening Fox fanfare.

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