Movie Review By Paul Dougherty
Discrimination. Prejudice. Hatred. Bigotry. These are very difficult topics to talk about. They are subjects that most Americans would like to think don't exist or they hide their heads in the sand and pretend aren't there. How does one react if they are the subject of such intense emotions? Would you react like the majority population did in South Africa during Apartheid and let the minority have control or do you do something else? Or, what if, you are more powerful than your oppressors -- those who scream for your separation from society, those who push to have you constantly monitored or tracked? This is the question asked in the action-adventure movie opening Friday July 14 -- "X-Men".
Tension is high in the states, as US Senator Robert Kelly has proposed a law regarding the registration of known mutants. He feels that since they are "different" from normal humans and have special abilities that are not normal that they should have to be registered and kept track of. On the Senate floor, a doctor and geneticist, Jean Gray, argues that mutants are benign and just like any other human except for their enhanced powers. There is widespread prejudice against the mutants in the US and the world in general. Prejudice that comes from the lack of understanding and from fear of those more powerful then the average person.
The movie introduces us to two separate groups of mutants. One is led by Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart), a kindly man who believes in the good of humanity and believes that one day mutants will be accepted by the mainstream population and welcomed into society. He feels that mutants should "blend in" with humanity. He runs a school for the gifted, which in fact is a school that teaches young mutants to deal with their abilities and powers in mainstream society (mutant abilities develop at puberty). Some of his students include Cyclops with his laser eyes (James Marsden), the telekinetic Jean Gray (Fammke Jannsen), and weather controlling Storm (Halle Berry). They also meet two other mutants during the movie: Rogue (Anna Paquin) and the metal-clawed Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
On the other side of the coin is Magneto. He survived Auschwitz as a child and learned about prejudice and hate the hard way. He feels that humans killed once and that they will kill again in the name of bigotry and hatred. He feels that mutants are superior to humans and should exercise their superiority to rule humanity. He is joined by the shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romaine-Stamos), the nimble Toad (Ray Park of Darth Maul fame), and the ferocious Sabretooth (Tyler Mane).
The movie is a four-star movie. Besides being a terrific action movie, it takes a good look at various issues still facing humanity. The acting was very good -- particularly Anna Paquin, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman. While not all actors got a lot of screen time (it is hard to fit 9 major characters into a 100-minute film) I thought all were utilized quite well. The action is non-stop once it begins, and I really thought the story line was well-written and very realistic!
This movie, while based on a comic book, is definitely more than that. It combines many elements into the film and with the talent involved did an exceptional job of incorporating them. This movie as well as Gladiator are the two best movies I have seen to date this year.
The script definitely left room for a sequel, and most major characters have agreed to do one. If future scripts are as good as this first one, it should be a very successful franchise. Let's hope it becomes one.
© 2000 - Paul Dougherty - Air Date: 7/12/00
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