***.1 GM
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Ray Par, Tyler Mane, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Bruce Davison


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BIAS ALERT: I am a comic book geek. As such, I know these characters rather well (most of 'em, at least). I will now proceed to geek out about this film.

WOO-HOO! The X-Men Movie is GOOD!

Ever since the Batfranchise went into the shitter at the hands of Joel "Did I Do Anything Worthwhile After D.C. Cab" Schumacher, I had very low expectations for this film. When Blade came out, it managed to have enough fun yee-hah stuff to buoy the iffy-ish script. So I made sure to suppress hopes for the X-flick. But the more I read and the more I saw in the trailer... the more my hopes grew in spite of myself, and I was giddy with expectation the night before. When I finally saw it, I was still stoked when I left the theater. It actually met my hopes. That's rare. I'm also one of the few comic geeks that seems to understand WHY things are going to be different in a movie than they are in the comic books. Spandex doesn't work on real people and the thing that happened with Captain Shifty in issue #143 isn't going to be included because it was stupid, complicated and unimportant.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was done perfectly. I'm not gonna bitch that he wasn't short enough or hairy enough. He had just the right attitude, gruffness and snippiness, and only a couple of hints of Jackman hiding his Australian accent. Barely detectable. I also really liked Anna Paquin as Rogue (no bitching cuz she hasn't been given a real name in the comics, but they call her Marie here). In the comics, she's got some other superpowers she absorbed from some superchick that makes her a vastly different character - being able to beat the crap outta everybody and be near invulnerable... and being able to FLY tends to make someone a bit more confident. I like Rogue this way, as a scared young woman dealing with her own weird curse of a power.

Cyclops (James Marsden) is a tool, and I'm glad to see him treated like one by the cool guy. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is an attractive gal. I'm curious as to why she didn't free them from their constraints during that last battle there... perhaps she can't move really heavy stuff. That's my guess. Storm (Halle Berry) needed to be a stronger and more dynamic presence. She's a force of nature, dagnabbit. But I didn't have a problem with her wig at all, though, as some did. There was never any doubt that Patrick Stewart would be the perfect Charles Xavier. The cameos of the kids at the school - Iceman, Shadowcat, etc. - are good. I need Colossus in the next one, or there's no justice.

Ian McKellen makes a great Magneto. I had no doubts he'd make a great everything after "Gods and Monsters." He doesn't fall into the kind of trap that Tommy Lee Jones did in Batman Forever - he wasn't just off on the supervillain tangent. He just played the role straight - no overdone posturing. He just wanted to change the world into mutants so there'd be no threat to them any longer. Admirable, if misguided goal. Toad was great, and I loved Ray Park's Darth Maul move slipped in there, too. Mystique will hopefully flourish more as a manipulator in the sequels - although I can't imagine Rebecca Romijn-Stamos going through that 15-hour makeup process again. Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) was unfortunately portrayed as a bit on the incompetent side (although, upon further review, his mistakes could hardly really be blamed on him - he had no reason to expect the X-guys would be present when they saved Wolvie and Rogue, and he had no reason to expect that Sentator Kelly would be all gooey when he dropped him), which made his more frightening moments less effective than they should be.

The film even captures a comic-bookish feel without completely sacrificing realism. The bad guys don't die, leaving them the ability to come back in the sequels I'll be hoping for soon. It's the first issue of a new ongoing series... and I can only hope they make as many X-flicks as there are James Bond flicks. At least X-flicks will be able to incorporate different plots, which automatically would put them a cut above Bond. Here's hoping the studio people have learned the Schumacher lesson and will keep good directors on the flicks.

My joy in seeing these characters and concepts on the big screen and performed well is most likely overshadowing my critical thinking - true, the threat posed by Magneto didn't seem to be all that gripping, and maybe it was a big prologue for sequels, but dammit, it was cool. Damn cool. I've secretly wanted claws to pop out of my fists for a decade, although I'd managed to forget that for a while. Now that desire is back. My little fanboy fire has been lit again. I'll continue to geek out. Excelsior! Or something.

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