Genetic mutation has spawned a new breed of humans possessing
extraordinary abilities, but fear has bred prejudice against
such mutants. As a result, some mutants attempt to conceal
their true natures, while others view themselves as the new
master race. However, Professor Xavier believes in a third
option, and is training mutants to use their gifts for the
good of humanity...
the increasing silliness of the Batman movies and the
liberties that were taken with the basic premise of the cinematic
Judge Dredd, comics fans waited with bated breath for
this, the latest big-screen adaptation of a major comic-book
series, half-expecting to be disappointed. Fortunately, The
Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer has managed to combine
the essential action and spectacle with a coherent story.
movie opens with the poignant origins of two of its principal
characters, separated by a generation in time. In the first
instance, a young mutant exhibits his magnetic powers as the
result of Nazi oppression; in the second, a teenage girl (Anna
Paquin) discovers to her horror that she may never again experience
physical contact with another human being for fear of fatally
draining their life energy. These scenes establish the mutants
as potentially deadly, but also as innocent and sympathetic
victims of fate. Ironically, the seemingly more dangerous
mutant, Rogue, ultimately joins the good guys, while the young
boy grows up to become the villainous Magneto (Ian McKellen).
Both sides of the prejudice - Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce
Davison) with his fear of the unlike, and Magneto with his
disdain for the comparative weaklings who seek to denigrate
his kind - are all too believable. Only Professor Xavier (Patrick
Stewart) and his team of X-Men offer a chance to reconcile
the respective leaders of the bad guys and the good, McKellen
and Stewart balance each other perfectly in terms of charm,
eloquence of argument and strength of performance - one is
very much the darker half of the other. Inevitably, the ghost
of Captain Picard will never die, and so when Stewart dons
the Professor's brain-boosting headgear, one almost expects
him to declare, "I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile!"
However, there is never any sense that he or McKellen is treating
this action movie as any less deserving of their professionalism
than a Shakespearean stage production.
rest of the cast don't exactly slack off either, with Hugh
Jackman proving particularly impressive as Wolverine. Only
Halle Berry, playing Storm, comes across as a bit wooden,
but then few actors could have got away with that awfully
duff line, "Do you know what happens to a toad when it's struck
by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else!"
In terms of those all-important visual thrills, we are treated
to cool computerised effects, such as Magneto's fragmented
metal bridge, and spectacularly choreographed fight scenes
a-plenty. Special mention must go to the "costume" that is
(almost) worn by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique. Rapid
editing and minimal screen time (possibly in order to meet
the requirements of the 12 certificate) ensure that this risqué
conception really does create a mystique as far as heterosexual
male viewers are concerned. All will surely ask themselves
at some point during the movie, "Is she naked or what?"
certain questions about Wolverine's origins unanswered for
now, the movie offers plenty of opportunity for a sequel that
will develop, rather than merely rehash, the ideas of its
predecessor. This is a good thing, because any follow-up to
this, the best comics-based movie since Tim Burton's Batman
and the finest script for such a film since Superman II,
will have a lot to live up to.