Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:40 - Released 7/14/00

For anyone who enjoys comic book superheroes, Bryan Singer's X-Men is just the ticket. This entertaining and reasonably intelligent film, penned by Singer, Tom DeSanto and David Hayter, and based on the 30-odd-year-old Marvel comic book series, involves the futuristic world of mutants, people for whom evolution has taken a "leap forward." Thanks to genetic mutations, a segment of Earth's population is endowed with superhuman traits or powers, such as mind reading, being able to change the weather, or being really, really good at checkers.

The story involves the inevitable conflict between these mutants and the rest of society, namely the poor old regular humans who are afraid and/or suspicious of them. But who cares about the story? What's fun is talking about what all these guys can do: Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), leader of the good-guy mutant society, or "X-Men," can read minds and control others. So can Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), but not as well. "Cyclops" (James Marsden) can fire devastating lasers out of his eyes, but has a volume control in case he just wants to shoot beer cans off a fence or something, and "Storm" (Halle Berry), can, as her name implies, whip up weather patterns that would make George Clooney cringe. Collectively, these folks all wear cool uniforms and use their powers only for good.

Into this world comes "Wolverine" (Hugh Jackman) and "Rogue" (Anna Paquin), two mutants who have run away from their loved ones. Wolverine's talents are threefold: he's got huge, pointy metal talons that extend from his fists when he is attacked, and regenerative powers that allow him to heal instantly from just about any injury, and he also can smell bad guys. Apparently, his olfactory ability doesn't activate when he's around friends, because he never says anything like, "Gee, your hair smells terrific" or "Did you just eat a bag of Doritos?" Rogue's power is that she draws the life energy (I believe the technical term is "mojo") from anyone with whom she shares skin-on-skin contact. Let's just hope she's not allergic to latex, if you get my drift.

But not all mutants are good. Currently trying to take over the world is super-baddie "Magneto" (Ian McKellen), an old friend/enemy of Dr. X., who can create magnetic fields and bend metal. In his employ is "Mystique" (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a curvaceous shape-shifter who can look and sound like anyone, including all of the above; "Toad" (Ray Park, a.k.a. Darth Maul of The Phantom Menace), who can jump around and catch flies with his tongue — well, they can't all be great — and "Sabretooth" (pro wrestler Tyler Mane), who growls a lot and beats people up. Not much of a stretch for him. So we get to watch all these freaks battle it out, and the result of the battle could doom or save mankind.There's also a subplot about a visciously anti-mutant senator (Bruce Davison) who is taught not to judge people until he has walked a mile in their mutated moccasins.

As one would expect, X-Men is full of cool make-up and dazzling sci-fi effects (some borrowed from Contact), but it is intelligent enough to be of interest to more than just the comic-book mentality. Stewart is ever the elder statesman; his character is not unlike Captain Picard, but it fits. Paquin and Jackman are convincing in their roles, and British acting veteran McKellen (soon to be seen as Gandalf in the upcoming Lord Of The Rings series) is suitably diabolical. All I want to know now is where I can get a Mystique suit for my wife before Halloween. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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