The “X-Men” are mutants who live and/or work with another mutant named Charles Xavier, or Professor X (played by Patrick Stewart).  In this world, mutants are feared; and anything or anyone that people fear, they like to concentrate in one area where they can control and/or destroy them.   This story deals with issues such as prejudice, xenophobia, the struggle of being different from most people, and the right to be left alone and simply live one’s life.

On one end of the mutant spectrum, we have Stewart and his group of heroic mutants.  They band together for safety and spiritual and moral support, and try to educate regular humans on peaceful co-existence with mutants.  On the other end of the mutant spectrum is a powerful mutant named Magneto (played by Ian McKellen), who believes humans will never accept mutants; and that humans will continue to pass laws that will force the mutants into concentration camps where they will be destroyed.

As an X-Men and Wolverine fan for decades — I’ve read my share of those comic books — it’s surprising for me to write that in this movie, McKellen’s character is the most interesting one.   The reasoning behind McKellen’s actions (going to war with humans, and protecting his kind by any means necessary) are clear-cut and understandable.  In the first scene of the movie, which happens to be one of my most memorable, movie moments of “X-Men,” we see McKellen when he was a boy, being slowly marched into a Nazi, concentration camp with his parents.  When separated from his parents, McKellen’s powers emerge, forcing the iron and wooden gates to bend as he tries to get back to his mother and father.   A guard knocks him out, ending the boy’s attempt to reunite with his parents.   Fast forward into the movie’s present, and we see McKellen with a serial number tattooed on his forearm.   So, when McKellen realizes that the U.S. is moving ahead with the Mutant Registration Act, you just know what’s going on in his head: “never again.”

“X-Men” is a movie that could have been much, much better had it been given to a director who was a huge fan of The X-Men and Wolverine characters; but director Bryan Singer, as far as I remember, had been unaware of these characters until he was told of the movie adaptation that was being planned.   Singer did a great job dealing with the issue of people being afraid of others whom they know not much of, something that has been going on for thousands of years, and still going on today.  As for the X-Men characters…not such a good job.  I give him a C-, and I’m being kind here.

First, Rogue.   She was made much, much weaker than in the comics.  Rogue should be about as powerful as Superman, and yes, she can fly.  Now let’s go to Storm.  Again, she’s made much weaker than in the comics.  In “X-Men,” Storm is constantly getting her ass kicked before she finally uses her power to control weather and strike back.  Storm can create tornadoes and hurricanes and lightning, so why does she usually hang back to let other mutants do a job that she can easily handle?   As for Wolverine…first, when I found out that he was going to be played by an actor who is about a foot taller than the character — yes, Wolverine is short, about 5′ 4″, hence the name Wolverine, which is a small, ferocious animal — I flipped!  But over the years, Hugh Jackman has done a terrific job portraying him, so I let that go.  But…Singer has reduced Wolverine’s extremely violent/psychotic tendencies (probably due to the studio’s concerns for keeping the PG-13 rating) to the point where I look at his character in this movie as “Wolverine Light.”   Also, in “X-Men,” Wolverine is having a hard time fighting off the mutant Mystique.  Are you f@$%&ng kidding!   Mystique would’ve been mauled in a heartbeat.    Well, what do you expect from a non-fan director?

Well, let me calm down and tell you of my most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men.”  It’s the scene when Hugh Jackman (who plays Wolverine) comes into a room where fellow X-Man Cyclops is in.  Cyclops doesn’t know if it’s really Jackman, or a mutant pretending to be Jackman, so Cyclops is about to blast him with his eye.  Jackman tells Cyclops that it’s really him.  Cyclops says “prove it.”  Jackman says, “you’re a dick.”  Cyclops accepts that proof.  Ha ha!  Singer got one part of The X-Men correct: the animosity Cyclops and Wolverine have for each other.

I will end this piece by telling you people of an article I recently read about a filmmaker involved in “The Wolverine”, and how he was influenced by Roger Ebert’s take on the Wolverine character.  Ebert stated that he doesn’t care about Wolverine because how can you care about a character who cannot die and doesn’t feel pain.  What the hell?  Huh?  Wolverine does feel pain.   Even in “X-Men,” there’s a scene when Anna Paquin (who plays Rogue) asks Jackman if it hurts when his claws come out.  Jackman replies, “every time.”  Also, in the comics, Wolverine’s powers do not involve him being impervious to pain, so yeah, he does get hurt.  And he can die.  His healing factor can only do so much, and when it’s overwhelmed with injuries that are too great and fast, my favorite comic book character will die.

Soooo, Roger Ebert, if you were still alive, I’d slap you.  But I shall wait until I’m dead, then I’ll find you in the spirit world, and then I’ll slap you!   That’s right, Spartacus, I said it.

M

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