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X-Men (***)
Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Bryan Singer, David Hayter, and Tom DeSanto
Principal Cast
Patrick Stewart -- Professor Charles Francis Xavier/Professor X
Hugh Jackman -- Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen -- Erik Magnus Lehnsherr/Magneto
Halle Berry -- Ororo Munroe/Storm
Famke Janssen -- Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden -- Scott Summers/Cyclops
Bruce Davison -- Senator Robert Jefferson Kelly
Tyler Mane -- Victor Creed/Sabretooth
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos -- Raven Darkholme/Mystique
Ray Park -- Mortimer Toynbee/Toad
Anna Paquin -- Rogue
Matthew Sharp (I) -- NSC Agent Henry Peter Gyrich
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

I bought the first issue of The X-Men (***) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby new off the newsstand for 12 cents in 1963 and sold it twenty years later to help pay off my mortgage.

I saw at once that it was "borrowed" from the classic science fiction novel Children of the Atom (****), by Wilmar H. Shiras (which you can buy for just $8.00 plus $1.50 postage from Locus Press, P.O.Box 13305, Oakland CA 94661 -- tell 'em Rick sent you). In the novel, the powers the children have are entirely mental: increased intelligence and creativity. But the plot -- the hostility of the ordinary for the extraordinary -- is the same. The comic book and movie versions are not science fiction. There is no attempt to make the super powers obey scientific laws. The superhero genre has conventions of its own. And its own pleasures.

I enjoyed the new X-Men film much more than I expected to. (The reviews were mostly awful: dark, they called it, confused, hard to understand, Canadian.) The one good review I've read said it wasn't dumb like the comic book -- this from a reviewer who obviously never read a comic book. Hard to understand? Maybe for people who talk on cell phones during films but not for people who pay attention to what is happening on the screen. Not for people who read -- anything -- even comic books.

The night I watched it, a couple of people whispered to each other and left about half an hour into the movie. I found myself fantasizing their conversation. "What is this? Where's Scully? Where's Mulder?"

The acting is excellent. The script has a lot of good moments and only a few bad ones. All of the changes from the comic book version are for the better. There are some nice in jokes for fans. The directing is top notch -- Bryan Singer directed The Usual Suspects (***). In short, this is the first really good superhero film since Batman (****), which came out more than ten years ago.

I am tempted to tell you some of my favorite moments, but that would only spoil them for you. I do want to mention the excellent characterization of the villain known as The Toad, a big nothing in the comic book, a star attraction in the movie.

The only thing that keeps the movie from being absolutely first rate is that, for what is after all an action flick, there is a little too much plot and character and not enough of a slam bang finish. And they didn't get the "sniket" of Wolverines claws quite right. Another million spent on that sound effect would have been money well spent.

Stan Lee gets a "producer" credit and has a cameo. Jack Kirby is mentioned under "thanks to" (along with the Statue of Liberty corporation). Neither gets creator credit. And, inexcusably, Len Wein, Wolverine's creator, is not even mentioned.

I saw X-Men at the Abingdon Virginia Cinemall which is said to have the best sound system in the country. By all means see this movie at a theater with a first rate sound system, not just for the KA-BOOMs but for the sound of the rain.

Copyright © 2000 by Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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