The world is full of humans who have remarkable abilities due to a mutation in their DNA. Such mutants must hide to avoid the opression they may face due to paranoia and fear amongst those not gifted with such extraordinary abilities. The mutants themselves are divided; Professor Xavier runs a school for young mutants and advocates non-violent education to turn public opinion. However, the powerful Magneto despises all non-mutants and has a plan to make mutation the norm amongst humanity. Professor X and his friends, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm and new recruits Wolverine and Rogue must stop Magneto before his plan causes untold damage to the human race.
X-Men (2000) – Director: Bryan Singer
Running Length: 104 mins
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
Genre: Comic Book, Action
Bryan Singer’s ‘X-Men’ started the now mega-franchise which currently consists of two sequels and two spin-off origin movies (the next instalment, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ is due for release in 2014). Based on the Marvel comics and featuring several of the main characters, Singer has successfully brought the eponymous superheroes to the big screen. Having each character fighting their own demons as well as the greater obstacle of Magneto could have become too overrun with angst; thankfully, the inner struggles are kept to a more subtle self-doubt rather than full blown ‘issues’.
Hugh Jackman plays the role of Wolverine which was absolutely made for him. Having reprised the role in each subsequent X-Men movie (even as a cameo in ‘X-Men: First Class’) shows how much he enjoys the character and also how well the fans responded to his version of Wolverine. Unfortunately the chemistry between Wolverine and Jean Grey is sadly lacking and therefore the love triangle between the two characters and Cyclops is never particularly believable. As a movie, ‘X-Men’ feels like there needs to be more to it, like there should be a stand-out scene which would make the movie but such a scene never comes. The issues of oppression and prejudice are always something that an audience can relate to but other than a Senator wishing to impose laws on the mutants and a few disgruntled bar patrons, the oppression is never effectively portrayed like a major problem, causing the battle between the X-Men and Magneto to seem a little out of proportion.
On the whole, ‘X-Men’ is enjoyable and entertaining and kids will love it but against the more modern Marvel adaptations like ‘Avengers Assemble’, ‘Thor’ and the Iron Man franchise, it is unlikely to stand out as one of the greats.
IS ‘X-MEN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The opening scene is set in a concentration camp when the character of Eric Lensherr (to be later known as Magneto) was a young Jewish boy. Dogs bark in the background and thin-faced people with tattoos on their arms are clearly being worked to exhaustion. Eric and his family are being marched in but are then separated, his mother screams as she is dragged away and he struggles to get back to her. The guards hold him back and his powers to manipulate metal bend and contort the gates. Another guard approaches him and hits him in the face with the butt of his rifle, rendering Eric unconscious. While nothing graphic is shown in this scene, the drab colours, atmosphere, poor conditions and the way the people are treated may be a little distressing for children.
When Wolverine is introduced, he fights in a small arena for money. When he is seen to fight another man, he takes a few punches but then easily beats his opponent. He is then seen drinking a beer at a bar and is approached by several men who lost money from the fight. When they attack him, he holds one against a wall and holds his fist towards his face and, in a close up shot, three long blades slowly protrude from between his knuckles. He does this to scare and threaten the men and does not hurt them. While there is no blood or gore, the camera shows the skin separate as the blades slide out. Later, Rogue asks Wolverine whether it hurts when his blades come out and he replies ‘every time’. Wolverine also has healing abilities and when he receives a deep cut to his face, the camera shows it from a few feet away as it heals. Wolverine does use his claws to stab his enemies, although he does this once by accident when he wakes up startled and a woman is sitting by his bedside.
One character is kidnapped by Magneto and is subjected to a process designed to mutate his DNA. He is seen tied to a chair in the middle of a dark room and appears terrified as he looks around and sees dark, imposing figures staring at him. Once he has been exposed to the process, he is kept in a cell but realises that (with his new powers) he can push his body through the bars. As he does so, his skin stretches and his eyes bulge out in a grotesque manner. Later, as he had previously fallen into the ocean, he walks onto a populated beach, naked, however his skin is stretched and sagging and nothing explicit is seen.
Later in the movie, one of Magneto’s henchmen, Sabretooth, kills a guard by stabbing him in the back with his claws and lifting him up. The camera shows the guard from the front and therefore the violence is not graphic. The body of another guard is also shown lying on the floor. The character of Toad kills by jumping on and squashing his victims. A young woman who has been kidnapped by Magneto asks him whether his is going to kill her and, in a very matter of fact tone, he confirms that he will.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘X-Men’ is an entertaining comic book movie with plenty of action scenes and a good story about the dangers of prejudice. We feel that this movie should be appropriate for kids aged 7 and over although some explanation may be required with the concentration camp scene at the beginning for children who are unaware of this part of history.
- Violence: 2/5 (although there are several action scenes, most of the violence is kept to a minimum and there is no blood or gore apart from one part towards the end where a character is seen to have gashes on their face and blood trickles from wounds on their back although their clothes hide the actual wounds)
- Emotional Distress: 1/5 (two established characters are hurt badly and the others around them are concerned for their survival)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (Magento and his henchmen are threatening and imposing although his friendship with Professor X shows a realistic and relatable side to his personality)
- Sexual Content: 2/5 (Rogue and her boyfriend lie on her bed and kiss but nothing sexual is implied. Wolverine often tries to flirt with Jean Grey but she rebuffs his advances due to her relationship with Cyclops. The character of Mystique does not wear any clothes and is instead covered with blue body paint. However, nothing explicit is seen)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (infrequent mild cursing and blasphemy, a few moderate words are also used once each and are never excessive. At one point, Wolverine retracts the outer two blades from his knuckles, leaving the middle one out deliberately)
- Dialogue: 1/5 (in a speech against mutants, a character explains that one mutant can walk through walls and could easily walk into people’s houses. While this may not be especially worrying for most kids, any who have been a victim of burglary may be a little sensitive to this)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of friendship, fighting against evil, fighting for what is right and protecting the innocent, even if they are against you, because it is the right thing to do.
Words by Laura Record