Directed By: Bryan Singer

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, and Anna Paquin

"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution.  It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet.  This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years.  But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward."

-Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)

It's amazing how comic book movies have evolved into the dominant sub-genre on the blockbuster cinema landscape.  With the Marvel Cinematic Universe raging and some long-awaited DC Comics adaptations starting to take shape, it's an unspoken rule that comic book movies rule the summer season.  Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man is largely credited with ushering in the wave of Marvel's live action adaptations of its comics on the big screen over the last decade or so.  While acknowledging that this mega blockbuster's financial success certainly played a critical role in doing so, I'd like to debunk this myth.  There are two Marvel franchises that beat Spidey to the big screen — Blade and X-Men.  While Blade was just a good vampire movie, the evolved world of mutants introduced in X-Men is what really started the wave of Marvel adaptations to the big screen.

It's 1944 in a Nazi-occupied Poland.  A young Erik Lehnsherr (Brett Morris) is separated from his parents in a concentration camp as they are presumably escorted to their own personal hell on earth, the gas chamber.  As the Nazis take his parents away, Lehnsherr demonstrates that he has a rather unique genetic mutation that allows him to manipulate metal.  In an emotional moment, he nearly rips the gate off its hinges at the Nazi camp.  More than half a century later in the present, Lehnsherr has become the mutant known as Magneto (Ian McKellen), and his sole interest is mutant domination by any means necessary.  In a world where these evolved humans are not accepted by the rest of society, he sees war as the only solution and is putting a plan in motion to wage it and win it.

A Mississippi teenager by the name of Marie (Anna Paquin) has a genetic mutation whereby she sucks the life force from any living thing with which she comes into physical contact.  When she puts her boyfriend into a coma by kissing him, Marie runs away from home and takes on the name Rogue.  She meets a man by the name of Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) at a bar one night and hitches a ride with him.  While on the road, they're attacked by a mutant called Sabretooth (Tyler-Mane) and rescued by Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry), two other mutants.  Afterward, Rogue and Wolverine are taken to a mansion in Westchester County, New York where they meet Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a mutant fighting the good fight who can explain why they were attacked.  More importantly, Xavier is an advocate for a peaceful coexistence between mankind and mutantkind and will do what he must to prevent his longtime friend Magneto from starting a war.

X-Men heralds the birth of modern comic book films in grand style.  Director Bryan Singer has crafted a potent adaptation of the mutant-filled comics.  With a well-developed story and an ensemble full of smartly casted characters, Singer hits just about every mark right.  Things only get better with rich, well-scripted dialogue from screenwriter David Hayter and solid chemistry on screen amongst the principal cast members.  As a bonus, the film surprisingly echoes themes of the civil rights era and offers quite a bit of symbolism.  All in all, X-Men is an excellent adaptation that means more for the modern comic book blockbuster than people often give it credit.

Singer offers a well-crafted story with well-developed characters from start to finish.  From opening up with a young Magneto getting his own bitter taste of genocide during the Holocaust to having him wage a war against mankind to prevent that same kind of genocide for his mutant kin in his elder years, our primary villain is a testament to Singer's commitment to developing a strong story with meaningful characters.  Magneto is just one character in the film (albeit my favorite).  The fact that Singer does this on a much larger scale with a team of X-Men as well as Magneto and his subordinates is nothing short of impressive. 

The casting in this film is pitch perfect.  First and foremost, Star Trek veteran Patrick Stewart is an incredibly fitting choice to take on the lead role of Professor Charles Xavier.  His peaceful, cool persona is exactly what's needed to bring this iconic mutant character to the big screen.  The same can be said for Ian McKellen's Magneto.  For his part, McKellen perfectly portrays Magneto as the arrogant, embittered mutant I've always envisioned.  He's an intelligent villain with a worthwhile purpose.  Beyond our primary villain and hero, I can think of no one better to take on the role of Wolverine than Hugh Jackman.  He's so grumpy and offers an endless flurry of caustic remarks, especially for James Marsden's equally well-casted character Cyclops.  I could go on and on about how awesome this all-star cast is.  To make your reading a little lighter, I'll just leave it at this.  Each and every actor in this incredible ensemble plays his or her role to the tee, and they put this all on display in X-Men.

To top things off, this cast has incredibly strong chemistry that's only enhanced by some well-scripted dialogue.  The most important chemistry on screen is arguably the chemistry shared amongst the love triangle of Wolverine, Cyclops, and Famke Janssen's Jean Grey.  The combative and romantic undercurrents are hilariously apparent with some great one-liners.  The other equally important on screen dynamics are those between Professor X and Magneto.  Together, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen pack one hell of a punch taking rich dialogue about the state of mutant affairs to a more symbolic level.  In their most potent scenes, these two old acting pros symbolically capture the essence of the Civil Rights Era and the two divergent approaches to advancing the cause.  Stewart's Professor X, a peace-loving activist could be likened to MLK while McKellen's Magneto, who favors a more forceful approach, could be likened to Malcolm X.

X-Men is an excellent adaptation of the classic comic book series and a fitting film to usher in the modern era of comic book movies.  With an impressive cast and a worthwhile story, Bryan Singer hits the mark with this one.  X-Men gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.