STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Tyler Mane

2000, 96 Minutes, Directed by: Bryan Singer

Now I must admit to not having followed the X-Men comic book (or animated TV series for that matter) since I was a kid in the late 1970s.

So I wouldn't really know whether this movie version of the Marvel comic (about outcast mutant superheroes who has to battle the prejudices of ordinary humans - as if you didn't know that!) would satisfy hardcore fans. Then again, fans can be so anal and one shouldn't spend too much time indoors with any real life equivalents of the Comic Book Store Guy from The Simpsons.

Viewers unfamiliar with X-Men lore will however be drawn to the movie because of its surface similarities to The Matrix. Chances are they'll be disappointed - although featuring some good special effects sequences, X-Men is a rarity: an understated superhero comic book movie adaptation. It'll disappoint those expecting any fierce pyrotechnics. The movie's task is closer to that of last year's Phantom Menace, namely establish all the characters and themes for an ongoing movie franchise.

Which brings us to another thing: when I picked up some X-Men comics a few years back and tried getting back into it, I found the series to be the comic book equivalent of LA Law or a day-time soap opera.

There was a horde of characters, each with his/her/its own back-story and subplots. Getting into the groove of the story was practically impossible because of the confusion. Wisely director Bryan (Usual Suspects) Singer tries to keep the amount of characters to a practical minimum to avoid too much confusion. Sure, some comic geek will complain about some or the other character from the comics being left out, but take my word: it is for the best.

While not as good as it could have been, X-Men is nowhere as bad as it could have been (namely as craptacular as Spawn and Batman & Robin). It is quite entertaining, but it is simply too short. The ending feels like an anti-climax and you'll probably want more when the credits start rolling. No doubt there'll be sequels, and if this movie is merely setting up the scenario for future films, then roll on X-Men 2 I say.



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