Tuesday, May 06, 2003

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I've been an X-Men fan approximately twice in my life. First time was in the 60s, when I was a kid and picked up those wonderful Lee/Kirby, Thomas/Roth, Drake/Steranko, and especially Thomas/Adams issues of the original, "classic" X-Men. I didn't have every issue, but that was one book that I always asked my folks to buy me on a regular basis, especially the last few issues (#'s 48-65). I took it hard when the book got the ax in 1969. Then, a few years later, when the X-Men were retooled and relaunched, I fell right in and bought those excellent late 70s-early 80s issues with art and stories by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. Unfortunately, after Byrne left the scripts became confusing, unrelentingly pretentious and melodramatic, even when Claremont wasn't writing and the art chores were assumed by lesser talents who epitomized, and in many cases launched, many of the wretched artistic tendencies of the late 80s and 90s. I sadly said goodbye to the not-so-merry mutants about 1985 or so. I just couldn't take it anymore. And with a very few exceptions, like the first trade of Morrison's New X-Men and about two dozen issues of X-Force nee Statix, I haven't touched any X-books since. OK- there were three late 90s issues I bought that had Shang-Chi in them. But that's been about it.

I saw the first movie and thought it wasn't all that bad. Hated the fetishistic black leather costumes (I would think a real director would rise to the challenge of making spandex costumes look acceptable), but overall it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd expected. A great deal of the film was spent just introducing the large cast, and it kinda limited the action until the end.

That's not the problem at all with X2; it's balls-to-the-wall action all the way, and I think it's a better film for it. Among the positives: they finally gave Halle Berry something to do-she was almost invisible in the first one. Ian McKellen– if there's a better actor anywhere, I've not seen him. He brings nuance and subtlety to his character and to the film as a whole. Hugh Jackman pretty much is Wolverine for all practical purposes...I can't imagine anyone else playing him nearly as well. It was interesting to see some of the younger members of the cast get some screen time; Colossus (nice CGI), Iceman and Pyro have significant roles and we get to see some of the other familiar characters such as Kitty Pryde and Siryn. I thought the scene where Magneto breaks out of his plastic prison was very well done, and appreciated how the "good" X-men and the "evil" minions of Magneto were forced to unite against a common foe, and I thought Alan Cumming, a great character actor, was just fine as a chubbier-and-skankier-than-I'm-used-to Nightcrawler.

Although I couldn't help but think of Pete Bagge's Reason cartoon about geek culture while I was viewing it, I thought it was a fine action film that didn't insult the intelligence. It's nice to see that the filmmakers have a growing degree of respect for the source material, and that, I think, is the biggest reason why comic-book based movies aren't the total disasters they were before. While I've been less than impressed with Bryan Singer's other films, including the overrated (in my opinion, of course-everyone else seems to think it's a masterpiece of some sort) Usual Suspects, he seems to be enjoying making the X-flicks and it shows. I believe X2: X-Men United will be all the rage...until Matrix Reloaded comes out, anyway...