Although the superhero comic book has been a duopoly since the early 1960s, only DC's flagship characters, Superman and Batman (who originated in the late 1930s), have established themselves as big-screen franchises. Until now--this is the first runaway hit film version of the alternative superhero X-Men
universe created for Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others. It's a rare comic-book movie that doesn't fall over its cape introducing all the characters, and this is the exception. X-Men
drops us into a world that is closer to our own than Batman
's Gotham City, but it's still home to super-powered goodies and baddies.
Opening in high seriousness with paranormal activity in a WW2 concentration camp and a senatorial inquiry into the growing "mutant problem", Bryan Singer's film sets up a complex background with economy and establishes vivid, strange characters well before we get to the fun. There's Halle Berry flying and summoning snowstorms, James Marsden zapping people with his "optic beams", Rebecca Romijn-Stamos shape-shifting her blue naked form and Ray Park lashing out with his Toad-tongue.
The big conflict is between Patrick Stewart's Professor X and Ian McKellen's Magneto, super-powerful mutants who disagree about their relationship with ordinary humans, but the characters we're meant to identify with are Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Anna Paquin's Rogue. There are in-jokes enough to keep comics fans engaged, but it feels more like a science-fiction movie than a superhero picture. --Kim Newman
On the DVD: X-Men 1.5's two-disc set offers little more than the original X-Men release. The six extended scenes which can be incorporated into the feature on Disc 1 were already available on the initial DVD version (though they're cleaned up a bit here), and when played within the film's original cut they seem disjointed and tacked on, adding very little to the overall story.
Disc 2, meanwhile, will have little appeal to any but the most diehard of fans. The X-Men 2 Sneak Peak, the X-Men 2 trailer, the Daredevil trailer and the Activision Wolverine's Revenge trailer are little more than adverts. The four-part documentary, meanwhile, is impressively interactive (with multi-angle segments and two play modes), but unfortunately it's also a bit dull and self-congratulatory. --Robert Burrow
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.