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X-Men (2000)

Action/Adventure Rated PG-13

Based on the Marvel comic-book series that was tellingly launched during the civil-rights movement, X-Men has all the action and costuming a comic property requires, but it’s most interesting as an allegory about discrimination and intolerance. When super-powered mutants begin to appear and the United States government moves to control them, Magneto (Ian McKellen) calls on his fellow mutants to fight back “by any means necessary.” Director Bryan Singer smartly doesn’t push this theme too hard, but rather lets it bubble under the surface. X-Men mostly is surface, missing the sort of mythic grandeur or existential angst that anchors the best superhero films (Watchmen, The Dark Knight). Among the packed cast (Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart), only Hugh Jackman provides any sort of depth. His Wolverine, a surly mutant with vicious metal claws that pop out of his knuckles, acknowledges the underlying sadness in this story: These are superheroes who largely regret their powers because of the trouble that they bring. The defining moment of X-Men for me comes when Wolverine is asked if it hurts to have blades tear out of his hands. His woeful answer: “Every time.