Tibetan Buddhist teacher Robert Thurman writes in Inner Revolution: "In karmic evolution, the successful actions that lead to positive evolutionary mutations such as a human life are those of generosity, morality, tolerance, enterprise, concentration, and intelligence. Their opposites stinginess, injustice, anger, laziness, distraction, and ignorance are unsuccessful actions, which lead to negative evolutionary mutations that take you down the chain through animal incarnations." We got to thinking about this when we realized that the mutants in the sci-fi thriller X-Men are of two types: the generous, moral, and intelligent ones, and the animal-like ones acting out of revenge and anger. The message is clear: evolution can go toward the good or the bad, and there will always be a battle between the two possibilities.
X-Men, with stories revolving around the activities of a group of mutant superheroes, has been a phenomenally successful franchise for Marvel Comics. Now director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) and screenplay writer David Hayter have adapted this series for the screen. The movie exposes the battle going on for America's soul. In doing so, it goes right to the heart of the country's shadow our continuing inability to deal with those who are different from us, either by race, ethnic heritage, sexual preference, or generation. The story taps into the reservoir of feelings we have about diversity, tolerance, and exclusivity. And, let's admit it, all of us, at one time or another, have felt like a mutant outsider different from the "norms" of society and cut off from the "in" crowd.
U.S. Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) has a cause. There are mutants living in American communities, and nobody knows how and where they might use their strange and strong powers. He wants to protect human citizens by passing legislation to require them to register with the government. Indeed, even mutants with the best intentions can't always control their impact on others. When Rogue (Anna Paquin), a Mississippi teenager kisses her boyfriend for the first time, he ends up in a coma for three weeks. She can absorb the energy and memories of anyone she touches.
Fleeing to Alaska, Rogue meets Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), another mutant who has amazing healing powers, which come in handy when his retractable adamantium claws inadvertently inflict damage. These two "freaks" as the locals call them eventually team up and find their way to Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the world's most potent telepath who has started a school for "gifted students" a.k.a. mutants. His key assistants are Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who has telekinetic and telepathic skills, Cyclops (James Marsden) whose eyes release energy blasts, and Storm (Halle Berry) who can manipulate weather disturbances.
Not only must these X-Men fight the forces of bigotry and repression afoot in America, they must square off against Magneto (Ian McKellen), a mutant who has survived the Holocaust and now believes that a war with the humans is inevitable. He concocts a plan to turn the world's leaders into mutants at a special U.N. gathering on Ellis Island. The X-Men come to the rescue and must contend with his evil team consisting of Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), a beast-like warrior; Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), a metamorph; and Toad (Ray Park), a high-jumping monster with a ten-foot tongue.
Thanks to its thematic riches, X-Men is far more interesting than the Batman superhero flicks. Most fascinating is the love/hate relationship between the peaceful Professor Xavier and the power-hungry Magneto. In the last scene of the film, they play a game of chess in a prison holding Magneto. We all know that the mutant villain has not made his last move.