When the U.S. government threatens a newly-evolved race of mutant humanoids, the mutants battle over whether to destroy mankind. [Dir: Bryan/ Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen/ 104min/ SciFi-Fantasy, Action-Adventure/ Government as Bigot, Social Tolerance]
In the projected near future, an influential McCarthy-type senator is proposing mandatory “registration” of a newly-evolving race of mutant super-humanoids. “Registration” may be a prelude to something else, perhaps something more sinister. In any case, “Magneto,” a super-mutant who can control metallic objects at will, isn’t going to wait to find out. Seeing what he believes to be the beginning of a genocide, (as the Holocaust too began with such registration) he determines to make a pre-emptive strike on humanity. He is opposed in this regard by an equally powerful but more generously minded mutant, Professor Xavier. Xavier hopes for reconciliation with humanity and meanwhile operates a secret school for young mutants, where he teaches them to use their powers for good. His students call themselves “X-Men.” And so the battle ensues between Magneto and Professor Xavier’s heroic X-Men, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. There are several things libertarians will like about this story. First and foremost is the dominant social tolerance theme. The mutants are hated and feared not because of anything they have done but because they are different. It is this collectivist “group think” that is the root evil here. The social tolerance theme is underscored by the chosen location for most of the action – Ellis Island. The mutants are, in a sense, immigrants to humanity. Second, there is a terrific parable for the way government divides people. Magneto’s memories of the Holocaust, coupled with the current-day U.S. government’s proposed mandatory mutant “registration,” give him reasonable fear with regard to the intentions of humanity. His actions in turn give humanity reasonable fear of mutants. The mutual fear lays the groundwork for inevitable conflict. And third, there are parallels to gun registration in this story; indeed, this comes up explicitly when the proposed registration of mutants is justified at one point by the precedent of gun registration. The government wants to register the mutants because they are strong and therefore feared. It raises the whole question generally of the degree to which an individual’s power should be limited simply because others are worried. This film has all that going for it, plus its first rate entertainment. It has a solid underlying story and a cert imaginative cast of characters. It’s ironic, but this film, based on a comic book, actually has more depth than most. There’s no simple-minded megalomaniac or psycho driving this tale. The motivations of even the “bad guys” are, in a way, reasonable if incorrect. The fantastic characters of this film include – Wolverine, a man who has unlimited regenerative power; Storm, a woman who can summon the weather to do her bidding; Cyclops, a man who fires a powerful laser from his eyes; and Mystique, a woman who can assume the shape of any other person. Also in the plus column are: terrific theme music, perfect casting (Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are superb in the lead roles), state of the art special effects, and tight editing. I really enjoyed this film and was delighted to see that the ending seemed to set it up for a sequel. We could use more like this.
This article was reprinted from Jon Osborne's Miss Liberty's Guide to Film and Video: Movies for the Libertarian Millenium, available in the Advocates Liberty Store.