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"We're left with hope that perhaps tolerance is possible."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
X marks the ugly spot of intolerance among human beings. At its thematic heart, this first outing for the popular X-Men Marvel comic is another compelling plea for tolerance.
It's not a new plea for the cinema, by any means. Tolerance, acceptance and brotherly love and cooperation were urged in D. W. Griffith's silent classic Intolerance in 1916. The need for tolerance and understanding was never more dramatically portrayed than in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List in 1993.
There is a connection between the latter movie and X-Men. The events in Schindler's List take place in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II; X-Men opens with scenes of Jews being taken to death camps in Poland in 1944. The treatment of Jews during the Holocaust is certainly one of the most horrible examples of intolerance that humankind has known, and conversely one of our greatest symbols for the need for tolerance.
The intolerance in X-Men is aimed at mutants, people on an evolutionary fast-track who have developed a wide assortment of amazing powers, including the abilities to read and control minds and to display unusual physical capabilities and prowess.
Nonmutants hate and fear the mutants in their midst, and United States lawmakers led by Sen. Kelly (Bruce Davison) in "the not too distant future" are urging passage of legislation requiring the registration of mutants. Mutants are against the legislation because mutants who come forth already are met with fear, hostility and violence. Sound familiar?
Of course the allusion to the McCarthy era with its Commie-haters is strong. Viewers also can't help but think of the attitudes of intolerance among many in more recent times toward homosexuals and people of certain races and ethnic backgrounds.
Beyond the action hero theatrics and dazzling technological displays, X-Men is essentially a fable about humankind's seeming inability to be tolerant of differences.
The mutants themselves are divided on how to respond to the intolerance of the majority. One group, led by Magneto (Ian McKellen), doesn't have any faith in the majority to change and thinks that a war between mutants and nonmutants is inevitable.
The child does make the man, and we know where Magneto is coming from: we've watched the rest of his family being carried off to death at the beginning of the film, while the young boy Magneto escapes. Magneto says sarcastically, "America was going to be the land of tolerance, of peace. There is no land of tolerance. There is no peace. Not here or anywhere else."
Magneto and his followers thus represent the aspect of society that answers intolerance with more intolerance.
Other mutants led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) respect humankind and want to use their powers to make life better for mutants and nonmutants. These are the X-men. They represent the aspect of society that advocates tolerance and understanding in the face of intolerance.
"I'm looking for hope," says Xavier, who runs a school for gifted mutants. The school recalls another popular fictional world - the world of Harry Potter - and the intolerance found at Harry's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry between those with magical powers and those without (the regular humans or Muggles of the world).
The movie isn't implying that all those who are victims of intolerance are perfect. Within the mutant world, there are mutants who use their powers for good purposes and others who use their powers to further selfish aims. But the movie does suggest that a whole group of people can't be stereotyped or condemned.
"We're not what you think - not all of us," Xavier says to Sen. Kelly. With Xavier and his X-men, we're left with hope that perhaps tolerance is possible, that perhaps we will learn to love people everywhere.