Painful memories of just how bad Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was still hurt.
The first three films in the series were a treat, defining moments of wonder at the movies for audiences between 1977 and 1983.
The franchise's magic was definitely in a galaxy far, far away when The Phantom Menace was released in 1997. Pity those who waited in line, for days, to be the first to see that dreck.
X-Men, based on the long-running Marvel comic book, offered hope of a new science-fiction franchise with brains, thrills and a good sense of humour.
The 2000 release from director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) is brisk, funny entertainment without an avalanche of action to weigh down the story.
SHADES OF MCCARTHYISM
Powerful Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) wants mutants, or humans with special powers, to be registered. "Mutants are very real," he warns. "We must know who they are."
There are shades of Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy in his early scenes. Watch for signs held by his supporters including, Send the Mutants to the Moon For Ever.
One of those so-called mutants is Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellen), a Holocaust survivor who knows painfully well what it's like to be hunted down. He wants to take out Kelly and other world leaders who want to out those with special powers.
Opposing him is his old friend, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a principal of a school for mutants. Xavier is also the head of the X-Men, a group of adult mutants who oppose Lensherr, also known as Magneto.
Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the X-Men's newest recruit. His skeletal frame is filled with metal. He has some nasty metal claws that can do real damage when he's angry. He befriends Rogue/Mane D'Ancanto (Anna Paquin), a young woman who can literally drain the life out of people, even those she loves.
Magneto wants Rogue to back his evil scheme. Wolverine pairs up with Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to confront the mutant gone bad and his cronies, including a really creepy Toad (Ray Park).
Cyclops and Wolverine both have eyes for Grey, prompting plenty of barbed comments between the two. Stewart and McKellen are great to watch as two long-time acquaintances who have taken very different turns in life. Paquin's a great actress, but is largely limited to screaming a lot.
X-Men was a promising start in the franchise, as was Spider-Man when he spun his first web in 2002. The magic was back for sci-fi franchise films.
FUN FACTS: Singer worked with McKellen and Davison in 1998's Apt Pupil. Janssen appeared in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Perfect Mate aired in 1992. Park was Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.