Before X-Men, the outlook for the superhero flick wasn't healthy. Audiences were staying away and projects were languishing in development hell. Now the studios are falling over themselves to buy the rights to anything in tights and Lycra. But beyond that, Bryan Singer's effective, mutant-powered movie cut away the worst excesses of comic-book cinema and brought back such novel ideas as character development and narrative structure. Sure, it tries a little hard to set everything up, shoehorning reams of plot exposition into any quiet moment, but as an origin story it's a superbly entertaining night's viewing.

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