Ask around about X-Men, and you'll hear all manner of excuses, especially from folks who claim to like it. You'll hear that the movie was hunkered down by the burden of too much exposition (which it was), by having too many characters (true again) and by last-minute edits designed to bring the running time under two hours (which, if anything, has made the movie seem longer and more torpid). But what no one seems to be saying—though it's the two-ton elephant rifling through their comic collections—is that, for all his obvious understanding of and fidelity to the X-Men universe, Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) doesn't seem to particularly like telling fantasy stories. Watching both X-Men and X2, you wait—and then wait some more—for a measure of real affection (to say nothing of invention) to spill out from the screen, the way it does in the Lord of the Rings movies, in The Matrix and, more to the point, in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. And it never comes. Singer goes through the hollow motions as well as or better than many of his contemporaries (both X-Men movies are preferable to both Blade movies, to say nothing of Spawn and Daredevil), grabbing hold of some superficial genre gloss without any of its emotional underpinnings. But neither he nor the actors onscreen seem to be having much fun doing it. This is a movie made by Magneto.