It’s The End – Logan

15 03 2017

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

Whenever I finish something, or feel like something is coming to a close; something big and has taken me a long time to do, my mind always jumps to the scene of the fourth Doctor Who regenerating into the fifth. I don’t know why, but it’s a nice poignant scene which carries the incredible line; it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for”. It’s that line that comes to mind when I can feel like something is the end, or that I have reached the end. But knowing what I am like, I will have prepared for it, so like when I finished reading the GONE book series, I found something to read to replace it with for instance. Well, in the case of this film, the moment has been prepared for, but the hardest hit is that it truly is The End!

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Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, and Directed by James Mangold; Logan is a superhero film starring Hugh Jackman returning for what is intended to be his last portrayal of Wolverine, a role he has held for 17 years. When the film was first announced on the heels of The Wolverine, I was really excited as I really loved The Wolverine. Come 2015 however with Jackman announcing his retirement from playing Wolverine, I was very sad, and had begun chasing my mind around for replacement actors (if there were any), forgetting of course that before that bridge is crossed, Jackman would still provide us with one last glorious hurrah.

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The year is 2029; all mutants are supposedly dead except for a small group, and a now aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a chauffeur on the border with Mexico and lives with friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at an old smelting plant. Xavier is now growing old and senile with his psychic powers now grown beyond control with devastating effect and has to take medication to control it. One day Logan is approached by a lady called Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks him to give her and a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), escort to a location in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts the job as the money provided will allow him to buy a luxury yacht he wants to purchase. As he comes to collect them though he finds Gabriella has been murdered. Laura stows away in his car though and goes to the Smelting Plant where she becomes friends with Charles. Just as they arrive though, a platoon of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrive having captured Caliban, and are demanding that Logan hand over the girl. As men try to capture her though, she quickly attacks them in a very savage and brutal way, with steel claws coming out of her hands, decapitating and amputating several limbs.

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Logan, Laura and Charles escape, and using Gabriella’s phone, discover that Laura or X-23 as she was designated; was one of several young children born and bred by the Transigen Program headed up but surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The kids are injected with Mutant DNA and are bred to become mindless and dangerous soldiers, however unable to control the children’s souls, they all don’t want to do what they’re told anymore and most of them escape including Laura. Because she was made from Logan’s DNA, it is deduced that he is her father. Pierce with the help from the Reavers, use Caliban’s ability to locate other mutants to find Logan, and while staying at a casino in Oklahoma City the trio are nearly captured, but Xavier has one of his moments and near paralyzes everyone in the city except Laura and Logan. Logan is able to get them out of the city, but does not believe in the mythical Eden of North Dakota where they are going, especially when he finds the co-ordinates referenced exactly in an X-Men comic. The trio are eventually given shelter by a family they help out on the road and the group bond together, as Laura discovers more of the outside world, one she never experienced having been locked up all those years. During the night however, Xavier is murdered by X-24, the final project of Transigen to replace the children, who also happens to be a copy of Logan, claws and all. X-24 captures Laura placing her in very restrictive shackles and takes her to Rice, but Logan arrives just in time to face himself having found the murdered family and the dead Charles. With some help, X-24 is pinned down, and Caliban uses a grenade to blow up rice’s van. Logan saves Laura and the two head out in the night, burying Charles in the morning.

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Beside himself, and with his healing still failing, Logan agrees to take Laura to Eden, still not believing it. Eventually they arrive at a mountain range with a community filled with the other surviving experimented children all run by Rictor (Jason Genao). There Logan learns that the children will be making an 8 mile hike across the Canadian border. Logan is ready to send Laura on her way, but Laura wants to know him as a father, although he is still down and out about losing his own friends, and sees himself less as a father, and more of a threat, and just wants to die. The kids attempt to make the hike, but are soon surrounded and chased by the Reavers. Using a healing serum from Transigen, Logan takes in the full dose knowing it will kill him but should give him strength to save the kids. The kids are soon rounded up and shackled except for Laura who gets surrounded, but rescued by Logan. The serum though begins to ware off just as he meets Rice, who happens to be the son of the man behind the Weapon X Program. X-24 is set loose on Logan, but Laura is able to free the other kids who kill Pierce. Logan is impaled on a tree during the fight, but using an Adamantium bullet, Laura kills X-24, which Logan had kept for years. Eventually succumbing to his wounds, Logan dies, unable to heal and the kids bury him before crossing the border.

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In 2007; the German heavy metal band known as Scorpions released a single called Humanity. It is a song which poignantly depicts the destruction and downfall of the human race through its own acts and nothing more. It is a very heavy track and whose lyrics basically suggest, as delivered in the music video with a young boy simply saying “It’s The End!” Now this track does not appear in Logan I should point out, but that is what comes to mind as I think on this film. It’s the end of Hugh Jackman playing this part. This is an actor who has played a movie role for 17 years now. During that time there have been 3 American Presidents, 4 UK Prime Ministers, 4 (technically 5) Doctor Who’s. It is an incredible amount of time to play a film role, most WWE Wrestlers don’t even last that long, but here is Hugh Jackman still playing this role, now deciding he wants to leave. He deserves it rightly so, he is allowed to walk away given the energy, passion and devotion he has put into just one character. He has played other parts which help prevent typecasting, but possibly for the rest of his life, will be best remembered for being The Wolverine, you do not forget 17 years of the same thing in a flash. So, yes, it’s the end of Jackman as Wolverine; but not just that. It’s also the end of 2 major characters in a film series that has become one of the most critically and financially successful franchises in movie history. The X-Men film series is not ending, No! There are still more films to come including Deadpool Sequels (YES!). No, what we have here is something of what could be best described as a tragic ending, which is sad for Xavier, but more so for Wolverine as he has led a pretty tragic life.

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The story of Wolverine is a tragic one as it’s the life of a genuinely good person who has led a rough life. He is very old given that his healing prevents aging on a grand scale. Over the years he is going to meet people and see people die, a lot of people die if you live that long and that is not good for the mental soul. As life has passed by, something horrid happens to him, something so dark and miserable, but something that he has only partial memories of. So as life ticks by he has to remember these things not knowing entirely what it was, and spends life running instead of facing. Eventually though good things happen for him, he gets friends, and a family, and can care for people again, and have a proper life, but given as to who he is and what he is, none of this could possibly last, and as the years have gone by, and seen more people die, some by his own hands for the good of others, he resigns to a wishful death, and waits for it. It is a very sad story for someone who is not a bad man, someone who is actually a very good man, a caring man, a protective man. Yes, he is prone to a little bit of violence, but only when it is called for; doing what must be done, because without him to protect his friends, no-one can. Into this, we find ourselves confronted with the final act of The Wolverine. But it’s not really a super hero movie, more of a personal journey as one man reaches his eventual end, but has one last thing to do.

Logan is actually a rather small film. It’s not a mega big one like other super hero films of note, as this is not a character trying to save the world, but those around him, and as such we go less on a journey to save the world, but a more personal one. As such he is not referred to as The Wolverine, but because it’s a personal story is known better as just Logan. Logan starts off in a similar vein as does The Wolverine, with Logan having to live and come to terms with his life and the death by his own hand of someone he loved. Now coming into this film we are told something similar has happened, but we don’t know exactly what. But just like before, Logan is beat up and ruined and has resigned to live as much a recluse as possible while caring for Xavier who has become rather senile. Eventually though he is given a duty he does not want, that of looking after a little girl very much like him. He is meant to be the father, but has no care for her, caring for his friends than her; something which falters in the mind of Laura who wants to know who she is and know her father too. As the story continues and things happen as usual, the similarities between the two emerge as Laura is very much like he was in the first first X-Men, with Logan now having grown up. Logan is still resigned to wishing death upon himself, but knows that once more, he needs to do the right thing to help those that need his help resulting in one last blood bath for those who deny him and others peace. His Death though is not nice, nor peaceful, but more brutal for someone who has earned better. It is a film that makes you think deeply upon issues such as the harsh and sometimes quick deaths of others while others get a more natural one. It looks into how people desire Death, and how Death actually comes. It features a brutal end which dies just like death is a final stop. It really makes you think on if you believe that the world is a better place without you, how can you be certain of this? How do you not know that life right now is in fact better, because ‘you’ are around!

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Logan is a small film and bolsters a small but pretty strong cast. Stephen merchant I find was actually pretty good as Caliban. Caliban has featured sort of twice in the past with his most recent piece being in Apocalypse as some garish and camp clown; here instead we see what he is truly like and capable of but also what kind of person he is given his history as one of the Morlocks. Gabriella’s part is small but sweet and shares some backstory light on some of the films major issues and themes including who Laura is and why we should care. One thing though I find the film lacks is a strong villain. There are some good villainy characters and others who help fill in those parts like a few extras. Pierce himself has the nice sinister mechanical arm and some god talking points but feels more like a hindrance than a villain. Same can be said for Rice, who while is a deceptive schemer with a good voice, again just feels plain. I am not saying he’s bad, it just feels like the villains are strong because they are many, but not because of whom they are. I mean X-24 feels like a wasted opportunity and a mistake being rewritten. His appearance as Logan is a bit like the Undertaker vs Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994; kind of surprising, but still rather silly. It feels like a wasted opportunity to bring in a new monster. I thought maybe an enhanced Sabretooth, or Maverick, or someone big and scary to introduce. With a double Wolverine, it felt more like Weapon XI in Origins all over again, and we know what happened there don’t we!

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What villain’s lack, heroes make up. The Transigen kids are a nice addition although faint on the film’s radar, mostly as people to get into trouble and allow a moment of heroism, but for this film, it really comes down to Logan, Laura and Xavier. Xavier’s part in this film is still pretty similar to past films but does do a lot more and shows what Stewart can do when allowed to do something very different. He is in some sense the comedy side kick and delivers some incredibly funny moments, but it’s through his disorientated new life that shows how bad things have become. He remains something of a hindrance to Logan after all these years, but one Logan has come to care for, as rightly he should, as Xavier is practically his last and now only friend. His death in the film is a big shock, but not a sincere one, as don’t forget we have seen him die before in more dramatic circumstances with this one more lost in the moment, but you do see his life pass in his eyes.

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Laura spends most of the film rather quiet, does not say a single word until just before the final Act. Yes there are shouts, yells and screams, but no words. This form of silence allows retention of mystery as to who she is, but also allows expressing more deeply the life she had and the new world she is experiencing. Silence can be golden at times and really works in her favour, as we see this young girl come face to face with new things, not knowing what they involve or how to interact, but when finally realising who she is and where she is, she finally speaks, knowing that she needs to for the sake of Logan, but also so she can be heard. Her desperation to get to Eden comes more as a cross between hope and instruction from others, not necessarily her own entire belief, but somehow knows it’s there even if Logan doesn’t. Her skills as a fighter are incredible and are very similar to Wolverine, but she has some heart too, not a lot as this is crowded with the same anger Logan once had too, but as things come to a close, she knows that she must carry on, even though her father; something she wants and desires cannot help her, but in some way knows that still lives on inside her, respecting his death, and making his legacy live on in more ways than one.

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Logan’s design and perception of being much older and on the verge of death is an interesting one. We have seen him go through emotions before, but then he was not on the ultimate verge of giving up, more just conflicted. Now though he desires it, more than anything else. It’s kind of hard to speak on his performance after 3 or so paragraphs of detailing his character, but one thing stands out more than most; his Death; His final hurrah. Coming into this film, I was thinking his last stand was going to be like in The Wolverine, one last heroic but still cynical fight to the death where he would come out on top but now no more energy left to continue. No, this time his death is more personal. It wasn’t a long lasted blood bath, more one which required others to save him and take on his role, and one that required others to do the work, while he acted as a decoy, once again being more of a team member than a loner. But his death does have something else in it though. Going into this I thought it would be like The Wolverine, but in that, he was The Wolverine, now he is just Logan. Calling him The Wolverine, it’s like a promise (like The Doctor), you know what he is, who he is and what he can do, but by putting ‘the’ before it he becomes a thing, not a person; this film is a much more personal one, so in this case it’s not the death of The Wolverine, it’s the death of Logan. That carries a more significant weight to it; it’s not the death of a thing, but the death of somebody. Laura in a future film could become the New Wolverine, or someone else could take on that name; but you can’t replace or take on the identity of Logan.

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The film does come packed like many other X-Men films with a cavalcade of special effects. These of course include ‘very’ detailed claws including spots of graphic detail and blood splatter; especially when piercing through the heads of some people. The mechanical hands are a nice treat showing off some more blood and limb coverage than usual. The film uses its special effects department in other ways too to create visions of the future including a scene involving driverless, but dangerous trucks. The film also comes with a soundtrack once again produced by Marco Beltrami featuring quite a few slow pieces which are used to heighten the level of reality but more a sense of realisation than anything else possibly to state that this is the end! Pieces like Old Man Logan, Don’t Be What They Made You and Goodnight Moon cover this pretty well, but the soundtrack does of course know when to get busy though and of course creates action packed pieces for when a fight is on especially in a scene like the Forest Fight at the end and also when Logan is facing X-24. The one thing though that really stands out about this soundtrack though is the inclusion of several classic pieces by Johnny Cash. Logan’s first trailer of course famously features the song Hurt, which really shows the direction the film intends to take so that the audience can really see how the film is likely to turn out but also more likely what it is all about. This piece though does not actually feature in the film, what does feature though is not a slow grim song, but a rather pleasant, peaceful and also happy song that really turns around the film’s great tragedy and helps you gain some perspective.

A few months ago I went to see the film Ethel and Ernest based on the book of the same name written by Raymond Briggs. The film has a very sad ending, but turns this around in a sense by featuring a piece of music and images within the credit roll that suggest that while the ending was sad, it does not mean that everything was as there was some really happy moments. Here we have the sad ending and conclusion to the story of Wolverine (in film), but, while he has had great tragedy in his life, and it ended as such, there is some peace we can look back on. For one Logan has attained a peace from the devastation of his dark history, but also in that history there was also, happiness, joy, peace and of course love. This is held by the film playing The Man Comes Around in the credits, a light fluffy as well as casual piece, signifying not an entirely sad ending, but shows that there has always been another side to the coin, that in the misery, there was joy, and in the darkness there was also light; and so while Wolverine does bow out, we can take a moment of knowledge and recognition about the life he had, and the legacy that he leaves behind, not just in story, but also in the entertainment and joy he has given us as cinema goers.

Logan is a pretty sad point. I know the series will continue and new stars are appearing to take the helm and the future such as Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and hopefully Dafne Keen too, but it is a sad point, more so when I think that there could have been more. When X-Men Origins came about and really failed like it did, that is the series lowest point, so when The Wolverine came along and excelled so much, it felt like a new beginning, like that is what Origins should have been, forgetting that film and becoming the first a Wolverine Trilogy. But now it has come to an end, it feels like only the surface was being scratched, and that more was on the way. It’s like when Castle was cancelled last year; it was in it’s prime, there was more to be told, and it just ended. That’s what we have here, like something more could have come, but now we may never see that. You can only play a character for so long though, and an end would have come eventually. The end of something is exciting because you don’t know how it’s going to end, but eventually realization sets in, and you realize that it truly is the end. So even if it did continue, it would eventually end: but what an ending it was! Logan does not disappoint in providing one last fight, one last match, one last scene of steel claws, blood curdling action, eye grossing violence, but also one last moving scene as the great hero finally comes to rest in peace. Logan is a sad and tragic little film, but shows off plenty of emotion and heart in a film series that has defined just that in the super hero genre; and now Hugh Jackman can now go do something else, leaving a legacy that will live on in cinema forever, and one that no-one can match. There is only one true Logan, and only one true, Wolverine.

GENEPOOL





A Dying Man’s Demand – The Wolverine

24 10 2015

The Wolverine (20th Century Fox - 2013)

What is it like to be alone? I am not talking about being alone for a couple of hours, or away from home, no, being alone for great lengths of time, days, weeks, months or even years. No human interaction, just living with the thoughts going through your head. The things that you must dwell on, the beliefs you have, the reasons as to why you are like this. Then imagine, that out of nowhere someone comes looking for you, and offers you a way out, will you take it?

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Released in 2013 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by James Mangold and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; The Wolverine is the 6th film in the X-Men film series, and the second film to feature Wolverine as the central character, instead of the entire X-Men team. While it could be considered to be a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine (thankfully) makes no mention to that film, and instead works more as an entirely standalone film. The film’s story is based on the Japanese story saga featured in Wolverine’s own comic series, but also includes references to previous films in the series, namely X-Men: The Last Stand where Logan is struggling to cope with the loss of Jean Grey.

In 1945, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is being kept as a POW in Nagasaki Japan when the Nuclear Bomb is dropped. As the bomb gets closer to him, Logan rescues Army Officer Ichiro Yashida (Ken Yamamura), sheltering him from the blast and nuclear fallout, healing almost instantly. In the present day, Logan is living alone in the Yukon Mountains, tormented by dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who he was forced to kill. One night, while getting retribution for the death of a Bear, Logan is found by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a mutant who can see people’s deaths. She asks him to come to Japan to see Yashida who is about to die of old age. Although reluctant, Logan goes to Japan and meets Yashida’s son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) and granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto). After being given a wash and haircut, Logan goes on to meet Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) who is now a very rich man and head of Yashida Industries, one of the biggest companies in Japan. He tells Logan that he wants his ability to heal handed over to him so that he can live on forever, and Logan can be finally rid of his immortality. Logan refuses claiming it’s a curse and that Yashida doesn’t really want it. During the night, Yashida’s physician Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), also a mutant better known as Viper, attacks Logan; he dismisses it as a dream, but wakes up to hear that Yashida has died.

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Logan attends the funeral for Yashida which is watched over by archer Kenuichio Harada (Will Yun Lee), and Mariko’s Fiancé; Noburo Mori (Brian Tee). Suddenly the funeral is attacked by Yakuza men who try to kidnap Mariko. They shoot Logan, who suddenly can’t heal from his injuries. He manages to get his strength together and runs after the Yakuza soldiers, and rescue Mariko. Once they have some distance from them, Mariko tries to make her own way home, but Logan follows her onto a bullet train, attacks some men sent to look for Mariko, and then checks both him and Mariko into a Love Hotel. During the night, after seeing a vision of Jean, he collapses, and is operated on by a vet who manages to heal him of his injuries. Curious as to what is going on, he follows Mariko to her home in Nagasaki where she reveals that in a few days’ time, she will become head of Yashida Industries. Back at the Yashida residence, Shingen is desperately trying to look for Mariko, while Yukio keeps an eye on him. In Tokyo, Harada is revealed to be working for Dr. Green, who desperately wants him to find Logan. Back in Nagasaki, Logan settles into the life of the village, and finds where he was kept when the bomb struck, remembering his time with Yashida. Slowly both he and Mariko fall for each other. The following morning, Mariko is captured by Yakuza. Logan goes in pursuit, but is still hindered by his sudden inability to heal. The men get away with Mariko, but Logan interrogates one of them.

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Yukio arrives to inform Logan, that she has seen how he dies. They go to Tokyo where Logan confronts Noburo who reveals that he has conspired with Shingen to kill Mariko, because Yashida has given control of the company to Mariko, and not him. Mariko is taken to Shingen who ordered the hit on her, but before he can kill her, his residence is attacked by Harada and his ninja’s who take Mariko away with them. Logan and Yukio arrive at the residency, where Logan uses Yashida’s old bed to discover that Dr. Green has implanted something near his heart, preventing him from healing. He performs open heart surgery on himself, when Shingen appears. Yukio attacks Shingen to defend Logan, who succeeds in removing the thing near his heart. Now able to heal again, Logan attacks and kills Shingen.

Logan heads for the village of Yashida’s birth, where Mariko has been taken too. Logan is captured by Harada’s ninja’s, and is strapped to a machine he can’t get out of. Dr. Green reveals that she wants to remove Logan’s healing factor from him and plans to remove his claws using an electromechanical suit of Japanese armour made out of Adamantium called the Silver Samurai. Believing he is working in the best interest of Mariko, Harada tries to prevent her from helping Logan, but she manages to help Logan get out of the machine before the Silver Samurai succeeds in taking off Logan’s claws. Harada and Logan fight the machine, which succeeds in cutting some of Logan’s claws off before killing Harada. Yukio arrives before fighting and eventually killing Dr. Green. The Silver Samurai, although damaged, still manages to remove all of Logan’s claws and begins extracting Logan’s healing factor. At this moment Logan discovers that the Silver Samurai is Yashida, not dead, but alive and begins to feel new life as Logan’s healing is transferred to him. Mariko however, uses Logan’s claws like daggers to disable her grandfather, allowing Wolverine to use his natural bone claws to defeat the Samurai. Succumbing to his encounter, Logan has another encounter with Jean. She asks him to stay, but now believing he has a reason to stay alive tells her No. A few days later, Mariko is made CEO of Yashida industries and bids a sad farewell to Yukio, and then Logan who she wants to stay, still having feelings for him. Yukio decides to stay with Logan as his bodyguard and they both depart.

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The Wolverine has an interesting story and setting. It’s not like other Super Hero movies in that there is some great villain with a devastating plan to conquer the universe. Even more strangely it’s a very different setting as compared to other films in the X-Men film series. What has been founded about the other films in the series is that the main plot characteristic that flows from one film to the next, even if it’s not the main plot, is the story of Mutant’s fighting for freedom from a world that hates them. The Wolverine does make mention of this, but not all the time. Neither does it contain an arch super villain. It’s rather grounded and surrounds a group of characters which are all anchored down by one other. The setting and story of the film is that of Logan having to live with something he has done. The Death of Jean Grey, something that he was directly responsible for, but because of his feelings towards her and that he did it for a reason, not in cold blood, he is finding it hard to live on by himself, and being immortal he has no choice but to do that. So what happens? He gets dragged into a very different world, one that wants him, for something he knows nothing about. It’s not that he has walked into it, but rather, it wants him. What keeps him there though is an interesting idea. He doesn’t necessarily need to remain there, he doesn’t even want to, but something happens to him, that causes him to stay. This then explodes in your face and a story gets told, and a plot unravels as something is definitely going on, but then behind that, there is something even more sinister. It eventually wraps up but with a change to our protagonist. This plot then, like mentioned before is not a stereotypical, or common story as in it does not follow its predecessors, but is more a personal story line surrounding one character and how what he does affects those around him. It’s a really interesting story.

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I like how the film has kept its characters down to just a few. The Wolverine features a stellar cast of predominantly Japanese actors while also including others of different backgrounds and includes well known characters and the actors who have played them previously. It’s not without its casualties however. Harada and Noburo stand out in particular. Noburo seems like a comedic character on purpose; a light relief for the audience in what is rather an intense film. He just does not seem to serve any major purpose rather than A: to be made fun of and B: to offer some direction for the characters to follow as things begin to unravel. Brian Tee has done an excellent job though from what he has been given to do. Harada on the other hand is a complete mystery. I just don’t know what to say about him. He is played well again, and is an interesting character to look out for; I just think more explanation could have helped, including why he changes his mind in the end. What is his purpose for doing what he is doing? On the plus side he is interesting and adds a mystery depth into a film that goes from a theme of political and corporate corruption, into a story about genetics and desire for immortality. One plus The Wolverine has over X-Men Origins: Wolverine is that it hasn’t tried to desperately include well known, maybe even legendary or iconic characters from the Comic series. In Origins it tried really hard to include well known faces and enemies such as Gambit and Emma Frost, but it just didn’t need some of them. The Wolverine on the other hand really only introduces roughly one new character, and all the others are pivotal to the story and are featured in the story. OK, I have not read the Wolverine comics the story is based on, but it has strived to not bog the audience down in introducing seemingly pointless characters. I am of course talking about Dr. Green. I have no real knowledge of this character or her place in the comics, I do however really like her. She is an interesting blend of a comic style super hero like villain, but also possesses the brains to concoct a plan, like a true villain. She like many characters is a mystery, but one that grows to become the films secondary antagonist. She is Sinister, and like many a good villain possesses powers that are both deadly, and prevent her from being killed. She is very much a villain that you love to hate, one that you can’t wait to see defeated, but are not disappointed when it feels like the moment is never going to happen. Alongside her is of course series regular Jean Grey. While she does not appear in a physical sense, more rather being a hallucination, she does give the story and Logan in particular a sort of grounding. Something for him to deal and come to terms with. Her appearances arrive at the right time too, a sort of stand in to think about what is going on.

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It’s probably fair to say that the film has more than one villain. In fact it has lots, but while some work together, there are those who work on the other side. What am I talking about? Well, Shingen. Shingen is a very selfish character. A rough man who shows no real affection for those around him and only thinks about himself, something that is stirred on by the desire for the control of Yashida Industries. He is the films first virtual hurdle as he is the reason for the Yakuza’s involvement and becomes a video game like first boss. He is nowhere near pleasant and much like the film’s other villains is not a man you show the least bit sympathetic towards. While this could be initially seen as more his upbringing and view towards Logan, it begins to be seen that little bit more as time goes on. Once he has been dealt with though, it’s time to face the stories real villain. Yashida is the reason for Logan being there, he is the reason for everything bad that has happened so far. It all leads to one climactic battle with Logan. Taking on the persona of the Silver Samurai, Yashida uses it to finally attain what he has wanted. While he starts out as an old man and seems rather thankful and pleasant, his real motives come quickly, but he is able to mask them behind a sort of reasonable idea. He then disappears as he is believed to be dead, but the moment he is revealed to still be alive is a great shock, a big surprise. It’s the film’s ultimate Plot Twist. His transformation into his younger self is near seamless and the way he talks is just magnificent. He has such a sinister voice that provides for me, one of the most memorable quotes in the entire film (“Hold on… We are almost there!“).

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The Wolverine does something that I don’t feel like I have been able to do with the other film’s in the series so far, that being I feel like I can actually for once connect with the character of Logan. In the past he has been a narrator, a supporter, practically everything to even a cameo, but for the first time, I feel like I am able to just connect with him. I once read a quote (trying so hard to find it while writing this, I think it’s from Blake Snyder’s book) which said that film was about a person changing from who he starts off as. From the moment it begins, it’s about Logan living an existence he just wishes would end. A never-ending cycle of death around him done to those he loves. He just can’t live like that anymore and just gives up. As the film goes on; this stays pretty much the same until his relationship with Mariko really takes off. He begins to see more about himself and those around him. He begins to discover new things and realise that life is not what he sees it as and as the film reaches its dramatic conclusion; he has gone from a man who wishes not to live anymore to someone who has found reason to continue living. You feel for him, you journey with him, you experience with him. Such a brilliant character that until now has only just scratched the surface, revealing a character that is more than meets the eye. Something that has always been there, but now has come to light.

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Which brings us neatly round to Mariko and Yukio. Let’s start with Mariko. Mariko is the granddaughter of Yashida, and the un-wanting heiress to his company. She very much does not want to get involved, until Logan shows up. It’s around her that the films really begins to kick off as the struggle for control of such a powerful company revolves around the one who is about to get it. Her relationship with Logan starts off rather awkward but leads to a relationship between each other. She is a character that begins to bring out the good side of Logan, one that has been hidden for quite a while. He begins to leave his shell; much like Mariko begins to leave hers to become the film’s brightest star. On the side though is Yukio. Someone who doesn’t have a shell, someone who presents herself as whom they are from the moment they first appear. She is quick to build a relationship with Wolverine as a guide and friend, someone he knows he can trust. She cares greatly for him, but thinks of Logan as nothing more than a friend. She is very protective and caring for Mariko too as they both sees each other as sisters. The screen time these two shares is unlike anything the series has presented so far. Here we have two extraordinary characters played by two fantastic actresses. They are very different in persona with Mariko being more like an adult, and Yukio possessing traits that are more teenage like. Mariko is rather vulnerable, while Yukio is not afraid to fight. But while they are different, they are both nice and pleasant. They have no real flaws to make them seem mean or horrible and from the get go you care greatly for them. They possess a real on-screen presence that can’t be forgotten, and you don’t want to neither. While I have said over and over again in previous that some characters/actors are really enjoyable; these two stand out more than most. Two fantastic characters I can’t get enough of. There has been no announcement about whether or not they will be appearing again in the future, and I think it will be really sad for the characters not to be revisited or invited. I can’t state enough how enjoyable these two characters are. They are two such special characters, played by two terrific actors, ones whose portrayal I don’t want to forget. Two of the best and enjoyable film performances I have seen of any film.

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There is one other character though I just have to mention. While this is more setting than character, much like how London can be a character, so can Japan. I love Japan, I have never been, but out of a list of things I want to do, go to Japan is right up there. The Wolverine makes great use of shooting such an amazing country. While there are some terrific set pieces like the Yashida residence and facility, Japan as a setting is the best bit. From the night lights and inner city shots of Tokyo, to the panoramic views of Tokyo (even shots of the city at night in the rain). Like across the river at the Yashida Residence, or the view from the hills showing that while it is a colossal city, it still has boundaries and when looked at from afar, can be such a beautiful sight. But it’s not just Tokyo, Nagasaki is beautiful too. Add to this the cultural life of those who live there, the food (which I really want to eat when I see it), the beliefs, the mixture of modern and the past, just everything is so spectacular that I can’t get enough of what I am seeing. Much like how a character is not just what you see, Japan is not just a setting, but a character too.

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Much like past films in the series, The Wolverine uses a spectacular amount of Special Effects, possibly more than those before it. While films like First Class and Last Stand in particular use shots and moments of large things being moved like a Submarine and a Bridge, the effects used in The Wolverine are more up close and personal, such is the tone of the film. It has its big moments like the effects of the Silver Samurai, to moments more close up like Wolverine with a Sword in his stomach. These effects all look incredibly realistic. It’s closer up and personal effect means more can be seen in terms of detail. Because of this extra level of detail, a lot of the films effects look more overly polished and finished, making them stand out more in comparison to the other films in the series. Particular effects I think are definitely worth looking out for include The Dropping of the Atomic Bomb in Nagasaki; to the Bear that Logan knows. Not to forget the films set pieces too. While these are small in number, that is not to say that they are bad or terrible. The film’s final battleground, that of the Yashida Laboratory is particularly superb. There is another kind of effect too, that is the films numerous actions paced and intense fight scenes. All beautifully choreographed and presenting a contrast between fist and sword fights, to elements of parkour to a fight on top of a moving bullet train/Shinkansen. While the fights are slowed down and more visible in the final fight, they are no means bad in comparison. All the fights in this film are amazing and remind me of such fight scenes as in Ong-Bak and The Raid 2.

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Something though I feel a bit lacking is the Soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami). In the past I have mentioned how the soundtrack in the series is known for standing out and being memorable. But even now as I write I am finding it tricky to think about it. I can remember some bits and bobs like the fights in Tokyo and Nagasaki, the drive back to Tokyo, the outer exterior of the facility and the final fight with Yashida. But it’s only really the film’s end credits theme that stands out. Something that sounds heroic with a cultural style woven in. It makes me think a little bit of the ending of Jurassic World. The way that the film is just a constant inventiveness that ends on a theme that is absolute calm. One that in a way is telling you to breathe. The Wolverine’s end credit does this by having something that is just calm and feels like an end, a good one.

Altogether, The Wolverine is a magnificent film; one of the series most standout moments. Containing characters that you will both love and hate from start to finish and tells a story with nearly an unending number of plot twists that don’t leave any loose ends. It’s a standalone film, that’s one thing that is so good about it. It’s a film that doesn’t necessarily require any previous knowledge or understanding in order to enjoy it as it is all provided for you here and now. It’s a film that you can just pick up and play. I really do recommend this film; it has something for everyone and is so well constructed and written that there is plenty to get your steel claws into. It’s a story filled with Political and Corporate Corruption, Desire, Greed, Lust; but also a film about forgiving ones self, finding a purpose as well as more importantly, friendship, love and compassion. I really want to watch it again, right now.

GENEPOOL





Do You Ever Shut Up? – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

22 10 2015

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Everyone loves an origin story…..right? Well even if you don’t; origins stories are still pretty interesting things as they tell the story of how people came to be who they are. These could happen through moments of inspiration, or life changing events. In the world of comics, Origin stories are told rather frequently as it tells the audience how iconic characters they have come to love came to be in the first place, with characters ranging from people like Batman and as we will see here, Wolverine.

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Released in 2009 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Gavin Hood and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the 4th film in the X-Men film series and the first spin-off. As the title suggests, it looks at the origin story of Wolverine, looking back far in the past to when he first discovered his abilities, attained his iconic Adamantium steel claws and how he lost his memory. The film also features several legends from the X-Men comics. Despite the great potential this film had however, it is a very disappointing film (I suppose I could’ve just finished the review here).

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In 1845, young James Howlett witnesses his father being killed by the groundskeeper claiming to be the boy’s real father. The trauma caused from this causes bone claws to come out of James’s hands before he kills the groundskeeper. He runs away but is found by his friend, and real life half-brother Victor Creed, who is also a mutant. They both go on the run, with the opening credits showing them growing up and fighting in the American Civil War, World War 1, World War 2 and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Creed (Liev Schreiber) kills a senior officer, which James (Hugh Jackman) defends, for which they are both sentenced to death by firing squad. Having survived the shooting and now being kept in a cell, both James and Victor are approached by Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) who offers them an opportunity to join his team of Mutants, which includes; Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (Will.i.am), Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand) and Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). Using their abilities, the team manage to steal a comet from a Nigerian crime lord, but due to their disregard for human life, including the slaughter of innocent people, James decides to leave.

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Six years later, James, now going by the name Logan, lives in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Logan now works as a lumberjack, but one day is approached by Stryker and Zero who report that Wade and Bradley have been killed, and thinks someone is targeting the team’s members. Logan refuses, but after finding Kayla dead, he thinks Victor is responsible for it. Logan finds him and the two fight outside a bar. Logan loses the fight, but Stryker tells him that he can equip Logan with the tools needed to fight a now rogue Victor. Logan undergoes an experimental bonding experiment, where-in a metal called Adamantium, (which was processed from the rock they found in Nigeria) is bonded to Logan’s Skeleton. At first it appears that Logan died in the experiment, but then comes back to life. Stryker though has other plans, and wants to use Logan’s DNA on another project. Upon hearing what Stryker has said, Logan escapes, running into a nearby farm barn. He is taken in by a kind elderly couple who give him some clothes to wear. They are however shot by Agent Zero who has tracked Logan down. Logan goes after and kills Agent Zero by blowing up Zero’s helicopter.

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Logan finds John who now runs a boxing club, and is trying to help Fred (who has gained a considerable amount of weight) get in shape again. Logan fights Fred for information; who in turn reveals that Stryker and Victor are working together, and that Stryker is experimenting on mutants at a secret lab called “The Island”. Fred then tells Logan about a mutant who escaped from “The Island”, called Remy LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch), also known as Gambit. Upon finding him in Las Vegas, Victor shows up and kills John, before Logan fights him too. Logan talks to Remy, and agrees to let the other mutants go, if Remy takes him there. Using his plane, (which he won in a card game), Remy takes Logan to Three Mile Island, and drops him in the sea. Upon reaching the island, and gaining access to the base, Logan discovers that Kayla is actually alive. Kayla, whose ability is to manipulate people’s minds, was coerced into helping Stryker keep tabs on Logan for the safety of her sister, who is locked up on the island. Feeling betrayed by everyone around him, Logan leaves. Kayla asks to see her sister, and Victor wants the Adamantium, but Stryker denies both their promises. Kayla tries to attack Stryker, but Victor gets in the way. Logan returns to rescue her, subdues Victor and releases the captured Mutants. While trying to escape, Stryker activates a mutant under his control to stop Logan and the others. Known as Weapon XI, but called Deadpool by Stryker, it is the remains of Wade Wilson with the powers of several mutants, including Logan’s.

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The escaped mutants look for another way out, while Logan fights Deadpool. Deadpool gets the upper hand over Logan, but Victor shows up saying the only person who gets to kill Logan is him. Together they fight Deadpool and are able to win by decapitating him. The plant around them begins to collapse and the escaped mutants are rescued by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Logan however, gets shot with several Adamantium Bullets by Stryker who then tries to shoot an already wounded Kayla, who however manipulates him enough to make him drop the gun, and walk away. Logan recovers from the shooting, but when found by Gambit, has no idea who or where he is.

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Ok, before I talk in more detail why, first thing I want to say about this film is that; it’s bad. It’s really bad, I find it hard to think of another film I think that is worse than it. The film does have some good points which I will highlight quickly, but the rest of it is just bad. On the film’s more positive side (well, only as far as I can find), it does contain some good and interesting characters. I like how the film has gone to lengths to introduce several of the comic’s series legends, however few of these actually work. While she may not be on-screen for very long, the character of Kayla is a good character. She is compassionate, friendly but also mysterious and introduces the films only relevant plot twist in her being alive, plus the idea she might not have actually been interested in Logan in the first place. She is played really well by Lynn Collins and is a very enjoyable character for such a disappointing film. I do however think she could have had more screen time.

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Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth on the other hand is an interesting cast choice. This is by no means Sabretooth’s first entry in the series. Previously he was in the first X-Men film played by Taylor Mane. The role in that film was a more physical one than a vocal one and so they sort of booked an actor to take on that kind of role. This time however the role is very different as it carries more of a vocal/personal role than a physical one. Liev Schreiber provides for this role rather well on both parts. He has a brilliant, sinister style and dark voice, but he has the size and physical stance to remain physically imposing for the part. His relationship/friendship and rivalry with Wolverine provides a backstory as well as building animosity between the two; while Wolverine is more compassionate, Creed is greedier and believes that what he wants he can have. Creed’s mutation does change him as this film goes on and while he is (plot speaking) not the main villain of the film, for every other reason and situation, he is. Later on he sort of redeems himself enough to help Logan; however it is more through his imposing, sinister, villainous side that he really stands out in this film. And while he is more a vocal character; his animalistic side is still present, and fearsome to watch, with scenes making him look like a roaring tiger or lion, a real animal (although I can’t help if some of that is provided through CGI). Schreiber’s performance in this film is fantastic, enjoyable from start to finish, so much fun to watch. I do however think that his rogue story side could have been done better, but more on that later.

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While he may not be a major character, Gambit is still one of the best. I remember when I first heard about him being in this film, I was so happy and excited that my favourite X-Men character was going to be in it. I was not disappointed. Gambit is played magnificently by Taylor Kitsch, an amazing performance that portrays the character correctly and to his comic book counterpart and origins. He carries the style, talk, cockiness, and the powers so well. Gambit to me is the main character highlight of this film. Not just for simply being in it, but for actually being the Gambit from the comics and cartoons.

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Hugh Jackman is always good quality, even in a bad film. The film focuses on Wolverine’s origins, and for the part of Wolverine provides just that. The story goes as far back as Wolverine can and his character really does grow as the film goes on, but he stays the same too. While he does have an animal side which is associated with a wild upbringing, there is a more human side to him too. He has compassion and love for those he cares for, but also knows the difference between right and wrong. He genuinely has love for Kayla, even if it turns out he was played, and while he does leave her, he comes back for her even asking her to come with him. His caring also for what happens on the island shows more to him than just a wild animalistic persona. Hugh Jackman really does deliver when playing Wolverine in every film he has been in, and while there are numerous plot issues and things forgotten, not included or just generally avoided, every scene he is in he plays a good character…………………….Now, on to the bad stuff.

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William Stryker was a good role in X2, played magnificently by Brian Cox. In this though, he’s terrible. He turns up with a sinister face and constantly carries a scowl all the way through the film. It is so obvious from the start of the film that this guy cannot be trusted, and you just can’t feel, or accept the guy at all. How am I as an audience member supposed to like him at all, when he just doesn’t look friendly or trustworthy. The rest of his Mutant team also seem wasteful. Yes there are some legends of X-Men in them, but some of the actors and things they do are just unnecessary. Bradley is not on-screen long enough to care about him enough when Creed kills him. In fact, up till that point he just feels like a minor hired hand villain, and so I just don’t know what the point in that exchange with Creed was. I don’t understand why Will.I.Am is in this film. In the later part yes, he has a friendship with Logan and redeems himself a little. But for the rest of the time he is nowhere to be found. He is not as bad as the rest of the crew I will say that, but still, why is he in this film? What’s the point of his character? Same goes for Fred Dukes, A.K.A. Blob. I didn’t really consider Blob a fat character, more just an imposing large person in all directions. While we do get a showing of his powers in dealing with the tank early on, I can’t help but think he is put in this film for the sake of a laugh, particularly when he is big and fat. I don’t really know what to think about Agent Zero. Before I started writing this I was wondering where Maverick was in this, only to then discover that Maverick is also Agent Zero. Zero is by no means pleasant or friendly, he is rather annoying actually (yeah let’s go with that). He’s just there, and takes over a role that Deadpool should be doing by talking a lot. He is this constant running commentary of what is going on in the scene, pointing out the obvious. His fight with Logan which ultimately leads to his Death is a good scene to which we can then see him as something other than what he currently is. Back when this film came out I didn’t really know all that much about Maverick, but since finding out, I kind of want to see more of him, either in comics or other forms of media. As another mutant in the Weapon X Program, it would have been interesting to have seen him turn and what that would have done to him, but in this film, he is just annoying. The film does have other mutants on show too, mostly with Stryker’s test subjects, but some of these just seem pointless and there for no other reason than to just make points or annotations towards the earlier films plus popular mutants. The one that does this the most of course is obviously Cyclops (Tim Pocock). There are some good extra characters in here as well, including both like Stryker’s scientist (Asher Keddie), and Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi) While I do like the character of Charles Xavier, I think he being in this film is rather pointless, as it achieves the same thing as Cyclops being in this film. Xavier didn’t even need to talk in this film, we could have just seen his face and instantly know who it was. I think the film could have improved a little bit if it was just either the back of his head, suggesting Xavier, or just to see his face. We then know what happens to them instead of repeating something that was in X-Men 1.

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Now: Deadpool. Deadpool is rather a disappointment. While it can be said that he is definitely chatty, the fact that in the comics the character can’t stop speaking seems to be completely out the window in this film. He does stop talking, and when his mouth is glued up it’s a sort of joke, but, in this film he was just chatty. Also, he’s completely wrong. Deadpool, while being an experimented candidate in the Weapon X Project, does not gain all those powers he has. While he can heal and regrow limbs, he does not have spike shooting out of his arms, nor lasers beaming out of his eyes, nor teleportation. He is completely his own man, and is not controlled in that fashion either. He just looks like someone who was put in here to act as a big bad monster to defeat in the end, sort of like Kelly Hu in X2. But it’s annoying that such a popular character these days, has been messed around in such a fashion. His look is so off-putting too, it’s like he came from a Horror film. I am surprised that the certificate didn’t go up upon his first appearance on-screen. The mutilated eyes and body, he just looks like something that should be in a different film altogether, not this one.

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One thing that is disappointing with this film, is that it carried so much opportunity and potential. Wolverine’s origins are an interesting story to tell and go into because of how mysterious his character is. He went through so much pain, but we don’t know how or why until those events are explained. Here there was an opportunity to explore them. The film is very quick going from one scene to the other and desperate just to get to the action sequences. When Logan is offered the steel claws, it looks like something from a Bond Film, being given a gadget to help in his vital mission to bring down Victor Creed. It just doesn’t seem right. Then there is Creed who is being this ‘rogue’ like predator, killing people off, but the film just jumps to it. Why couldn’t it have been built up, why is Creed already revealed into being the person doing this. Why couldn’t it have been a surprise, with Bradley seeing a mysterious, yet familiar being at the door, but you don’t see who it is? You could have had this idea that something, big, bad thing was making its way to Logan. A big black shadow, who then reveals it to be Creed. We could have had tasters as it built up, and also more time for Logan and Kayla’s relationship to grow more. Instead it’s just: “Yep, it’s Creed. He killed him. We all saw it”. Then, as we get past the metal bonding to Wolverine, who takes it in nice and easy really, no pain or regret as to who he has become, and who has pretty much forgotten about Kayla, no remorse as to her death. Once all that is past, we get a rather silly bit that makes me think of the basketball scene from Escape from L.A. where in this time Wolverine needs to get information out of Fred Dukes, and so has a boxing match with him. It just seems pointless, was it added to increase the film’s length (which is quite short)? And the bit with the claws coming out of the glove just looked ridiculous and silly. The film picks up a little after this, but ends with the shoddy fight and ending. I like the idea of “The Island”, it’s an interesting story idea that could have been explored more, because well, it’s the only real mention of the Weapon X Project in this film (which strangely is what this film is really about). There should have been more talk about that, and look into the successes of the project and failure’s, but it only concentrated on Wolverine and manipulated everything else around it instead of exploring it.

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The film’s special effects are a bit hindered too. There is one scene where Logan tries out his new steel claws, and they don’t look as polished as they do in previous films, they look lack lustre as in someone at the special effects department said; “People know what they look like, I am going out for coffee”. The scenes with Emma’s and Cyclops’s abilities, plus ones used by Deadpool are actually quite good, but there’s nothing else much in it. There are some good set pieces too like “The Island” for one, but much like the promise that the film had, the special effects did not deliver. Then we come round to the film’s soundtrack (composed by Harry Gregson Williams). I find it hard to talk about the soundtrack, as though while it’s there, and has some moments…..I think – it just doesn’t have the outstanding quality that the 3 previous films did.

Alltogether, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a very disappointing film (sorry to keep going on about it, don’t worry this is the final paragraph). It had promise and opportunity behind it, opportunity to explore the origins or Logan for the big screen. It had the opportunity of quality thanks to the previous 3 films, it had opportunity to showcase new characters for potential use later on. It hard so much promise, but did not deliver. It had some good characters, but mostly bad ones. It had some interesting moments, but rather silly ones too (such as where Logan releases the imprisoned mutants) and did not do much else after that. It has few reasons to be watched, and I will say that Liev Schreiber, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch and Hugh Jackman are worth it to a point. I suppose we can consider ourselves lucky that no film since has referenced this film………and that the next 3 films, are all Fantastic.

GENEPOOL





Put The Knives Down! – X-Men 2 (X2)

20 10 2015

X-Men 2 (20th Century Fox - 2003)

Life as a mutant in the X-Men world is tough; you live in a world where everyone hates you because you are a different species to man, although you may look exactly like them. You have gifts, powers and people see you as dangerous, different, and as such humanity isn’t willing to give you a slice of the planet. Many mutants face endless persecution, while humanity comes up with ways to deal with you, going as far as to plan your extinction.

Released in 2003 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Bryan Singer and Produced Lauren Shuler Donner, X-Men 2 (or X2 as titled) is the second film in the X-Men film series. Like its predecessor, the X-Men are a super hero team of mutants who fight both the forces of Evil (usually in the form of other mutants) as well as fight for mutant freedom from a world that hates them. This time though, they will need to make uneasy alliances, as all mutants face extinction, from a sinister new enemy and a face from the past for one of the X-Men’s most iconic characters. The plot for X-Men 2 is largely based on the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills.

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In Washington DC, during a regular tour of the Whitehouse, a mutant attempts to assassinate the President (Cotter Smith), but fails. Up in Canada at Alkali Lake, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), finds an abandoned Military base looking for answers about his past, but nothing is left. Back at the Whitehouse, Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) asks the president for authority to accomplish a little mission regarding the mutant problem. The president agrees, and Stryker visits Magneto (Ian McKellen) in his plastic prison to get more information regarding Charles Xavier’s school. At his school, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) tells a returned Wolverine that he will need to find out the answers to his past by himself. Xavier then sends Jean (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) to Boston where he has finally tracked down the mutant that attacked the President, while he and Scott/Cyclops (James Marsden) go to see Magneto. In Boston, Jean and Storm meet the teleporting mutant Kurt Wagner, also known as Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) and ask him why he attacked the President, to which he cannot remember. At his Prison, Magneto tells Xavier about the frequent appearances of Stryker, but his visit is a trap as Xavier is knocked out, and Cyclops is rendered unconscious when attacked by Stryker’s assistant, Yuriko Oyama (Kelly Hu).

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At Xavier’s school, while Logan gets acquainted to Rogue’s boyfriend Iceman/Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore), the school is attacked by armed soldiers under the orders of Stryker. Several of the students escape thanks to the help of Peter Rasputin/Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), although several others are captured. Rouge (Anna Paquin), Bobby and their friend John/Pyro (Aaron Stanford) manage to escape, but go back to help Logan. Logan meanwhile, who has killed a large group of the attacking soldiers, comes face to face with Stryker. He remembers him for some reason, but doesn’t know why, and before he can find out more, he is unwillingly rescued by Bobby and escapes with him and the others. On the jet, Jean and Storm try to contact the school with no answer. Storm talks to Nightcrawler who talks about his past and why he does not fear, but rather pity those who persecute him. In Boston, Logan, Rogue, John and Bobby go to Bobby’s parents’ house and reveal that they are all mutants. Bobby’s parents try to hide past the issue and find it hard to accept his son for who he really is. Bobby’s brother meanwhile calls the police who come to the house and shoot Logan. While Bobby and Rogue follow the police’s orders, John uses his fire manipulation power to attack the police officers before being rescued by Jean and Storm arriving in the jet. At an undisclosed location; Xavier meets Stryker who blames Charles for not being able to cure his son Jason (Michael Reid MacKay) of his mutation and as such plans revenge on all mutants. Xavier discovers that Stryker orchestrated the attack on the President to help achieve this. Back at his Plastic Prison, Magneto manages to escape after sucking all the iron from his prison guard; Laurio’s (Ty Olsson) blood stream, which was put there by Mystique (Rebecca Romijn).

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Back on its way to the Xavier Institute, the jet is attacked by a squadron of fighter jets responding to John’s attack on the police. Storm manages to lose the fighter’s, but one shoots off a couple of missiles. Jean, using some new-found power which she has been struggling to control, destroys one of them, but the other causes a tear in the ship. Certain that they are going to crash; they are all then rescued by Magneto. During a meeting at the camp, Magneto reveals what he knows, that Stryker wants to use Cerebro to kill all the mutants in the world. He says that he told Stryker because he uses a powerful sedative on the back of Mutants necks to control them. He reveals that Nightcrawler too was manipulated by Stryker to attack the president. Through Nightcrawler, the uneasy alliance finds that Stryker’s base is back at Alkali Lake. Xavier is now under the control of Stryker’s son Jason who uses his powers of illusion to make Xavier think that he is back at the school, and that Jason is nothing more than a small girl (Keely Purvis). The X-Men spend the night at a makeshift camp where Logan tries to fall into a relationship with Jean, who keeps saying she is in a relationship with Scott.

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At the base, Mystique manages to gain access to the base allowing everyone else to get inside. Storm and Nightcrawler head off to rescue the captured children from the school, while Magneto, Mystique and Jean head off to Stryker’s Cerebro. Logan meanwhile heads off to find answers. On their way to Cerebro, Jean, Mystique and Magneto are attacked by a brainwashed Cyclops. Jean manages to rescue him, but causes damage to the dam in the process. In an Adamantium smelting room, Logan discovers answers as to what happened to him, but is then found by Stryker. Logan fights Yuriko, who possesses similar powers to him, but he kills her after injecting her with Adamantium. Outside Cerebro, Magneto attacks to gain entry just as Xavier starts the killing process. All the mutants in the world begin to break down, but Magneto manages to stop the machine in time. Once inside though, he switches the machine’s components round and has Xavier do it again, but this time, attacking humans instead. Logan finds Stryker to get more information out of him, but doesn’t get very far, he then finds out that the dam is going to burst, killing everyone inside. At Cerebro, the X-Men discover what Magneto has done. Storm puts her faith in Nightcrawler to get inside and rescue the professor. All the humans in the world begin to break down from the attack, but Storm manages to stop and rescue Charles in time.

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After escaping the dam; the team is rescued by Rogue who flies the jet to them, crashing into the snow in the process. Logan confronts Stryker one last time, deciding to just let his past with Stryker go. On the Jet, Jean discovers that Pyro has gone with Magneto, but also that the water from the dam will kill everyone on the jet before they can take off. She goes out and uses her new powers to stop anyone from leaving, lift the jet out of the snow and hold the water back. Just as it takes off, the waters consume her, and a heartbroken Cyclops can’t believe it. The team travel to the White House to confront the President providing him with information regarding Stryker and warn him about a potential war between Humans and Mutants, and that it is together that they should try to build peace. Back at the mansion, all the pupils have returned and classes have begun again. Xavier consoles both Logan and Scott about Jean and says the reason she went outside the jet was because she made a choice. They leave as Xavier begins his class, with Wolverine telling Scott, that Jean chose him. Back at Alkali Lake, a phoenix like shape appears flying under the water.

Since 2006 when X-Men: The Last Stand came out, I have regarded X-Men 2 as the best film in the series. I have always felt that X-Men 2 is still superior, even when more films have been released. It’s a really good film with lots of plot twists, themes and characters. Much like its predecessor, X2 deals a lot with the themes of racism and persecution, shown through its mutant characters and their desire for freedom. As the film’s narrative goes though, while X-Men used some narratives to strengthen and give the main plot weight, X2 only really uses one major plot, and this time it’s through little stories and characters that help the plot along. X2 also carries the narrative of persecution and freedom of mutants as its main plot, where as in X1 it’s more of a sub plot that leads to a big moment. This is greatly helped along by its characters, some of whom have had something of a re-designation and more of a presence in this film. One that strikes out to me more than others is Jean Grey. After looking at X-Men 1, I kind of get the feeling that she was more of a support character who adds conflict for being the love interest to both Logan and Scott. While she was a good character, it just felt like she was there, for just being there. In this film though, she has gone from that to almost taking over the narration duties of the film from Logan and Rogue. Jean begins the film, experiencing a range of new powers that she cannot seem to control, and as the film develops, so does she. With Scott gone she is finding it hard to cope and to keep Logan away from her, although she may have feelings for him. She takes on more a role of a leader too, although is possibly shadowed a little by Storm. As time goes on she grows more with her new powers, and her sacrifice at the end gives the film one more plot twist. Instead of just escaping; one character that has become a major and enjoyable character, dies. It’s a moment which is so powerful, it almost makes you forget what has happened so far, but it works.

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Due to an increase in characters for this film, some characters are sort of held back, but given that the characters were given a good introduction in the first film, it means that for the most part, they are not having to be revisited a lot, however there is still some tension for them. Rogue for instance is a lot more confidant and outspoken than she previously was, but her powers are still a danger and is finding it hard to fully commit to a relationship with Bobby. I quite liked the scene where she nearly attacked Magneto, but I do think that maybe more could have been done with that scene or with the idea. Charles, whose position in the film is already well founded, is now more a tool of mutant destruction and despite his power level; he does not see what is really going on until he gets captured. His moments when he is both under manipulation, and not, are really good scenes and are some of his best in the series. Logan meanwhile still struggles with his past a great deal, and becomes one of the film’s main sub plots. He being so close to the truth really brings more out of him. Upon rediscovering his past though he is able to let it go, as he has found much better things, including friendship and things to really care about. Mystique, who is now less striking in who she is, as she was well introduced in the first one, has less of those scenes that made her visually striking in X1. This time however, she still has more of a part that reveals who she is and what she can do including her IT talents. Much like the theme/narrative of persecution, she becomes more of a focal point as to the idea of never judging a book by its cover. Magneto meanwhile is up to his usual tricks. To begin with he is sentenced to life imprisonment in his plastic prison, and comes to deal with some of it, but is consistently abused by both Laurio and Stryker. When he does escape, he decides to aid the X-Men in taking down Stryker, but then uses this ploy to do what he wants, and eradicate humanity. This little plot twist is a nice addition to the film. While he could have just destroyed Cerebro, he decided to use it for his own reasons.

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Jean Grey is not necessarily the only character to get more time on-screen; Storm really comes out of her shell in this film. Much like Jean, Storm was not much of an outstanding character in the film other than when talking to Logan and Senator Kelly, and during the final battle. In this film she comes out more as a leader but also a people person. She develops a great bond with Nightcrawler and learns from him. She cares greatly for those around her, and sort of steps in for the professor when he disappears. Given that she receives more on-screen time than in the previous film, plus much more of a role, makes her a rather enjoyable and stand-out character in this film. Scott though is possibly the most interesting. He sort of vanishes for a good bit of the film as he has been captured and manipulated, but when he comes back in, he has some terrific scenes. To begin with, he is much like he was in the first film, rather quiet and maybe a bit cold towards others. During the final act though, something much greater comes out of him, and this, more than anything is shown after Jean dies. While he is on the jet, he struggles with her being in peril and almost can’t control his emotions. It’s like right now, no one else is there it’s all Scott. Then when Jean dies, and the emotion drops to a sudden silence, he can’t control himself as he is physically and mentally heartbroken to her loss. While Logan tries to console him, Scott is not having any of it. It really does carry the emotion both on and off-screen, as someone in all this, is hurt more than anyone. While Scott may not be the film’s lead, or one of the more outstanding characters, for one traumatically and emotionally long scene, he is.

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After the old cast, we get more into the newer members. While Bobby Drake was in the first film, he gets more of a part in the second. A strong mutant who can create and manipulate ice, he starts off being the boyfriend of Rogue, but quickly builds to become a loyal member of the team, plus someone who is very reliable. Bobby’s movie moment though comes when his parents find out what he really is, and while state it’s all complicated, just can’t come to accept the situation or who he is. This then brings us on to Pyro. John is an important character as it builds up a rivalry between him and Bobby. Pyro who can manipulate but not create fire is a good, but possibly basic rival to Iceman, but also provides an interesting similarity in characters. While Bobby is caring for those around him, while also fleeting from the truth, Pyro stands out as someone who is quite possibly selfish. The moment he attacks the police is one of the film’s most emotionally driven moments as it deals with the persecution of mutants and what some will go to, to achieve acceptance and freedom. It’s a scene I rather like and have found myself sometimes dwelling on, even think acting on, as to what I would do in that situation. Pyro really helps to bring out the seriousness of that scene…..and is very destructive.

One character who makes a really great appearance in this film, but is used minutely is Colossus. He appears as the attack on the mansion commences, rescues the children and then is not seen until the very end. Daniel Cudmore plays the character rather well, and is physically striking. It’s a shame he is not used more, as when he appears he makes the scene. Colossus aside, the film does well at showing other small time characters. Laurio for instance is a really good character, as he is sort of depressed for the job he has been given to do, and it’s through this weakness which leads to his end. The President, although a small role, is pretty good too, as he is forced to come to realise the situation, but he seems regretful in what he does, but for the most part appears to not have a clue as to what is really going on. Stryker’s Sergeant (Peter Wingfield) also has some moments too, including his choice of makeup. Jason too does not appear to have much of a part other than to manipulate Charles. When he takes the appearance of a little girl however, a new character comes to light; that of a schemer and a deceiver. His appearance is horrifying and looks like a possible psychopath, and on-screen sort of hogs the screen, even when with other characters. As a little girl though something else comes to light; fear. When he loses against Storm, the girl reveals the mind of Jason who is scared of what his father might do to him and a little bit of empathy comes his way when you fully realise what has been done to him. The film also teases other mutants from the comics like Jubilee (Kea Wong), Siryn (Shauna Kain), Artie (Bryce Hodgson) and Shadowcat (Katie Stuart), and Jones (Connor Widdows) – who as far as I can find is not in the comics – as well as other comic characters in mention including Gambit. While not referenced by her comic name (Lady Deathstrike), Yuriko has a nice sinister look, who looks more like a bodyguard than an assistant. She constantly trails Stryker up until she fights Logan. She hardly speaks at all but remains a key part. Her part comes to more fruition in the second half and in her fight with Logan. Her fight the scene with Logan is pretty cool and her death also, but for every scene she is in, she is a real treat.

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Nightcrawler meanwhile is the main focus of all new mutants in this film. While other mutants try to hide from persecution, Nightcrawler represents what it’s like to go through it. A man who has lived on the streets, and has faced persecution from everyone, not for really being a mutant but to what he looks like with his blue skin. The film begins and near ends with him as a central character. In the mid parts he is something of a comic/comedy character, trying to fit in with others, and who is helped by Storm. But he becomes an eventual hero, helping to rescue Charles and turn Cerebro off. He feels for those around him, and while they may be shocked or scared by them, he remains headstrong throughout, as he understands what it’s like to be persecuted, and sees more in people. For a story whose main plot is the request and hope for freedom from persecution, it’s important to have a character in it that not only portrays what many people see, but also someone who understands why they act like that, but also pity’s them for it, and reveals that there is more to someone other than just the colour of their skin. The onscreen heavyweight for this film though is Brian Cox playing the part of Stryker. An unpleasant man from first looks, who later reveals and proves himself to be more than just sinister. He has a long history with Mutants, and whose son caused nothing but pain for him and his wife, and wanting revenge for what he truly wanted from Xavier, plans to get rid of all mutants. He cannibalises his own son so as to use him, and plans an attack on the President so as to use the event as an opportunity to get what he needs to complete his plan, which he nearly does. He is a man who also has history with Logan, being the man who gave Logan his steel claws, and for whom is someone Logan wants answers from. Brian Cox plays the role with belief and conviction, providing a character who is a real villain, through and through, and to which is one you want to see get their comeuppance, but also rather enjoy.

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The film like its predecessor uses a lot of special effects to convey the superpowers of its characters. More this time has been given to scenes of powers being used such as the ice wall and Pyro’s fireballs. Magneto also gets the use of SFX when escaping from his prison, and the removal of Iron from Laurio is a pretty cool, yet possibly gruesome scene. Other scenes use SFX in different ways however; including the end scene with Jean holding back the water, and the air battle. Make up is also used a great deal too, particularly for Nightcrawler. Costumes are pretty much the same as last time, with some changes (I think I preferred the green lining on Jean’s costume more than the red), and new ones for Rogue and Iceman, and even Lady Deathstrike gets one. The film also has some pretty amazing sets. These are reserved mostly for the end, the base in particular and Logan’s Adamantium room is terrific. It’s a film that has gone to great lengths to use what SFX they could, but not rely on them, and instead use other, more traditional and real effects to produce a much better look.

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I really do like the soundtrack (composed by John Ottman) for this film and consider it an improvement over the first film, but also one that is astounding. Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House uses a classic piece from Mozart’s Requiem which quickly ramps up tension within minutes of the film starting. It sounds monstrous as the President comes under attack from a mysterious assailant.

The rest of the soundtrack uses similar themes, but ones more in the style of tune of the film’s main theme piece. Storm’s piece inside the church for instance is very operatic and grand, while the attack on the school is grand, perilous and tense. Pyro’s attack on the police achieves something similar but starting with a growing feeling before exploding into a serious note. Jean’s scene holding back the water is like several pieces in one and continues to only get more tense until moment of realisation when the jet is rescued and Jean gets washed away. All of such scenes though are complimented with a nice piece woven everywhere in the film. It’s a piece of joy and resolution and helps sad, angry, emotional scenes recover and provide an element of happiness to the film. The film’s main theme is a piece I absolutely love. It’s a piece which causes tingles down my spine, a piece I can’t get enough of. While most of the films in the series have separate, and good theme pieces, I consider the piece from X-Men 2 to be the series real theme music. Much like how Christopher Nolan’s Batman films all have an associated piece of  music which becomes their theme, this series theme for me is the opening and closing credits from X-Men 2. I was so happy when it was reused for Days of Future Past, as I think the series has needed that returning theme music for a good long time now. This piece of music is one of my favourite things about this film, I love it that much.

Alltogether, X-Men 2 is a great film. My favourite of the X-Men series, and one of my favourite comic/superhero related films. It’s a film of themes and narratives, all surrounding the subject of persecution and racism of mutants. It shows what they go through in their daily lives, how their families react, and humanities cruelty towards them plus what it’s like for them to fear both persecution and who they are. It shows people’s problems with mutants, and histories surrounding them and how bent out for revenge they are. It’s also a story of struggles. Characters like Jean whose powers are growing and she can’t control, or Logan who struggles to live not knowing who he is. It has a great cast of characters who make this film what it really is. A great diversity of characters from Mutants to Humans, heroes to villains. Brilliantly directed and a story so emotionally driven that you feel for protagonists, what they go through and feel a sense of empathy towards them with scenes producing moments of sadness, some happiness but also anger. When including the special effects, set pieces and a fantastic soundtrack, you have one really special film that you won’t regret and not be able to forget. A film with plot twists, things you neither expected nor saw coming, moments of drama, understanding, and sometimes a desire to leap into, not forgetting raw moments of emotion. X-Men 2 is Fantastic Film, one that I remember watching with great fondness, and look forward to watching it again soon.

GENEPOOL








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