Let’s Just Say I’m Frankenstein’s Monster – X-Men: First Class

23 10 2015

X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox - 2011)

It’s pretty clear to see that the characters featured in X-Men aren’t exactly, human (except for those who are). No, they’re Mutants, mutants with extraordinary powers, ones that allow them to do magnificent things for either the side of good, or that of evil. But have you ever wondered how all this came to pass, how Charles Xavier founded the X-Men and how Magneto came to be his great Nemesis? Neither have I, but for those who do want to know, you have 2 options. Either read the comics which you can find either online or in shops that sell comics, or you can just watch this film.

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Released in 2011 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Matthew Vaughn and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men: First Class is the fifth film in X-Men film series, and is the second spin-off from the main series. First Class goes in a different direction to the previous three films however, instead going back in time to tell the origins story and early history of the X-Men. The film is loosely based off the X-Men comic series First Class, and introduces several new characters into the series plus recasting a few others.

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In 1944, at one of Hitler’s Jewish prison camps, young Erik Lensher shows off extraordinary powers when he bends a metal gate. This grabs the attention of Scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who kills Erik’s mother when he wouldn’t move a coin. This enrages Erik into destroying most of Schmidt’s lab. In New York meanwhile, young Charles Xavier discovers a blue skinned mutant called Raven stealing from his family’s kitchen and invites her to join his family. In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has now grown up and is pursuing Schmidt leaving a trail of destruction in both Switzerland and later Argentina. In Oxford, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) graduates from University with a Thesis on Mutation, and lives there with his now fostered sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). In Las Vegas meanwhile, CIA Agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is tracking army officer; Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower), when she discovers him talking to Klaus Schmidt, now going by the name Sebastian Shaw, along with his team of mutants Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng). Azazel teleports Hendry to the joint war room where he gives his support for placing nuclear weapons in Turkey. Needing more advice on the subject of Mutants, Moira goes to see Xavier in Oxford and invites him to the CIA and convince Director McCone (Matt Craven) that mutants exist, and another CIA officer (Oliver Platt) shows his support for them. Xavier and Moira locate Shaw on his private boat, just as Erik tries to kill him. Shaw escapes, and Erik is rescued by Xavier who jumps in the water to prevent him from drowning. At the CIA’s X Division, the group meet young scientist and mutant Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), whom Raven immediately begins to bond with. Erik tries to leave with documents about Shaw, but Xavier encourages him to stay. Using a machine built by Hank called Cerebro, Xavier and Erik recruit other mutants to the CIA X Division: Alex Summers (Lucas Till), Armando Munoz (Edi Gathegi), Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), and try to recruit one other who is less than interested.

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One night, the young mutants show off their powers to one another and come up with codenames for themselves becoming; Havok, Darwin, Banshee, Angel respectively, with Raven choosing the name Mystique and giving Xavier and Magneto the names Professor X and Magneto. Believing they are unready to go to Russia to find Shaw with them, Erik, Xavier and Moira go to a senior Russian military officer’s (Rade Šerbedžija) house where only Emma shows up. Desperately wanting to find Shaw, Erik goes rogue, manages to break into the building and confront Emma, breaking her diamond form so that Xavier can read her mind. Inside he discovers Shaw’s plan to create a full on nuclear war and trigger the rise of mutant kind. Back at X Division meanwhile Shaw, Riptide and Azazel, find the young mutants and try to recruit them, successfully recruiting Angel to their side, and killing Darwin in the process. Wanting to avenge the death of Darwin, Xavier takes the others back to his childhood home where they all train and better master their own abilities. Havok gets better control of his thanks to a new suit, and Banshee can now fly. Hank meanwhile is busy trying to create a serum to look normal, which eventually causes a rift between him and Raven. Erik on the other hand is still struggling to get the best out of his abilities, when Xavier unlocks his mind however; he is able to do almost anything.

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With some persuasion by Shaw, the USSR decides to deploy its Nuclear weapons in Cuba. Xavier and his team decide to try and stop it, with Erik only really wanting to do it to kill Shaw. Hank’s Serum to make him look human, fails and his real form, a blue furry Beast comes into full view. In Cuba, the navies of the USSR and the USA are poised ready to fight. Xavier’s team arrive, and using his telepathy, Xavier manages to blow up the Nuclear Cargo Ship halting World War 3. Shaw meanwhile has a backup plan to absorb the nuclear reactor core of his submarine and release it through himself. Using Banshee’s ability underwater, Erik is able to lift the submarine, before crashing it on the beach. Xavier’s mutants fight Shaw’s while Erik goes inside the crashed sub to find Shaw. There the two fight, with Shaw getting the upper hand. Erik manages to remove Shaw’s helmet, which prevented Xavier getting inside his head. Erik however puts it on his own head preventing Xavier from stopping him. He takes out the coin from the day his mother was killed by Shaw, and sends it straight through Shaw’s head, killing him instantly.

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The USSR and USA decide to join forces in ending a potential mutant threat there and then, attacking the mutants on the beach. Erik, now in full control of his abilities, stops their weapons from reaching them, before sending them straight back at the attacking ships. Xavier tries to stop Erik and the two fights with Erik still sending the weapons at the ships. Moira tries to shoot Erik, but a stray bullet hits Xavier in the back. The ships are saved from the oncoming arsenal, and Erik along with Shaw’s team and Raven leave, with Xavier now paralyzed. Back at the mansion, Xavier now in a wheelchair talks about setting up an academy there, and shares a kiss with Moira, wiping her memories to protect them. In the CIA Basement, Erik turns up to rescue Emma, now calling himself Magneto.

OK, this may seem weird, but please bear with me as I quote the back of my DVD copy of the film:

“See how it all began in this thrilling first chapter of the X-MEN saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensher became Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were enemies, they were the closest of friends and gathered an elite team of mutants to form the X-Men in an attempt to prevent World War III.”

In a nutshell, that is what the film is about basically, two guys who discover they have mutant powers, become friends and prevent yet another World War. In more detail however, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, it’s all the above, but entwined and intermixed together there is a lot more going on than just that. The film’s story is beautifully crafted and is one of the best stories in this series to discover. The film sort of takes the audience back to what the first film was about and concentrates the narrative on two specific characters and what happens to and around them. While the story does lead up to the prevention of World War 3, that’s not its main story. Interestingly, it happens at a time when mutant kind is not necessarily a growing political and social issue. It’s more in the discovery process but only really afflicts those who have visible mutant traits, particularly more so towards Raven. What you get instead is that it’s more of a sub plot, and the concentration is more on the growing possibility of nuclear war and one man’s attempts to start one in order to benefit more himself than anyone else. One thing I rather like about the film’s story telling is how it has combined a fictional setting with real world events. The use of the Cuban Missile Crisis really helps to make the story seem real, like it’s all happening in this world and not just some fantasy or comic book setting. It provides suggestions as to what really happened during that time. It’s not in a fictional world but actually feels like Mutants could be living amongst us. Plus it helps to date the stories and give us perspective as to how far back the film’s plot is set. The setting of the final fight also creates something of a powder keg and shows the moment when mutants first came to public light. It really sets up the scene for future films and stories. Aside from both of these however, is a story that contains lots of interesting elements that come out when characters are looked into. The film contains a lot of characters, some with large backstories for such small roles. While there are some mutants who don’t get this allowance like Riptide or sadly Darwin, others, like Havok, and Angel show an interesting level of character. Havok is so quiet in this film, and is shown as being the kind of person who prefers being alone most of the time, showing this through several insults. However there is a redeeming feature to this. When Darwin dies, Alex does have a sense of regret and sadness inside himself. As the film goes on he opens up more, but keeps his regular side, possibly showing a more vulnerable side to himself. Angel (brilliantly played by Zoe Kravitz) similarly presents a similar character. While when I first saw this film, I was angry at the presentation of Angel, as I was more wanting Archangel (in the comics she’s called Tempest), I grew to her character more and she is an enjoyable addition to the cast. Angel is an interesting character as she so quickly becomes a villain. Not through her wanting to be one, but more through not wanting to hide as a mutant forever, and be accepted for whom she truly is (plus some possible charming from Shaw).

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Other notable cast members on something of a shortlist include Banshee. An interesting part and it wasn’t until I saw this film that I had a proper understanding of what his powers were and what he could do. His costume and look appear to be a lot like they are in the comics. He doesn’t necessarily feel persecuted for who he is and is more open from the start. Xavier’s work with him really helps to grow his confidence too. Azazel I feel is trying to have a big role but I don’t think he works other than for being a hired gun. It sort of feels like an attempt to include a character like Nightcrawler, but have them as a villain. He has a few short scenes of speaking parts which help him out and he is an important part of Shaw’s team, but I don’t feel all that strongly for him. Darwin I do feel rather sorry for as he gets killed off rather quickly, which is a shame because he seemed like genuinely a nice character. Emma Frost however is fantastic. Another brilliantly played part that is both cold as her name plus a lot of fun to follow. She is intelligent and sinister as well as possibly a bit deceptive. She has a lot of loyalty towards Shaw despite having some misgivings as the way he treats her. She wears some fantastic clothing that really do help to represent her status in the film as not a hired gun but an intelligent role, plus match an element of her clothing in the comics and cartoons (minus the cape).

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First Class makes great use of big stars for minor roles and includes a stellar cast from people who play small parts, but make a big impact due to them being such famous faces. People of note being Ray Wise, Glen Morshower, Matt Craven, Rade Šerbedžija, Michael Ironside and Oliver Platt. Along with these you of course get Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw (this is not a small role). I really do like the inclusion of the Hellfire Club in this film. It’s a section of my X-Men: The Ultimate Guide I have read on many occasions, but while I have known about Emma Frost for a while, it was only in recent times coming up to the release of this film that I really began to discover who Sebastian Shaw was. It was through reading Essential X-Men a year or two beforehand that I was first properly introduced, followed by an inclusion of the character in Wolverine and The X-Men on TV. In First Class, Shaw is just as sinister and uses his wealth and power to create his grand schemes plus the manipulation of those around him. His early introduction allows the character of Erik to be brought into the story, plus the film’s first goal for a character and plot. His powers make him practically invulnerable to attack and as such require both the abilities of Xavier and Magneto to defeat him. Much like the Hellfire Club, Shaw is a brilliant character to have as a villain in this and his team of mutants works well to his character. His final death puts the film in a position ready for its next important twist plus brings out Magneto for who he is. I think Rose Byrne is somewhat underused in this film as she slowly builds to the want of a relationship with Charles, but while the Mutants train, she doesn’t appear to be there. Unlike the people at the CIA who see Mutants as something else, Moira sees more in them. She is confident and always looking for an opportunity to prove herself, which she finds hard to do. She is sort of a comparison to what mutants feel, as she is a woman trying to do a job in a still male orientated world. Despite this though, I still feel like she is underused, especially for such an actress as good as Rose Byrne; despite this though she remains an enjoyable cast member throughout the film.

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First Class immediately shows Beast, where as he was delayed from being included until Last Stand in the previous trilogy. In this he tries to hide his mutation from others from the start, and is determined to accomplish the goal of being as normal as possible. While to begin with this triggers a bond between him and Raven, this does lead to a rift as the film goes along. He eventually comes to sort of accept who he is, but struggles with it again when Raven leaves. Raven meanwhile is not flaunting her ability as she did in the first 3 films. Either this could be because she is played by a different actress, or it could be because she is struggling with whom she really is. She hates and despises how people like Charles can look normal, while she has to regularly hide. This causes an early rift between her and her foster-brother and just builds and builds. While not necessarily being a major explored relationship in the film, the obnoxiousness and ignorance presented by Xavier shows his real lack of understanding for her and begins to reveal a weak spot in him. It’s not until Magneto talks to Raven that she begins to explore her right to be who she is, and accepts this as the film ends. Xavier meanwhile is one of the key characters explored in this film. From the start he tries to show himself as an understanding person, but shows a weak flaw in that he doesn’t really understand everything, as he thinks he does. Sure, he does help those around him who need it, but his lack of understanding with Raven causes a rift between them and slowly begins to ignore her. It’s like he’s trying to ground her, instead of helping her. Xavier then is not who he will become and is still playing around a little. He tries to stay calm and respectful in the situation. He also shares some real dramatic and emotional moments, and through one of these, which connects to his belief that mutants and humans can live together ends with him losing his legs, (plus the moment when he can feel the coin going through the head of Shaw).

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But it’s Magneto who is the film’s best character. Out of all the characters in the film, it’s Magneto who I connect the most with. While he would grow to become the series greatest villain, it’s interesting to see how it all happened. From his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazi’s, the death of his mother and being experimented on; to the acts that would define and make him the villain that he is today. He has many terrific, enjoyable, memorable and fantastic scenes in this film that are bolstered by his own character traits. But it should be remembered that he does not start out as a villain. While I see other comic villains as being evil just for the sake of being evil, Magneto’s rise to villainy status is shown in a more understanding way. While he will commit atrocious acts against others, it’s hard to say that he is doing it for the wrong reasons, as he has experienced incredible atrocities onto himself. He experienced life in the prison camps, the murder of his mother, and experimentation at the hands of a monster. His life previously can only be imagined, but given what is known about the treatment of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany, it’s only fair to see what was in store for Erik growing up. As the film progresses; he begins to commit those atrocities on humanity, but I find myself rooting for him. First on the Germans responsible for what happened to him, to the eventual scene against the ships. Both that and the scene in Argentina are two of the film’s most powerful scenes, and ones I am rooting Magneto to accomplish. Every time I watch the attack on the ships, I want them destroyed, because I sort of feel Erik’s pain, and it feels like Justice needs to be served. Add to this Magneto’s theme as well as Fassbender’s amazing performance and you have a character that stands out so well, that you can’t help but feel a bond with him every time he is on-screen.

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X-Men First class is beautifully shot and uses combinations of set pieces with real settings plus some cool camera tricks to make it stand out. I particularly like the camera angles used in the fight between Banshee and Angel. Costumes have always been something of a stand out feature in the X-Men films, and First Class is no different. From things like formal and casual attire, to the super suits. Instead though being like the jet black leather suits of the first trilogy, they look more like the suits in the early comics, which I think is a neat little addition. Add to it the personal traits of costumes too; such as Emma’s Suit Dress, Banshee’s wings, Havok’s disk, and the all famous Magneto Helmet, particularly at the end of the film. From there it’s onto the special effects of which there are many. The films have moved on in special effects from the outstanding Golden Gate Bridge scene in Last Stand and include lots of big special effects to just say “WOW!” at. From the Submarine pickup, to the navy’s arsenal, to the giant Warships themselves. I like how the Iowa class battleships get a part in this film, they look so cool. But it’s not just the big stuff. The mutant powers are on show too. Some are on show for the first time like Banshee’s scream and Havok’s ability, plus old favourites too like Mystique’s transformation. It’s not all down to Computer Effects though as some are more realistic and look superb such as the slicing of the statue at X Division, to the point where Shaw picks up an Iron Bar with his hands.

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The film’s soundtrack (Composed by Henry Jackman) is just as incredible as everything else in this film, plus is so memorable too. The film’s main theme (in my opinion) has to be Magneto’s theme. It is featured in the credits which I like, plus, when used in certain scenes shows the growing darkness and aggression that Magneto carries towards those he feels have wronged him. From the Argentinian bar where he grows from a mysterious acquaintance, to the moment he reveals himself and what he thinks about himself. There is just this growing essence of anger inside it which really carries his character for him in those scenes. While in other scenes it’s played around with, it’s still Magneto’s theme and I enjoy listening to it every time I hear it. It’s just so dark and menacing.

The film does have other pieces which stand out too. The film does use pieces of music from well established artists including Love Love by Take That (a really good song) and an instrumental version of Run by Gnarls Barkley used during the recruiting scene. As for the rest of the film’s soundtrack, a lot of pieces use the same piece within them. It’s a sort of calm, joyful and pleasant piece and is used several times as a starter. It begins in the Cerebro scene, the reveal of the mansion at the end of the second act and the lifting of the submarine. It’s a nice piece, just a generally nice piece. It even has a bigger part when the jet appears over the sea above the navies, a grander tone perhaps. Add to this other pieces of note such as the lifting of the submarine which brings more a scene of amazement, or to the Cerebro scene where it quickens and I get tingles down my spine just hearing it increase in speed. There is a definite feel of the period in the film’s soundtrack, and it shows (well hears) and is so pleasant to listen to. A great deal of work has gone into the soundtrack for First Class, and it has not gone to waste.

Alltogether; I love this film. I really do. I don’t like it as much I would say as X2 which I still consider my Favourite of the series, but I would say that First Class is a close second. I really do like this film, its story is tense and gripping, its characters are fun, and new, plus connectable, it’s combination of Special Effects and Soundtrack are amazing and most of all; Magneto is Fantastic. While more films have been released since and still more to come, I still absolutely enjoy this film for everything it has. Sure, it does have some shortcomings in some of its characters, but for every minor issue, there are 10 other things that make up for them. You don’t need to know much about X-Men to enjoy this film as it is a complete beginning for these characters without being a reboot. Overall, X-Men First Class is a fantastic film; I really recommend it.

GENEPOOL

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The Cure – X-Men: The Last Stand

21 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand

What if there was a medicine out there that could cure something about you. Now I am not talking about flu or a cold, more something that you were born with. Imagine it, something that ailed you since birth could be eradicated and you could therefore do something that everyone else could. Just think, you could walk or see for the first time, or maybe even afflicted by something like what is covered in Scott Westerfeld’s book series Uglies (haven’t read it yet). If such a cure existed, would you take it?

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Released in 2006 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed (this time) by Brett Ratner; X-Men: The Last Stand is the third film in the X-Men Film Series. Like in the previous films, the X-Men as well as other mutants are fighting for survival and freedom from a world that hates them. This time around though, all mutants are proposed a question; a question which if answered yes could mean an end to all persecution of mutants, and if answered no, could continue down the dark path to war. The question being, ‘do you want to be cured of your mutation?’

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Twenty years ago, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lensher (Ian McKellan) go to meet a mutant by name of Jean Grey (Hayley Ramm), to try and invite her to come to their school. 10 years later, Wealthy industrialist Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) discovers his son is a mutant who is trying to cut feathers off his back. In the present day at Xavier’s School, Charles and Storm (Halle Berry) get a visit from Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), a large mutant with blue skin and hair who is on the cabinet and is also a former student at the school. He comes to tell them that a ‘supposed’ cure for mutation has been created at Worthington Labs. An announcement is made at that moment regarding the cure, which Rogue (Anna Paquin) likes the sound of. At a private meeting of Mutants, Lensher (now known as Magneto) and his protégé Pyro (Aaron Stanford) gatecrash the talk to state that the ‘voluntary’ cure will eventually be used on mutants to wipe them out. A group of Mutants at the event take notice of this; one of them, Callisto (Dania Ramirez) who is super-fast and can locate other Mutants is asked by Magneto to find Mystique. At Worthington Labs on Alcatraz Island, Hank meets young mutant Jimmy (Cameron Bright) whose power is to suppress other mutants abilities, and is the source of the cure. With Callisto’s help, Magneto finds Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and rescues her from her captors. He also releases two other prisoners, Multiple Man (Eric Dane) and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). Mystique however gets shot by a gun carrying weaponized cure cartridges, and loses her mutant traits, and therefore gets abandoned by Magneto for no longer being a mutant.

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At Worthington Labs, the cure goes public, but Worthington II wants to start with his Son; Warren Worthington III (Ben Foster). Warren III breaks free from his restraints and shows off his resplendent angelic like wings and tells his father, that it’s what he alone wants, before flying away. Scott (James Marsden) who is still distraught at the loss of Jean (Famke Janssen) leaves the mansion and heads for Alkali Lake where she died, and finds that she has been resurrected. They embrace, but something happens to him, that Charles senses. Storm and Logan (Hugh Jackman) go to the lake, find Scott’s glasses and the body of Jean. At the Mansion, Xavier reveals to Logan that as a young girl something destructive manifested inside Jean calling itself The Phoenix and that he psychically blocked it out. Charles tries to block it out again while Logan questions his motives. Later when Jean wakes up however, Logan discovers that the Jean he once knew is not the one in front of him and realizes she killed Scott. She begs Logan to kill her, but then she knocks him out and heads for her childhood home. Charles goes to her home with Logan and Storm, only to be confronted by Magneto and his new team. Inside the house, Magneto tries to convince Jean that Charles wants to suppress her powers. Charles and Jean have a psychic confrontation in which Jean grows immensely powerful and results in Xavier being killed. Magneto takes Jean away while Logan and Storm breakdown at the loss of the professor.

Back at the school a funeral is held for the loss of Xavier, a loss that everyone at the school feels. Hank suggests that with Charles gone, the school should close down, but Storm decides to keep it open, remembering that Charles suggested that she take over when he was gone. During the night, Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) tries to cheer up friend Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) who can walk through walls, by taking her ice skating. Rogue however sees them, and seeing Kitty as a romantic rival leaves the mansion to get a cure shot. Bobby tries to stop her, meeting Pyro at a cure protest, who then destroys the cure building. Magneto deliverers a threat to the President (Josef Sommer) who along with secretary Trask (Bill Duke) decide to arm all soldiers with the weaponised cure to combat Magneto’s threat. Logan who still has feelings for Jean goes to Magneto’s camp to try and bring her back. He finds her but gets thrown out by Magneto. The President finds Magneto’s camp thanks to a now transformed Mystique, but it turns out to be a decoy. Logan returns to the school and assembles what X-Men he can; Bobby, Kitty, Beast, Storm and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and flies out to Alcatraz Island. Magneto who is already within easy reach of the island moves the entire Golden Gate Bridge so that he and his army of mutants can attack. The X-men shortly arrive after a small skirmish between Magneto and the soldiers.

Magneto sends in the main body of his army. Callisto and Storm engage in a fight which Storm later wins. Juggernaut; who is practically unstoppable, goes inside the labs to kill Jimmy. Kitty runs after him, reaching Jimmy first, but discovers her powers no longer work due to Jimmy’s powers. Using the information, she is able to trick Juggernaut to knock him out, and rescues Jimmy in the process. Inside the labs, Arclight (Omahyra), Psylocke (Mei Melançon) and Quill (or) Kid Omega (Ken Leung) find Worthington II and kill his assistant (Shohreh Aghdashloo). They try to throw him off the lab roof, but he is saved by his son who flies him to safety. Outside, Magneto tries to end the fight quickly. The X-Men decide to use the cure on Magneto. So while Bobby keeps Pyro busy, Colossus, Logan and Hank successfully inject the cure into Magneto, who loses his powers. The battle now won, Logan tells Jean that it’s all over, but then they are attacked by a squad of soldiers. Jean kills them by disintegration. Everyone else tries to escape except Logan who tries to confront her. While Jean disintegrates everything around her, Logan is able to survive due to his healing powers. When asked by Jean if he would die for them, Logan says he would really die for her. Logan then kills her when she asks him to save her. Back at the mansion, graves are constructed for Jean and Scott, and Storm is now headmistress. Rogue returns, having had the cure and can now touch Bobby without hurting him. Hank is appointed ambassador to the United Nations, while in a park somewhere; Magneto sits alone with a chess set. He holds out his hands towards a metal piece, which wobbles slightly.

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X-Men the Last Stand is a very enjoyable film; however it is a bit weak. I would not class this film as bad, in no way is it bad, it’s just a bit flawed. The film does struggle from several problems and I think has suffered from the loss of the series original Director. Ratner though produces something that is very enjoyable. I get the feeling however that instead of possibly getting involved, Like Bryan Singer did, he just sort of let the film get constructed and then joined in. It looks more like an action blockbuster, than the more thought-provoking approach that the previous 2 films did. The previous 2 were more about persecution and ones place in the world rather than what is offered here, which looks more mainstream, than sticking to its guns. One of the issues I find with this film is lack of main plot. Actually wait, I will re-word that. It has a main plot, in fact it has 2. One that is there for the most part and another which hogs some of the lime light. I can see that they tried to do more than one thing with this film, and because it tried to push stories on an equal footing, it’s hard to actually say what this film is about. As the film starts and talks about the cure for nearly half an hour, that part is solid and enjoyable, it’s going good. But the moment Jean is brought back in; there is no more mention of the cure, for a long time. Every time it becomes about Jean, it’s like that the cure, which is the main plot, suddenly isn’t. There is some sub plot in this such as the relationship and problems between Rogue, Kitty and Bobby, among others, but why they couldn’t either restrict Jeans re-birth to sub plot, or better yet, keep it out, and explore it in a later film possibly involving the Phoenix Saga. And that’s only the start of the film’s several issues. But first, some positive points.

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Last Stand, like its predecessors, has a strong cast. Characters have grown up and developed as the series has progressed and in Last Stand we get to see some of them finally take centre stage. In X-Men 1, Storm was something of a supporting role with a few good words here and there, now she is one of the film’s main characters. Her look has changed with shorter more striking hair, and has grown a lot in confidence becoming someone who stands out more. Her role though grows bigger as she takes over from the professor, and while her old side comes out when talking to Logan about Jean, and in turn gets possibly a bit too serious about it, she doesn’t let herself become that. Instead she grows to be a brilliant character, one of the series finest, one of the most caring, and enjoyable. Logan meanwhile seems to have gotten over his past and is instead dealing with the repercussions of Jean’s death. His character has gone rather quiet I think. He still has his moments where he is just himself, acting the way he does, but because he no longer has that baggage, it feels like he is just there. This is not necessarily bad though, because his amount of on-screen time, plus moments looking for Jean and command in the final battle more than make up for his lack of depth (his final scene with Jean is really good). Charles Xavier on the other hand is still bringing plenty of power and understanding, and comes out a little more this time as he confronts Logan and lets his personal side out regarding what he did to Jean. He is still there to guide and support the film, and does it well. His final moments with Jean provide one of the film’s most powerful moments. A moment, which like Jean’s death in X2 is felt hard by everyone, not just in the film, but those watching it too. It is a fantastic scene well worth watching, but you may feel rather sad afterwards, as one of the series best characters meets his unfortunate end. Jimmy also provides some nice insights into the Mutant world, but could have caused some controversy as he is kept in a white, one small window cell. His accommodation therefore could have caused more political struggle in the film. His scenes with Kitty during the final battle though provide a good situation to spice it up a little. Not forgetting other mutant appearances too like the confrontation between Logan and Marrow/Spike (Lance Gibson) at Magneto’s camp, a really good fight scene, plus the possible appearance of Deadpool (I have discovered that it’s actually Glob Herman), in a character (Clayton Dean Watmough) who keeps growing back his own limbs. Magneto meanwhile is just as sinister as he always has and while took a back seat as main antagonist in X2, he is back to lead the characters to war, becoming the central villainous archetype for this film. I do however think that due to this being something of a trilogy/series, there could have been possibly another villain. Not just Magneto or politics against mutants, but maybe something along the lines of Mister Sinister perhaps, as the genetic side of the film’s plot would greatly support his inclusion.

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The main new feature in the films cast though has to be Kelsey Grammer as Beast. Beast, much like Nightcrawler is an interesting character which due to his appearance carries a lot of character weight and understanding. While most mutants can simply blend into the background, a character such as Beast cannot. Beast however is not just some Monster; he is in fact a genius and a very well-spoken man. His position within the cabinet garners a lot of respect as well as potential animosity to others on it. He is though not afraid to speak his opinions and has a lot of understanding for both sides of the coin, and will not rush to make too big an opinion on a matter without thorough research. Alongside this though, he is still an animal, sort of like Jekyll and Hyde in one person instead of alter egos and proves himself as a worthy fighter, but like who he is inside, he is more of a diplomat than a fighter. To play such a role really does require an actor who can provide it, someone with a wealth of experience and cannot just look the part, but also voice it. Kelsey Grammer does this expertly and is one of the series best castings.

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The cast of characters isn’t without faults, and there are a lot of these. The Big one for me is the part of Warren Worthington III, also known as either Angel or Archangel (whichever you prefer). I really like this character; I have said many times over for several years that Angel is the most beautiful character in that he is the most simple. People dream of flight, and he does this through two angelic wings. On the surface he is such a pure, simple character to understand, and to begin with that’s all you need, there is no need for explanation as to what he can do. In Last Stand however there seems to be a generic lack of him. He is there from the start and is one of the instigators of the films (original) main plot. Without that beginning, we wouldn’t have the cure story. But if he’s there as an instigator, why isn’t he more of a central figure. He only has 6 scenes in the film, and only 3 of them involve vocals. It’s not like he is ignored either, as he continues to appear at moments which help cause decisions, but still, he is not a more major cast member, even though film posters and DVD’s would suggest otherwise. He is shown on the DVD covers, and I think the discs themselves. He is in posters for the film, and pictures of the film series up to this point, suggesting him being a central character. There’s even shots of him wearing an X-Men Leather Uniform, but not once in this film, does he wear one. Were they trying to make him a central character, but just couldn’t do it? Ok, the film is not as long as the previous 2, by about 30 minutes, in which there could have been more appearances for Angel if they had it going for longer, plus other characters too. I just find it a complete mystery. When I heard that he was going to be in this film, I was so happy. He appears in 2 of the best episodes of X-Men: Evolution, and has a place in the comics as a lead character, but despite this push and even showing things that don’t actually happen, he is still somehow here. I am not saying he should be removed from the film, more that, there should be more of him, and for good reasoning. He is a central emotional character which leads to the creation of the cure, and representation of his father’s (who is also played rather well) selfishness and possible disgust to mutants. The moment he is almost given the cure is one of the film’s best dramatic moments and is a fantastic scene. His earlier scene causing self-harm is also a brilliant short scene too. It’s just a shame that there’s not more of him.

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Magneto’s team of Mutants also have issues. No problem with Mystique. Mystique who produced such eye striking scenes in the first film, made a lot of sense in becoming the first victim of the cure, as that scene in itself shows the extent of what it does. However, Pyro is sort of held back until the end, Psylocke, who while having very few lines to speak, is held back and is far more interesting than the others in the group. Quill I find rather annoying as he is just there and doesn’t do much, the same going for Arclight, and Callisto is using someone else’s powers. Callisto is played brilliantly and character traits similar to those in the comics and other media are present including the animosity towards Storm plus attitude; she somehow though has the abilities of both Quicksilver and Caliban. Now while I don’t know all that much about Callisto, I can easily spot that one of Caliban’s abilities is there as well, like there was already too many mutants, no room for an extra one. Multiple Man is recruited, but only used once. Jean, while it is good to have her back, just seems unnecessary as her secondary main plot just slows down the film. She has her moments and the scene where she kills the professor and the one with Logan at the end are really good, it just feels like she is not carrying much of a part. The younger Jean scene though is really good but I think her final moment with Logan just felt like a way to prolong the film by another 4 minutes. It’s like they are trying to copy how they ended X2. The scene did not need to happen, the battle was enough, and it’s just there because it is. I will say however that the scene is done well, so while I find that it is un-needed, it is done well enough to be enjoyed. Why is Vinnie Jones in this film?! I like Juggernaut; an aggressive, angry, unstoppable character, his part in the series if done well, could be magnificent. Instead though we are given a character that is a wise cracking object, something that Juggernaut, in past experience isn’t. His costume looks rather ridiculous, and I think Vinnie Jones was only really cast for his size. Where is the aggression, the anger? Where is The Juggernaut? I will say though his scenes in the lab with Kitty are actually quite fun including his line when stuck in the ground.

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It’s not Just Magneto’s bunch either. While the President is played rather well, I feel like Trask is under used. A character that is supposedly named after the creator of the Sentinels and is played rather well too is like others, under used, he just isn’t there at moments when he could be. There’s no subplot either to suggest if he is going to create the sentinels or not. Then we come to Xavier’s School. Colossus, who has more of a part in this film than in X2, has less of a role. He is there to be another character and has at most, 2 lines if not just 1. It’s great to have him in the final battle and in the Danger Room scene, but it feels like he had more of a part in number 2, even if he was on-screen in two scene for less than 5 minutes overall. I am disappointed in Rogue’s part of this film. She starts in X1 as a sort of narrator, now she is just some romantic interest. She could have had more of a physical role and been a surprise appearance/hero during the final battle. It should be more that she learns to deal and live as herself than take the coward’s way out. She forms something of a romantic triangle between Bobby and Kitty. Rogue sees Kitty as a threat, and more likely goes to get the cure, just to secure Bobby for herself. Bobby does not see this though. Bobby does continue to produce good scenes and his character really develops into the Iceman of the comics, including Ice like skin. But he is mostly subjected into being this extra for a sub plot trying to become another main plot. Kitty finally gets an appearance in the series, and has some good scenes including the main battle and with Jimmy, but because of the sub plot is sort of under used. She is played fantastically by Ellen Page; it’s just this additional sub plot sort of holds the characters down. What should have been included is confrontations between Rogue and Kitty, possibly even Rogue watching Kitty and Bobby right next to the ice causing a confrontation. Rogue could have then struggled with her conscience before making a surprise appearance in the final battle, and then Kitty could have grown more towards Colossus as the end of the film approached. Something like that would have improved it greatly and would be a start as to where to direct the characters in later films.

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While there are several negatives, the film does have several positives. For one, it’s use of Special Effects. The film makes great use of big and small effects from the flying of Angel, the hot piercing of Callisto after being shocked by Storm, Mutant Powers, Set pieces, the suits and costumes, and many more. But the big one of course is the movement of the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember how amazed I was by that scene when I first saw it; it’s a scene which still provides that appeal. When the film first came out, it was one of the best pieces of Special Effects to date. While crisper effects have come about since, the scene is still superb and amazing to watch.

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Alongside the special effects, we also have yet another brilliant soundtrack (composed by John Powell). The film carries two main themes. One for the opening credits and the other which is used mostly for the end credits, but has its other moments. Last Stand’s opening credits, while not using the brilliant theme from X2, is nonetheless superb. The animation that goes with it is pulse pounding, exhilarating, and heart stopping stuff. I find myself watching the opening titles over and over again to listen to the soundtrack and watch the brilliant animation and video provided. More recently I have even begun to act like I am a conductor conducting the orchestra playing the piece; you can really get into it.

Other pieces of soundtrack range from the glorious sound of Angel flying through the air, Magneto moving the bridge, Charles’s funeral. Charles confrontation with Jean, as well as Logan’s, both of which are very powerful scenes and need a soundtrack to make them so. It’s a soundtrack that works. It provides a serious note as well as moments of wonder, plus moments of emotion and drama too. It is a soundtrack that really stands out, and while the film may be weak, the soundtrack definitely isn’t (and if you listen carefully sounds like the lyrics for that earthquake song hidden in the tune, or at least I think I can hear it).

X-Men: The Last Stand is an enjoyable film, no doubt about it. I like this film and some of the characters, scenes, SFX, soundtrack and some of its story. But it is a weak one. Out of the 7 films in the series, I would put this in 6th position. It just does not offer what the top 5 do that makes them stand out as really good films. Yes you have got a strong storyline in the Mutant Cure, but then you have 1 or 2 other plots which slow this down and make you forget about it. It’s like, at one point you are talking about the mutant cure, and then a second later you are going “what was I talking about?” The films cast I find are rather under used and in many cases are un-needed. You have other characters that have potential but are forgotten about. This film has a lot of potential, but is under used, and when trying to figure what it’s about, you can’t. The film though does provide enough to be worth watching. It’s a good fun film with plenty of things to enjoy and while it may be toned down in comparison to its 2 predecessors, it still provides those kinds of moments. Plus, it’s 10 times (if not more) better than what comes next.

GENEPOOL





A Brief Introduction To The X-Men Film Series

15 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox - 2006)

I don’t know if you saw my lacklustre, mediocre post on Tuesday (sorry about that, I was pretty tired when I wrote it), but in case you didn’t; all next week (Monday to Sunday) right here on this blog I will be posting the biggest writing project I have undertaken since finishing University. To cut a long story short, it’s an entire week of film reviews, one every day; and to keep it nicely wrapped up altogether it’s going to be all the (current films) in one particular series of films. Now while I could build up the excitement and tension to the eventual reveal, the title of my post pretty much tells you which film series I have decided to review: X-Men. So, before next week’s exciting series begins, I thought I would give you a (hopefully brief) introduction to the X-Men Film Series, along with other little bits of interesting information, but promise to try and not go too deep with explaining what happens in the films themselves, otherwise I have ended up wasting the last 4-5 months writing X-Men film reviews.

The X-Men film series is easily one of cinemas most recognisable film series with currently 7 films released over the last 15 years. Since the release of the first film in 2000, it has become a financial and critical success, and to this day is one of the 15 highest grossing film franchises/series to date having grossed more money than some of the cinemas more recognisable movie franchises including: Terminator, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Mission Impossible. It is also a series of great critical acclaim with 4 out of 7 films receiving fresh ratings of 81% and higher on Rotten Tomatoes. It is one of the longest running film series this century having not one restart, reboot or remake anywhere in it (unlike other series that come to mind: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Fantastic 4, Hulk, James Bond, Terminator and Star Trek), and has turned both growing stars and absolute nobodies into some of the cinemas best known and even household names. X-Men as a series and what it has achieved over the last 15 years is unlike any other in cinema today, and is set to continue with not 1 but 3 films due for release next year, (Deadpool, Gambit and X-Men: Apocalypse) along with a third solo outing for one of its biggest stars in 2017 (third Wolverine film) and even plans for 2 other potential films already underway.

X-Men Comics

The X-Men film series is of course based on the Marvel Comics and characters of the same name. The story of the X-Men follows a super hero team made up of a second caste of humanity known as mutants. While they look the same as Humans, Mutants come with special abilities and powers, and the X-Men are made up of some of these mutants. Life for the X-Men though is a tough one, because while they are a super hero team, fighting dangerous threats and saving humanity on a daily basis, humanity isn’t exactly fond of mutants, and sees them as a threat. From the get go, the X-Men have been a different kind of super-hero team, one that while saves the day like all other super heroes, they have to fight those they try to save, and fight for a future where mutants can be free from persecution. Leading them in this charge is Professor Charles Xavier who fights for a future where both humanity and mutants can live in peace together. A difficult thing to fight for, especially when there are other mutants out there who don’t think this kind of future is possible. In step Magneto, a mutant who can manipulate metal and an old friend of Charles Xavier. While remaining as something of a friend to Xavier here and there, Magneto believes only one species can survive and thus begins the battle between the two. As the series continues, new enemies and threats enter the fold with major villains like Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Onslaught to name but a few. However, Xavier does not have to face such threats alone and with his team of X-Men including (but not limited too) Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Iceman, Shadowcat, Beast, Rogue, Archangel and many more fight both old and new threats on a weekly basis. That’s basically the general idea.

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The comic series itself at one point (if not still to this day) was (or still is) America’s bestselling comic series. Created by the combined might of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the comic series originally started back in 1963, but back then was a commercial disaster and by 1970 the series was cancelled. In 1975 the series was resurrected with help from artist Dave Cockrum, Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas and writer Len Wein. No-one could have seen what would come next as the series became Marvel’s biggest hit. Since then the comic series has gone from strength to strength. During the early 90’s; the X-Men got their own cartoon series on the Fox Network which went on for 5 series between 1992 and 1997. This was then followed up with 2 more separate cartoons in the forms of X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men. The X-Men even got their own video games. While during all this the comics continued to evolve and the X-Men themselves got involved in some of the biggest stories in the Marvel Comics, including being the hosts of the epic ONSLAUGHT Saga, as well as having a war with the Avengers much more recently.

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In 1994, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to produce an X-Men film after seeing the success of the animated series. Spearheaded by producer Lauren Shuler Donner, the first film; simply called X-Men was released in 2000 by new up and coming director Bryan Singer. It starred well know actors like Patrick Stewart (who was struggling to find work at the time thanks to being on Star Trek for so long), Ian McKellen; growing stars like Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn and Halle Berry, and even hired an absolute nobody (but who is now a household name) to play the iconic role of Wolverine in Hugh Jackman……….the rest as they say is history. Over the course of the following 14 years, new actors would be appointed, following the previous formula of well-known stars (Kelsey Grammer, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon) as well as new growing stars (Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult) as well as people who were at the time relative unknowns but are now household names (Jennifer Lawrence). Along with them came new characters and stories famous within the comics, plus of course new villains. Origins stories were told, time travelled, new weapons and machines created, plus the never-ending fight for freedom from a world that hates them. The comics quite literally came to life and through its unique perspective and style of storytelling produced one of the most entertaining, emotional, powerful, dramatic and even realistic film series to date.

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The X-Men have come a long way since their first appearances on comic book shelves back in the 1960’s. There have been ups and downs along the way, successes, failures and have even branched out into other forms of media, from Cartoons to Video Games, to of course the big screen. Since making that big leap, it has become one of the highest achieving and most recognisable film series to date and with the series set to continue; the future for the X-Men looks Fantastic.

GENEPOOL (I hope you have enjoyed reading this and enjoy reading my reviews next week as much as I have enjoyed writing this and them too).








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