Everything They’ve Built Will Fall, And From The Ashes Of Their World; We’ll Build A Better One – X-Men: Apocalypse

21 12 2016

x-men: apocalypse (20th Century Fox - 2016)

“You have no idea who you’re messing with Xavier”; a line spoken by the Mutant Mesmero in the X-Men: Evolution episode; Mindbender. An insignificant line to those who may not have seen X-Men Evolution, but to me, it is a line that took me on a journey of discovery. It was the beginning of a story Arc involving the resurgence of a powerful Mutant Villain in the X-Men World. A villain, who since the first time I heard speak of his name, I would become besotted by, and looked for any and all opportunities to find out more about him. It’s been maybe 13+ years since I first came across his name, and I know so much; and upon learning of his upcoming movie debut, I could not wait and anticipated the arrival of this film and more importantly the movie debut of APOCALYPSE.

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Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, and directed by Bryan Singer; X-Men: Apocalypse is a super hero movie where the Uncanny X-Men attempt to save the world from an ancient Mutant who wishes to destroy Humanity. X-Men: Apocalypse is the direct sequel to Days of Future Past and stars the cast of the First Class series of X-Men Films, but which also looks to introduce new stories in the long-term and introduce and also reintroduce both old and new characters. At the same time it looks to introduce the arrival of the first major super villain for the series, and attempts to do this with the insertion of the first mutant; Apocalypse. The story is based on the X-Men comics Apocalypse Story Arc, as well as the X-Factor Story; Fall of the Mutants.

In Ancient Egypt, the Mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) rules the land with 4 followers dubbed his Four Horsemen. While performing a transferral ritual, he is entombed in his pyramid where falls into a deep sleep. In 1983, kid Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) discovers he is a mutant while at school, and his brother Alex (Lucas Till) takes him to Xavier’s School for mutants run by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). In Berlin, shape shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps rescue teleportation mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground fight club and takes him to Xavier’s school; where he meets Scott, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Meanwhile in Egypt, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) is on the lead of a mysterious organisation, who are searching for something underground, and there she comes across the remains of En Sabah Nur’s pyramid, which wakes him up, sending a vivid dream to Jean Grey who foresees the end of the World.

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Upon leaving his underground tomb; En Sabah Nur walks through the streets of Cairo, to discover that the world is under the rule of Humans. He finds street urchin Ororo Munroe (Alexander Shipp) who is a mutant capable of controlling the weather and recruits her into his team, enhancing her powers in the process. En Sabah Nur then goes on to hire mutants Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy), while still searching for a fourth. In Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), also known as Magneto, has found himself with a job at a steel factory, and lives with his wife Magda (Carolina Bartczak) and daughter Nina (T.J. McGibbon). One day at the factory, he rescues someone with the use of his powers, but this tips off the authorities. After an accident in an attempt to capture him results in the death of his family, Magneto kills the militia and then goes to kill the steel mill workers who tipped them off. When he arrives though he is found by En Sabah Nur who kills the steel workers, then takes Erik to Auschwitz where his powers were born. En Sabah Nur informs Erik that he cannot escape his past, and says that he was sorry for not being there when Erik needed him most, finally recruiting him and enhancing his powers.

Back at the school, Mystique wishes to talk to Charles, who has gone to see Moira McTaggart to talk to her about some of the research she has been conducting about the history surrounding a mysterious mutant called Nur. Upon returning to the mansion and talking to Mystique, Charles uses Cerebro to locate and talk to Erik, but En Sabah Nur uses this connection to tap into Charles’s mind, and use Xavier’s Telepathy to get into the minds of everyone around the world, and to launch the world’s entire arsenal of Nuclear Weapons. Alex helps destroy Cerebro to turn it off, but En Sabah Nur arrives at the mansion and kidnaps Charles. Alex tries to stop them, but accidentally causes an explosion that rips through the mansion killing him. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a super-fast mutant; shows up in time and manages to rescue everyone inside the mansion as the explosion tears through it. With the Mansion in pieces, a military helicopter arrives which disables most of the mutants unconscious. The men on board the helicopter led by Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) kidnap Moira, Mystique, Quicksilver and Hank. Before they leave however, Nightcrawler, Jean and Scott sneak on board the aircraft as it takes them to a mysterious base in the Canadian Mountains.

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In Cairo, En Sabah Nur informs Charles of his plans to destroy the world of Humans, and how he plans to possess Charles’s body with the same ritual as earlier. Charles broadcasts En Sabah Nur’s message to the world, while also sending a secret message to Jean. At the base in the Canadian mountains, Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler discover a savage mutant who has been experimented on (Hugh Jackman) and release him on the men in the base. Upon rescuing the others being held by Stryker; the team travel to Cairo where En Sabah Nur has rebuilt his pyramid; and while Magneto uses the world’s magnetic fields to destroy major cities, Nur’s other recruits attack the X-Men team. Nightcrawler is able to rescue Charles from the transferral just in time, but it has left him scarred. Quicksilver and Mystique attempt to convince Magneto to join them, as they’re his family too, and Charles uses his connection with Nur to get inside his head and attack him from there, but Nur is just too powerful. Even when Ororo and Magneto join the fight against him, they still struggle, until Jean releases the raw power of the Phoenix Force, which burns Nur to ashes. Back at the school, Magneto helps Jean to rebuild the school, Moira has her memories of Charles returned to her and Mystique with the help of Hank, trains the first X-Men team.

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I was very excited about the release of this film, so much so that I pretty much went to see it as soon as it came out. I was expecting and hoping for so much. I was watching the trailer over and over again, watching cartoon clips of Apocalypse’s Quotes, as well as clips of Apocalypse from the film saying that Amazing line. I was so excited and was hoping for so much. X-Men 2 has always been my favourite, but my hopes and dreams, especially after Days of Future Past, was that this film was going to be glorious and possibly better than X-Men 2. It was my final day of work where I was working at the time, and to sort of celebrate, as soon as I got back to Lancaster, I checked the VUE to see if it was on and if I could pre-order a ticket (just so I could go home, drop my bag off and get changed). When it was true that I could, I did just that and went to the cinema with great excitement.

Upon seeing the film, my overall opinion was: right….? One thing that I have always found with films in the X-Men series is that it’s always best to give them a couple of watches to really get down to the nub of them, and that’s why I have waited until I could see it again before I reviewed it. It’s just the case that in the past when I have seen them again a second time, I have understood them a bit more. In terms of Super Hero movies they are in a class of their own as they deal with more than just guys with powers, as the X-men have other issues to deal with especially that of Mutant Racism that is so entwined within who they are. I think the issue for me was that I finished work that day too; at a job I was enjoying and was hoping that a treat may create some closure, but instead, my head was conflicting as my hopes and dreams for Apocalypse lay dashed on the pavement. Upon seeing it again though with a clearer head, I am a lot more favorable for it.

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The film has its issues, and the issues are a few. It’s not that they are generally bad; they are just issues that it doesn’t help, and could have with more development or better execution. The major issue it has is that it has a lot to fill in. In the past the series has orientated itself by keeping the team strong but the cast relatively low. The X-Men are a team and it’s important that they remain like that, but the more effective team is better than the biggest, if you get my drift; they’re not an army. The issue here is that, we have one big villain that of course has his own minions to do his bidding, but in order for it to make sense, it needs to be made up of new but still popular characters, so we therefore have a team of five people vs another team, but this time made up with characters that were being reintroduced to the series, important characters that needed to be introduced sooner than later as they have not been seen for a while (except for clips in DoFP of course). With so many characters to introduce, not to mention other characters taking some spotlight, it was going to be hard to fit them all in the allotted time, so what did the film makers do: extend it, but then again it doesn’t really work! It introduces, and well I will say, characters like Nightcrawler, Scott and Jean Grey, plus allow some development time if not a lot. However, on the other hand Apocalypse’s team is hardly introduced at all. They are sort of sacrificed for the benefit of other characters, which is actually a big shame as some of his team are made up of X-Men Superstars who have been members of the comics longer than most.

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Due to this issue of extra time, the film commits some faux pas that only goes to confuse the viewer rather than enhance the film. It has characters to introduce and a lot to show; what it ends up doing is showing scenes (scenes that are very interesting I might add), making you want to see more, and basically changes scene to another perspective which is OK, but then does it again, and does not return to that original perspective for a while, say between 5 and 10 minutes. With that out of your head, you feel like you have walked in to a scene from a TV Drama completely unawares as to what is going on and with no way of finding out. It’s got all these really good bits, but doesn’t put them together close enough for them to really take you anywhere: if the gap was quicker or shorter, then it would probably be alright. You can actually see how long it feels in reality as you realize that even 47 minutes of the way through, it still feels like it’s the first act, and is still introducing people, and not creating an incidental moment that takes it to the next big thing (at least not until the end of the first hour). What does not help this further is Apocalypse’s plan to destroy several major cities at once. You just don’t feel it. You feel it when you’re there; the final battle takes place in Cairo which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re trying to show global devastation it would be better if you focused on one city then moved out. Put one city in peril, for the sake of everywhere else. The images of destroyed cities are very vivid and visionary, but because the scene is not there, it does not feel like anything. If the final battle was in say Washington, New York, maybe even Tokyo or London; these are big major cities of the world, but have the final battle there, and show the expanding devastation there, so those who go to see this film can at least connect more strongly and really feel for the destruction. I don’t like Part 1 and 2 films that are being done all the time right now, it’s a motive by the studio to make more money, not really for the film’s sake to have a stronger/better story, here however I can see an argument for a film that should have a Part 1 and 2. It’s trying so hard to cram so much into what is already a very long film, if it spread things out a bit more, and split into 2 films, then at least we could have a much better developed story and things could happen quicker and better.

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Much like said above, X-Men: Apocalypses cast can be in spots feel a little wasted. They really pushed the boat out with mutant characters and have featured an all-star cast of X-Men Comic mutants which include single appearances from mutants like Blob (Giant Gustav Claude Ouimet) and Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis) as well as small appearances from Apocalypse’s original Horsemen (Warren Scherer, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, Fraser Aitcheson), but it is rather sad that strong characters and re-introductions to this series like Angel and Psylocke are once again pretty much shoved to one side despite how much their images were used to promote the film. I am especially a big fan of Angel and was hoping his new role would be a strong one, much like Psylocke, but again it was very little and he pretty much died a quick death. Psylocke for what time she was given did provide some strong moments, and I would like to see more of her in the future. Like previous films in the series, some major guest actors were brought in to play big but still very short parts, but their inclusion does help ripen the roles of senior characters where required, with the use of such actors as Zeljko Ivanek. But these roles are meant to be one shot spots, whereas major villains or even hero characters should have more. For instance, I thought it was rather odd, that the filmmakers go some distance to include Jubilee in the story, but leave her appearances to the very minimal, especially to introduce her in such a well-developed fashion and not include her in the final battle of which the same could be said for Havok, who was a major introduction in First Class, but not really used beyond, despite how well he is played either way.

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The uses of other characters are just weird though; for instance: I genuinely believe that Hugh Jackman has no point of being in this film other than to make a small appearance. The whole scene in the Canadian mountains shows no real major point, except maybe to introduce the post credits scene, in which case, why not create a very different post credits scene? Everything is going well and Ok, then they just slam this scene in there for no real major story point. What is a real shame though I find is that the film’s major cast (who have since become major stars since their first appearances in this series), seem to be underused. They are there, and feature prominently, but given that Days of Future Past has shown what power they can give in these roles, it’s a shame that they aren’t used to perfection. Most of this could be as an after effect of the convoluted scene by scene irritation I mentioned above, and all the while they still provide goodish performances, it just feels like they have lost effect. James McAvoy for instance seems to have returned to a docile past and feels like he needed to get younger over a 10 year period. That welcoming friendliness is still there, but the power from the previous film has gone. Jennifer Lawrence (who I consider to be my favourite actress) seems to have lost passion as Mystique, she seems to talk more than do more, and does not really deliver any reason for being there, other than maybe for being Jennifer Lawrence. Nicholas Hoult just doesn’t swing it for me much in this film, and just appears to fade into the background mostly while at the same time minutely trying to provide the emotional instability between his character of Beast and Lawrence’s character of Raven/Mystique. I know these films take place 10 years apart from each other, but I didn’t know the actors not the characters had to age in between! As for Fassbender, while he is still very capable of getting very emotional which is a very good trait of his, I think it’s getting rather clichéd that he has to get low and emotional. Why couldn’t he be the big bad strong villain that he is supposed to be playing, only to be enslaved by Apocalypse rather than just join him. Why can’t Magneto just be Magneto? Rose Byrne has a waste of a performance. She was fantastic in First Class, but due to a lack of appearance in Days of Future Past, she is brought in here, and sort of reconciles with Charles really too quickly, not allowing their relationship to really blossom, and so for the most part serves as a double-edged joke and not as the inspired cast choice that she once was.

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It really comes down to the rest of the cast to sort of make up for the casting and performance mess; and some of them do more than any other. The X-Men are a team (already made this point), and as such the characters should have more of a part in the overall battle instead of leaving it to single players to do the job. Scott Summers for instance carries attitude, but not much of anything else to make his part worthwhile. After the death of Alex, he really should have more drive, but he sort of confidently hides in his shell. The same could be said for Nightcrawler who is just there to oppose Angel, and rescue Charles, but nothing much of anything else. And even though she is not part of the team, Storm is a major character in all X-Men related media, and just to be given a few speaking roles and some small appearances, it just again feels like a waste. Quicksilver does get another appearance and a much bigger one plus uses the knowledge of Magneto being his father to increase his position within the film. His rescue of the people in the mansion plus his fight with Apocalypse are two very good and well done scenes and really help to get the final half of the film going. The film’s cast though really does come down to two amazing actors delivering Fantastic Performances. I had never heard of Oscar Isaac when I first heard he had been put in this role, but I absolutely loved his performance. On the one hand I do think Apocalypse was too well held down to begin with and was very much just used to provide philosophy and theory, we didn’t get much of a chance to see his powers until the Nuke Scene and of course the final battle. I was a bit disappointed that his comic book essence, his true powers were not really put on show, but they were minor in reference. However, much like Apocalypse in Comics and Cartoons, his performance, his voice, his presence, were powerful. They were really good scenes, and ones I could both look forward too and much enjoyed. While he did take time to be seen, he was still the main villain and presented as such. I really feel like he should make a future appearance again, a villain like that does not die-hard, but I hope that if it were to be done that Isaac be brought back to play him again and that he is more like his-self in the comics, rather than filmmaker philosophy, but here and now, still well done, and also has the best quote of not just the film, but of any film released this year.

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But for me, there was one person who was better than all the rest. From start to finish her role was pretty mysterious, but the performance provided was unlike any other in the whole film and for her to become the real hero, it was wonderful to see. I absolutely loved Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, she was just epic, and for hours and days after seeing the film, I could still see Sophie Turner whenever I thought of this film. A perfect casting in my opinion that is one I definitely want to see more of in the future (please be cast again in the future).

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The film like its previous series entries does feature a bewildering level of Special Effects, which help to not only show special powers, but also help create scenes and scenarios that cannot be made but are asked of. Some of these sections I feel could have helped in other sections where they may have helped either sped up or at least not slow down the pace of the film. The destruction of cities is very visionary, and the film works hard to create its more iconic big effects like Quicksilver’s running scenes, to destruction on a large scale, to even launching the entire world’s Nuclear Arsenal. But as I have always found, no matter how great the effect is, the soundtrack always delivers more. The soundtrack (composed by John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill) once again features that incredible X-Men opening theme and titles, but does not hold itself down to just that, as it creates some amazing pieces for some of the film’s more outstanding moments, moments such as the launch of Nuclear Missiles (which is played to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7), Ancient Egypt, Quicksilver’s Mansion Run (Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics), and of course the final battle with Apocalypse, especially the rise of the Phoenix. These two things while considered maybe separate never fail to impress or provide great moments for the series, always delivering, always enjoyable, and always powerful.

I wouldn’t consider X-Men: Apocalypse to be a disappointment, nor a bad film (it’s better than at least 2 X-Men films I can think of). It’s more like an unpolished attempt leaning on the edge of greatness. Even with its issues, it has its scenes and moments; although while largely separated for long periods of time, these scenes still deliver really fun enjoyable and powerful moments that give you a good surge of pleasure. The characters may be hit and miss and mostly underused; doesn’t mean that they still can’t bring the pain; they just need to get out of their personal pain to begin with. Apocalypse might not be the same as he usually is, but he still makes a great villain and his introduction let’s open the gates for other major super villains such as, oh I don’t know, Mr. Sinister perhaps? What I would class this film as, is a good attempt. It’s something that throughout is working ok, but never gives the final push it needs to truly breakout and be what it really can be. I had high hopes, and while it did provide hours of real enjoyment, it just wasn’t enough to truly be. Maybe it’s just that I am a fan of X-Men: a fan of the comics, cartoons, (nearly) all the films, maybe that is why it did not fully work for me? Maybe, but even still, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse to a large degree.

GENEPOOL





Sometimes We All Need A Little Help – X-Men: Days Of Future Past

25 10 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox - 2014)

The subject of time travel in the movies is a difficult one to work around. Due to the level of Sci-fi fans out there, if you get it wrong, you’re doomed. The issue with time travel though for the most part is changing the future, a subject that has been used time and again. But what if changing the future for the better was possible; what if you could change the lives of many by one quick trip into the past; would you do it?

Released in 2014 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed by a returning Bryan Singer; X-Men: Days of Future Past (or DoFP if you want) is the seventh and most recent film in the X-Men film series. Based on the Days of Future Past storyline from the early 80’s; the film sees the return of both the main cast from X-Men: First Class as well as the cast from the original trilogy, as both have to work together in separate timelines in an effort to change the world from its current grim reality.

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In the future, the world the X-Men inhabit is a broken world. Giant robots called Sentinels patrol seeking, capturing and eliminating mutants and anyone else who dares help them. A band of mutants including Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Bingbing Fan) and Sunspot (Adan Canto) continually evade capture from the Sentinels thanks to Kitty’s ability to send someone’s mind back in time a few days and warn them about the upcoming attack. The group eventually gets in contact with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) at a monastery in China. Xavier tells them how the world came to be this way; that it was through Mystique who tried to bring mutant rights forward by killing Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask. She is however captured, and Trask’s death causes public outcry for a response to the mutant threat. Xavier and Magneto have a plan to send someone back in time, and try to warn the past about what is to come in the hope of changing it. The only one able though to make the trip is Logan, who has his mind sent back to his younger self in 1973. During this period, Trask (Peter Dinklage) has already started to try and get support for his Sentinel Program, but is constantly refused. In Vietnam; Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps some mutants escape from being tested on.

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Logan heads for the X-Mansion where he meets young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) who tries to make Logan go away. Eventually, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) appears. The school has been closed for a number of years after the students and teachers were drafted into the Vietnam War. Charles, having lost his legs, his pupils and Raven in the previous film is a broken man. He is able to walk thanks to a serum provided by hank, but his powers are sacrificed. Xavier just wants to be left alone, but Logan tells Xavier and Hank about the future and persuades them to help him change it. He also says they need Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), who is being kept in The Pentagon basement. With the help of mutant Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters), are able to break Magneto out of his Plastic Prison. The atmosphere between Erik and Charles though is less than happy. In Paris, at the Vietnam War peace talks, Trask tries to get the support he needs for his Sentinel Program only to discover Mystique is masquerading as a Vietnamese General. The group of Logan, Hank, Charles and Erik arrive just in time, but things go awry as Logan sees the younger self of Stryker (Josh Helman), Magneto tries to kill Mystique and in the process both along with Hank are revealed to the world on TV. With the world now horrified as to their existence, Trask manages to get President Richard Nixon’s (Mark Camacho) approval for his Sentinel Program for a public demonstration. Erik meanwhile regains his helmet and manages to lace the plastic sentinels with metal. Back at the mansion, Xavier is persuaded by Logan to try using his powers to find Mystique. Initially he is unsuccessful, but then he reads Logan’s mind. He sees and meets himself in the future who tells his younger self, that what they need him to do; is to hope again.

Charles manages to locate Mystique who is on her way to Washington to kill Trask. He tries to convince her not to assassinate Trask, but she refuses. In the future meanwhile, the Sentinels finally find the remainder of the X-Men and go on the attack. In the past at the White House, Nixon unveils the Sentinels while Logan, Charles and Hank try to find Mystique. Erik however has taken control of the Sentinels, uses them to attack the event goers and using a whole stadium he has lifted off the ground, sets up a perimeter to make sure he is not disturbed. In the future, one by one the X-Men begin to fall to the superiority of the Sentinels abilities. In the past, Hank and Logan try to attack Erik, but he uses a sentinel to attack Hank, and manages to throw Logan into the river. After lifting the secure safe room the President and Trask are in, Erik puts on a show trying to announce a future where Mutants are no longer hiding in shame. Mystique however manages to subdue him, and prepares to kill just Trask. Charles makes himself appear in her mind and tries to convince her of a better path; saying “everything that happens now is in your hands. I have faith in you, Raven.” This works on Mystique, and she drops her weapon. In the future, things change instantly. Logan returns to the future, unknowing what has happened other than the future he came from. He wakes up to find himself in Xavier’s School, where everyone who had died from the future he experienced, are alive and well. He walks around seeing a grown up Hank (Kelsey Grammer), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman, Colossus, Storm and Kitty. Not just them though, others who were dead, are now alive too. He meets up with Xavier, who realizes that Logan is finally back helps Logan fill in the pieces of where things left off after he drowned in the river.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past is a very powerful film. It has of course lots of action, fights and what we have come to expect from Superhero films in general, however, it’s also a very emotionally driven film. Many times have I watched this and during specific scenes have felt something deep down and emotionally driven than I have felt in any other super hero film. The film returns to the state of what the first X-Men film was like, but shows: A dystopian vision of the future and how mutants were first revealed to the public light. But on top of that though, this film sort of concludes the story line that started from X-Men 1 too. In that film, Mutants are oppressed by humanity and are fighting for their rights of existence, and then here a future is created that for now better supports mutants in a way they were hoping for. Days of Future Past also deals with themes such as independence not just in the global form, but inside the personal one too, as well as the subject of Hope. The degree of passion in this film from its characters as to what they feel plus see is remarkably strong, and more detail is added with the references to previous mutants, and what has become of them. It’s a nice little story that just keeps plodding along at a nice pace but is not intermixed with minor points. In my opinion, it’s not really a sequel to First Class, but a sequel to both that and Last Stand also. The characters from the original trilogy are a nice addition and means that there is plenty for fans of both trilogies’ to get involved with. Much like recent films in the series, DoFP tries really hard to include more from the comics and expand its own little universe. The way it does this more than most in this film is through setting the story in the Days of Future Past storyline showing the gravity of the situation in the future, from enslavement to suppression of both Humans and Mutants, to of course introducing the Sentinels.

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The Sentinels themselves have been a mainstay of the X-Men franchise through both the comics and cartoons. Their introduction in here is brilliantly done and whose design matches both the sentinels of the past, to their design of the future. Their unstoppable nature is also well presented through how merciless they are plus how cold their killing nature is.

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DoFP has a great cast of characters. While in some places the number of new and old goes near over the top, everyone has a part to play and produces some really memorable characters. From the characters in the future we have old favourites like Iceman, Kitty, Colossus, Storm, Xavier and Magneto; all played as well as they were in the original series. For me though, I think it’s a real shame Rogue doesn’t have much of a part. A central character throughout the original series whose appearances in Last Stand were a bit dwindling, I would have preferred it if she had more a role. While there is the recent Rogue Cut, I probably won’t be buying it. Despite this though, it is just splendid to see these characters played by these actors once again. It’s been a long time coming and I hope they get to return again soon, possibly for a much bigger film.

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As the rest of the future cast go, I like how Bishop is in it. I have been a fan of Bishop for a while now; and even though his Hand Guns aren’t on show, it’s just nice to have him featured. Other characters like Warpath and Blink are a nice little addition too, although I think Sunspot isn’t given as much appearance time. Quicksilver meanwhile is a fun little extra providing some moments of hilarity but also allowing the film to create one amazing set piece. Much like First Class, DoFP features a stellar cast of extras playing significant minor roles. The one standing out for me most though is Mark Camacho as Richard Nixon. I love this portrayal of Nixon. While he does look and sound more like the Futurama head in a jar Nixon than a real picture of Nixon, I like how well he is portrayed. This is all set before Watergate and shows Nixon at a time when he was in power. While he does appear to be dodgy in talking with Trask, he comes to be a good guy in the end closing down the sentinel program after Mystique lowers her weapon. Whatever you think of Richard Nixon, in this film he is brilliant. Alongside Nixon of course is Peter Dinklage as Trask. In what I see as an interesting cast choice for the role of Trask, Dinklage delivers a superbly sinister, villainous role while trying to maintain a level of professionalism too. His short stature also enables him to have some moments of quick scorning wit from other characters too but for the most part is thanks to his style of talking, persuasion and manipulation, coupled with his experimentation on mutants that makes him the central villain of this film. He is not necessarily a dastardly villain with a maniacal laugh, no; he is just a more intelligent one.

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I feel like Magneto is not as good as he was in First Class. In First Class (to me) he was the most important and best character. He had a great build up and some terrific moments, but in this he feels like a much more minor role in comparison. He does have his moments, but I just don’t feel as drawn to him as I did in First Class. In that he was a growing villain, in this he tries to play something of a prophet, particularly during that speech, but it just does not work for me. Other moments like his Pentagon scene with the silver balls, to nearly crashing the plane are really good moments, but they’re just let a bit down. Hank meanwhile has a much larger role I think, but like Magneto doesn’t really stand out for me. It feels like a disappointment. His moments as a tech wizard are cool, but he is missing something, possibly connected with his relationship with Mystique. Hugh Jackman on the other hand is rather good. Now his seventh appearance in the series that made him a star, this time though his role is much, much bigger as he has to change history. He like the series has changed a lot and is now having to be what Xavier was to him in the first 3 films, to a younger Xavier. He is a focal narrative point throughout this film and is constantly having to remain patient instead of lashing out, like he used to.

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It’s Mystique and Charles though whom this film is really about. Both characters complement each other through this film and it’s only through their moments that things change and improve for everyone else. Charles has lost everything, a broken down, depressed man who is finding it hard to simply move on. He is able to pick himself up enough to help, but he needs curing. Mystique meanwhile has become someone pursuing a vendetta, going out to try and save all the mutants who have been persecuted and experimented on by Trask; basically going along similar lines to what Erik did in First Class. Charles though becomes the instigator of both their pain. Reading Logan’s mind, talking to himself in the future, a student asking a guide – my favourite moment of this film. The struggle, passion and pain from Charles to his older self, and what the older, much wiser Xavier has to say. However, Charles is not yet fully healed, he now just needs to move on. He still holds on to the possibility of Mystique coming home, but then discovers what he really needs to do. He gives Mystique her freedom, and this changes her. Mystique supposedly still trying to move on from Charles herself, his control of her, now realising she is free of that, she listens to him. Both the above mentioned Hope scene and the scene between the two at the White House are the two most powerful moments in Days of Future Past and make these two Amazing characters stand out more than everyone else. I love both these scenes and the actors/characters that make them so.

Days of Future Past is in no way toned down in the amount of Special Effects it has. From the mutant powers of its characters, to bold set pieces to some of the biggest uses of Special Effects seen to date. The Sentinels are of course the main use of Special Effects in this film and good detailed care has been taken to make them look outstanding but also rather realistic. From the Jet fans inside their bodies to the weapons. Then to their future stream lined look where they look less robotic, to a more alien lifeform appearance. Then there is their control of superpowers used by the X-Men and how they use this to their advantage. All of them amazing effects. Set pieces are in form too with Quicksilver’s kitchen scene standing out more than most, but also little additional ones like Magneto and his tour of the Pentagon, and Prison cell. One effect for me though stands out more than most. To say that the other films are toned down in large uses of Special Effects would an understatement. I mean, who can remember the Golden Gate Bridge being repositioned, or the sub lifted out of the ocean, or even the Silver Samurai. In this though, they produce one incredible piece of movement, that in the lifting of an entire Stadium. A little destruction and crumbling can be spotted, but it’s not until the Stadium is seen flying through the air, like one of the Spaceships from Independence Day or Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.. It’s an amazing shot, terrifying and awe-inspiring. It may only be brief, but just seeing that is something else. Just this large thing approaching before it drops around the Whitehouse.

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DoFP’s soundtrack is Fantastic. It is a well composed (by John Ottman), brilliantly arranged soundtrack consisting of different styles, sounds and themes. The future is a dark, inconceivable place that has an end in sight. But a fight still rages on. The future is therefore a scene of many battlegrounds, and as fights rage on, the soundtrack compliments the situation. Scenes like the opening fight, the final fight and the moments ticking by as the mutants fate nearly comes. The arrival of the Sentinels is a piece I rather like. One that has this nice smooth drumbeat that starts off rather calm, but sadly I feel like should continue a little bit more. But as the severity of the situation rises, so does the tension in the soundtrack. And then as the first X-Man dies, a more sorrow note comes in, showing what that death means plus how easy it has come in the future. Many of these tunes are shared in the past timeline too and include the White House Attack at the end.

In the past though, everything is not so bleak, and so several pieces come to light including music from the time (such as The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce), plus much more cheery tunes. Although many of these change to the serious notes again and music is brought back to compliment them, as well as scenes of high levels of emotion, including the scene between Charles and Charles, and Charles and Mystique. Some of the music from the past though is rather memorable; including a French Song (Stop au nom de l’amour by Claude François) played the night before the peace talks. It strikes out as the scene changes and just grabs the audience’s attention and the scene. Plus it’s rather catchy as a tune and chorus go. The best bit of the theme though, is something I have been wanting and hoping for a return of since X-Men 2. That is the main theme (see top of the post for opening credits……….I put it there thinking it would be a great way to start the post). While it’s a little altered in sound, the tune is exact. I have always thought that the theme from X2 should be used throughout the series as the series theme. Possibly being for the return of John Ottman and Bryan Singer is why this tune has returned. When I went to the cinema to see it, and I heard that track, the tingles drove up my back as I couldn’t believe it. It is a fantastic piece of music and by far my favourite bit of the soundtrack (and top moments of the entire film).

Altogether, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a Fantastic Film. While I do not rate it as highly as others in the series, I absolutely adore it. I love it for its story, characters, themes, soundtrack, effects, all those things, but also for the power it gives off. It provides some highly charged emotional scenes that show more character than most other superhero films do and create such amazing moments between characters that your heart-strings will be plucked and tugged. While it does have its side issues, these are all pretty minor and together create not just one of the strongest films in the series, but one of the absolute best comic book/super hero films to date.

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





We Are The Future Charles, Not Them – X-Men

19 10 2015

X-Men (20th Century Fox - 2000)

Life as a super hero must be great; the ability to do abnormal, inhuman things, wield extraordinary powers and help out others. All the admiration of those you help and save. Your own super hero suit, a wicked super hero name; the list just continues to get better and better……….doesn’t it? Well, what if, instead of being like most super heroes, (in that you gain your powers through an event), you are instead born with them? Will you still be considered a super hero and loved by all……….or will you be discriminated for who you really are?

Released in 2000 by 20th Century Fox, X-Men is the first big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics‘ successful and much-loved Super Hero team of the same name. Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed by Bryan Singer, the film follows the X-Men as they go to battle against long-time foe Magneto while also fighting for their own freedom.

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In 1944, at a German prison camp in Poland, young teenager Erik Lensher gets separated from his parents, causing him to mysteriously bend some metal gates before being knocked out. Many decades later a girl called Marie accidently causes harm to a boy when they kiss. At a political and public hearing, Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is trying to persuade his idea for a mutant registration act, which will cause mutants to publicly reveal their powers. At the event, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) meets his old friend, a now grown up Erik Lensher who is now better known as Magneto (Ian McKellen). They discuss their views on the subject, but Erik won’t waver from his view that neither species can live together peacefully. Meanwhile in Alaska, Marie, now going by the name Rogue (Anna Paquin) arrives at a bar in Alberta Canada. There she meets Logan (Hugh Jackman) who fends off two guys with sharp metal claws protruding from his hands. Rogue tries to hitch a lift with him, who at first refuses but quickly changes his mind. While in his vehicle, Rogue and Logan begin talking, with Rogue spotting the name Wolverine written on his dog tags. His vehicle crashes into a felled tree, but Logan recovers from his wounds almost instantaneously. They are then attacked however by a ferocious mutant called Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) before being rescued by two mysterious people in black leather.

Logan wakes up in an underground medical centre being overlooked by Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). He darts out of the centre but keeps hearing voices telling him where to go. He makes his way into a posh looking house and sees lots of children running around and tries to hide in a small room, only to walk into a class room where he is met by Professor Xavier. He is then met by mutants Ororo; also called Storm (Halle Berry) and Scott Summers; also called Cyclops (James Marsden) followed by Jean Grey. He asks about Rogue, to which Xavier says she is safe, and that the mutant who attacked them is an associate of Magneto. Logan does not believe a word of what he is hearing, but then Xavier probes his past, revealing he is a psychic. Logan is taken on a tour of the grounds, which happens to be a school for mutants, but on the lower levels is the secret base for the super hero team called the X-Men. Magneto meanwhile kidnaps Senator Kelly and experiments on him with a bizarre machine. While in a prison cell sometime later, Senator Kelly discovers he has a mutant ability all of a sudden, and uses it to escape.

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Back at the school, Rogue gets involved in an accident when Logan accidently stabs her with his claws. Rogue uses her powers to borrow his healing power to heal her. She is later confronted by class mate Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) who tells her that it might be an idea to leave. He is however not who he appears to be, rather an impersonation by Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). Xavier uses his machine Cerebro to locate Rogue who is running away. Logan finds and convinces her to give Xavier one more chance. In the train Station though, while trying to find Rogue, Cyclops and Storm are attacked by Sabretooth and Toad (Ray Park). Magneto boards the train, subdues Logan and injects Rogue to knock her out, kidnapping her. Outside the train station, Magneto is met by the police, but he snatches their guns off and threatens them. Using his psychic powers, Xavier takes control of Toad and Sabretooth to try and end things peacefully, but gives in. Logan is furious and heads out again to look for Rogue, but runs into Senator Kelly who is at the front door of Xavier’s school. Reading his mind, Xavier discovers that Kelly was experimented on by Magneto using a machine that accelerates mutation, therefore turning Kelly into a Mutant. The experiment however nearly kills Magneto, meaning that he hopes to use Rogue to power it instead, Kelly then dies from the mutation. Xavier tries to find Rogue once more, but falls ill when the machine seemingly fails. With Xavier out of action, Jean discovers that Cerebro was sabotaged by Mystique. Despite not being strong enough to use it herself, Jean uses Cerebro to find Rogue and discover Magneto’s plan.

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Magneto plans to use the machine at a meeting of the world’s leaders, turning them all into Mutants. The team of Jean, Cyclops and Storm, along with Wolverine head out to New York and the Statue of Liberty, where Magneto has placed his machine. The X-Men are attacked by Toad and Mystique in the museum, with Storm dealing with Toad and Mystique by Wolverine. They are then captured by Magneto who places them in positions that prevent them from using their powers. Wolverine manages to escape and with help dispatches Sabretooth; too late however, Magneto starts up his machine. The energy created nearly succeeds in reaching the world’s leaders on Ellis Island, but Wolverine manages to break the machine and rescue Rogue, who is motionless. Wolverine hugs her, hoping she is alive enough to take his power to heal her. At first there is nothing, but then Wolverine’s old injuries resurface as Rogue reawakens. Back at the mansion, Xavier recovers to find Logan unconscious on a medical bed, soon recovering and stating his love for Jean, even though she is with Scott. Xavier reveals the location of a dam in Canada that could lead to answers for Logan, who then prepares to leave. He is stopped by Rogue who says she does not want him to go; he gives her his dog tags saying he will be back for them. At an unknown location, Xavier goes to visit Magneto, who is residing in a Plastic Prison, where they play a game of chess. Magneto states that despite what happened, the war between humans and mutants is still coming, but Xavier tells him that he will always be there.

X-Men is a film of several themes. On the one hand it is a film of good versus evil, on the other it is a film about freedom in a world of persecution which stems from how or where you were born. The film accomplishes these themes through its narratives, of which there are many, but not one of them hinders the other, particularly that of the films main plot. Such narratives include that of Rogue trying to find a new home, Wolverine trying to find answers as to who he is. Then of course you have the narrative of Magneto trying to prevent anymore persecution to his mutant brethren by turning humans into mutants. While the films main plot is that of the X-Men versus the evil schemes of Magneto, you then have this other narrative laced in-between everything else. The narrative and theme of persecution aimed at Mutant kind which brings into it a secondary villain. On the whole it is the rest of humanity, while technically it comes down to the actions of just one man. This theme of persecution as told through the character of Senator Kelly helps to support the main goals of X-Men’s primary villain; Magneto. It was going to be a hard thing to contain, that of a secondary hindering plot, but one that has successfully been incorporated into the film and supports the weight and views of the other characters. All in all it gives the film’s plot an extra level of detail and emotion characteristic to the films primary characters. It is from this extra plot point that helps the films characters to become far more believable and connectable to that of the films audience, as it is a real circumstance to many people today.

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The films cast have been nicely kept down to a small group. While the films later on expand to incorporate more characters, as an introduction to the characters and the ideas the films is trying to present, a small cast means there is more space for moments and narrative, as well as opportunity to get to know these characters a lot more now. The film though does like to tease fans of the comics (like me) with fleeting appearances of other characters including Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee and Pyro. One other inclusion is that of Iceman; Bobby Drake played by Shawn Ashmore. He is presented as a friend to Rogue to get her to open up at school as well as keep her momentum going in those early stages up to the point where she gets kidnapped. He gets more time though than the others. While he can’t necessarily be considered a fleeting character, he is not exactly primary. His introduction into the series however, helps him fit right in as a more primary character come X-Men 2. Then we come to Magneto’s aides. Toad is a rather enjoyable character, more so when he speaks as he produces some of the films’s best one liners. Other than that he is just a rather cool character. His fighting scenes as well as disgusting toad like moments make him something quite unique as a character, and sadly is his only real appearance in the series to date (it’s also nice to see the return of Darth Maul). Next up there is Tyler Mane playing Sabretooth. Tyler Mane is a fabulous choice for this role as it is a physical performance more than a speaking performance, but, he is given some rather good verbal scenes and is not told to keep his voice down at all during the film. As the verbal part goes, it’s more in the form of threatening language than anything else, and given by his name sake his growling shots are superb. Then you have Mystique. A lot of great effort has gone into providing a striking look for Mystique. She is one of the more shocking characters in the film, and the full naked blue body provides this shock more than just having her in clothing with a bit of blue. Her moments of transformation are superb and she even comes with her own surreal theme music to accompany her presence and transformation. But it’s not just a visual role, it is an action and verbal role, one that Romijn provides excellently. Her style of speaking as well as her fighting style is as surreal as she looks and provides an extra bit of spice.

While he is not an associate of Magneto, he might as well be, Senator Kelly is the first real antagonist of the film, but is the films secondary villain in actuality. As the man responsible for wanting a mutant registration act in the first place, he presents himself as something of a standout politician in the way he talks. He is in no way pleasant or redeeming, but he strikes a chord with the human side of the film and talks in the manner of a politician to get them on his side. But, unlike other politicians, he is not doing it for power, or legacy, but because he actually believes in the cause of mutant suppression. While it is unknown whether or not he sees his motivations that could lead to persecution of mutants, his way of going about it is through a sense of passion and belief in his own cause. And even when it comes to the point of him becoming a mutant, he still does not see the mutant’s plight, but does hear another side to it. He is not necessarily a mastermind, nor is he really a horrible person (even though he is played rightly so, and brilliantly too, a great secondary villain), but instead represents the side of the human psyche that quickly leads to the persecution of others. In turn this brings us onto Magneto. Magneto has a very brief, but quite sombre backstory. Being a young boy in Hitler’s Jewish Prison Camps, being separated from his parents is quite a hard thing for him to go through; this level of emotion reveals his powers to him. Many decades later, he is now an incredibly powerful mutant, but from going through the experiences of the prison camps he does not want mutant kind to go through the same experience and persecution as he did. The mutant registration act in turn gives him enough reasoning to go into action. While his plot to turn humans into mutants is still an evil plot, the reasoning behind his actions proves that he himself has a very good reason to go through with it. It makes him a more interesting villain than him just being evil for the sake of needing a villain, and someone who is also rather understandable and relatable to (plus it’s nice to watch Ian McKellan play something of a more sinister role).

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After that you have the X-Men team. While the film has kept numbers down, I feel like some members of the team could have had more of a part. Cyclops for instance is secondary to Jean and something of an obstacle/hindrance to Wolverine. He is quiet at best and is something more of muscle or maybe a tank to the group in that he does not talk all that much except in the field. He is the team’s leader and has his moments, especially near the film’s end, but I do feel like he has been held back to be something of a less primary character. Storm Meanwhile I felt could definitely have more. She is a supporter to those around her, but when she talks, she really does not keep down. Her confrontation with Wolverine in the mid-point of the film carries a lot of power in it and helps to grow her character. She is very caring to those around her, and everyone else too and you can see her being something of a counsellor to the school, a voice of reason. But for a primary character, I feel like she is held back a bit and could have more air time, especially in a speaking manner. Standing out that little more is Jean Grey. She is a hard person to figure out. She is something of a love interest to two primary characters while also being something of a peace maker. It is hard though to really pin her down as to who she is. She is nervous in herself of what she can do but not in what she doesn’t think she can do either. She is played fabulously and enjoyably well by Famke Janssen and gives the film an extra character to enjoy as well as an additional mystery, but then again who is she, I still don’t understand as to her real place in this film.

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Charles Xavier is a brilliant character. He is something of a friend to those he knows and to the audience too. He is neither horrible nor unpleasant, but genuinely a nice person and one you would want as a friend. He is understandable to people’s plight, but his history is a mystery. He is almost the exact opposite to Magneto in beliefs. Whereas Magneto believes that Mutants are the future, Charles believes in a future where they can live in peace with Humans. While they may not share the same beliefs and disagree on approaches, there is no real animosity between the two and still consider each other as friends. Aside from this though, the way Xavier is played (brilliantly) and portrayed, through his understanding of situations and people, to his genuine want to help people makes him more human than superhero like. Someone who talks to the audience, and that’s what makes him rather enjoyable, because like mutants, he too is different and it’s like he is talking to the audience too, not just his students.

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Then finally we come to the film’s main characters; the storytellers of the film if you like. Both telling a similar story, but it’s through their interactions that the film’s plot is driven. Rogue is a vulnerable character, one that has a lot of feelings towards others but feels like she can’t have anything, because when she touches someone, bad things happen that nearly kill them. Through this vulnerability, she finds a friend, someone who does understand what it’s like and who is going through the same emotions: loneliness, solitude, fear. In Logan, you have a character that is equally vulnerable who is not afraid to get violent. His past is a complete mystery to himself and he could either be running away from something, looking for something, or possibly even both. While he is a loner, he has real care for Rogue and sees her as a friend, and someone who needs him, giving him a sense of purpose in a confused life. To this end, Rogue feels appreciated and wanted and takes a liking to Logan rather quickly. Their ending scene shows this as he is unsure about leaving, while she does not want him to go altogether, but he gives a promise saying he will come back. I do like these characters a lot. They are story tellers and give the insight to the lonely side of being a mutant, and they both help each other through that. I enjoy these two characters a lot, watching them, learning from them and experiencing what they are going through. They are more than anyone else the real stand out characters in this film.

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The film puts to use a great deal of high-end special effects, even though the use of them are relatively minor. These special effect uses are mainly used to create the right effect in presenting the powers and abilities of the mutant characters. These effects have not aged either and are still brilliant to look at. Some effects of note include Rogues ability, Wolverine’s claws, Cyclops’s eye beams, Storms eyes, and Cerebro. Some of the effects take more of an upfront position when it is needed to shock or amaze. Things like Mystique transforming and Magneto’s Mutant making machine. The film though doesn’t totally rely on the use of special effects to make the film work, as quite a lot of it is set pieces. The set for Cerebro, the mansion, the jet, the underground facilities and Magneto’s HQ are nicely produced and wonderfully shot. The fight sequences are well done too and don’t just completely rely on use of powers. One thing that I do want to take a much closer look at though is the costumes.

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Costume design is not necessarily something I would often mention or talk about, but with this film I feel it is an outstanding and important point of mention. If you were to look at the super hero costumes in either the cartoons or more likely the comics, it’s hard to not spot how flamboyant and outstanding they are. Wolverine for example wearing a yellow spandex configuration with a hood that hooks on the nose. The use of such a costume is joked by Cyclops (“Well, what would you prefer, yellow spandex?”) before the big battle as both a reference to the comics, but also to make the serious note, that it probably wouldn’t work in the real world. The film could have kept this detail in there, but when compared to how it was produced, such a design in costume would have made it look rather silly, especially as the film’s rating is that of an older audience, not necessarily child based. Instead they went with something that was a little more adult and professional in nature, and not at all cartoony. The black leather does work a lot as it is not silly but more serious and doesn’t turn people off. The costumes do come with added characterization such as having different colours in trim for each character, such as the X across Wolverine’s, the green lines of trim on Jean’s (though in the sequels this would be changed to red) and even a cape for Storm. The leather costumes aren’t the only pieces in costumes of note. Magneto’s team have their own style; that of more casual attire, best seen from the character of Toad, with a hint of older more professionalism from Magneto wearing a much older garment.

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The soundtrack for X-Men (composed by Michael Kamen) is something I find hard to think, or even talk about. It works, it’s good and I like it, particularly the ending credits which have mixes and inclusions of the other pieces from the film; however, I just don’t find it as outstanding as the soundtrack from the later films in the series. X-Men’s soundtrack has that level of mystery as well as other themes explored here and there, and is used to great effect in the opening credits as well as scenes such as Mystique transforming, the machine nearly reaching Ellis Island, Rogue nearly dying, the tour of the mansion, Toad’s attack in the museum and the ending credits. I just feel it’s sort of lacklustre. It is rather good and done well, but because I don’t find that it is neither amazing, outstanding, nor maybe as powerful as the soundtrack in the later films, that it gets sort of forgotten in comparison. It is a shame, because it’s rather good and should not be at all ignored; I think its brilliant actually, very emotional and powerful in places and in the scene on Ellis Island does great work to ramp up the tension of the scene.

X-Men altogether is a rather brilliant film. I had not actually seen it for a few years before I watched it to write this; and I rather enjoyed watching it again. While I would not consider it the best film in the series to date, I will easily say that it is one of the best. The film is a brilliant adaptation of the comic book characters and portrays them true to who they are in the comics. The film is entertaining and tells its story plus many more through its many characters and hints towards future story points as well as an in-depth level of subplot. It doesn’t get bogged down neither in its intentions, cleverly telling two stories at the same time that both help out the other to make a rich and understanding story. X-Men is a super hero film but one that is different to others as it also conveys the idea of persecution onto those who have powers instead of showing them as the toast of town. X-Men is a really good, entertaining film. While it may not stand out, nor be as talked about as its sequel films, not for one second do I think of it as boring or a bad film. It’s actually a really powerful and exciting film that ranks among the best superhero films to date. X-Men is a seriously good film, give it a try.

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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