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

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A Dying Man’s Demand – The Wolverine

24 10 2015

The Wolverine (20th Century Fox - 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





The Cure – X-Men: The Last Stand

21 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





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








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