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





Put The Knives Down! – X-Men 2 (X2)

20 10 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL








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