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 Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

A few weeks ago while dining at a church fellowship meal, someone on the table remarked at how everything on TV and at the Cinema all involved Super Heroes. Now while this is something more of a cliché possibly or more likely an over exaggerated statement, there is a lot to be said about the number of Super Hero based things on TV and at the Cinema at the moment. Things like Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow on TV, whereas cinema this year has had several comic book related films like Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Deadpool. The reason for all of these of course is that right now they are very popular franchises, plus more importantly..…they make money. Super hero/comic book/graphic novel based movies are nothing new, they have been around for a while, its only in the last 8 years or so that they have really gained much in the way of traction; however, it should be noted that not all comic book/graphic novel interpretations are about super heroes, I mean, would you call V for Vendetta a Super Hero Movie?

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

Released in 2004 by Revolution Studios, Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro; Hellboy is a comic book adapted movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name by Mike Mignola and released by Dark Horse Comics. This is by no mean Del Toro’s first foray into making movies based on comics, as 2 years previously he directed Blade II.

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In 1944, The Nazi’s with the help of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), build a machine off the coast of Scotland to create a portal in the hope of releasing a group of monstrosities called the Ogdru Jahad to aid them in winning the war. Rasputin opens the portal with help from Ilsa Von Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and Thule Society member Obersturmbannführer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), who is also Hitler’s top assassin. A group of allied soldiers arrive just in time guided by Trevor Bruttenholm. The German team is defeated and the portal is closed, sucking Rasputin in, in the process. As the allied soldiers search the grounds however, they discover that an infant demon with a big right hand-made of stone did travel through the portal. Bruttenholm decides to adopt him, and the soldiers call him Hellboy. Sixty years later, in the mountains of Moldova, Kroenen and Ilsa resurrect Rasputin, while in America, young FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) at the request of Bruttenholm (John Hurt), where he meets the amphibious humanoid Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the now grown up adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who has grounded off his horns. As soon as he meets Hellboy though, they get a shout that something is going on at a local Museum. Inside the Museum, Rasputin has unleashed the monstrous Sammael (Brian Steele) and bestowed upon him the power of reincarnation. Hellboy fights with Sammael, defeating him after a long lengthy fight, before then disappearing to see Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a former BPRD member who is now residing in a mental hospital hoping to gain more control of her pyrokinetic abilities. After Hellboy is gone however, Rasputin visits, and mentally activates her powers which in turn burns down the hospital.

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Back at the BPRD HQ, the team discovers that a creature from Sammael laid eggs into Hellboy while it was attached to his arm. Whilst John goes off to visit Liz and encourage her to return to the BPRD, Hellboy, Abe and a team of guards including Agent Clay (Corey Johnson), head to the subways to find and destroy a nest of eggs belonging to Sammael, into which Hellboy discovers has come back to life, while Abe fights with another. Abe is severally injured in the fight while Hellboy dispatches with the other. Several BPRD Agents are killed however by Kroenen, who then shuts down his clockwork body so he can be taken into BPRD HQ. FBI Director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is not too pleased with Hellboy’s actions. John takes Liz out for Coffee, while Hellboy who has romantic feelings for her, stalks them. In the Bureau HQ, Kroenen re-animate himself, and both he and Rasputin make themselves known to Bruttenholm. Rasputin reveals to him, that Hellboy is the agent that will reopen the portals and destroy the world. Bruttenholm who is dying of Cancer, and who has raised Hellboy like a son, believes that Hellboy in the end will make the right choice, and Kroenen stabs him in the neck.

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Manning takes over the BPRD after Bruttenholm’s funeral, and leads a team consisting of agents, John, Liz and Hellboy to Russia in hope of finding Rasputin’s Mausoleum. With help from a local cemetery corpse resident Ivan (Guillermo Del Toro), they find the mausoleum, but get separated once inside. Hellboy and Manning find the lair of Kroenen and quickly defeat him, while Liz and John find Sammael’s eggs, where there are no quite a few of them. Hellboy arrives and does battle, but its Liz who saves them as she sets fire to the lair, killing all of the Sammael’s and his eggs, meaning he can no longer be resurrected. The group though is captured by Ilsa and Rasputin. Using Liz’s soul as a bargaining chip, Hellboy reveals his true power as Anung un Rama, with his horns growing back and begins the ceremony to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers quickly breaks from his restraints and reminds Hellboy of what Bruttenholm brought him up to be. As such Hellboy breaks his horns, and kills Rasputin before the creatures could be finally released. Rasputin, revealing to have had one of the Ogdru Jahad possessing him, releases the tentacled monster. Hellboy defeats the creature by blowing it up from the inside. He then returns to Liz, whispering into her ear, threatens to go to the other side unless her soul is returned to her, as such Liz is revived instantly and the two share a kiss.

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Hellboy isn’t what you would exactly call a Super Hero Movie. It definitely shares traits and themes to films of this Calibre, but in all perfect honesty, Hellboy is not really a Super Hero, he is more an Anti-hero. He saves the day and the world on a regular basis from threats and monsters from the other side, but when he goes back home, he doesn’t live a life of obscurity or simply puts some glasses on, he returns home and does what he wants when he wants. In a way, he is more a mirror image of the human condition and what most of us are likely to do if we were super heroes, and want we would want out of it, not what is right, but what is desire. He wants fame, he wants fortune, he wants food, he wants love, don’t we all deep down? Yes, he is a super natural force from a world that is not this one and is employed to defeat the forces from beyond, to protect this world from the greatest threats not of this world or even this reality, but he is given a pampered life to make up for the life he simply cannot have as to who he is. If you look at other super heroes (except for maybe Deadpool), and what they do, and how it drives them, Hellboy is not in it for that, and when he does go in for a fight, he makes it as big, as loud and as exciting as possible, just because it allows him to go outside once in a while. He is less a Super Hero, more just like you or me, in it for a kick, but secretly desiring more.

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As a film, the tone and ideas are a little bit off-putting, there is no middle ground in explaining, this film is based on subjects about the dark arts, and the grim dark and horrid after life that is in the lead’s name. But through all that though, comes this incredibly well thought out and well created mythology and ethos surrounding the characters, what they do and who they fight. It’s very similar I think to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it’s setting and mythologies are all based on well documented ideas and beliefs, but brings them into the here and now rather than through some old age orientated may centuries ago fantasy world. This is the kind of Fantasy that should be explored more often, because it makes it more apparent, believable and interesting to a more modern culture and audience. I can see why Del Toro did this film in the end, it works perfectly to the style of films he started out doing and continues to create (Fantasy Horror). The setting is of course our world, but it goes on to suggest a dark uncertain future, including the possible apocalypse, and through its ideas creates some visually stunning moments. We are not talking Independence Day like scenes here; we are only talking a small fraction of visuals, but still aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also amazing and horrifying to believe. It all works well into this well created and wonderfully designed setting while also providing everything else a film needs to grab the attention of the audience. It’s visually stunning, with grips of an enchanting and horrifying storyline while also adding a well-researched and believable mythos.

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It’s interesting to note the strong calibre of movie industry veterans cast in major roles in what is really such a small comic book movie, but I bet that comes more from the established director. Jeffrey Tambor is someone I have had little exposure to in the past and before seeing this, the only role I have seen in him was Muppets from Space. In that he had a high seniority role which came with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but overall was an incredibly funny role. Here we have something somewhat similar minus the comedy. He comes in as something of a corporate/political nemesis whose only concern is really himself and his position and finds that while the BPRD has its uses, he considers them overall a joke and a waste of resources. From his first appearance onwards he presents himself as someone who does not at all care for Hellboy, and his immediate introduction is shown of someone with a lot of power and whom carries a large level of intimidation. This carries on, showing his more demanding, not necessarily selfish side, but one who wants and demands respect; although how he reached his position could be questionable. He however, like a good scripted character, does show his uses and redeems himself in a flat second by showing his thanks to Hellboy for saving his life, and shows him how to light a cigar. Similarly there is of course John Hurt playing the adoptive father of Hellboy and head of the BPRD. He presents himself on a more caring but still serious note and overall rather than being a head of section comes more across as that chemistry/history teacher that we all come to be fond of and respect. His father figure like stance has its moments and the story of him dying ensures to enrich the plot and reason for Myers existence in the film, all which leads to a revelation point as to the true meaning for Hellboy, but still his ensured faith as to that Hellboy will make the right choice.

Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Perlman

While this film is primarily about creatures/monsters, there is of course a lot of human interaction. Some of these have been allowed very little screen time but are presented enough and are performed brilliantly enough for them to remain a key part. Characters like Ilsa are a good show for this. Someone who is a high officer in the Nazi Party and the key love interest for Rasputin, who, slowly but surely begins to reveal a sort of near psychopathic and heretic side, someone who believes in the cause no matter how it comes. She is very old-fashioned and also en-richly disciplined given her growing up and position, and keeps to this even after 60 years have passed by. Kroenen meanwhile is more a Monster than a human, and becomes a key villain from start to finish, even if he is just a puppet in the end. He too shows an incredible dark side, killing without mercy and has even showed some remains of being human showing traits such as laughing; however his body is less the case. Rasputin is something of a cross between Dracula and Darth Vader I find. He is presented more as a prophet and is unwieldy fiendish, but for him it’s all been planned out, and if it’s not part of the plan, he has no motive for it and will either order it dead, or just not think about it. He uses as much as he can to get what he desires and will maintain a level of control to keep the plan ripe and eventually fruitful at all costs. He is an interesting villain, but you get this feeling though that he is not the puppet master either, like there is someone else pulling the strings, but it’s never really shown (also, he has this weird change of voice before he turns into the monster).

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Myers comes across though as a young man in his prime excelling and desiring to do what is right in what is already a stressful job. He does not get on too well with Hellboy, and it feels like he is side-lining himself just so he can work on/with Liz, either because working with her feels more normal, or because of another reason. He continues to try and work with Hellboy, but while he is supposedly the lead human in this film, it feels like his point or part just gets more and more obscure and less needed other than to help Hellboy make the right decision. Other than that, he has almost served his purpose already. Maybe he is just an Introduction to the world of the BPRD, for the sake of the audience, as while he is a key feature for the first act, and a bit of the second, by the third, it feels like he is not even there. Agent Clay I find is a lot more of an interesting character than Myers, as he comes off a lot more strongly to begin with, and his compatibility with Hellboy comes off immediately as the two respect and care for each other even if their position does not require it. He shares very few scenes, but when he is in them, it feels like he is a much stronger lead in comparison to Myers, and that deep down, Clay should be the lead, but I don’t see how that could work either, as it’s clear he has been around a while.

Corey Johnson

The one theme this film tries to tell and thoroughly resonates, is what it takes for someone to become a Man. It gets mentioned start to finish and in the end becomes the story. This theme though really does work well for Hellboy. You need to remember that Ron Perlman is playing a very demanding and physical role, but in reality is the only real actor who could play the part, as the character needed someone physically big but also who could act, not like hiring an actor who is big but is only hired for physical capability. But despite the experience and wisdom of Perlman, it should be noted that Hellboy is actually a much younger character than Perlman is. In reality, Hellboy is actually very childish; a spoiled brat who gets more than he deserves but still demands more. He is like an over pampered cat, receiving so much food and attention, but still desires and believes he needs more. He is also something of a smitten lover, desiring Liz, even though she would rather lead a more normal life. He shows this by endlessly talking about her and trying to visit her/bring her back to the BPRD then eventually stalk her when she goes out with Myers. Like the average action hero, he does in the end ‘get the girl’, but it’s not through his childish ways, it’s when he grows up, becomes more respectful, and then threatens to fight tooth and nail for how much he loves her, therefore going from a childish brat, to a man, even if he is not human.

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Abe Sapien I find is something like a rabbit in a field of cats. This film’s ideas and premise surrounds a demonic identity, then in the meantime there is this character who is not that in anyway shape or form. He is less an alien, nor a demon, he is more in fact a natural mutation with a human life. He is more a book work than a man of action, less likely to get into a fight and more read his way out of a battle than throw a fist. He however though carries the trait of a group counsellor. He carries a lot of wisdom even if he could be considered a little young; he comes packed with knowledge, but still packs a little attitude. But in the end knows his place and where he belongs and knows the importance and vitality of the groups function and works to act as a mediator in-between the heat. He may feel less than respected or a part of the group, but he believes in it. Liz Sherman for me though is the one who stands out the most. She comes across as this shy, and vulnerable character, who is scared as to who she is and what she can do. She carries a real fear for it, and though while not a monster in appearance, feels on equal footing to the others in what she is. She desires a more normal human life, feeling more like an outcast in all walks of life. She has power but looks human. She wants to be human, but knows that humanity won’t give her credit as to what she looks like given as to what she can do. I do feel this really affection for the character, and really come to know who she is and how that affects what she desires. She then starts to build confidence thanks to Myers and receives the opportunity to lead a more normal life thanks to him, but then, upon the death of Bruttenholm comes to the knowledge that the ‘freaks’ need to stick together, and that Hellboy needs her support in what is a hard time for him. She grows and grows, becoming a tough fighter in the final battle escapades and even something of a leader, showing great deals of professionalism while also still coming to terms with whom she is and what she can do, which she then discovers, and comes to less fear it, more embrace it. Selma Blair plays what is for me, a very identifiable role and one whom I somewhat can’t get enough of, and come to anticipate with joy her next appearance.

Selma Blair (I know it's from Hellboy 2)

The film being one that is filled with many marvellous and very imaginative creatures will of course come packed with the not so original assortment of special effects to make these things come to life. It should be noted however that a great deal of special effects in this film are not necessarily the work of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, in fact for the most degree, many of the needed special effects more take the form of make-up, masks and costumes. It should be noted that in his early life, Del Toro actually studied and worked for 10 years in special effects and even started his own company. It is obvious to note then that when it came to Special Effects needed for this film, that he already had it planned out early one. For the actual shoot and filming of scenes, Hellboy, Abe, Sammael and Kroenen are actually costumes and or models when needed. CGI is only brought in when they needed to use them for a scene that would require CGI and when a Suit/Mask/Makeup would not work. Scenes such as creatures in Water, Sammael’s resurrecting, and the giant portals and monsters. This allowance but also reduced requirement for Computer Graphics means that there is a lot more involvement between characters in certain scenes, and makes the fighting look more fluid and dynamic, because the fighting is real. The other thing is though, that you can actually see the difference, as when the costumes are in shot, because the physical entity is living you can see it interact, but also, it looks fresher. When the computer animated imagery is in place, there is a feel that some of it is rather unfinished. Don’t know if you saw my review on the film Mimic (also by Del Toro), but in that the CGI was easy to be seen as not good or possibly unfinished, there was a direct correlation between real life and fake quality. In this you get a similar feeling, and it only really works for the CGI when things are happening quickly, like a fight scene or a chase as it blurs in and you don’t spot it, but then when you get it standing still, it’s very noticeable, that more could have been done in that department.

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Special effects are not everything in a film like this, because in order to convey the right feel to such an imaginative thing, you need a good quality soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) to back it up. Hellboy does have a sort of strange mix of pieces of music, ranging from the dark and mystical, to the old-fashioned with a bit of attitude. Pieces of music in those areas include when the portal is opening near the end, when Liz’s power is awakened in the hospital, to pieces like the BPRD theme when Myers turns up, Bruttenholm’s funeral, to the more modern sounding music as Myers and Liz go for a ride, then intermixed you also have the one of piece that sounds just sort of added and silly, but not in a bad way. But for me I want to highlight 3 distinct pieces of music. Now the third one I should note is only available really with the Director’s Cut of this film, but I would like to point out here and now (if I have not already) that this film’s Director’s Cut is where this film is at. It really enhances and includes and builds on from the original cut and though while its original cut is pretty good; to get the full experience, watch the DC. Anyway; the first piece is really this film’s main theme and you hear it the minute the credits are about to roll. It’s sort of twisted and sinister, that’s how it comes across anyway; and intermixed has a romantic track line, but for the most part is this dark and twisted tone that really sets up what you have been watching for the last 2+ hours and sort of puts it into a level of context, while also providing a mystical identity.

The next two pieces are more sort of added as to enrich the soundtrack but by adding pieces that were already made but not necessarily for this film. The first is Red Right Hand (I wonder why) by Nick Cave and the Dark Seeds. It only gets played after Hellboy’s introduction to Myers as the gang go to the museum in a bin lorry. However, well in the film plays as a really groovy soundtrack that just dominates most of the sound and works well to present the scene as best it can, especially when you see the agents marching in front of the bin lorry as the doors open. It’s a dark, twisted tune, but comes with a sort of light listening punch that you can’t help but sing a long too (much like the third song). The piece is actually very different in presentation to how the film puts it in, but either way, it’s still good.

Then you have this song by a band called Forseps. It’s just called Hellboy, but that is something of a lyric. It’s very different to everything else as it’s more heavy rock with a twist of a groove packing mystery and excitement as the song builds, explaining who Hellboy is, but then it hits this Lyric ‘HELLBOY’ and into that we get a lashing of attitude, the attitude this film has included, but only really feels now is the time to unleash. It’s mainly just a nice, interesting, but also levelly piece of fun on which to end the film on.

I really like Hellboy, both as a film and as an idea, especially the character. I consider him definitely worthy of equal footing in comparison to the other big super hero movie boys out there, if not a greater footing than them, it’s definitely more interesting and fun than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here you have very human like characters, even if some of them aren’t. You have these well thought out and researched ideas, enriching a really cool but also big plot and it comes packed with everything in between to male what is a very enjoyable film. While its mythos and ideas will put some people off, for everyone who does (‘dare’) to see it, there is a lot to like and a lot to enjoy, and in the end while such ideas are present, they are not the be all and end all of the tale, in fact it sort of goes beyond that and goes into other ideas and mythology, springing out-of-bounds to other locations and interests. Packed up with an incredible cast, touch-able-worthy special effects, and a mystically dark soundtrack that packs a punch, altogether Hellboy is a very magical film, and while I would not necessarily consider it a Super Hero Movie like the other adaptations of this sort, when you do think about it in league with those films and series: While it may currently only have 2 films in a potential trilogy, it still packs more and is generally more entertaining than many others. Yes, there are a lot of Super Hero Movies and TV Shows right now, but spare a quick thought for those that dare to do something different.

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).





With Great Power, Comes Great Irresponsibility – Deadpool

16 03 2016

Deadpool (20th Century Fox - 2016)

Bloke: If only there was a super hero movie that combines the fantastic action and martial arts attributes of The Raid and The Raid 2 with the hilarity and outrageous comedy of Tropic Thunder and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa?

Me: There is.

Bloke: No!

Me: Yes, it’s called Deadpool.

Bloke: Oh, is it any good?

Me: Yes.

Bloke: Cool.

Deadpool

Me: Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Tim Miller and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; Deadpool is a super hero comic book movie (of sorts) starring everyone’s favourite comic anti-hero (at least by the time they have watched it) Deadpool. For those of you who are not fully aware as to whom this Deadpool is; here is some brief info:

“Deadpool is a fictional antihero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.” – Wikipedia

Me: Understand?

Bloke: NO!

Me: Too Bad. Anyway, Deadpool is a comic book character belonging to Marvel Comics, and is mostly associated with the X-Men comics in particular. Deadpool is the latest spin-off in the X-Men film series and sets out as well as hopes to do something no other comic superhero film has done to date, which mostly involves being as outrageous and as funny as possible while also being incredibly profane and violent at the same time.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary who stands up for the little guy. One evening at the mercenary bar attended by bar man Weasel (T.J. Miller), Wade meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and the two very quickly get into a relationship, one which gets off the ground quite quickly. But as soon as things start going well, Wade gets a very late stage form of Cancer. One night at the bar, he is approached by a recruiter (Jed Rees) for a secret organization who says that they can cure his cancer. Initially turning down the offer, Wade eventually agrees, fearing more for losing Vanessa. Wade however soon discovers that the organization he has joined is seeking mutants to experiment on. The project is led by mutant AJAX (Ed Skrein) and his assistant Angel (Gina Carano) who torture Wade and those around him. Eventually Wade’s mutant genes explode and cause his skin to deform, instantly curing him of his cancer, but Wade discovers that what is really going to happen is that he is to become a slave of Ajax. Wade causes an explosion in the labs and brings down the building, escaping the wreckage.

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Upon escaping, he means to return home to Vanessa, but upon seeing how people see his disfigured face, Wade believes Vanessa will feel the same about him, so he decides not to return. Wade moves into the house of elderly blind lady Al (Leslie Uggams), and with help from his best friend, goes in search of Ajax, real name Francis, in the hope of curing his disfigurement. He creates a costume and calls himself Deadpool, before going round the area, killing anyone who does not give him the information he needs on the location of Francis. After a year or so of searching, and making a new friend in cab driver Dopinder (Karan Soni), Deadpool intercepts a convoy of bad guys, kills most of them in some really horrific ways before finally getting his hands on Francis. Unfortunately, his antics grab the attention of X-Men team members Colossus (Greg LaSelle and Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) who are desperate for him to join them. After their arrival however, the distraction allows Francis to vanish, and Deadpool escapes the clutches of the X-Men by cutting off one of his own limbs.

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With a threat on Vanessa being made, Weasel and Wade go to the strip club she works at, but before they can get to her, Francis and Angel take her away. With the help of Al, Weasel, Dopinder, and extra help from the X-Men team, Deadpool goes to the scrapyard (where a near-familiar looking aircraft carrier is being wrecked) where Francis and Angel are keeping Vanessa. Immediately Deadpool and the team of Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus get into a fight with soldiers and Angel. While Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus deal with Angel, Deadpool climbs the aircraft carrier to where Ajax is preparing to torture Vanessa in a similar way to how he tortured Wade. Deadpool and Ajax fight in hand to hand combat, until Negasonic Teenage Warhead destroys the carrier from the inside. Once rescuing Vanessa from the collapsing ship, Deadpool has one more fight with Ajax, quickly gaining the upper hand. Ajax then informs Wade that he cannot be cured. Despite urging from Colossus not to, Deadpool kills Ajax. Wade then reveals himself to Vanessa, who says she is ok with how and who he is now, and they rekindle their relationship.

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Bloke: Does this mean I don’t need to see it now.

Me: Are you still here?

Bloke: Apparently?

Me: Well in that case; yes, you should.

Bloke: I thought this was a review?

Me: Yes it is, but more in the form of an analysis.

Anyway; Deadpool is a very interesting film. It’s one that is hard to spring up what exactly it’s about. Ok, plot wise it’s about a guy who becomes a super hero to save himself from his illness but who then has to save his girlfriend (which is far easier to connect to on a personal level than the standard ‘Save the World’ plot of most other superhero movies). That’s the simple plot, but as to what this film does and involves is another thing entirely. In basic terms, what we have here is something of an adaptation, to Understand Deadpool; we need to understand who he is. Once we know that then we can really look into him.

Bloke: Then why don’t you?

Me: Because it will take too long.

What we have here in essence is more of an adaptation in terms of the characters creation and portrayal, but is then put into a situation that goes on to explain how such a character can come into being, while not bringing down the audience nor boring them. It sort of reminds me of Batman Begins, it talks about the early life of the character but brings it to a point where then said character becomes a figure-head and something other than who he is, and incorporates and embraces that entity to do the right thing, although in Deadpool’s case that is somewhat questionable. In this case we are provided with a character that is somewhat questionable from the start, but the things he does he does for the right people, and as an audience we come to connect and feel for him, and as he grows in a relationship, we come to support and care for him. But then things go wrong, and while what he does is (as previously mentioned) questionable, we believe in the cause to support him well enough. It’s something that feeds into a primal instinct, that of revenge, and while it may be the wrong path, the way he does it stands out enough, and in a form as human beings we may believe and feel is the rightful way of doing it, we support it. That aside though, Deadpool is not your average super hero either. He is something of a character. He is a wise cracking comedian who pulls a comedic line whenever he can, continuously breaking the fourth wall in the process. This makes him not just a super hero, but also someone who makes you as an audience member laugh. Add to that though the level of profanity in his voice, however despite what an older more mature audience member would think of such language, the language used by Deadpool when used with his comic nature just makes you laugh as he is using said language in such a funny way. Added to this level of comedy and profanity, you cannot ignore the amount of violence in this film. It’s violence that grabs your attention, as for one part it’s very gory and sickening, but on the other hand is just so outrageous and crazy, that it creates its own essence of humor to be enjoyed alongside what is already so funny. Ok, I admit it’s kind of broad and a hard one to explain. To quote the late great Lemmy Kilmister:

“Trying to understand. Why? You can just enjoy it at face value that’s what I do.” – Heavy Metal Britannia

In essence, it’s not something that should be analyzed or explained, because what we have here is something very special, very different, and something trying to stand out in the biggest way possible. And it achieves this. So less analyzing and more enjoying is what should be done here; because well, it works and is Awesome.

Bloke: So why did you bother trying then?

Me: Because, I didn’t think it through…?

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Understanding the character of Deadpool to one side, the film incorporates a relatively yet still outspoken cast of characters. Ryan Reynolds of course the returning star of Deadpool; by saying that I realize I have brought up bad memories about a certain other X-Men spinoff, but this time it’s a good form of acting from Reynolds. Not forgetting that he is no stranger to comic book super hero movies, mostly bad ones; here Reynolds excels as the verbal assassin. Without wanting to get bogged down in more but possibly pointless analysis, portraying Deadpool for me makes this his best role to date. Not really much of a fan of Reynolds in his other films, here he provides a really good portrayal of a character who was always going to be a hard one to do, but I think he has done quite well.

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The other film’s characters are not like one offs, or people with brief mentions, no. The small cast has enabled everyone to have a part and really stand out in their part. Negasonic Teenage Warhead for instance is a character I have no real knowledge of, but the portrayal of a 21st century teenager being an incredibly powerful mutant provides a very believable and connectable character while also providing the theme of not judging a book by its cover, even if me mentioning that sounds rather cliché. The addition of lesser characters in a supporting role continues throughout with people like the recruiter, Blind Al, Weasel, Angel and Dopinder. Most of these provide something more of a comic relief, but really work, not just as their roles suggest, but as well as being supportive characters also. Blind Al for instance provides an interesting viewpoint connecting once again to the aforementioned cliché, while also being as outrageous and profane as Deadpool, acting like a human counterpart to him suggesting that he is more human than he seems, and Blind Al is something of his human opposite. Dopinder meanwhile has a small role, but one which separately acts like a feeder to Deadpool’s jokes, but in the process becomes a character in his own right. Angel is more of a muscle like character to Ajax and proves that she is less a comedy character, nor one with a speaking part, but becomes Ajax’s assistant and body-guard of sorts near reminding me of Chyna. She is a pretty cool bodyguard though and one who brings an incredible fight with her. The recruiter doesn’t have much of a part but is relatively enjoyable, but is nothing in comparison to Weasel who acts like a friend to Deadpool, and becomes his assistant of sorts in helping him take down those responsible for his suffering, and much like Dopinder is a joke feeder, but also provides his own witty spin also.

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Along with them we have the more stand out members of cast alongside Reynolds. Colossus is one character you can’t but help keep an eye on. As a character, Colossus is a man who can turn his skin into an organic metal. No stranger to the film series, Colossus has previously been played by Daniel Cudmore, who I find sad did not return to the role in this film. I quite like Cudmore as Colossus, but am happy to say that Colossus here is presented well. While I find the special effects used to make him look not exactly crisp, his dialogue usage; something of a near first in the film series, is delivered well and crisp and tries to provide the role that would normally be delivered by Professor X. Ajax meanwhile is a character I find hard to see or realize. As he is not necessarily as stand out as other X-Men characters that come to mind, in this film he seems more like muscle than mind. His sinister side does not really come out all that well I feel, but the disgust towards him as a villain still works and it is in what he does, not how he acts that help him come into the fray, plus he comes packed with a mutant ability that helps to be a good first rival for Deadpool. This brings us nicely to Vanessa. Vanessa is not necessarily a supporter, nor is she a lead. She is not a hero, nor a comedy inclusion, but throughout this film provides to be a story element and a character who much like Wade, as an audience member; you become to care very much about. She becomes more of a plot element as the story goes on and an end goal to be reached. And even when that is not happening, she becomes a very enjoyable character, and towards the end not necessarily a damsel in distress but a hero in her own light, as well as providing an emotional and common sense anchor for which the character of Deadpool both needs personally, and in his career.

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Special effects are always a feature in super hero movies, as the need to show super powers usually does require some element of special effects in order to pull them off. In Deadpool though the use of CGI is pretty lack luster and only really used for colossus and the odd effect here and there. For the most part Special effects come down to clever camera tricks, stunts and fight choreography, all of which work quite well to pull off some really awe-inspiring scenes. It makes the film less of a blockbuster and more of an independent action film in a similar vein to the above mentioned Raid films. It just makes it all a nice change from films that require and are defined by how much CGI they use and the people who think CGI is better than real skin.

Bloke: Are you referring to me?

Me: “Hey, Yeah – I wanna shoop baby”

Bloke: Sorry, are you singing?

Me: Yeah, I can sing in my own post can’t I?

Bloke: Well sure…

Me: Well thank you, now please leave!

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Back in October, I did a series of film of reviews, all of which were the X-Men films to date released before this one. In that one thing I highlighted quite a bit was the rather grand, high-powered and exciting soundtracks used in the main series of films. Most of these were of course produced for the films especially with use of a composer. For the case of Deadpool however it seems like that idea was thrown out of the window to be replaced with a soundtrack composed of pieces from the popular domain, or better known as popular or pop music. This not necessarily a bad thing I find however as the pieces of music work really well to the scenes they are attached to. Most of these though I have accidently forgotten. One piece though I cannot forget so easily though is of course the sort of movie theme in Shoop by SALT ‘N’ PEPA. Quite a fun little song that works nicely with the ideas of the film, especially as it sounds like shoot, but for the most part is a fun one to sing to…..once you know the lyrics of course.

Deadpool is an incredible film, and interesting one at the same time. It tries to introduce a new, lesser known character to a more mainstream audience while also making it both as funny, profane and as violent as possible, and make it stand out more than any other super hero film out there, which it succeeds at. It more than makes up for the faults of the past, and in return creates a film that instead of being shunned by everyone in years to come will be talked positively by an even larger audiences for years to come. Add to this the strong and excelling cast, the well written story, cool soundtrack as well as all the other stand out points of this film that are hard not to notice; and you have an incredibly fun and enjoyable experience that has been delivered so early in the year, it’s going to be interesting to see if any other film this year can match or even excel beyond it. Also; it has quite possibly the best opening and post credits scenes in the history of cinema.

Bloke: What? Even better than the post credits scene from Age of Ultron?

Me: That was hardly anything; and I thought I asked you to leave – and what’s with the fake moustache?

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








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