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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Another Annoying Little Book

14 09 2016

Mogworld (Dark Horse Books - 2010)

Back in 2014, I finally managed to finish a book which at the time was something of a bane in my reading life. The book was called MogWorld, and it was a book about a character living in a MMORPG video game world and it was written by Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw. I began reading it in 2010, but it was a hard one to read although it was filled with a lot of humour and at times was mega funny. Anyway, in 2014 I committed myself to reading the last section of chapters and then I was glad it was all out of the way and that I had finished it.

Well; now it’s 2016, and I have another annoying little book which I began to read a while ago but have yet to finish. The book is none other than Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. I bought it back in 2013 while I was studying a Screenwriting course at the University of Central Lancashire along with a copy of Syd Field’s book: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. I bought them because, well; the name Syd Field is hammered into your head while on these courses although I have yet to hear of a film or TV show he has worked on, but also because I thought they might help, and I was first introduced to Blake Snyder’s book earlier that same year. I have yet to make a start on the Syd Field one, but I began reading Blake Snyder’s as soon as I got it.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (Michael Wiese Productions - 2005)Instantly I could see it was a book that spoken the hidden truth, by that I meant it said things how they were and was in all honesty very funny, but also very descriptive, and easy to understand. It even used examples from the world of film and screenwriting to make its points plus also had a little game inside that you could make a homemade copy of easily. As well as that it also came with exercises, while I have yet to do any of these, the book used them to get you thinking. It also gave me perspective on the 10 basic story lines of cinema too:

  1. Monster in the House
  2. Golden Fleece
  3. Out of the Bottle
  4. Dude with a Problem
  5. Rites Of Passage
  6. Buddy Love
  7. Whydunit
  8. The Fool Triumphant
  9. Institutionalized
  10. Superhero

So why do I talk about it like I have read it and why if I am so interested by it do I consider it annoying? Well, it is very in-depth and I really do like it, it’s a very fun book and I really hope to finish it one day and use it as a way to help me with my screenwriting. The issue sort of comes from putting off reading another chapter for a while, and when you start reading a chapter that references a previous one that you have forgotten, it’s hard to remember the context: that’s what happened. And generally, as my screenwriting course came to an end, plus the enjoyment I used to have for the course by this time vanished; it was hard to keep it up when I wanted to do something else. That was it really and since then, much like MogWorld, it is featured on my ‘currently reading’ profile on Goodreads, consistently reminding me that I have not finished it yet, although the gap from now to the last time I read it is significantly smaller than when I finished MogWorld.

The Foundations of Screenwriting (Delta - 2005)

My hope is that one day, like MogWorld I will finish it and then everything will be happy and I will be able to look back on it more fondly, but right now I just need to just sit down and do it! Whether I start again or not is another question, but right now it’s all about just trying to find a decent time to just do it, while making sure I do not do the same with Project Nemesis.

Project Nemesis (Smashwords Edition - 2012)

GENEPOOL





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).





Not So Super

16 12 2015

Film Reel

During the first semester of my final year at University (about 1 year ago now), I was still studying Creative Writing and Screenwriting at the University of Central Lancashire. In my third (or 4th overall) year however it was very different, as for the first time I was doing Creative Writing Major and Screenwriting Minor, where as in the 2 previous years I had done them both joint. I decided to go down this path because in year 2 I enjoyed Creative Writing far more than Screenwriting, and wanted to do more of that, even though I was getting some of my better marks in Screenwriting. During my first semester I took part in my last screenwriting module, wherein we had to write Monologues. Now my monologue did change here and there, but the subject remained the same throughout, that of an ageing, retired super hero who just wanted to be left alone. As the development progressed, it went from a sad story of youth in my first draft to eventually a super hero talking about how he has to do work for charity events. Well eventually one thing came to another and before I knew it, it had been selected along with two other monologues from the group to be made into a short film.

Casualty Logo

At first I was surprised, but could not understand why mine was chosen. I was certain of other people in the class being better at the course than me, and so for a few days I was just at a loss to understand, eventually though I came more round to it, and began to get a little bit more excited. It was to be directed by my monologues tutor Anita who also writes scripts for Casualty, and produced by two of her ex students. I attended a meeting about the short films late December, and we talked about what they were hoping to do with it, and suggested actors to play the parts. They suggested for my film for the character to be played by Rev actor Tom Hollander (where as I thought of Tim Piggott-Smith). Anyway, that’s how it got started.

Rev TV Series Logo

In the next few months, news was scarce as to what was going on, but eventually come around February I finally heard news of what was going on. The plan was to shoot mine first out of the three and show it off at festivals. But the big news was who the production team managed to get to star in the short film; John Henshaw. When I first read that I was completely unaware of who that was, but when my Mam found out, she nearly shouted in shock and surprise. I was still unsure until I went online and found a picture of him in Google. I best know of him for appearing in Early Doors, but his filmography is much bigger than that with appearances in The Cops (which Anita also worked on), Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, and lots of other things I can’t currently grab to mind. There was also an idea for me to have an appearance in the film with him. Well, this big news was very exciting, but then about a month later I found out more detail. It turns out that John Henshaw couldn’t do it anymore, and was replaced by Shameless actor; Mark Sheals. Another person I did not know much about. However I was aware of the actress Alice Barry (after seeing a photo of her online), but instantly recognized her as someone who was in Shameless (haven’t seen it) and Phoenix Nights. Soon after that, I was given details about the film’s Facebook page where some photos from filming had already been posted and then invited all my Facebook friends to come and like the page.

Shameless Logo

So, Filming was still going ahead, but I had no idea when, until one of the producers phoned me up, and invited me to come down one day during the Easter Holidays, to Salford where it was going to be filmed. It was the Tuesday (I think) just after I got back from that year’s Saved2Serve. Anyway I turned up, having read the start of Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness on the way down. I arrived, waited for a while to be picked up, and then was, along with someone else who was waiting around at the same station. We went to one of the first sites and waited in an office for a time, only to find out we were not going to be able to film there, so we went to another site, had some lunch and I watched some of my film being filmed. The plan was that at the original location I was to be filmed with the star, but sadly it couldn’t go ahead for some reason. Anyway, I was there, watched it being made, didn’t get to have my scene, but still it was nice, was then given a lift back to Preston before journeying on to Lancaster.

Monsters Of Men (Patrick Ness - 2010)

Time passed some more after that, and I was hoping to receive a copy of the film before I went to Roothill that year so I could show it off at the camp concert. Sadly that did not get to happen, but during the previous July, I was asked to go down to Manchester, to Gulliver’s Bar, where a showing of the film was going to be put on, along with some other films that were made by some of the film’s contributors. Before that though met Alice Barry, was sitting less than a couple of metres from John Henshaw who came down to watch, and said a brief hello to Mark Sheals again. The films were all nice to watch; my particular favourite was Going to Mecca which was just really funny. But then my film came on. It was very dark and hard to see much, but it was nice to finally watch it. However I did not feel all that much strongly for it. It didn’t look or feel like the monologue I wrote, it just felt different. Out was the retired superhero who wanted to be left alone, it just didn’t feel like my work, but my Mam pointed out that it was the case that it was adapted from my work, and I may not feel as strong to an adaptation when I was so close to my original piece. Since then though I have watched it a few more times, it has been uploaded to YouTube, I have shown people I know, and I have grown a bit more strongly towards it.

YouTube

In the end it was a fun little experience, and though while it had its hurdles with both production, and me and my work personally, I am glad I did it in the end and it is a nice little film. Nice thing to put on the CV (which it is, and I am currently unemployed), but also a nice thing to show my family and friends, and something nice on which to end my Screenwriting Course. Now here is your opportunity to have a watch, please feel free to comment, like and share…….…if you want to.

GENEPOOL





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

19 10 2015

X-Men (20th Century Fox - 2000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL








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