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

25 10 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





Do You Ever Shut Up? – X-Men Origins: Wolverine

22 10 2015

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Everyone loves an origin story…..right? Well even if you don’t; origins stories are still pretty interesting things as they tell the story of how people came to be who they are. These could happen through moments of inspiration, or life changing events. In the world of comics, Origin stories are told rather frequently as it tells the audience how iconic characters they have come to love came to be in the first place, with characters ranging from people like Batman and as we will see here, Wolverine.

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Released in 2009 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Gavin Hood and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the 4th film in the X-Men film series and the first spin-off. As the title suggests, it looks at the origin story of Wolverine, looking back far in the past to when he first discovered his abilities, attained his iconic Adamantium steel claws and how he lost his memory. The film also features several legends from the X-Men comics. Despite the great potential this film had however, it is a very disappointing film (I suppose I could’ve just finished the review here).

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In 1845, young James Howlett witnesses his father being killed by the groundskeeper claiming to be the boy’s real father. The trauma caused from this causes bone claws to come out of James’s hands before he kills the groundskeeper. He runs away but is found by his friend, and real life half-brother Victor Creed, who is also a mutant. They both go on the run, with the opening credits showing them growing up and fighting in the American Civil War, World War 1, World War 2 and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Creed (Liev Schreiber) kills a senior officer, which James (Hugh Jackman) defends, for which they are both sentenced to death by firing squad. Having survived the shooting and now being kept in a cell, both James and Victor are approached by Colonel William Stryker (Danny Huston) who offers them an opportunity to join his team of Mutants, which includes; Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (Will.i.am), Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand) and Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). Using their abilities, the team manage to steal a comet from a Nigerian crime lord, but due to their disregard for human life, including the slaughter of innocent people, James decides to leave.

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Six years later, James, now going by the name Logan, lives in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). Logan now works as a lumberjack, but one day is approached by Stryker and Zero who report that Wade and Bradley have been killed, and thinks someone is targeting the team’s members. Logan refuses, but after finding Kayla dead, he thinks Victor is responsible for it. Logan finds him and the two fight outside a bar. Logan loses the fight, but Stryker tells him that he can equip Logan with the tools needed to fight a now rogue Victor. Logan undergoes an experimental bonding experiment, where-in a metal called Adamantium, (which was processed from the rock they found in Nigeria) is bonded to Logan’s Skeleton. At first it appears that Logan died in the experiment, but then comes back to life. Stryker though has other plans, and wants to use Logan’s DNA on another project. Upon hearing what Stryker has said, Logan escapes, running into a nearby farm barn. He is taken in by a kind elderly couple who give him some clothes to wear. They are however shot by Agent Zero who has tracked Logan down. Logan goes after and kills Agent Zero by blowing up Zero’s helicopter.

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Logan finds John who now runs a boxing club, and is trying to help Fred (who has gained a considerable amount of weight) get in shape again. Logan fights Fred for information; who in turn reveals that Stryker and Victor are working together, and that Stryker is experimenting on mutants at a secret lab called “The Island”. Fred then tells Logan about a mutant who escaped from “The Island”, called Remy LeBeau (Taylor Kitsch), also known as Gambit. Upon finding him in Las Vegas, Victor shows up and kills John, before Logan fights him too. Logan talks to Remy, and agrees to let the other mutants go, if Remy takes him there. Using his plane, (which he won in a card game), Remy takes Logan to Three Mile Island, and drops him in the sea. Upon reaching the island, and gaining access to the base, Logan discovers that Kayla is actually alive. Kayla, whose ability is to manipulate people’s minds, was coerced into helping Stryker keep tabs on Logan for the safety of her sister, who is locked up on the island. Feeling betrayed by everyone around him, Logan leaves. Kayla asks to see her sister, and Victor wants the Adamantium, but Stryker denies both their promises. Kayla tries to attack Stryker, but Victor gets in the way. Logan returns to rescue her, subdues Victor and releases the captured Mutants. While trying to escape, Stryker activates a mutant under his control to stop Logan and the others. Known as Weapon XI, but called Deadpool by Stryker, it is the remains of Wade Wilson with the powers of several mutants, including Logan’s.

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The escaped mutants look for another way out, while Logan fights Deadpool. Deadpool gets the upper hand over Logan, but Victor shows up saying the only person who gets to kill Logan is him. Together they fight Deadpool and are able to win by decapitating him. The plant around them begins to collapse and the escaped mutants are rescued by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Logan however, gets shot with several Adamantium Bullets by Stryker who then tries to shoot an already wounded Kayla, who however manipulates him enough to make him drop the gun, and walk away. Logan recovers from the shooting, but when found by Gambit, has no idea who or where he is.

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Ok, before I talk in more detail why, first thing I want to say about this film is that; it’s bad. It’s really bad, I find it hard to think of another film I think that is worse than it. The film does have some good points which I will highlight quickly, but the rest of it is just bad. On the film’s more positive side (well, only as far as I can find), it does contain some good and interesting characters. I like how the film has gone to lengths to introduce several of the comic’s series legends, however few of these actually work. While she may not be on-screen for very long, the character of Kayla is a good character. She is compassionate, friendly but also mysterious and introduces the films only relevant plot twist in her being alive, plus the idea she might not have actually been interested in Logan in the first place. She is played really well by Lynn Collins and is a very enjoyable character for such a disappointing film. I do however think she could have had more screen time.

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Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth on the other hand is an interesting cast choice. This is by no means Sabretooth’s first entry in the series. Previously he was in the first X-Men film played by Taylor Mane. The role in that film was a more physical one than a vocal one and so they sort of booked an actor to take on that kind of role. This time however the role is very different as it carries more of a vocal/personal role than a physical one. Liev Schreiber provides for this role rather well on both parts. He has a brilliant, sinister style and dark voice, but he has the size and physical stance to remain physically imposing for the part. His relationship/friendship and rivalry with Wolverine provides a backstory as well as building animosity between the two; while Wolverine is more compassionate, Creed is greedier and believes that what he wants he can have. Creed’s mutation does change him as this film goes on and while he is (plot speaking) not the main villain of the film, for every other reason and situation, he is. Later on he sort of redeems himself enough to help Logan; however it is more through his imposing, sinister, villainous side that he really stands out in this film. And while he is more a vocal character; his animalistic side is still present, and fearsome to watch, with scenes making him look like a roaring tiger or lion, a real animal (although I can’t help if some of that is provided through CGI). Schreiber’s performance in this film is fantastic, enjoyable from start to finish, so much fun to watch. I do however think that his rogue story side could have been done better, but more on that later.

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While he may not be a major character, Gambit is still one of the best. I remember when I first heard about him being in this film, I was so happy and excited that my favourite X-Men character was going to be in it. I was not disappointed. Gambit is played magnificently by Taylor Kitsch, an amazing performance that portrays the character correctly and to his comic book counterpart and origins. He carries the style, talk, cockiness, and the powers so well. Gambit to me is the main character highlight of this film. Not just for simply being in it, but for actually being the Gambit from the comics and cartoons.

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Hugh Jackman is always good quality, even in a bad film. The film focuses on Wolverine’s origins, and for the part of Wolverine provides just that. The story goes as far back as Wolverine can and his character really does grow as the film goes on, but he stays the same too. While he does have an animal side which is associated with a wild upbringing, there is a more human side to him too. He has compassion and love for those he cares for, but also knows the difference between right and wrong. He genuinely has love for Kayla, even if it turns out he was played, and while he does leave her, he comes back for her even asking her to come with him. His caring also for what happens on the island shows more to him than just a wild animalistic persona. Hugh Jackman really does deliver when playing Wolverine in every film he has been in, and while there are numerous plot issues and things forgotten, not included or just generally avoided, every scene he is in he plays a good character…………………….Now, on to the bad stuff.

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William Stryker was a good role in X2, played magnificently by Brian Cox. In this though, he’s terrible. He turns up with a sinister face and constantly carries a scowl all the way through the film. It is so obvious from the start of the film that this guy cannot be trusted, and you just can’t feel, or accept the guy at all. How am I as an audience member supposed to like him at all, when he just doesn’t look friendly or trustworthy. The rest of his Mutant team also seem wasteful. Yes there are some legends of X-Men in them, but some of the actors and things they do are just unnecessary. Bradley is not on-screen long enough to care about him enough when Creed kills him. In fact, up till that point he just feels like a minor hired hand villain, and so I just don’t know what the point in that exchange with Creed was. I don’t understand why Will.I.Am is in this film. In the later part yes, he has a friendship with Logan and redeems himself a little. But for the rest of the time he is nowhere to be found. He is not as bad as the rest of the crew I will say that, but still, why is he in this film? What’s the point of his character? Same goes for Fred Dukes, A.K.A. Blob. I didn’t really consider Blob a fat character, more just an imposing large person in all directions. While we do get a showing of his powers in dealing with the tank early on, I can’t help but think he is put in this film for the sake of a laugh, particularly when he is big and fat. I don’t really know what to think about Agent Zero. Before I started writing this I was wondering where Maverick was in this, only to then discover that Maverick is also Agent Zero. Zero is by no means pleasant or friendly, he is rather annoying actually (yeah let’s go with that). He’s just there, and takes over a role that Deadpool should be doing by talking a lot. He is this constant running commentary of what is going on in the scene, pointing out the obvious. His fight with Logan which ultimately leads to his Death is a good scene to which we can then see him as something other than what he currently is. Back when this film came out I didn’t really know all that much about Maverick, but since finding out, I kind of want to see more of him, either in comics or other forms of media. As another mutant in the Weapon X Program, it would have been interesting to have seen him turn and what that would have done to him, but in this film, he is just annoying. The film does have other mutants on show too, mostly with Stryker’s test subjects, but some of these just seem pointless and there for no other reason than to just make points or annotations towards the earlier films plus popular mutants. The one that does this the most of course is obviously Cyclops (Tim Pocock). There are some good extra characters in here as well, including both like Stryker’s scientist (Asher Keddie), and Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi) While I do like the character of Charles Xavier, I think he being in this film is rather pointless, as it achieves the same thing as Cyclops being in this film. Xavier didn’t even need to talk in this film, we could have just seen his face and instantly know who it was. I think the film could have improved a little bit if it was just either the back of his head, suggesting Xavier, or just to see his face. We then know what happens to them instead of repeating something that was in X-Men 1.

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Now: Deadpool. Deadpool is rather a disappointment. While it can be said that he is definitely chatty, the fact that in the comics the character can’t stop speaking seems to be completely out the window in this film. He does stop talking, and when his mouth is glued up it’s a sort of joke, but, in this film he was just chatty. Also, he’s completely wrong. Deadpool, while being an experimented candidate in the Weapon X Project, does not gain all those powers he has. While he can heal and regrow limbs, he does not have spike shooting out of his arms, nor lasers beaming out of his eyes, nor teleportation. He is completely his own man, and is not controlled in that fashion either. He just looks like someone who was put in here to act as a big bad monster to defeat in the end, sort of like Kelly Hu in X2. But it’s annoying that such a popular character these days, has been messed around in such a fashion. His look is so off-putting too, it’s like he came from a Horror film. I am surprised that the certificate didn’t go up upon his first appearance on-screen. The mutilated eyes and body, he just looks like something that should be in a different film altogether, not this one.

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One thing that is disappointing with this film, is that it carried so much opportunity and potential. Wolverine’s origins are an interesting story to tell and go into because of how mysterious his character is. He went through so much pain, but we don’t know how or why until those events are explained. Here there was an opportunity to explore them. The film is very quick going from one scene to the other and desperate just to get to the action sequences. When Logan is offered the steel claws, it looks like something from a Bond Film, being given a gadget to help in his vital mission to bring down Victor Creed. It just doesn’t seem right. Then there is Creed who is being this ‘rogue’ like predator, killing people off, but the film just jumps to it. Why couldn’t it have been built up, why is Creed already revealed into being the person doing this. Why couldn’t it have been a surprise, with Bradley seeing a mysterious, yet familiar being at the door, but you don’t see who it is? You could have had this idea that something, big, bad thing was making its way to Logan. A big black shadow, who then reveals it to be Creed. We could have had tasters as it built up, and also more time for Logan and Kayla’s relationship to grow more. Instead it’s just: “Yep, it’s Creed. He killed him. We all saw it”. Then, as we get past the metal bonding to Wolverine, who takes it in nice and easy really, no pain or regret as to who he has become, and who has pretty much forgotten about Kayla, no remorse as to her death. Once all that is past, we get a rather silly bit that makes me think of the basketball scene from Escape from L.A. where in this time Wolverine needs to get information out of Fred Dukes, and so has a boxing match with him. It just seems pointless, was it added to increase the film’s length (which is quite short)? And the bit with the claws coming out of the glove just looked ridiculous and silly. The film picks up a little after this, but ends with the shoddy fight and ending. I like the idea of “The Island”, it’s an interesting story idea that could have been explored more, because well, it’s the only real mention of the Weapon X Project in this film (which strangely is what this film is really about). There should have been more talk about that, and look into the successes of the project and failure’s, but it only concentrated on Wolverine and manipulated everything else around it instead of exploring it.

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The film’s special effects are a bit hindered too. There is one scene where Logan tries out his new steel claws, and they don’t look as polished as they do in previous films, they look lack lustre as in someone at the special effects department said; “People know what they look like, I am going out for coffee”. The scenes with Emma’s and Cyclops’s abilities, plus ones used by Deadpool are actually quite good, but there’s nothing else much in it. There are some good set pieces too like “The Island” for one, but much like the promise that the film had, the special effects did not deliver. Then we come round to the film’s soundtrack (composed by Harry Gregson Williams). I find it hard to talk about the soundtrack, as though while it’s there, and has some moments…..I think – it just doesn’t have the outstanding quality that the 3 previous films did.

Alltogether, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a very disappointing film (sorry to keep going on about it, don’t worry this is the final paragraph). It had promise and opportunity behind it, opportunity to explore the origins or Logan for the big screen. It had the opportunity of quality thanks to the previous 3 films, it had opportunity to showcase new characters for potential use later on. It hard so much promise, but did not deliver. It had some good characters, but mostly bad ones. It had some interesting moments, but rather silly ones too (such as where Logan releases the imprisoned mutants) and did not do much else after that. It has few reasons to be watched, and I will say that Liev Schreiber, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch and Hugh Jackman are worth it to a point. I suppose we can consider ourselves lucky that no film since has referenced this film………and that the next 3 films, are all Fantastic.

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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