It’s The End – Logan

15 03 2017

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

Whenever I finish something, or feel like something is coming to a close; something big and has taken me a long time to do, my mind always jumps to the scene of the fourth Doctor Who regenerating into the fifth. I don’t know why, but it’s a nice poignant scene which carries the incredible line; it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for”. It’s that line that comes to mind when I can feel like something is the end, or that I have reached the end. But knowing what I am like, I will have prepared for it, so like when I finished reading the GONE book series, I found something to read to replace it with for instance. Well, in the case of this film, the moment has been prepared for, but the hardest hit is that it truly is The End!

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Released in 2017 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg, and Directed by James Mangold; Logan is a superhero film starring Hugh Jackman returning for what is intended to be his last portrayal of Wolverine, a role he has held for 17 years. When the film was first announced on the heels of The Wolverine, I was really excited as I really loved The Wolverine. Come 2015 however with Jackman announcing his retirement from playing Wolverine, I was very sad, and had begun chasing my mind around for replacement actors (if there were any), forgetting of course that before that bridge is crossed, Jackman would still provide us with one last glorious hurrah.

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The year is 2029; all mutants are supposedly dead except for a small group, and a now aging Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a chauffeur on the border with Mexico and lives with friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at an old smelting plant. Xavier is now growing old and senile with his psychic powers now grown beyond control with devastating effect and has to take medication to control it. One day Logan is approached by a lady called Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks him to give her and a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), escort to a location in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts the job as the money provided will allow him to buy a luxury yacht he wants to purchase. As he comes to collect them though he finds Gabriella has been murdered. Laura stows away in his car though and goes to the Smelting Plant where she becomes friends with Charles. Just as they arrive though, a platoon of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) arrive having captured Caliban, and are demanding that Logan hand over the girl. As men try to capture her though, she quickly attacks them in a very savage and brutal way, with steel claws coming out of her hands, decapitating and amputating several limbs.

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Logan, Laura and Charles escape, and using Gabriella’s phone, discover that Laura or X-23 as she was designated; was one of several young children born and bred by the Transigen Program headed up but surgeon Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The kids are injected with Mutant DNA and are bred to become mindless and dangerous soldiers, however unable to control the children’s souls, they all don’t want to do what they’re told anymore and most of them escape including Laura. Because she was made from Logan’s DNA, it is deduced that he is her father. Pierce with the help from the Reavers, use Caliban’s ability to locate other mutants to find Logan, and while staying at a casino in Oklahoma City the trio are nearly captured, but Xavier has one of his moments and near paralyzes everyone in the city except Laura and Logan. Logan is able to get them out of the city, but does not believe in the mythical Eden of North Dakota where they are going, especially when he finds the co-ordinates referenced exactly in an X-Men comic. The trio are eventually given shelter by a family they help out on the road and the group bond together, as Laura discovers more of the outside world, one she never experienced having been locked up all those years. During the night however, Xavier is murdered by X-24, the final project of Transigen to replace the children, who also happens to be a copy of Logan, claws and all. X-24 captures Laura placing her in very restrictive shackles and takes her to Rice, but Logan arrives just in time to face himself having found the murdered family and the dead Charles. With some help, X-24 is pinned down, and Caliban uses a grenade to blow up rice’s van. Logan saves Laura and the two head out in the night, burying Charles in the morning.

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Beside himself, and with his healing still failing, Logan agrees to take Laura to Eden, still not believing it. Eventually they arrive at a mountain range with a community filled with the other surviving experimented children all run by Rictor (Jason Genao). There Logan learns that the children will be making an 8 mile hike across the Canadian border. Logan is ready to send Laura on her way, but Laura wants to know him as a father, although he is still down and out about losing his own friends, and sees himself less as a father, and more of a threat, and just wants to die. The kids attempt to make the hike, but are soon surrounded and chased by the Reavers. Using a healing serum from Transigen, Logan takes in the full dose knowing it will kill him but should give him strength to save the kids. The kids are soon rounded up and shackled except for Laura who gets surrounded, but rescued by Logan. The serum though begins to ware off just as he meets Rice, who happens to be the son of the man behind the Weapon X Program. X-24 is set loose on Logan, but Laura is able to free the other kids who kill Pierce. Logan is impaled on a tree during the fight, but using an Adamantium bullet, Laura kills X-24, which Logan had kept for years. Eventually succumbing to his wounds, Logan dies, unable to heal and the kids bury him before crossing the border.

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In 2007; the German heavy metal band known as Scorpions released a single called Humanity. It is a song which poignantly depicts the destruction and downfall of the human race through its own acts and nothing more. It is a very heavy track and whose lyrics basically suggest, as delivered in the music video with a young boy simply saying “It’s The End!” Now this track does not appear in Logan I should point out, but that is what comes to mind as I think on this film. It’s the end of Hugh Jackman playing this part. This is an actor who has played a movie role for 17 years now. During that time there have been 3 American Presidents, 4 UK Prime Ministers, 4 (technically 5) Doctor Who’s. It is an incredible amount of time to play a film role, most WWE Wrestlers don’t even last that long, but here is Hugh Jackman still playing this role, now deciding he wants to leave. He deserves it rightly so, he is allowed to walk away given the energy, passion and devotion he has put into just one character. He has played other parts which help prevent typecasting, but possibly for the rest of his life, will be best remembered for being The Wolverine, you do not forget 17 years of the same thing in a flash. So, yes, it’s the end of Jackman as Wolverine; but not just that. It’s also the end of 2 major characters in a film series that has become one of the most critically and financially successful franchises in movie history. The X-Men film series is not ending, No! There are still more films to come including Deadpool Sequels (YES!). No, what we have here is something of what could be best described as a tragic ending, which is sad for Xavier, but more so for Wolverine as he has led a pretty tragic life.

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The story of Wolverine is a tragic one as it’s the life of a genuinely good person who has led a rough life. He is very old given that his healing prevents aging on a grand scale. Over the years he is going to meet people and see people die, a lot of people die if you live that long and that is not good for the mental soul. As life has passed by, something horrid happens to him, something so dark and miserable, but something that he has only partial memories of. So as life ticks by he has to remember these things not knowing entirely what it was, and spends life running instead of facing. Eventually though good things happen for him, he gets friends, and a family, and can care for people again, and have a proper life, but given as to who he is and what he is, none of this could possibly last, and as the years have gone by, and seen more people die, some by his own hands for the good of others, he resigns to a wishful death, and waits for it. It is a very sad story for someone who is not a bad man, someone who is actually a very good man, a caring man, a protective man. Yes, he is prone to a little bit of violence, but only when it is called for; doing what must be done, because without him to protect his friends, no-one can. Into this, we find ourselves confronted with the final act of The Wolverine. But it’s not really a super hero movie, more of a personal journey as one man reaches his eventual end, but has one last thing to do.

Logan is actually a rather small film. It’s not a mega big one like other super hero films of note, as this is not a character trying to save the world, but those around him, and as such we go less on a journey to save the world, but a more personal one. As such he is not referred to as The Wolverine, but because it’s a personal story is known better as just Logan. Logan starts off in a similar vein as does The Wolverine, with Logan having to live and come to terms with his life and the death by his own hand of someone he loved. Now coming into this film we are told something similar has happened, but we don’t know exactly what. But just like before, Logan is beat up and ruined and has resigned to live as much a recluse as possible while caring for Xavier who has become rather senile. Eventually though he is given a duty he does not want, that of looking after a little girl very much like him. He is meant to be the father, but has no care for her, caring for his friends than her; something which falters in the mind of Laura who wants to know who she is and know her father too. As the story continues and things happen as usual, the similarities between the two emerge as Laura is very much like he was in the first first X-Men, with Logan now having grown up. Logan is still resigned to wishing death upon himself, but knows that once more, he needs to do the right thing to help those that need his help resulting in one last blood bath for those who deny him and others peace. His Death though is not nice, nor peaceful, but more brutal for someone who has earned better. It is a film that makes you think deeply upon issues such as the harsh and sometimes quick deaths of others while others get a more natural one. It looks into how people desire Death, and how Death actually comes. It features a brutal end which dies just like death is a final stop. It really makes you think on if you believe that the world is a better place without you, how can you be certain of this? How do you not know that life right now is in fact better, because ‘you’ are around!

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Logan is a small film and bolsters a small but pretty strong cast. Stephen merchant I find was actually pretty good as Caliban. Caliban has featured sort of twice in the past with his most recent piece being in Apocalypse as some garish and camp clown; here instead we see what he is truly like and capable of but also what kind of person he is given his history as one of the Morlocks. Gabriella’s part is small but sweet and shares some backstory light on some of the films major issues and themes including who Laura is and why we should care. One thing though I find the film lacks is a strong villain. There are some good villainy characters and others who help fill in those parts like a few extras. Pierce himself has the nice sinister mechanical arm and some god talking points but feels more like a hindrance than a villain. Same can be said for Rice, who while is a deceptive schemer with a good voice, again just feels plain. I am not saying he’s bad, it just feels like the villains are strong because they are many, but not because of whom they are. I mean X-24 feels like a wasted opportunity and a mistake being rewritten. His appearance as Logan is a bit like the Undertaker vs Undertaker match at SummerSlam 1994; kind of surprising, but still rather silly. It feels like a wasted opportunity to bring in a new monster. I thought maybe an enhanced Sabretooth, or Maverick, or someone big and scary to introduce. With a double Wolverine, it felt more like Weapon XI in Origins all over again, and we know what happened there don’t we!

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What villain’s lack, heroes make up. The Transigen kids are a nice addition although faint on the film’s radar, mostly as people to get into trouble and allow a moment of heroism, but for this film, it really comes down to Logan, Laura and Xavier. Xavier’s part in this film is still pretty similar to past films but does do a lot more and shows what Stewart can do when allowed to do something very different. He is in some sense the comedy side kick and delivers some incredibly funny moments, but it’s through his disorientated new life that shows how bad things have become. He remains something of a hindrance to Logan after all these years, but one Logan has come to care for, as rightly he should, as Xavier is practically his last and now only friend. His death in the film is a big shock, but not a sincere one, as don’t forget we have seen him die before in more dramatic circumstances with this one more lost in the moment, but you do see his life pass in his eyes.

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Laura spends most of the film rather quiet, does not say a single word until just before the final Act. Yes there are shouts, yells and screams, but no words. This form of silence allows retention of mystery as to who she is, but also allows expressing more deeply the life she had and the new world she is experiencing. Silence can be golden at times and really works in her favour, as we see this young girl come face to face with new things, not knowing what they involve or how to interact, but when finally realising who she is and where she is, she finally speaks, knowing that she needs to for the sake of Logan, but also so she can be heard. Her desperation to get to Eden comes more as a cross between hope and instruction from others, not necessarily her own entire belief, but somehow knows it’s there even if Logan doesn’t. Her skills as a fighter are incredible and are very similar to Wolverine, but she has some heart too, not a lot as this is crowded with the same anger Logan once had too, but as things come to a close, she knows that she must carry on, even though her father; something she wants and desires cannot help her, but in some way knows that still lives on inside her, respecting his death, and making his legacy live on in more ways than one.

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Logan’s design and perception of being much older and on the verge of death is an interesting one. We have seen him go through emotions before, but then he was not on the ultimate verge of giving up, more just conflicted. Now though he desires it, more than anything else. It’s kind of hard to speak on his performance after 3 or so paragraphs of detailing his character, but one thing stands out more than most; his Death; His final hurrah. Coming into this film, I was thinking his last stand was going to be like in The Wolverine, one last heroic but still cynical fight to the death where he would come out on top but now no more energy left to continue. No, this time his death is more personal. It wasn’t a long lasted blood bath, more one which required others to save him and take on his role, and one that required others to do the work, while he acted as a decoy, once again being more of a team member than a loner. But his death does have something else in it though. Going into this I thought it would be like The Wolverine, but in that, he was The Wolverine, now he is just Logan. Calling him The Wolverine, it’s like a promise (like The Doctor), you know what he is, who he is and what he can do, but by putting ‘the’ before it he becomes a thing, not a person; this film is a much more personal one, so in this case it’s not the death of The Wolverine, it’s the death of Logan. That carries a more significant weight to it; it’s not the death of a thing, but the death of somebody. Laura in a future film could become the New Wolverine, or someone else could take on that name; but you can’t replace or take on the identity of Logan.

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The film does come packed like many other X-Men films with a cavalcade of special effects. These of course include ‘very’ detailed claws including spots of graphic detail and blood splatter; especially when piercing through the heads of some people. The mechanical hands are a nice treat showing off some more blood and limb coverage than usual. The film uses its special effects department in other ways too to create visions of the future including a scene involving driverless, but dangerous trucks. The film also comes with a soundtrack once again produced by Marco Beltrami featuring quite a few slow pieces which are used to heighten the level of reality but more a sense of realisation than anything else possibly to state that this is the end! Pieces like Old Man Logan, Don’t Be What They Made You and Goodnight Moon cover this pretty well, but the soundtrack does of course know when to get busy though and of course creates action packed pieces for when a fight is on especially in a scene like the Forest Fight at the end and also when Logan is facing X-24. The one thing though that really stands out about this soundtrack though is the inclusion of several classic pieces by Johnny Cash. Logan’s first trailer of course famously features the song Hurt, which really shows the direction the film intends to take so that the audience can really see how the film is likely to turn out but also more likely what it is all about. This piece though does not actually feature in the film, what does feature though is not a slow grim song, but a rather pleasant, peaceful and also happy song that really turns around the film’s great tragedy and helps you gain some perspective.

A few months ago I went to see the film Ethel and Ernest based on the book of the same name written by Raymond Briggs. The film has a very sad ending, but turns this around in a sense by featuring a piece of music and images within the credit roll that suggest that while the ending was sad, it does not mean that everything was as there was some really happy moments. Here we have the sad ending and conclusion to the story of Wolverine (in film), but, while he has had great tragedy in his life, and it ended as such, there is some peace we can look back on. For one Logan has attained a peace from the devastation of his dark history, but also in that history there was also, happiness, joy, peace and of course love. This is held by the film playing The Man Comes Around in the credits, a light fluffy as well as casual piece, signifying not an entirely sad ending, but shows that there has always been another side to the coin, that in the misery, there was joy, and in the darkness there was also light; and so while Wolverine does bow out, we can take a moment of knowledge and recognition about the life he had, and the legacy that he leaves behind, not just in story, but also in the entertainment and joy he has given us as cinema goers.

Logan is a pretty sad point. I know the series will continue and new stars are appearing to take the helm and the future such as Ryan Reynolds, Sophie Turner and hopefully Dafne Keen too, but it is a sad point, more so when I think that there could have been more. When X-Men Origins came about and really failed like it did, that is the series lowest point, so when The Wolverine came along and excelled so much, it felt like a new beginning, like that is what Origins should have been, forgetting that film and becoming the first a Wolverine Trilogy. But now it has come to an end, it feels like only the surface was being scratched, and that more was on the way. It’s like when Castle was cancelled last year; it was in it’s prime, there was more to be told, and it just ended. That’s what we have here, like something more could have come, but now we may never see that. You can only play a character for so long though, and an end would have come eventually. The end of something is exciting because you don’t know how it’s going to end, but eventually realization sets in, and you realize that it truly is the end. So even if it did continue, it would eventually end: but what an ending it was! Logan does not disappoint in providing one last fight, one last match, one last scene of steel claws, blood curdling action, eye grossing violence, but also one last moving scene as the great hero finally comes to rest in peace. Logan is a sad and tragic little film, but shows off plenty of emotion and heart in a film series that has defined just that in the super hero genre; and now Hugh Jackman can now go do something else, leaving a legacy that will live on in cinema forever, and one that no-one can match. There is only one true Logan, and only one true, Wolverine.

GENEPOOL





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





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





A Dying Man’s Demand – The Wolverine

24 10 2015

The Wolverine (20th Century Fox - 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENEPOOL





Let’s Just Say I’m Frankenstein’s Monster – X-Men: First Class

23 10 2015

X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox - 2011)

It’s pretty clear to see that the characters featured in X-Men aren’t exactly, human (except for those who are). No, they’re Mutants, mutants with extraordinary powers, ones that allow them to do magnificent things for either the side of good, or that of evil. But have you ever wondered how all this came to pass, how Charles Xavier founded the X-Men and how Magneto came to be his great Nemesis? Neither have I, but for those who do want to know, you have 2 options. Either read the comics which you can find either online or in shops that sell comics, or you can just watch this film.

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Released in 2011 by 20th Century Fox, Directed by Matthew Vaughn and Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner; X-Men: First Class is the fifth film in X-Men film series, and is the second spin-off from the main series. First Class goes in a different direction to the previous three films however, instead going back in time to tell the origins story and early history of the X-Men. The film is loosely based off the X-Men comic series First Class, and introduces several new characters into the series plus recasting a few others.

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In 1944, at one of Hitler’s Jewish prison camps, young Erik Lensher shows off extraordinary powers when he bends a metal gate. This grabs the attention of Scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon) who kills Erik’s mother when he wouldn’t move a coin. This enrages Erik into destroying most of Schmidt’s lab. In New York meanwhile, young Charles Xavier discovers a blue skinned mutant called Raven stealing from his family’s kitchen and invites her to join his family. In 1962, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has now grown up and is pursuing Schmidt leaving a trail of destruction in both Switzerland and later Argentina. In Oxford, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) graduates from University with a Thesis on Mutation, and lives there with his now fostered sister Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). In Las Vegas meanwhile, CIA Agent, Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) is tracking army officer; Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower), when she discovers him talking to Klaus Schmidt, now going by the name Sebastian Shaw, along with his team of mutants Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), Emma Frost (January Jones) and Azazel (Jason Flemyng). Azazel teleports Hendry to the joint war room where he gives his support for placing nuclear weapons in Turkey. Needing more advice on the subject of Mutants, Moira goes to see Xavier in Oxford and invites him to the CIA and convince Director McCone (Matt Craven) that mutants exist, and another CIA officer (Oliver Platt) shows his support for them. Xavier and Moira locate Shaw on his private boat, just as Erik tries to kill him. Shaw escapes, and Erik is rescued by Xavier who jumps in the water to prevent him from drowning. At the CIA’s X Division, the group meet young scientist and mutant Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), whom Raven immediately begins to bond with. Erik tries to leave with documents about Shaw, but Xavier encourages him to stay. Using a machine built by Hank called Cerebro, Xavier and Erik recruit other mutants to the CIA X Division: Alex Summers (Lucas Till), Armando Munoz (Edi Gathegi), Sean Cassidy (Caleb Landry Jones), Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz), and try to recruit one other who is less than interested.

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One night, the young mutants show off their powers to one another and come up with codenames for themselves becoming; Havok, Darwin, Banshee, Angel respectively, with Raven choosing the name Mystique and giving Xavier and Magneto the names Professor X and Magneto. Believing they are unready to go to Russia to find Shaw with them, Erik, Xavier and Moira go to a senior Russian military officer’s (Rade Šerbedžija) house where only Emma shows up. Desperately wanting to find Shaw, Erik goes rogue, manages to break into the building and confront Emma, breaking her diamond form so that Xavier can read her mind. Inside he discovers Shaw’s plan to create a full on nuclear war and trigger the rise of mutant kind. Back at X Division meanwhile Shaw, Riptide and Azazel, find the young mutants and try to recruit them, successfully recruiting Angel to their side, and killing Darwin in the process. Wanting to avenge the death of Darwin, Xavier takes the others back to his childhood home where they all train and better master their own abilities. Havok gets better control of his thanks to a new suit, and Banshee can now fly. Hank meanwhile is busy trying to create a serum to look normal, which eventually causes a rift between him and Raven. Erik on the other hand is still struggling to get the best out of his abilities, when Xavier unlocks his mind however; he is able to do almost anything.

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With some persuasion by Shaw, the USSR decides to deploy its Nuclear weapons in Cuba. Xavier and his team decide to try and stop it, with Erik only really wanting to do it to kill Shaw. Hank’s Serum to make him look human, fails and his real form, a blue furry Beast comes into full view. In Cuba, the navies of the USSR and the USA are poised ready to fight. Xavier’s team arrive, and using his telepathy, Xavier manages to blow up the Nuclear Cargo Ship halting World War 3. Shaw meanwhile has a backup plan to absorb the nuclear reactor core of his submarine and release it through himself. Using Banshee’s ability underwater, Erik is able to lift the submarine, before crashing it on the beach. Xavier’s mutants fight Shaw’s while Erik goes inside the crashed sub to find Shaw. There the two fight, with Shaw getting the upper hand. Erik manages to remove Shaw’s helmet, which prevented Xavier getting inside his head. Erik however puts it on his own head preventing Xavier from stopping him. He takes out the coin from the day his mother was killed by Shaw, and sends it straight through Shaw’s head, killing him instantly.

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The USSR and USA decide to join forces in ending a potential mutant threat there and then, attacking the mutants on the beach. Erik, now in full control of his abilities, stops their weapons from reaching them, before sending them straight back at the attacking ships. Xavier tries to stop Erik and the two fights with Erik still sending the weapons at the ships. Moira tries to shoot Erik, but a stray bullet hits Xavier in the back. The ships are saved from the oncoming arsenal, and Erik along with Shaw’s team and Raven leave, with Xavier now paralyzed. Back at the mansion, Xavier now in a wheelchair talks about setting up an academy there, and shares a kiss with Moira, wiping her memories to protect them. In the CIA Basement, Erik turns up to rescue Emma, now calling himself Magneto.

OK, this may seem weird, but please bear with me as I quote the back of my DVD copy of the film:

“See how it all began in this thrilling first chapter of the X-MEN saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensher became Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were enemies, they were the closest of friends and gathered an elite team of mutants to form the X-Men in an attempt to prevent World War III.”

In a nutshell, that is what the film is about basically, two guys who discover they have mutant powers, become friends and prevent yet another World War. In more detail however, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, it’s all the above, but entwined and intermixed together there is a lot more going on than just that. The film’s story is beautifully crafted and is one of the best stories in this series to discover. The film sort of takes the audience back to what the first film was about and concentrates the narrative on two specific characters and what happens to and around them. While the story does lead up to the prevention of World War 3, that’s not its main story. Interestingly, it happens at a time when mutant kind is not necessarily a growing political and social issue. It’s more in the discovery process but only really afflicts those who have visible mutant traits, particularly more so towards Raven. What you get instead is that it’s more of a sub plot, and the concentration is more on the growing possibility of nuclear war and one man’s attempts to start one in order to benefit more himself than anyone else. One thing I rather like about the film’s story telling is how it has combined a fictional setting with real world events. The use of the Cuban Missile Crisis really helps to make the story seem real, like it’s all happening in this world and not just some fantasy or comic book setting. It provides suggestions as to what really happened during that time. It’s not in a fictional world but actually feels like Mutants could be living amongst us. Plus it helps to date the stories and give us perspective as to how far back the film’s plot is set. The setting of the final fight also creates something of a powder keg and shows the moment when mutants first came to public light. It really sets up the scene for future films and stories. Aside from both of these however, is a story that contains lots of interesting elements that come out when characters are looked into. The film contains a lot of characters, some with large backstories for such small roles. While there are some mutants who don’t get this allowance like Riptide or sadly Darwin, others, like Havok, and Angel show an interesting level of character. Havok is so quiet in this film, and is shown as being the kind of person who prefers being alone most of the time, showing this through several insults. However there is a redeeming feature to this. When Darwin dies, Alex does have a sense of regret and sadness inside himself. As the film goes on he opens up more, but keeps his regular side, possibly showing a more vulnerable side to himself. Angel (brilliantly played by Zoe Kravitz) similarly presents a similar character. While when I first saw this film, I was angry at the presentation of Angel, as I was more wanting Archangel (in the comics she’s called Tempest), I grew to her character more and she is an enjoyable addition to the cast. Angel is an interesting character as she so quickly becomes a villain. Not through her wanting to be one, but more through not wanting to hide as a mutant forever, and be accepted for whom she truly is (plus some possible charming from Shaw).

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Other notable cast members on something of a shortlist include Banshee. An interesting part and it wasn’t until I saw this film that I had a proper understanding of what his powers were and what he could do. His costume and look appear to be a lot like they are in the comics. He doesn’t necessarily feel persecuted for who he is and is more open from the start. Xavier’s work with him really helps to grow his confidence too. Azazel I feel is trying to have a big role but I don’t think he works other than for being a hired gun. It sort of feels like an attempt to include a character like Nightcrawler, but have them as a villain. He has a few short scenes of speaking parts which help him out and he is an important part of Shaw’s team, but I don’t feel all that strongly for him. Darwin I do feel rather sorry for as he gets killed off rather quickly, which is a shame because he seemed like genuinely a nice character. Emma Frost however is fantastic. Another brilliantly played part that is both cold as her name plus a lot of fun to follow. She is intelligent and sinister as well as possibly a bit deceptive. She has a lot of loyalty towards Shaw despite having some misgivings as the way he treats her. She wears some fantastic clothing that really do help to represent her status in the film as not a hired gun but an intelligent role, plus match an element of her clothing in the comics and cartoons (minus the cape).

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First Class makes great use of big stars for minor roles and includes a stellar cast from people who play small parts, but make a big impact due to them being such famous faces. People of note being Ray Wise, Glen Morshower, Matt Craven, Rade Šerbedžija, Michael Ironside and Oliver Platt. Along with these you of course get Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw (this is not a small role). I really do like the inclusion of the Hellfire Club in this film. It’s a section of my X-Men: The Ultimate Guide I have read on many occasions, but while I have known about Emma Frost for a while, it was only in recent times coming up to the release of this film that I really began to discover who Sebastian Shaw was. It was through reading Essential X-Men a year or two beforehand that I was first properly introduced, followed by an inclusion of the character in Wolverine and The X-Men on TV. In First Class, Shaw is just as sinister and uses his wealth and power to create his grand schemes plus the manipulation of those around him. His early introduction allows the character of Erik to be brought into the story, plus the film’s first goal for a character and plot. His powers make him practically invulnerable to attack and as such require both the abilities of Xavier and Magneto to defeat him. Much like the Hellfire Club, Shaw is a brilliant character to have as a villain in this and his team of mutants works well to his character. His final death puts the film in a position ready for its next important twist plus brings out Magneto for who he is. I think Rose Byrne is somewhat underused in this film as she slowly builds to the want of a relationship with Charles, but while the Mutants train, she doesn’t appear to be there. Unlike the people at the CIA who see Mutants as something else, Moira sees more in them. She is confident and always looking for an opportunity to prove herself, which she finds hard to do. She is sort of a comparison to what mutants feel, as she is a woman trying to do a job in a still male orientated world. Despite this though, I still feel like she is underused, especially for such an actress as good as Rose Byrne; despite this though she remains an enjoyable cast member throughout the film.

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First Class immediately shows Beast, where as he was delayed from being included until Last Stand in the previous trilogy. In this he tries to hide his mutation from others from the start, and is determined to accomplish the goal of being as normal as possible. While to begin with this triggers a bond between him and Raven, this does lead to a rift as the film goes along. He eventually comes to sort of accept who he is, but struggles with it again when Raven leaves. Raven meanwhile is not flaunting her ability as she did in the first 3 films. Either this could be because she is played by a different actress, or it could be because she is struggling with whom she really is. She hates and despises how people like Charles can look normal, while she has to regularly hide. This causes an early rift between her and her foster-brother and just builds and builds. While not necessarily being a major explored relationship in the film, the obnoxiousness and ignorance presented by Xavier shows his real lack of understanding for her and begins to reveal a weak spot in him. It’s not until Magneto talks to Raven that she begins to explore her right to be who she is, and accepts this as the film ends. Xavier meanwhile is one of the key characters explored in this film. From the start he tries to show himself as an understanding person, but shows a weak flaw in that he doesn’t really understand everything, as he thinks he does. Sure, he does help those around him who need it, but his lack of understanding with Raven causes a rift between them and slowly begins to ignore her. It’s like he’s trying to ground her, instead of helping her. Xavier then is not who he will become and is still playing around a little. He tries to stay calm and respectful in the situation. He also shares some real dramatic and emotional moments, and through one of these, which connects to his belief that mutants and humans can live together ends with him losing his legs, (plus the moment when he can feel the coin going through the head of Shaw).

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But it’s Magneto who is the film’s best character. Out of all the characters in the film, it’s Magneto who I connect the most with. While he would grow to become the series greatest villain, it’s interesting to see how it all happened. From his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazi’s, the death of his mother and being experimented on; to the acts that would define and make him the villain that he is today. He has many terrific, enjoyable, memorable and fantastic scenes in this film that are bolstered by his own character traits. But it should be remembered that he does not start out as a villain. While I see other comic villains as being evil just for the sake of being evil, Magneto’s rise to villainy status is shown in a more understanding way. While he will commit atrocious acts against others, it’s hard to say that he is doing it for the wrong reasons, as he has experienced incredible atrocities onto himself. He experienced life in the prison camps, the murder of his mother, and experimentation at the hands of a monster. His life previously can only be imagined, but given what is known about the treatment of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany, it’s only fair to see what was in store for Erik growing up. As the film progresses; he begins to commit those atrocities on humanity, but I find myself rooting for him. First on the Germans responsible for what happened to him, to the eventual scene against the ships. Both that and the scene in Argentina are two of the film’s most powerful scenes, and ones I am rooting Magneto to accomplish. Every time I watch the attack on the ships, I want them destroyed, because I sort of feel Erik’s pain, and it feels like Justice needs to be served. Add to this Magneto’s theme as well as Fassbender’s amazing performance and you have a character that stands out so well, that you can’t help but feel a bond with him every time he is on-screen.

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X-Men First class is beautifully shot and uses combinations of set pieces with real settings plus some cool camera tricks to make it stand out. I particularly like the camera angles used in the fight between Banshee and Angel. Costumes have always been something of a stand out feature in the X-Men films, and First Class is no different. From things like formal and casual attire, to the super suits. Instead though being like the jet black leather suits of the first trilogy, they look more like the suits in the early comics, which I think is a neat little addition. Add to it the personal traits of costumes too; such as Emma’s Suit Dress, Banshee’s wings, Havok’s disk, and the all famous Magneto Helmet, particularly at the end of the film. From there it’s onto the special effects of which there are many. The films have moved on in special effects from the outstanding Golden Gate Bridge scene in Last Stand and include lots of big special effects to just say “WOW!” at. From the Submarine pickup, to the navy’s arsenal, to the giant Warships themselves. I like how the Iowa class battleships get a part in this film, they look so cool. But it’s not just the big stuff. The mutant powers are on show too. Some are on show for the first time like Banshee’s scream and Havok’s ability, plus old favourites too like Mystique’s transformation. It’s not all down to Computer Effects though as some are more realistic and look superb such as the slicing of the statue at X Division, to the point where Shaw picks up an Iron Bar with his hands.

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The film’s soundtrack (Composed by Henry Jackman) is just as incredible as everything else in this film, plus is so memorable too. The film’s main theme (in my opinion) has to be Magneto’s theme. It is featured in the credits which I like, plus, when used in certain scenes shows the growing darkness and aggression that Magneto carries towards those he feels have wronged him. From the Argentinian bar where he grows from a mysterious acquaintance, to the moment he reveals himself and what he thinks about himself. There is just this growing essence of anger inside it which really carries his character for him in those scenes. While in other scenes it’s played around with, it’s still Magneto’s theme and I enjoy listening to it every time I hear it. It’s just so dark and menacing.

The film does have other pieces which stand out too. The film does use pieces of music from well established artists including Love Love by Take That (a really good song) and an instrumental version of Run by Gnarls Barkley used during the recruiting scene. As for the rest of the film’s soundtrack, a lot of pieces use the same piece within them. It’s a sort of calm, joyful and pleasant piece and is used several times as a starter. It begins in the Cerebro scene, the reveal of the mansion at the end of the second act and the lifting of the submarine. It’s a nice piece, just a generally nice piece. It even has a bigger part when the jet appears over the sea above the navies, a grander tone perhaps. Add to this other pieces of note such as the lifting of the submarine which brings more a scene of amazement, or to the Cerebro scene where it quickens and I get tingles down my spine just hearing it increase in speed. There is a definite feel of the period in the film’s soundtrack, and it shows (well hears) and is so pleasant to listen to. A great deal of work has gone into the soundtrack for First Class, and it has not gone to waste.

Alltogether; I love this film. I really do. I don’t like it as much I would say as X2 which I still consider my Favourite of the series, but I would say that First Class is a close second. I really do like this film, its story is tense and gripping, its characters are fun, and new, plus connectable, it’s combination of Special Effects and Soundtrack are amazing and most of all; Magneto is Fantastic. While more films have been released since and still more to come, I still absolutely enjoy this film for everything it has. Sure, it does have some shortcomings in some of its characters, but for every minor issue, there are 10 other things that make up for them. You don’t need to know much about X-Men to enjoy this film as it is a complete beginning for these characters without being a reboot. Overall, X-Men First Class is a fantastic film; I really recommend it.

GENEPOOL








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