Everything They’ve Built Will Fall, And From The Ashes Of Their World; We’ll Build A Better One – X-Men: Apocalypse

21 12 2016

x-men: apocalypse (20th Century Fox - 2016)

“You have no idea who you’re messing with Xavier”; a line spoken by the Mutant Mesmero in the X-Men: Evolution episode; Mindbender. An insignificant line to those who may not have seen X-Men Evolution, but to me, it is a line that took me on a journey of discovery. It was the beginning of a story Arc involving the resurgence of a powerful Mutant Villain in the X-Men World. A villain, who since the first time I heard speak of his name, I would become besotted by, and looked for any and all opportunities to find out more about him. It’s been maybe 13+ years since I first came across his name, and I know so much; and upon learning of his upcoming movie debut, I could not wait and anticipated the arrival of this film and more importantly the movie debut of APOCALYPSE.

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Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, and directed by Bryan Singer; X-Men: Apocalypse is a super hero movie where the Uncanny X-Men attempt to save the world from an ancient Mutant who wishes to destroy Humanity. X-Men: Apocalypse is the direct sequel to Days of Future Past and stars the cast of the First Class series of X-Men Films, but which also looks to introduce new stories in the long-term and introduce and also reintroduce both old and new characters. At the same time it looks to introduce the arrival of the first major super villain for the series, and attempts to do this with the insertion of the first mutant; Apocalypse. The story is based on the X-Men comics Apocalypse Story Arc, as well as the X-Factor Story; Fall of the Mutants.

In Ancient Egypt, the Mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) rules the land with 4 followers dubbed his Four Horsemen. While performing a transferral ritual, he is entombed in his pyramid where falls into a deep sleep. In 1983, kid Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) discovers he is a mutant while at school, and his brother Alex (Lucas Till) takes him to Xavier’s School for mutants run by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). In Berlin, shape shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps rescue teleportation mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground fight club and takes him to Xavier’s school; where he meets Scott, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Meanwhile in Egypt, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) is on the lead of a mysterious organisation, who are searching for something underground, and there she comes across the remains of En Sabah Nur’s pyramid, which wakes him up, sending a vivid dream to Jean Grey who foresees the end of the World.

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Upon leaving his underground tomb; En Sabah Nur walks through the streets of Cairo, to discover that the world is under the rule of Humans. He finds street urchin Ororo Munroe (Alexander Shipp) who is a mutant capable of controlling the weather and recruits her into his team, enhancing her powers in the process. En Sabah Nur then goes on to hire mutants Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy), while still searching for a fourth. In Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), also known as Magneto, has found himself with a job at a steel factory, and lives with his wife Magda (Carolina Bartczak) and daughter Nina (T.J. McGibbon). One day at the factory, he rescues someone with the use of his powers, but this tips off the authorities. After an accident in an attempt to capture him results in the death of his family, Magneto kills the militia and then goes to kill the steel mill workers who tipped them off. When he arrives though he is found by En Sabah Nur who kills the steel workers, then takes Erik to Auschwitz where his powers were born. En Sabah Nur informs Erik that he cannot escape his past, and says that he was sorry for not being there when Erik needed him most, finally recruiting him and enhancing his powers.

Back at the school, Mystique wishes to talk to Charles, who has gone to see Moira McTaggart to talk to her about some of the research she has been conducting about the history surrounding a mysterious mutant called Nur. Upon returning to the mansion and talking to Mystique, Charles uses Cerebro to locate and talk to Erik, but En Sabah Nur uses this connection to tap into Charles’s mind, and use Xavier’s Telepathy to get into the minds of everyone around the world, and to launch the world’s entire arsenal of Nuclear Weapons. Alex helps destroy Cerebro to turn it off, but En Sabah Nur arrives at the mansion and kidnaps Charles. Alex tries to stop them, but accidentally causes an explosion that rips through the mansion killing him. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a super-fast mutant; shows up in time and manages to rescue everyone inside the mansion as the explosion tears through it. With the Mansion in pieces, a military helicopter arrives which disables most of the mutants unconscious. The men on board the helicopter led by Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) kidnap Moira, Mystique, Quicksilver and Hank. Before they leave however, Nightcrawler, Jean and Scott sneak on board the aircraft as it takes them to a mysterious base in the Canadian Mountains.

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In Cairo, En Sabah Nur informs Charles of his plans to destroy the world of Humans, and how he plans to possess Charles’s body with the same ritual as earlier. Charles broadcasts En Sabah Nur’s message to the world, while also sending a secret message to Jean. At the base in the Canadian mountains, Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler discover a savage mutant who has been experimented on (Hugh Jackman) and release him on the men in the base. Upon rescuing the others being held by Stryker; the team travel to Cairo where En Sabah Nur has rebuilt his pyramid; and while Magneto uses the world’s magnetic fields to destroy major cities, Nur’s other recruits attack the X-Men team. Nightcrawler is able to rescue Charles from the transferral just in time, but it has left him scarred. Quicksilver and Mystique attempt to convince Magneto to join them, as they’re his family too, and Charles uses his connection with Nur to get inside his head and attack him from there, but Nur is just too powerful. Even when Ororo and Magneto join the fight against him, they still struggle, until Jean releases the raw power of the Phoenix Force, which burns Nur to ashes. Back at the school, Magneto helps Jean to rebuild the school, Moira has her memories of Charles returned to her and Mystique with the help of Hank, trains the first X-Men team.

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I was very excited about the release of this film, so much so that I pretty much went to see it as soon as it came out. I was expecting and hoping for so much. I was watching the trailer over and over again, watching cartoon clips of Apocalypse’s Quotes, as well as clips of Apocalypse from the film saying that Amazing line. I was so excited and was hoping for so much. X-Men 2 has always been my favourite, but my hopes and dreams, especially after Days of Future Past, was that this film was going to be glorious and possibly better than X-Men 2. It was my final day of work where I was working at the time, and to sort of celebrate, as soon as I got back to Lancaster, I checked the VUE to see if it was on and if I could pre-order a ticket (just so I could go home, drop my bag off and get changed). When it was true that I could, I did just that and went to the cinema with great excitement.

Upon seeing the film, my overall opinion was: right….? One thing that I have always found with films in the X-Men series is that it’s always best to give them a couple of watches to really get down to the nub of them, and that’s why I have waited until I could see it again before I reviewed it. It’s just the case that in the past when I have seen them again a second time, I have understood them a bit more. In terms of Super Hero movies they are in a class of their own as they deal with more than just guys with powers, as the X-men have other issues to deal with especially that of Mutant Racism that is so entwined within who they are. I think the issue for me was that I finished work that day too; at a job I was enjoying and was hoping that a treat may create some closure, but instead, my head was conflicting as my hopes and dreams for Apocalypse lay dashed on the pavement. Upon seeing it again though with a clearer head, I am a lot more favorable for it.

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The film has its issues, and the issues are a few. It’s not that they are generally bad; they are just issues that it doesn’t help, and could have with more development or better execution. The major issue it has is that it has a lot to fill in. In the past the series has orientated itself by keeping the team strong but the cast relatively low. The X-Men are a team and it’s important that they remain like that, but the more effective team is better than the biggest, if you get my drift; they’re not an army. The issue here is that, we have one big villain that of course has his own minions to do his bidding, but in order for it to make sense, it needs to be made up of new but still popular characters, so we therefore have a team of five people vs another team, but this time made up with characters that were being reintroduced to the series, important characters that needed to be introduced sooner than later as they have not been seen for a while (except for clips in DoFP of course). With so many characters to introduce, not to mention other characters taking some spotlight, it was going to be hard to fit them all in the allotted time, so what did the film makers do: extend it, but then again it doesn’t really work! It introduces, and well I will say, characters like Nightcrawler, Scott and Jean Grey, plus allow some development time if not a lot. However, on the other hand Apocalypse’s team is hardly introduced at all. They are sort of sacrificed for the benefit of other characters, which is actually a big shame as some of his team are made up of X-Men Superstars who have been members of the comics longer than most.

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Due to this issue of extra time, the film commits some faux pas that only goes to confuse the viewer rather than enhance the film. It has characters to introduce and a lot to show; what it ends up doing is showing scenes (scenes that are very interesting I might add), making you want to see more, and basically changes scene to another perspective which is OK, but then does it again, and does not return to that original perspective for a while, say between 5 and 10 minutes. With that out of your head, you feel like you have walked in to a scene from a TV Drama completely unawares as to what is going on and with no way of finding out. It’s got all these really good bits, but doesn’t put them together close enough for them to really take you anywhere: if the gap was quicker or shorter, then it would probably be alright. You can actually see how long it feels in reality as you realize that even 47 minutes of the way through, it still feels like it’s the first act, and is still introducing people, and not creating an incidental moment that takes it to the next big thing (at least not until the end of the first hour). What does not help this further is Apocalypse’s plan to destroy several major cities at once. You just don’t feel it. You feel it when you’re there; the final battle takes place in Cairo which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re trying to show global devastation it would be better if you focused on one city then moved out. Put one city in peril, for the sake of everywhere else. The images of destroyed cities are very vivid and visionary, but because the scene is not there, it does not feel like anything. If the final battle was in say Washington, New York, maybe even Tokyo or London; these are big major cities of the world, but have the final battle there, and show the expanding devastation there, so those who go to see this film can at least connect more strongly and really feel for the destruction. I don’t like Part 1 and 2 films that are being done all the time right now, it’s a motive by the studio to make more money, not really for the film’s sake to have a stronger/better story, here however I can see an argument for a film that should have a Part 1 and 2. It’s trying so hard to cram so much into what is already a very long film, if it spread things out a bit more, and split into 2 films, then at least we could have a much better developed story and things could happen quicker and better.

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Much like said above, X-Men: Apocalypses cast can be in spots feel a little wasted. They really pushed the boat out with mutant characters and have featured an all-star cast of X-Men Comic mutants which include single appearances from mutants like Blob (Giant Gustav Claude Ouimet) and Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis) as well as small appearances from Apocalypse’s original Horsemen (Warren Scherer, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, Fraser Aitcheson), but it is rather sad that strong characters and re-introductions to this series like Angel and Psylocke are once again pretty much shoved to one side despite how much their images were used to promote the film. I am especially a big fan of Angel and was hoping his new role would be a strong one, much like Psylocke, but again it was very little and he pretty much died a quick death. Psylocke for what time she was given did provide some strong moments, and I would like to see more of her in the future. Like previous films in the series, some major guest actors were brought in to play big but still very short parts, but their inclusion does help ripen the roles of senior characters where required, with the use of such actors as Zeljko Ivanek. But these roles are meant to be one shot spots, whereas major villains or even hero characters should have more. For instance, I thought it was rather odd, that the filmmakers go some distance to include Jubilee in the story, but leave her appearances to the very minimal, especially to introduce her in such a well-developed fashion and not include her in the final battle of which the same could be said for Havok, who was a major introduction in First Class, but not really used beyond, despite how well he is played either way.

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The uses of other characters are just weird though; for instance: I genuinely believe that Hugh Jackman has no point of being in this film other than to make a small appearance. The whole scene in the Canadian mountains shows no real major point, except maybe to introduce the post credits scene, in which case, why not create a very different post credits scene? Everything is going well and Ok, then they just slam this scene in there for no real major story point. What is a real shame though I find is that the film’s major cast (who have since become major stars since their first appearances in this series), seem to be underused. They are there, and feature prominently, but given that Days of Future Past has shown what power they can give in these roles, it’s a shame that they aren’t used to perfection. Most of this could be as an after effect of the convoluted scene by scene irritation I mentioned above, and all the while they still provide goodish performances, it just feels like they have lost effect. James McAvoy for instance seems to have returned to a docile past and feels like he needed to get younger over a 10 year period. That welcoming friendliness is still there, but the power from the previous film has gone. Jennifer Lawrence (who I consider to be my favourite actress) seems to have lost passion as Mystique, she seems to talk more than do more, and does not really deliver any reason for being there, other than maybe for being Jennifer Lawrence. Nicholas Hoult just doesn’t swing it for me much in this film, and just appears to fade into the background mostly while at the same time minutely trying to provide the emotional instability between his character of Beast and Lawrence’s character of Raven/Mystique. I know these films take place 10 years apart from each other, but I didn’t know the actors not the characters had to age in between! As for Fassbender, while he is still very capable of getting very emotional which is a very good trait of his, I think it’s getting rather clichéd that he has to get low and emotional. Why couldn’t he be the big bad strong villain that he is supposed to be playing, only to be enslaved by Apocalypse rather than just join him. Why can’t Magneto just be Magneto? Rose Byrne has a waste of a performance. She was fantastic in First Class, but due to a lack of appearance in Days of Future Past, she is brought in here, and sort of reconciles with Charles really too quickly, not allowing their relationship to really blossom, and so for the most part serves as a double-edged joke and not as the inspired cast choice that she once was.

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It really comes down to the rest of the cast to sort of make up for the casting and performance mess; and some of them do more than any other. The X-Men are a team (already made this point), and as such the characters should have more of a part in the overall battle instead of leaving it to single players to do the job. Scott Summers for instance carries attitude, but not much of anything else to make his part worthwhile. After the death of Alex, he really should have more drive, but he sort of confidently hides in his shell. The same could be said for Nightcrawler who is just there to oppose Angel, and rescue Charles, but nothing much of anything else. And even though she is not part of the team, Storm is a major character in all X-Men related media, and just to be given a few speaking roles and some small appearances, it just again feels like a waste. Quicksilver does get another appearance and a much bigger one plus uses the knowledge of Magneto being his father to increase his position within the film. His rescue of the people in the mansion plus his fight with Apocalypse are two very good and well done scenes and really help to get the final half of the film going. The film’s cast though really does come down to two amazing actors delivering Fantastic Performances. I had never heard of Oscar Isaac when I first heard he had been put in this role, but I absolutely loved his performance. On the one hand I do think Apocalypse was too well held down to begin with and was very much just used to provide philosophy and theory, we didn’t get much of a chance to see his powers until the Nuke Scene and of course the final battle. I was a bit disappointed that his comic book essence, his true powers were not really put on show, but they were minor in reference. However, much like Apocalypse in Comics and Cartoons, his performance, his voice, his presence, were powerful. They were really good scenes, and ones I could both look forward too and much enjoyed. While he did take time to be seen, he was still the main villain and presented as such. I really feel like he should make a future appearance again, a villain like that does not die-hard, but I hope that if it were to be done that Isaac be brought back to play him again and that he is more like his-self in the comics, rather than filmmaker philosophy, but here and now, still well done, and also has the best quote of not just the film, but of any film released this year.

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But for me, there was one person who was better than all the rest. From start to finish her role was pretty mysterious, but the performance provided was unlike any other in the whole film and for her to become the real hero, it was wonderful to see. I absolutely loved Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, she was just epic, and for hours and days after seeing the film, I could still see Sophie Turner whenever I thought of this film. A perfect casting in my opinion that is one I definitely want to see more of in the future (please be cast again in the future).

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The film like its previous series entries does feature a bewildering level of Special Effects, which help to not only show special powers, but also help create scenes and scenarios that cannot be made but are asked of. Some of these sections I feel could have helped in other sections where they may have helped either sped up or at least not slow down the pace of the film. The destruction of cities is very visionary, and the film works hard to create its more iconic big effects like Quicksilver’s running scenes, to destruction on a large scale, to even launching the entire world’s Nuclear Arsenal. But as I have always found, no matter how great the effect is, the soundtrack always delivers more. The soundtrack (composed by John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill) once again features that incredible X-Men opening theme and titles, but does not hold itself down to just that, as it creates some amazing pieces for some of the film’s more outstanding moments, moments such as the launch of Nuclear Missiles (which is played to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7), Ancient Egypt, Quicksilver’s Mansion Run (Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics), and of course the final battle with Apocalypse, especially the rise of the Phoenix. These two things while considered maybe separate never fail to impress or provide great moments for the series, always delivering, always enjoyable, and always powerful.

I wouldn’t consider X-Men: Apocalypse to be a disappointment, nor a bad film (it’s better than at least 2 X-Men films I can think of). It’s more like an unpolished attempt leaning on the edge of greatness. Even with its issues, it has its scenes and moments; although while largely separated for long periods of time, these scenes still deliver really fun enjoyable and powerful moments that give you a good surge of pleasure. The characters may be hit and miss and mostly underused; doesn’t mean that they still can’t bring the pain; they just need to get out of their personal pain to begin with. Apocalypse might not be the same as he usually is, but he still makes a great villain and his introduction let’s open the gates for other major super villains such as, oh I don’t know, Mr. Sinister perhaps? What I would class this film as, is a good attempt. It’s something that throughout is working ok, but never gives the final push it needs to truly breakout and be what it really can be. I had high hopes, and while it did provide hours of real enjoyment, it just wasn’t enough to truly be. Maybe it’s just that I am a fan of X-Men: a fan of the comics, cartoons, (nearly) all the films, maybe that is why it did not fully work for me? Maybe, but even still, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse to a large degree.

GENEPOOL

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The Cure – X-Men: The Last Stand

21 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand

What if there was a medicine out there that could cure something about you. Now I am not talking about flu or a cold, more something that you were born with. Imagine it, something that ailed you since birth could be eradicated and you could therefore do something that everyone else could. Just think, you could walk or see for the first time, or maybe even afflicted by something like what is covered in Scott Westerfeld’s book series Uglies (haven’t read it yet). If such a cure existed, would you take it?

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Released in 2006 by 20th Century Fox, Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed (this time) by Brett Ratner; X-Men: The Last Stand is the third film in the X-Men Film Series. Like in the previous films, the X-Men as well as other mutants are fighting for survival and freedom from a world that hates them. This time around though, all mutants are proposed a question; a question which if answered yes could mean an end to all persecution of mutants, and if answered no, could continue down the dark path to war. The question being, ‘do you want to be cured of your mutation?’

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Twenty years ago, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lensher (Ian McKellan) go to meet a mutant by name of Jean Grey (Hayley Ramm), to try and invite her to come to their school. 10 years later, Wealthy industrialist Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) discovers his son is a mutant who is trying to cut feathers off his back. In the present day at Xavier’s School, Charles and Storm (Halle Berry) get a visit from Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), a large mutant with blue skin and hair who is on the cabinet and is also a former student at the school. He comes to tell them that a ‘supposed’ cure for mutation has been created at Worthington Labs. An announcement is made at that moment regarding the cure, which Rogue (Anna Paquin) likes the sound of. At a private meeting of Mutants, Lensher (now known as Magneto) and his protégé Pyro (Aaron Stanford) gatecrash the talk to state that the ‘voluntary’ cure will eventually be used on mutants to wipe them out. A group of Mutants at the event take notice of this; one of them, Callisto (Dania Ramirez) who is super-fast and can locate other Mutants is asked by Magneto to find Mystique. At Worthington Labs on Alcatraz Island, Hank meets young mutant Jimmy (Cameron Bright) whose power is to suppress other mutants abilities, and is the source of the cure. With Callisto’s help, Magneto finds Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and rescues her from her captors. He also releases two other prisoners, Multiple Man (Eric Dane) and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). Mystique however gets shot by a gun carrying weaponized cure cartridges, and loses her mutant traits, and therefore gets abandoned by Magneto for no longer being a mutant.

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At Worthington Labs, the cure goes public, but Worthington II wants to start with his Son; Warren Worthington III (Ben Foster). Warren III breaks free from his restraints and shows off his resplendent angelic like wings and tells his father, that it’s what he alone wants, before flying away. Scott (James Marsden) who is still distraught at the loss of Jean (Famke Janssen) leaves the mansion and heads for Alkali Lake where she died, and finds that she has been resurrected. They embrace, but something happens to him, that Charles senses. Storm and Logan (Hugh Jackman) go to the lake, find Scott’s glasses and the body of Jean. At the Mansion, Xavier reveals to Logan that as a young girl something destructive manifested inside Jean calling itself The Phoenix and that he psychically blocked it out. Charles tries to block it out again while Logan questions his motives. Later when Jean wakes up however, Logan discovers that the Jean he once knew is not the one in front of him and realizes she killed Scott. She begs Logan to kill her, but then she knocks him out and heads for her childhood home. Charles goes to her home with Logan and Storm, only to be confronted by Magneto and his new team. Inside the house, Magneto tries to convince Jean that Charles wants to suppress her powers. Charles and Jean have a psychic confrontation in which Jean grows immensely powerful and results in Xavier being killed. Magneto takes Jean away while Logan and Storm breakdown at the loss of the professor.

Back at the school a funeral is held for the loss of Xavier, a loss that everyone at the school feels. Hank suggests that with Charles gone, the school should close down, but Storm decides to keep it open, remembering that Charles suggested that she take over when he was gone. During the night, Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) tries to cheer up friend Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) who can walk through walls, by taking her ice skating. Rogue however sees them, and seeing Kitty as a romantic rival leaves the mansion to get a cure shot. Bobby tries to stop her, meeting Pyro at a cure protest, who then destroys the cure building. Magneto deliverers a threat to the President (Josef Sommer) who along with secretary Trask (Bill Duke) decide to arm all soldiers with the weaponised cure to combat Magneto’s threat. Logan who still has feelings for Jean goes to Magneto’s camp to try and bring her back. He finds her but gets thrown out by Magneto. The President finds Magneto’s camp thanks to a now transformed Mystique, but it turns out to be a decoy. Logan returns to the school and assembles what X-Men he can; Bobby, Kitty, Beast, Storm and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and flies out to Alcatraz Island. Magneto who is already within easy reach of the island moves the entire Golden Gate Bridge so that he and his army of mutants can attack. The X-men shortly arrive after a small skirmish between Magneto and the soldiers.

Magneto sends in the main body of his army. Callisto and Storm engage in a fight which Storm later wins. Juggernaut; who is practically unstoppable, goes inside the labs to kill Jimmy. Kitty runs after him, reaching Jimmy first, but discovers her powers no longer work due to Jimmy’s powers. Using the information, she is able to trick Juggernaut to knock him out, and rescues Jimmy in the process. Inside the labs, Arclight (Omahyra), Psylocke (Mei Melançon) and Quill (or) Kid Omega (Ken Leung) find Worthington II and kill his assistant (Shohreh Aghdashloo). They try to throw him off the lab roof, but he is saved by his son who flies him to safety. Outside, Magneto tries to end the fight quickly. The X-Men decide to use the cure on Magneto. So while Bobby keeps Pyro busy, Colossus, Logan and Hank successfully inject the cure into Magneto, who loses his powers. The battle now won, Logan tells Jean that it’s all over, but then they are attacked by a squad of soldiers. Jean kills them by disintegration. Everyone else tries to escape except Logan who tries to confront her. While Jean disintegrates everything around her, Logan is able to survive due to his healing powers. When asked by Jean if he would die for them, Logan says he would really die for her. Logan then kills her when she asks him to save her. Back at the mansion, graves are constructed for Jean and Scott, and Storm is now headmistress. Rogue returns, having had the cure and can now touch Bobby without hurting him. Hank is appointed ambassador to the United Nations, while in a park somewhere; Magneto sits alone with a chess set. He holds out his hands towards a metal piece, which wobbles slightly.

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X-Men the Last Stand is a very enjoyable film; however it is a bit weak. I would not class this film as bad, in no way is it bad, it’s just a bit flawed. The film does struggle from several problems and I think has suffered from the loss of the series original Director. Ratner though produces something that is very enjoyable. I get the feeling however that instead of possibly getting involved, Like Bryan Singer did, he just sort of let the film get constructed and then joined in. It looks more like an action blockbuster, than the more thought-provoking approach that the previous 2 films did. The previous 2 were more about persecution and ones place in the world rather than what is offered here, which looks more mainstream, than sticking to its guns. One of the issues I find with this film is lack of main plot. Actually wait, I will re-word that. It has a main plot, in fact it has 2. One that is there for the most part and another which hogs some of the lime light. I can see that they tried to do more than one thing with this film, and because it tried to push stories on an equal footing, it’s hard to actually say what this film is about. As the film starts and talks about the cure for nearly half an hour, that part is solid and enjoyable, it’s going good. But the moment Jean is brought back in; there is no more mention of the cure, for a long time. Every time it becomes about Jean, it’s like that the cure, which is the main plot, suddenly isn’t. There is some sub plot in this such as the relationship and problems between Rogue, Kitty and Bobby, among others, but why they couldn’t either restrict Jeans re-birth to sub plot, or better yet, keep it out, and explore it in a later film possibly involving the Phoenix Saga. And that’s only the start of the film’s several issues. But first, some positive points.

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Last Stand, like its predecessors, has a strong cast. Characters have grown up and developed as the series has progressed and in Last Stand we get to see some of them finally take centre stage. In X-Men 1, Storm was something of a supporting role with a few good words here and there, now she is one of the film’s main characters. Her look has changed with shorter more striking hair, and has grown a lot in confidence becoming someone who stands out more. Her role though grows bigger as she takes over from the professor, and while her old side comes out when talking to Logan about Jean, and in turn gets possibly a bit too serious about it, she doesn’t let herself become that. Instead she grows to be a brilliant character, one of the series finest, one of the most caring, and enjoyable. Logan meanwhile seems to have gotten over his past and is instead dealing with the repercussions of Jean’s death. His character has gone rather quiet I think. He still has his moments where he is just himself, acting the way he does, but because he no longer has that baggage, it feels like he is just there. This is not necessarily bad though, because his amount of on-screen time, plus moments looking for Jean and command in the final battle more than make up for his lack of depth (his final scene with Jean is really good). Charles Xavier on the other hand is still bringing plenty of power and understanding, and comes out a little more this time as he confronts Logan and lets his personal side out regarding what he did to Jean. He is still there to guide and support the film, and does it well. His final moments with Jean provide one of the film’s most powerful moments. A moment, which like Jean’s death in X2 is felt hard by everyone, not just in the film, but those watching it too. It is a fantastic scene well worth watching, but you may feel rather sad afterwards, as one of the series best characters meets his unfortunate end. Jimmy also provides some nice insights into the Mutant world, but could have caused some controversy as he is kept in a white, one small window cell. His accommodation therefore could have caused more political struggle in the film. His scenes with Kitty during the final battle though provide a good situation to spice it up a little. Not forgetting other mutant appearances too like the confrontation between Logan and Marrow/Spike (Lance Gibson) at Magneto’s camp, a really good fight scene, plus the possible appearance of Deadpool (I have discovered that it’s actually Glob Herman), in a character (Clayton Dean Watmough) who keeps growing back his own limbs. Magneto meanwhile is just as sinister as he always has and while took a back seat as main antagonist in X2, he is back to lead the characters to war, becoming the central villainous archetype for this film. I do however think that due to this being something of a trilogy/series, there could have been possibly another villain. Not just Magneto or politics against mutants, but maybe something along the lines of Mister Sinister perhaps, as the genetic side of the film’s plot would greatly support his inclusion.

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The main new feature in the films cast though has to be Kelsey Grammer as Beast. Beast, much like Nightcrawler is an interesting character which due to his appearance carries a lot of character weight and understanding. While most mutants can simply blend into the background, a character such as Beast cannot. Beast however is not just some Monster; he is in fact a genius and a very well-spoken man. His position within the cabinet garners a lot of respect as well as potential animosity to others on it. He is though not afraid to speak his opinions and has a lot of understanding for both sides of the coin, and will not rush to make too big an opinion on a matter without thorough research. Alongside this though, he is still an animal, sort of like Jekyll and Hyde in one person instead of alter egos and proves himself as a worthy fighter, but like who he is inside, he is more of a diplomat than a fighter. To play such a role really does require an actor who can provide it, someone with a wealth of experience and cannot just look the part, but also voice it. Kelsey Grammer does this expertly and is one of the series best castings.

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The cast of characters isn’t without faults, and there are a lot of these. The Big one for me is the part of Warren Worthington III, also known as either Angel or Archangel (whichever you prefer). I really like this character; I have said many times over for several years that Angel is the most beautiful character in that he is the most simple. People dream of flight, and he does this through two angelic wings. On the surface he is such a pure, simple character to understand, and to begin with that’s all you need, there is no need for explanation as to what he can do. In Last Stand however there seems to be a generic lack of him. He is there from the start and is one of the instigators of the films (original) main plot. Without that beginning, we wouldn’t have the cure story. But if he’s there as an instigator, why isn’t he more of a central figure. He only has 6 scenes in the film, and only 3 of them involve vocals. It’s not like he is ignored either, as he continues to appear at moments which help cause decisions, but still, he is not a more major cast member, even though film posters and DVD’s would suggest otherwise. He is shown on the DVD covers, and I think the discs themselves. He is in posters for the film, and pictures of the film series up to this point, suggesting him being a central character. There’s even shots of him wearing an X-Men Leather Uniform, but not once in this film, does he wear one. Were they trying to make him a central character, but just couldn’t do it? Ok, the film is not as long as the previous 2, by about 30 minutes, in which there could have been more appearances for Angel if they had it going for longer, plus other characters too. I just find it a complete mystery. When I heard that he was going to be in this film, I was so happy. He appears in 2 of the best episodes of X-Men: Evolution, and has a place in the comics as a lead character, but despite this push and even showing things that don’t actually happen, he is still somehow here. I am not saying he should be removed from the film, more that, there should be more of him, and for good reasoning. He is a central emotional character which leads to the creation of the cure, and representation of his father’s (who is also played rather well) selfishness and possible disgust to mutants. The moment he is almost given the cure is one of the film’s best dramatic moments and is a fantastic scene. His earlier scene causing self-harm is also a brilliant short scene too. It’s just a shame that there’s not more of him.

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Magneto’s team of Mutants also have issues. No problem with Mystique. Mystique who produced such eye striking scenes in the first film, made a lot of sense in becoming the first victim of the cure, as that scene in itself shows the extent of what it does. However, Pyro is sort of held back until the end, Psylocke, who while having very few lines to speak, is held back and is far more interesting than the others in the group. Quill I find rather annoying as he is just there and doesn’t do much, the same going for Arclight, and Callisto is using someone else’s powers. Callisto is played brilliantly and character traits similar to those in the comics and other media are present including the animosity towards Storm plus attitude; she somehow though has the abilities of both Quicksilver and Caliban. Now while I don’t know all that much about Callisto, I can easily spot that one of Caliban’s abilities is there as well, like there was already too many mutants, no room for an extra one. Multiple Man is recruited, but only used once. Jean, while it is good to have her back, just seems unnecessary as her secondary main plot just slows down the film. She has her moments and the scene where she kills the professor and the one with Logan at the end are really good, it just feels like she is not carrying much of a part. The younger Jean scene though is really good but I think her final moment with Logan just felt like a way to prolong the film by another 4 minutes. It’s like they are trying to copy how they ended X2. The scene did not need to happen, the battle was enough, and it’s just there because it is. I will say however that the scene is done well, so while I find that it is un-needed, it is done well enough to be enjoyed. Why is Vinnie Jones in this film?! I like Juggernaut; an aggressive, angry, unstoppable character, his part in the series if done well, could be magnificent. Instead though we are given a character that is a wise cracking object, something that Juggernaut, in past experience isn’t. His costume looks rather ridiculous, and I think Vinnie Jones was only really cast for his size. Where is the aggression, the anger? Where is The Juggernaut? I will say though his scenes in the lab with Kitty are actually quite fun including his line when stuck in the ground.

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It’s not Just Magneto’s bunch either. While the President is played rather well, I feel like Trask is under used. A character that is supposedly named after the creator of the Sentinels and is played rather well too is like others, under used, he just isn’t there at moments when he could be. There’s no subplot either to suggest if he is going to create the sentinels or not. Then we come to Xavier’s School. Colossus, who has more of a part in this film than in X2, has less of a role. He is there to be another character and has at most, 2 lines if not just 1. It’s great to have him in the final battle and in the Danger Room scene, but it feels like he had more of a part in number 2, even if he was on-screen in two scene for less than 5 minutes overall. I am disappointed in Rogue’s part of this film. She starts in X1 as a sort of narrator, now she is just some romantic interest. She could have had more of a physical role and been a surprise appearance/hero during the final battle. It should be more that she learns to deal and live as herself than take the coward’s way out. She forms something of a romantic triangle between Bobby and Kitty. Rogue sees Kitty as a threat, and more likely goes to get the cure, just to secure Bobby for herself. Bobby does not see this though. Bobby does continue to produce good scenes and his character really develops into the Iceman of the comics, including Ice like skin. But he is mostly subjected into being this extra for a sub plot trying to become another main plot. Kitty finally gets an appearance in the series, and has some good scenes including the main battle and with Jimmy, but because of the sub plot is sort of under used. She is played fantastically by Ellen Page; it’s just this additional sub plot sort of holds the characters down. What should have been included is confrontations between Rogue and Kitty, possibly even Rogue watching Kitty and Bobby right next to the ice causing a confrontation. Rogue could have then struggled with her conscience before making a surprise appearance in the final battle, and then Kitty could have grown more towards Colossus as the end of the film approached. Something like that would have improved it greatly and would be a start as to where to direct the characters in later films.

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While there are several negatives, the film does have several positives. For one, it’s use of Special Effects. The film makes great use of big and small effects from the flying of Angel, the hot piercing of Callisto after being shocked by Storm, Mutant Powers, Set pieces, the suits and costumes, and many more. But the big one of course is the movement of the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember how amazed I was by that scene when I first saw it; it’s a scene which still provides that appeal. When the film first came out, it was one of the best pieces of Special Effects to date. While crisper effects have come about since, the scene is still superb and amazing to watch.

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Alongside the special effects, we also have yet another brilliant soundtrack (composed by John Powell). The film carries two main themes. One for the opening credits and the other which is used mostly for the end credits, but has its other moments. Last Stand’s opening credits, while not using the brilliant theme from X2, is nonetheless superb. The animation that goes with it is pulse pounding, exhilarating, and heart stopping stuff. I find myself watching the opening titles over and over again to listen to the soundtrack and watch the brilliant animation and video provided. More recently I have even begun to act like I am a conductor conducting the orchestra playing the piece; you can really get into it.

Other pieces of soundtrack range from the glorious sound of Angel flying through the air, Magneto moving the bridge, Charles’s funeral. Charles confrontation with Jean, as well as Logan’s, both of which are very powerful scenes and need a soundtrack to make them so. It’s a soundtrack that works. It provides a serious note as well as moments of wonder, plus moments of emotion and drama too. It is a soundtrack that really stands out, and while the film may be weak, the soundtrack definitely isn’t (and if you listen carefully sounds like the lyrics for that earthquake song hidden in the tune, or at least I think I can hear it).

X-Men: The Last Stand is an enjoyable film, no doubt about it. I like this film and some of the characters, scenes, SFX, soundtrack and some of its story. But it is a weak one. Out of the 7 films in the series, I would put this in 6th position. It just does not offer what the top 5 do that makes them stand out as really good films. Yes you have got a strong storyline in the Mutant Cure, but then you have 1 or 2 other plots which slow this down and make you forget about it. It’s like, at one point you are talking about the mutant cure, and then a second later you are going “what was I talking about?” The films cast I find are rather under used and in many cases are un-needed. You have other characters that have potential but are forgotten about. This film has a lot of potential, but is under used, and when trying to figure what it’s about, you can’t. The film though does provide enough to be worth watching. It’s a good fun film with plenty of things to enjoy and while it may be toned down in comparison to its 2 predecessors, it still provides those kinds of moments. Plus, it’s 10 times (if not more) better than what comes next.

GENEPOOL





A Brief Introduction To The X-Men Film Series

15 10 2015

X-Men: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox - 2006)

I don’t know if you saw my lacklustre, mediocre post on Tuesday (sorry about that, I was pretty tired when I wrote it), but in case you didn’t; all next week (Monday to Sunday) right here on this blog I will be posting the biggest writing project I have undertaken since finishing University. To cut a long story short, it’s an entire week of film reviews, one every day; and to keep it nicely wrapped up altogether it’s going to be all the (current films) in one particular series of films. Now while I could build up the excitement and tension to the eventual reveal, the title of my post pretty much tells you which film series I have decided to review: X-Men. So, before next week’s exciting series begins, I thought I would give you a (hopefully brief) introduction to the X-Men Film Series, along with other little bits of interesting information, but promise to try and not go too deep with explaining what happens in the films themselves, otherwise I have ended up wasting the last 4-5 months writing X-Men film reviews.

The X-Men film series is easily one of cinemas most recognisable film series with currently 7 films released over the last 15 years. Since the release of the first film in 2000, it has become a financial and critical success, and to this day is one of the 15 highest grossing film franchises/series to date having grossed more money than some of the cinemas more recognisable movie franchises including: Terminator, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Mission Impossible. It is also a series of great critical acclaim with 4 out of 7 films receiving fresh ratings of 81% and higher on Rotten Tomatoes. It is one of the longest running film series this century having not one restart, reboot or remake anywhere in it (unlike other series that come to mind: Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Fantastic 4, Hulk, James Bond, Terminator and Star Trek), and has turned both growing stars and absolute nobodies into some of the cinemas best known and even household names. X-Men as a series and what it has achieved over the last 15 years is unlike any other in cinema today, and is set to continue with not 1 but 3 films due for release next year, (Deadpool, Gambit and X-Men: Apocalypse) along with a third solo outing for one of its biggest stars in 2017 (third Wolverine film) and even plans for 2 other potential films already underway.

X-Men Comics

The X-Men film series is of course based on the Marvel Comics and characters of the same name. The story of the X-Men follows a super hero team made up of a second caste of humanity known as mutants. While they look the same as Humans, Mutants come with special abilities and powers, and the X-Men are made up of some of these mutants. Life for the X-Men though is a tough one, because while they are a super hero team, fighting dangerous threats and saving humanity on a daily basis, humanity isn’t exactly fond of mutants, and sees them as a threat. From the get go, the X-Men have been a different kind of super-hero team, one that while saves the day like all other super heroes, they have to fight those they try to save, and fight for a future where mutants can be free from persecution. Leading them in this charge is Professor Charles Xavier who fights for a future where both humanity and mutants can live in peace together. A difficult thing to fight for, especially when there are other mutants out there who don’t think this kind of future is possible. In step Magneto, a mutant who can manipulate metal and an old friend of Charles Xavier. While remaining as something of a friend to Xavier here and there, Magneto believes only one species can survive and thus begins the battle between the two. As the series continues, new enemies and threats enter the fold with major villains like Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Onslaught to name but a few. However, Xavier does not have to face such threats alone and with his team of X-Men including (but not limited too) Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Wolverine, Iceman, Shadowcat, Beast, Rogue, Archangel and many more fight both old and new threats on a weekly basis. That’s basically the general idea.

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The comic series itself at one point (if not still to this day) was (or still is) America’s bestselling comic series. Created by the combined might of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the comic series originally started back in 1963, but back then was a commercial disaster and by 1970 the series was cancelled. In 1975 the series was resurrected with help from artist Dave Cockrum, Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas and writer Len Wein. No-one could have seen what would come next as the series became Marvel’s biggest hit. Since then the comic series has gone from strength to strength. During the early 90’s; the X-Men got their own cartoon series on the Fox Network which went on for 5 series between 1992 and 1997. This was then followed up with 2 more separate cartoons in the forms of X-Men: Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men. The X-Men even got their own video games. While during all this the comics continued to evolve and the X-Men themselves got involved in some of the biggest stories in the Marvel Comics, including being the hosts of the epic ONSLAUGHT Saga, as well as having a war with the Avengers much more recently.

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In 1994, 20th Century Fox bought the film rights to produce an X-Men film after seeing the success of the animated series. Spearheaded by producer Lauren Shuler Donner, the first film; simply called X-Men was released in 2000 by new up and coming director Bryan Singer. It starred well know actors like Patrick Stewart (who was struggling to find work at the time thanks to being on Star Trek for so long), Ian McKellen; growing stars like Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn and Halle Berry, and even hired an absolute nobody (but who is now a household name) to play the iconic role of Wolverine in Hugh Jackman……….the rest as they say is history. Over the course of the following 14 years, new actors would be appointed, following the previous formula of well-known stars (Kelsey Grammer, Brian Cox, Kevin Bacon) as well as new growing stars (Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult) as well as people who were at the time relative unknowns but are now household names (Jennifer Lawrence). Along with them came new characters and stories famous within the comics, plus of course new villains. Origins stories were told, time travelled, new weapons and machines created, plus the never-ending fight for freedom from a world that hates them. The comics quite literally came to life and through its unique perspective and style of storytelling produced one of the most entertaining, emotional, powerful, dramatic and even realistic film series to date.

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The X-Men have come a long way since their first appearances on comic book shelves back in the 1960’s. There have been ups and downs along the way, successes, failures and have even branched out into other forms of media, from Cartoons to Video Games, to of course the big screen. Since making that big leap, it has become one of the highest achieving and most recognisable film series to date and with the series set to continue; the future for the X-Men looks Fantastic.

GENEPOOL (I hope you have enjoyed reading this and enjoy reading my reviews next week as much as I have enjoyed writing this and them too).






Matt’s Super Question

21 06 2012

The final of my friend’s questions is here, earlier this week I answered Matt’s Music Question and now it is time to answer Matt’s Super Question.

Who do you think is the greatest superhero, and why?

Well you may know that I am a fan of Thor but he is not the Greatest Super Hero. The answer to this question dates back to 2007 when I was making a list of the top 50 Monsters and Mutants (maybe I should return to that?). Even though I did not finish the list I knew who the people at the top were and in terms of Comic Book Super Hero which is usually what Super Hero refers to there are 2 Comic Book characters in the top 5.

One of them is the mysterious Gambit from X-Men. When you grow up with the X-Men at a young age, Wolverine usually stands out but when you think about it Gambit is the best because he is so cool. Claws coming out of your hands are quite cool but being able to put explosive energy through any object is better. In this case, a pack of playing cards making 52 light grenades. When I read X-Men comics I look forward to seeing Gambit in them. When I watched the cartoons like X-Men Evolution and my favourite cartoon Wolverine and the X-Men I really enjoyed the episode with Gambit in. It was disappointing to not see him in the main X-Men films but there is hope for the future, but I did enjoy his appearance in X-Men Origins played by Taylor Kitsch, I hope he plays the character in the future.

Then there is Blade. Blade is a vampire hunter who is half man and half vampire. I first took an interest in blade when watching Blade The Series (The Best TV Show of 2007 and the Third Best TV Series of all time, well at least to me) in which he is played by Kirk “Sticky” Jones. The excellent characters, the thrilling story lines and Blade’s “I don’t care” attitude to almost everyone around him made him stand out. His fighting style, his look and some of the catchphrases he did were excellent. Since then I have seen Blade Trinity and that had the same style and everything but had a different lead actor, Wesley Snipes.

Choosing between these 2 is tricky; They are both fantastic characters and I like both of them. Originally Blade was higher in the list but just thinking and talking about them now makes me want to have them draw or switch. It is a tricky decision. But the question asks who the greatest superhero is, and because Gambit was sometimes working for the villains that kind of rules him out which means that Blade is the Greatest Superhero.

GENEPOOL








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