X-Men

REVIEW: X2 (2003)

When the rise of anti-mutant sentiment led by Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) leads to Professor X’s (Patrick Stewart) school being attacked and students taken, the X-Men must join with their adversaries Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) in order to stop Stryker.

X2 starts with a bang with the opening sequence still being talked about almost twenty years later. Nightcrawler’s (Alan Cumming) attack on the White House is thrilling and eerie and the special effects for his teleportation makes you believe that someone really could disappear, and reappear, in a puff of blue smoke. The make up Alan Cumming wears is also incredible and that along with his performance brings this socially awkward mutant to life.

The other standout sequence in X2 is the attack on Xavier’s school. Whoever thought having an home invasion sequence where it’s just Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) against a load of military men was a genius. It’s tense and exciting as Wolverine goes full feral mode to protect the children under his care. There are also glimpses of different students’ powers like Shadowcat and while Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) isn’t in it much, how he takes down the invaders while saving his fellow students is great.

While the action is great in that sequence, the way it suddenly pauses as Wolverine and Stryker come face to face and allow them to talk is good too. Stryker may hold the key to Wolverine’s lost memories and Jackman continues to walk the line between feral, confused and caring with that character perfectly.

One of the many things X2 does well is show how pretty much all the characters, including the heroes, are morally grey. Storm (Halle Berry) is not all forgiving and is instead angry at what humans do to mutants, Pyro (Aaron Stanford) is tired of hiding who he is, and it’s easy to see where Magneto is coming from.

As well as the various fight and action sequences, X2 also amps up the emotional stakes. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Scott’s (James Marsden) relationship is given more screen time, and the budding romance between Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Bobby (Shawn Ashmore) is handled well as they navigate how to be in a relationship. While it’s a quieter moment, Bobby talking to his parents and showing off his powers is an important one not only to the character but to show the wider issues facing Bobby and his fellow mutants.

X2 is a well-paced, fun and action-packed superhero film. It introduces some interesting new characters while also giving the ones we already know space to develop. The special effects still hold up and it really is a fantastic superhero film that shows the duality of so many of these characters. Also must give a shout out to composer John Ottman, the X2 Suite is one of my favourite superhero themes. 5/5.

We shall see how this X-Men rewatch goes but I’m pretty confident that X2 is my favourite film in this franchise – it’s definitely one of my favourite superhero films in general.

REVIEW: X-Men (2000)

Due to a certain character’s appearance in a certain Disney+ show, I got the urge to rewatch (and then review) all of the X-Men films. A lot of the more recent ones with the younger versions of the characters I’ve only ever seen once in the cinema and I can’t even remember the last time I watched the original trilogy in their entirety.

In the near future some people have evolved into mutants, people with special abilities, and live with the threat of discrimination from the rest of humanity. The supremacist group the Brotherhood led by Magneto (Ian McKellen) believe that humans and mutants cannot live in peace and while the X-Men led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) believe that can be achieved. Mutants Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) get caught up in the fight between the two groups.

Even though I know that X-Men as a comic series was an allegory for the oppression of minorities and Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto) has always been Jewish and motivated by his experiences in the Holocaust, I’d forgotten that X-Men began with a young Erik having to watch his parents be led to the gas chamber as his powers manifested. It’s quite a bold and hard-hitting sequence to have to start a summer superhero flick.

The scenes where Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are talking are a real highlight. From their first scene together and their performances you can tell these characters have a long history and were even close once. Though really they’re never just talking. Erik and Charles are both smart men and so it’s like they’re verbally sparring as they both have respect for one another while having opposing set of ideals.

Logan (aka Wolverine) and Rogue’s relationship is really the heart of this film. It’s an easy dynamic to like as Rogue can’t be physically close to anyone without hurting them and Logan has built up a lot of emotional barriers. Hugh Jackman really does a good job of portraying Logan’s gruff attitude and often brutal, impulsive side, while also showing a softer, caring side around Rogue – and to a lesser extent Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). She and Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden) round out the main trio of heroes. They all do well in their roles even if some of the dialogue is a bit clunky.

Some of the special effects in X-Men has become dated but the casting of these characters was pretty spot on and it’s easy to see why some of them became staples in the X-Men franchise. Though equally it’s unfortunate how some seem to have got the short end of the stick over subsequent films.

While Blade was the superhero film that made superheroes a viable financial option for film studios, X-Men really is the blueprint for a lot of the subsequent superhero films. It has a pretty simple but compelling plot, does a good job at introducing this huge cast of characters and it balances the action and emotional beats well too. 4/5.

X is for X-Training by Henry Jackman

X is always the hardest letter when it comes to the A-Z Challenge but luckily, I had a couple of songs on my iTunes that began with the letter X. I’m pretty sure the majority of X posts over the year for this challenge have been X-Men related and who am I to break that tradition!

X-Training is from X-Men: First Class and is featured in this sequence, where Xavier attempts to train the young mutants how to use their powers.

X-Training is my favourite piece of music from the film. It’s upbeat and builds through the song but at it’s heart is these strings which sound amazing. I think I like this piece of music the most from the entire score is because it’s more of a fun, light piece than the rest of the soundtrack, but it’s still got echoes of the main theme from X-Men: First Class.

X is for X-Men

I always say X-Men was my gateway to everything superhero. I watched the 90’s cartoon (the video below is of the iconic theme song) and then the X-Men: Evolution cartoon was on TV on a Saturday morning (forget about X-Men: Apocalypse, if you want to see the Apocalypse story-line, watch X-Men: Evolution, that show did it amazingly) and then of course are the films.

Now the films are a huge rolled up mess of continuity if you think about it too hard. The best way to not give yourself a headache in my opinion is think of it as; the original trilogy (X-Men, X2 and The Last Stand), the First Class trilogy (X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse) and then the various Wolverine movies are their own little trilogy. It still doesn’t really make sense as the characters in X-Men: Apocalypse are twenty years older than they were in First Class but the actors all look exactly the same, and Wolverine keeps popping up everywhere so his backstory is a huge mess if you want a straight timeline – but that’s the X-Men movies for you!

My favourite X-Men films are X-Men, X2 and Logan. I adore the attack on the school scene in X2, it shows off so many different characters’ powers and you get to see some of Wolverine’s berserker rage that you don’t really get to see that much – until Logan that is when there’s no holding back.

I’ve tried reading the X-Men comics but there’s so many timelines and so much history that I’ve found it pretty difficult so far. I’ve read and loved Old Man Logan and I read the iconic Days of Future Past story before the film came out so I think self-contained stories are the way forward for me and X-Men comics.

Still, I love everything to do with X-Men – weird, convoluted timelines and all.

REVIEW: Logan (2017)

logan-movie-posterIn the near future, an older and weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) is caring for and hiding an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) on the Mexican border. But their isolation is disturbed when a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) arrives, bring dangerous forces with her.

Logan is a magnificent film quite unlike anything in the superhero movie genre we’ve seen before. It’s set in a near dystopian future, most mutants are gone and those who are left are in hiding, and the imagery and setting often feel more like a Western than a superhero film. This almost change of genre makes Logan a much smaller, character driven film. While there are other characters, both good and bad, throughout the film it really is all about Logan, Charles and Laura, their relationships and their journeys.

Also with Logan being a more personal film, there appears to be less CGI. While it’s naïve to think there’s not a lot (every time Logan unsheathes his claws there’s computer work there) it feels more real and there’s not the usual explosions and over the top superhero fight scenes. That being said, there is definitely a lot of violence in Logan (it is a 15 after all) but while it is brutal it isn’t gratuitous. There is also more swearing which, like the violence and both Logan’s and Laura’s rage, fits the characters and film perfectly. Logan never goes over the top with what it’s “allowed” to do with a 15 certificate, every choice is true to the characters and to the story.

In Logan you get to see a different side to the titular character. He’s older, a drinker, his body doesn’t heal like it used to, he’s not a happy man but he’s trying to make a living and keep those he cares about safe. It’s incredible to think that Hugh Jackman has been playing this character for 17 years and in Logan he gives his best performance, mainly because we get to see Logan a completely different man compared to the previous films. Life has gotten Logan down and it takes a lot for him to care for anyone or anything and he definitely doesn’t care about himself. Patrick Stewart also gives a great and very different performance as Professor X – he’s forgetful, he’s cranky and is very much an old man in need of help. Then there’s Dafne Keen as Laura. She is a captivating presence, feral but also has this innocence making Laura someone you’re wary of but also someone you want to protect. She holds her own against Stewart and Jackman and when it comes to the fight scenes she manages to be both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Dafne Keen is an actress to watch.

Logan is the perfect swansong for Stewart and Jackman as well as being a brilliant and unique addition to the X-Men franchise. Though Logan is a part of the X-Men universe (a universe where the continuity is pretty wonky to say the least) you don’t need to have seen every single X-Men film to understand and enjoy it.

Logan is tense, exciting and thrilling. It has moments of humour that never lessens the stakes and it has moments of heartbreak as you watch these characters’ struggle to achieve what the set out to do. Not to speak too soon but I feel Logan is (hopefully) a game-changer in the superhero genre, showing not everything has to be connected to a wider universe and character driven stories work just as well – in fact good stories full stop are what the superhero genre needs. Simple, character focused stories with a good plot automatically make a good film, while I enjoy pretty much all superhero fare it would be nice for the studios and filmmakers to remember that. Hopefully Logan will join the likes of Spider-Man 2 (2004) and The Dark Knight (2008) as one of The Best Superhero Movies ever made. 5/5.

REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

x-men apocalypse movie posterWhen the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) re-emerges after thousands of years, the X-Men must unite to defeat him and his plan to destroy all of humanity.

X-Men: Apocalypse see’s the return of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his students. There’s many familiar faces including Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) and Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as well as a host of new students. These newer characters, playing younger versions of characters we’ve seen before, all fit in well with the action and do a good job – especially Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Nightcrawler. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also returns and she plays a bigger role and is on a different side to the one you might expect.

Quicksilver steals every scene he’s in. Much like in Days of Future Past, there’s a scene in X-Men: Apocalypse which really shows off his power and it’s both funny and exciting. Plus, he bounces off a lot of the other characters well and brings a level of humour to an otherwise potentially very grim movie.

X-Men: Apocalypse is surprisingly violent comic book superhero movie aimed primarily at kids. There’s scene where characters get brutally beaten and there’s a lot of blood, there’s what could be described as body horror with Angel (Ben Hardy) and overall it’s definitely the darkest and goriest X-Men movie to date. It is jarring and disturbing to see though it does the job of showing how powerful and threatening Apocalypse can be.

While Apocalypse is sometimes an opposing figure, he is not a terrifying villain. His four horseman, bar Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who gets another tragic backstory, are seriously underdeveloped. Angel’s character is non-existent and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is given little to do, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) fares only slightly better as you encounter her before she becomes a disciple of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining film, it’s gripping and exciting but it’s the heroes you find yourself more invested in than an average villain. 4/5.

X is for Professor Charles Xavier

charles xavierThere’s been many incarnations of Charles Xavier over the decades, there’s the comics, TV Shows and movies (both McAvoy and Stewart) so while the basics of his character has always been the same, there are differences in the different media.

I first encountered Charles Xavier in the 90’s X-Men cartoon and then in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon and I thought he was great in both shows. He’s wise and wants to look out for his students but he still makes mistakes. Xavier likes to give off this aura that he knows everything – he is a telepath so that does help – but because he think he knows a lot of stuff he’s sometimes blind to what is actually going on which can have interesting and sometimes bad consequences.

Charles Xavier in the original X-Men movie trilogy is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Patrick Stewart is one of the most perfect casting choices in any superhero franchise. You can feel the responsibility he has for his many students, especially as they aren’t just teenagers, there’s many young children under his care as well, and he also cares about his X-Men. Charles struggles to look after mutants and protect humans as well, he wants to do the right thing but that often means there’s difficult decisions to make.

Charles Xavier is pretty much the ultimate old, wise, powerful character that wants to do good but whose plans don’t always work out.

REVIEW: Deadpool (2016)

deadpool posterAfter discovering he has cancer, mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) submits himself for experimental treatment. The treatment gives him accelerated healing but it also severely disfigures him so Wade’s soon out for revenge on the people who experimented on him.

Deadpool was always going to be a strange film. It’s based on a Marvel superhero (or should that be anti-hero) who commits bloody murder, swears and breaks the fourth wall. It’s not the typical superhero film we’ve become accustomed to and it revels in that. Deadpool deserves its 15 certificate – there’s nudity, profanity, very bloody violence and sex – it’s really what you’d expect or want from a film about Deadpool.

The way this film deals with the typical origin story we see time and time again in superhero films is great. It isn’t exactly linear and that works great for this character. It makes it feel different and you don’t have to wait for an hour to see the guy start wearing a costume. (more…)

WWW Wednesday – 8 July 2015

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. It’s a simple meme where you just have to answer three questions:
– What are you currently reading?
– What did you recently finish reading?
– What do you think you’ll read next?

I think it’s a great way to share my recent reads as my reviews are always way behind what I’m actually reading.

So here’s my answers!

What am I currently reading?FullSizeRender (93)
Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan
I’m not sure what I think about this book at the moment. Crash is telling the story leading up to when Burn takes their school hostage and how Crash stopped him and saved the school. There’s certainly a gallows humour in it which is weird for a book about a school shooting and I am intrigued about both Crash and Burn but at the same time the characters aren’t that likable. I’m half way through it now so I kinda feel like if I give up on it now I’ll have wasted so much time on it – I guess I’ll keep powering on.

What did I recently finish reading?FullSizeRender (92)
X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
While the actual Days of Future Past storyline was only across two action packed and fast paced issues, the rest of the collection had the lead up to that event so you knew more about the characters and the stakes that they’d be facing. I’m glad I’ve now read this iconic comic.

What do I think I’ll read next?FullSizeRender (94)
Techbitch by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
I saw this book in WHSmith and had to pick it up. Mainly because the similarity between the front cover and the Fifty Shades of Grey movie poster made me smile and I hope that’s been done deliberately. It’s all about how social media and the internet is changing the magazine industry and as someone who works in PR I’ve seen those changes and how some embrace them and some resists them so I’m interested to see what the main character in this does to survive the changes.

E is for Ellen Page

ellepageThe first film I saw Ellen Page in was X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and while I do not love that film even though I’m a huge X-Men fan I thought she made a great Kitty Pryde. Unfortunately the next film I saw her in was Juno (2007) and I didn’t really like it that much and that put me off Ellen for a while which was a shame.

But since then I’ve seen Inception (2010) and The East (2013) and loved both films and her performances in them. I still need to see Hard Candy (2005) as I’ve heard nothing but good things about that film – a friend of mine said it’s tough to watch but also great.

But Ellen Page isn’t just a pretty great actress but she’s also a pretty awesome person. Her speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s inaugural Time to Thrive Conference last year was incredible. She was so brave and you can see in how her voice shakes that she was nervous about it all. It’s great when young people can see someone who is like them in the spotlight.