TBT – X2 (2003)

comic book, films, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Marvel, Patrick Stewart, review, X-Men

If you’d asked me before I saw Logan last week, which film in the X-Men series was my favourite I would have confidently answered “Bryan Singer’s second film”.  It took all of the good things about the first film but made them much better. It also has one of the best endings to a comic book movie ever. The fact that Brett Ratner fucked it all up is another story. It still remains a fucking awesome cliffhanger. X2 is a remarkable sequel that manages to break the rule that the second films always fair worse than their predecessors. It is clever, well written, well acted, and has some of the best action sequences you could hope for. This post marks the moment that I’ve finally posted a review of all existing films in the X-Men franchise. I’ve seen some great films and some not so great films. This remains one of the best. Had it not been for Hugh Jackman’s swansong this year, X2 would have remained the very best.

X2 picks up where Bryan Singer’s first film left off. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still trying to piece together his forgotten history thanks to the information Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) found in his head. Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been captured and is being held prisoner by the deadly Colonel Stryker (Brian Cox). Handily, Stryker was also the man responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton so, when Professor X and Cerebro are taken by Stryker for his evil plan, the mutton-chopped anti-hero is more than happy to help track him down. Unfortunately. he finds that he must accept help from the X-Men’s greatest foe when Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) breaks Magneto out of prison. Hence, the secondary title of this film: X2: X-Men United.

In keeping with the theme of the original comic books, Byran Singer’s film making certainly evolved between the making of X-Men and it’s sequel. The first one was criticised for being kind of unsure of itself and it was believed that Singer wasn’t the right man to make a big budget, Hollywood action film. Thankfully, he got more comfortable with the sequel and managed to create one hell of a film. I mean look at the fucking opening sequence. In a franchise that in recent years has given us the unforgettable Quicksilver prison sequence, the attempted Presidential assassination by new mutant, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) still looks fantastic today. It’s kind of breathtaking and really well made… and it was made 14 years ago when films effects were nowhere near as advanced as today’s. Something you can definitely tell whenever Wolverine stands in front of the green-screened Alkali Lake. But, the sequence where Nightcrawler evades Secret Service agents is just mesmerising.

This is X-Men but just that little bit more amped-up. It is bigger, louder, more ambitious and more exciting. Action becomes a key part of the film and there are several impressive sequences that range in size and complexity. It is a darker film without ever straying beyond it’s PG-13 status. After watching Logan I couldn’t help but wish that it had been the R rated wonder that the latter film turned out to be. We could have saved ourselves a lot of time. Still, X2 feels more comfortable being a comic book movie than X-Men ever did. It still has the same maturity that made the first film seem so good but it also understands that it needs to let got once in a while.

X2 is a longer film than the first and has a greater array of characters to introduce to the plot. These are mostly handled really well and there is never a sense that there are too many personalities on screen. Each of the X-Men get there moment to really show off their power and are able to reengage with the audience. In fact, it is only Lady Deathstroke that is really wasted here and even she gets a pretty awesome fight scene. I mean Cyclops is obvsiously given short-shrift here but I like to think that’s mainly because he’s naturally a little bit boring. Cool, don’t get me wrong, but not the stand-out player in anyone’s (comic) book.

What X2 does really well is continue the political and social elements that X-Men sets up. The film continues with the idea of segregation and a dersire to wipe out the mutant race entirely. It plays with themes from modern history and creates a story that is more than just good guys beating up bad guys. Considering it is such a huge blockbuster, the scenes that resonate the most are the more personal scenes that deal with these themes. Just take the scene in which Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) “comes out” as a mutant to his parents. It is such a clever, funny, and familiar scene that it gives the classic comic book heroes a more realistic and time appropriate feel. The script is incredibly clever and the actors all play their parts incredibly.

Although, I won’t pretend that X2 is perfect. There are problems with the final act and some loose ends are tied up a bit too quickly or roughly. It’s structure is a bit disjointed and there are certain elements that could have run smoother. However, it is without a doubt the best X-Men related movie to ever have been made… until 2017 that is..

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

comic books, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sad, Hugh Jackman, Marvel, Patrick Stewart, reviews, super powers, superhero, X-Men

We’ve known for a while that Hugh Jackman was on his slowly moving towards his final outing as the character he’s played since 2000. For 17 years Huge Ackman has continued to prove that nobody could have been cast in the role of Wolverine and has gained a phenomenal number of fans. So when the first details of Logan were announced it became a clear the whole thing was going to be fairly emotional.., and that was before the trailer sound-tracked by Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ was even released. I’ve been excited about this film for a long time but I was also faced with a certain amount of trepidation about seeing it. Not because I thought it was going to be bad (everything we were shown pre-release destroyed any fears regarding quality) but because it’s the end of an era. It’s a bittersweet sensation that Hugh Jackman is finally able to do great things in the character’s first R rated outing just before he leaves the role (almost certainly) forever. Suffice it to say I was struggling to hold back the tears as the film went on and was only prevented from bawling like a baby thanks to the awful guy we were sat next to and his inability to shut the fuck up. It’s weird but I can’t help mourning the loss of this character. He’s become so iconic through Jackman’s interpretation and the X-Men movie franchise is always going to feel like it’s missing something now. Thank fuck the big guy went out on a high though, eh.

Logan was primarily billed as an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline. I think that description is taking more than a few liberties but there are some distinct similarities. The year is 2029 and mutants have become a rare breed. They are no longer being born and the remaining few are slowly dying out. Amongst them are two familiar faces; Logan (Hugh Jackman), now ageing and losing his healing factor, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose deteriorating brain function is causing his mutant power to get out of control. They are also joined by a new face; Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who is able to sniff out mutants. The three are in hiding in Mexico where Logan has the Prof holed up in an old water tower and pumps him full of drugs to hold off the seizures for as long as possible. The end goal is to make enough money ferrying drunks around in a limo so the group can buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.

Of course, things have never been that simple where Logan is concerned. He is soon left in charge with the first mutant to be born since everything went tits up. This young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) is being hunted by a team of mercenaries lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who is working on behalf of smarmy scientist, Zander Rice (Richard E Grant). In order to escape the bad guys with guns, Logan takes his new charge and the dangerous nonagenarian on the mother of all car journeys to take her to safety. Whilst Logan is already struggling with his deteriorating powers, he must also come to terms with his new found role of father as he attempts to keep Laura and the Professor safe.

When it was announced that Logan would be Wolverine’s first R rate movie experience audiences got excited. Last year Deadpool showed us that comic book movies and adult only violence could mix really well. However, Logan is an entirely different film. Whilst Deadpool still appealed to the child in all of us, Logan is all maturity. If it wasn’t for the frequent unsheathing of adamantium claws and bionic hands, this wouldn’t feel like a comic book movie at all. This is The Road or The Last of Us. It is a tale of survival but not on the global scale that the X-Men are used to. It’s a very clever and emotionally wrought film. The focus is on ageing and responsibility. It is a character driven narrative that features big action sequences rather than the action based X-Men films we’re used to. Thor the violence, that has been such a huge talking point in the run up to the film, is really neither here nor there. Yes, there is a lot of fight sequences where arms get chopped off and metal claws pierce people’s skulls but it is completely secondary to the story. It’s almost as if it’s there because it has to be. Rather than Deadpool, which almost made the violence it’s biggest draw, Logan relies on its emotional resonance to leave the biggest impact.

So much of this film rests on the actor’s involved and thankfully the 3 main characters are superb. For the most part, Laura is mute but newcomer Dafne Keen does incredibly well to with bringing the character to life on screen. She is silent but deadly and super cool. Her relationship with Logan is slowly realised as the pair come to rely on each other. It’s adorable and loving. However, it can’t hold a candle to the main relationship on screen: namely the one between Logan and Charles. We are faced with a situation almost directly opposite to the one that emerges from the first film. In X-Men Logan comes to Xavier as a dangerous weapon with no idea of his history and the Professor teaches him how to control his powers. In 2029, it is Charles who is the dangerous mutant who Logan must keep controlled using drugs. The pair have come through so much but have a deep love for one another. It is a testament to the actor’s friendship off screen that the onscreen partnership is so strong.

Logan is unlike any other superhero movie out there. It is darker and more brutal that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It lacks the requisite lashings of hope to keep an audience happy at the end. It shows the dark side of humanity and an incredible bleak future. This film is the best comic book movie offering I’ve ever seen. In fact, Logan is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, Rather than dealing with mass death on a unrealistic scale, this focuses in on the all-too-real issues of mortality and the legacy we leave behind. Just as Jackman is moving on from the character shrouded in the respect and adoration that comes with it, Logan is faced with a reputation that he is struggling to live up to. He can no longer be the man that he once was and, instead of facing off with the bad guy, he aims for a quite life taking care of his elderly father figure. Logan still suffers from some questionable decisions and is far from being the perfect film. However, considering the other solo offerings we’ve seen, it is certainly the best outing we’ve had for the character. Hugh Jackman dominates in the role of weary ex-superhero and, if this really is to be his last onscreen appearance as the mutton-chopped anti-hero, I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better way to end his tenure.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Films I’m Looking Forward To This Year

Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, comic book, comic books, films, Harrison Ford, Hugh Jackman, Kenneth Branagh, list, Marvel, Spider-Man, Star Wars, super powers, superhero, Top 10, Wolverine

So last week I released my list of books that I’m most looking forward to (probably not) reading this year. So I decided, as it’s that time of the month when I need to create a list of 10 random things, that it was only fair that I put down on e-paper the films that I’m most excited to see this year. It turns out that was really fucking hard. There are a lot of great films coming out and I’m super excited about all of them. Even really surprising ones. I mean, had you asked me this time last year, that I’d be quite looking forward to seeing Michael Keaton star in the story of the founder of McDonalds I’d have thought you were mad. Now, however, I think it looks pretty good. I mean I love Keaton and it stars the internet’s favourite man’s man Nick Offerman. Plus, there was a point when I didn’t think I wanted to see The Social Network but that turned out better than expect. I also, even more shockingly, became fairly interested in the Justice League film. I’m still not ecstatic about the release because the last two films in DC’s arsenal were utter dogshit. I think it’s basically just down to Jason Momoa though. And Batfleck. But, before I get distracted by sexy superheroes, I should present the list… with more than enough sexy superheroes.
Ten: War for the Planet of the Apes

I really enjoyed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011. The rebooted franchise has created some fantastic pequels so I’m incredibly keen to see what’s coming next.

Nine: Blade Runner 2049

Of course I’m excited about the prospect of Harrison Ford returning to the role of Rick Deckard but there is still a part of me that worries. It’s been a long time. Still, everything we’ve seen so far looks good and gives a positive feeling. Plus, director Denis Villeneuve directed last year’s Arrival which everyone seemed to fucking love. So it’s probably in safe hands.

Eight: Murder on the Orient Express

Probably not going to be top of too many people’s lists but I think I’m going to enjoy this one. It’s Kenneth Branagh directing himself and a shitload of really famous actors to retell the classic Hercule Poirot tale. Yes, we all know who did it but that’s not the point. It’s about watching our favourite Belgian detective work out those “leetle grey cells” to figure it out. And, at this point, I think I’d allow Branagh to play anybody.

 Seven: Alien: Covenant

I know it received mixed reviews but I kinda liked Prometheus. I mean it was a bit of a fucking mess but, for the most part, I think it was a decent film. I get why people were upset though. It was billed as the epic prequel to one of the best films ever made but it didn’t even feature the titular alien creature. So, this year’s follow up should make amends for that if the poster is anything to go by. Really, this could be a retelling of the first Alien film and this would fair better than Prometheus. Plus, you know, Michael Fassbender is fucking weird in this role.

 Six: Logan Lucky

I’m kinda getting sick of Steven Soderbergh telling us he’s retiring and then making another film. Or at least I would be sick of it if it wasn’t for the idea of another Soderbergh film. It’s been 4 years since he made the announcement and now he’s back making a comedy about a robbery duing a NASCAR race. It’s got an interesting and star-studded line-up. What we know about the plot sounds kinda ropey but it’s fucking Soderbergh. How can you ignore it?

Five: Thor: Ragnorak

I know Thor isn’t everyone’s favourite part of the MCU but I’m a massive fan of his first film. I think the second was kind of dodgy but I still have faith in this series. The huge-armed Norse God is back for his third film and, for anyone that knows anything about Norse mythology will know, Ragnorok can only mean trouble. Thankfully, Thor is helped by his pal the Hulk and Marvel’s newest sign-up Doctor Strange. We’ve lost the unnecessary and bland Jane but I’m sure nobody, Natalie Portman included, is crying about that.

Four: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was a sort of surprisingly huge hit when it came out 3 years ago. It introduced us to the ragtag bunch of people who accidentally get caught up in trying to save the world. Their second film promises much of the things that made the first one great so obviously I’m excited. But, as we’ve learnt by now, Marvel sequels don’t have the greatest track record. I mean, to date, only 1 follow-up manages to equal/improve on the first film: The Winter Soldier. At the worst we have Iron Man 2 (happily improved upon with Iron Man 3) but the rest were all just kind of meh. So, I do have a fear that Guardians 2 will just try and replay all of it’s greatest hits without offering up any new material. As much as I love him, I need more than just “I am Groot” but said in a baby voice now.

Three: Spider-Man: Homecoming

If Civil War taught us anything it was that a Marvel controlled Spider-Man film could be the best thing ever. Then the trailer for Homecoming was released and it definitely backed up the claim. Tom Holland looks set to steal Andrew Garfield’s crown as best portrayal of the web-slinger. Still, this is the 3 time in about 15 years that this franchise has been rebooted and it’s the 3 different actor to lend his face to the role. I’m not sure it was necessary and, more worryingly, I feel that Marvel are pushing Tony Stark too much. Maybe his role will work in the film as a whole but, from what we’ve seen so far, this could very easily become the Iron Man show. And that would be an injustice.

Two: Star Wars Episode 8 

Well, duh! Rogue One was the best Star Wars film to be released since the originals and it got me incredibly excited for what’s coming next. The Force Awakens did a great job of bringing us back into the world but left so many things unanswered. This is the time to find out. Plus, it’s directed by Rian Johnson who also did Brick and Looper so we’re in pretty safe hands.  

One: Logan

There was really no other choice for the number 1 spot. Logan is a key film this year for so many reasons. Mostly because, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman is finally saying goodbye to the character. It’s so weird to think that he’s been playing the guy for so long. He basically is Wolverine at this point. I can’t imagine anyone else having taken the character this far if Jackman hadn’t got the role. Add to that the fact that it’s the character’s first film to receive an R-rating. Last year’s Deadpool showed us that it’s no bad thing to make comic book movies just for adults so it feels right that Jackman should get to show us what Logan can really do for this final time. The comic book Wolverine was always an incredibly violent character and that’s not really been able to come across in any of the others. We need to see him really letting his anger out. I’m so fucking pumped for this film.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, Hugh Jackman, Marvel, recently watched, Wolverine, X-Men

I’ve been no help whatsoever today. I was at work at 7 and I managed to spill not 1, not 2 but 4 drinks all over the place. It’s been a tough few days where we’ve had loads of customers and not enough staff. Really fucking frustrating but we got through it. So, it explains why all I’ve done since I got home is nap. It’s pathetic but I needed it. It does, however, mean I’m really late with this post. Which actually sees me finish a book for a change. It’s a joyous occasion but I’ve just got through my first Man Booker 2016 nominee. Now is the difficult choice of what to read next. I have too many great options. Hopefully I’ll get through it quicker now I’ve had the two interviews for the job I applied for. Still haven’t heard but silently hopeful. In preparation for the second interview I’ve been obsessively listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and I’m stuck in another endless cycle of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s genius. It’s so fucking good though. My favourite song changes daily. I’d do anything to get tickets for it’s UK run. I don’t hold out much hope though.

Just Finished

  • His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Fucking hell! I’ve finally done it! It’s over. And, despite how long it took me, I really enjoyed it. I’d have to say it’s my pick for the Man Booker Prize but, then again, it’s the only nominee I’ve read so it means nothing.

Recently Purchased

  • Selection of second hand Pocket books
 Like any other self-respecting bibliophile, I have a pretty strong collection of vintage penguin books. My favourites are, obviously, the classic colour block covers but it can’t be denied that all of theirs books are fucking gorgeous. There’s a vintage books website I like to peruse from time to time to spot any bargains and this time I wasn’t disappointed. I managed to find quite the haul: The Man With My Face by Samuel W. Taylor; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; Maigret Mystified by George Simenon; and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. They’re all bloody beautiful and you’ll no doubt see them on my Instagram some time soon.
  • Penguin Sherlock Holmes collection
I finished work with time to kill before my train the other day so, on a whim, I went into one of my local charity shops. I may sound melodramatic but that simple decision changed my fucking life. As soon I walked in my eye was drawn to a complete boxed set of Penguin Sherlock Holmes books. I barge past all of the other OAP shoppers to get my hands on it and I held it as if my life depended on it until I paid for it. It cost £10 and it was the best £10 I’ve ever spent. I love it.

  • The GCHQ Puzzle Book – GCHQ
I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it on the shelf. It was beautiful. It also contains a fucking huge amount of puzzles that I’m really not qualified to attempt. But that’s not going to stop me. The GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is an intelligence and security agency that is full of super intelligent people. They love puzzles obviously so this book is filled with brain teasers of different difficulties and tips on how to get into the mindset of codebreaker. There’s also a competition to find Britain’s smartest puzzler. Considering how badly I’ve done on my brief read through, I don’t need the GCHQ to tell me that’s not me.
Recently Watched
  • Logan trailer
Holy shit! I knew I was going to love the final time Hugh Jackman will appear as Wolverine. I also knew it was going to be sad because that guy has done wonders with this character. I mean for he past 16 years Hugh Jackman has been Logan. It’s incredible. So the trailer makes it seem like we’re in for an epic ride. It also proves that there isn’t anything that old Johnny Cash can’t make better. I’m beginning to suspect his American Recordings are the best thing that has ever been recorded.And Stephen Merchant as Caliban? How fucking awesome does he look? I can’t wait. March 2017 has never felt so far away. 

  • Guardians of the Galaxy teaser
Yesterday I was criticised by a co-worker because I hadn’t seen this trailer yet but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. Teaser trailers are rarely anything to get excited by. The only two that have given me real tingles were The Force Awakens and Days of Future Past. This teaser didn’t exactly make me more excited for the sequel to GOTG but it also didn’t make me any less excited. It was fine… gratuitous use of mini Groot aside, of course. That was just disgusting pandering.
  • Black Mirror Series 3
The new series of Charlie Brooker’s fucking awesome TV show came to Netflix on Friday night. I watched the majority of the first episode as I got ready for work on Saturday and finished the rest before I went to sleep on Saturday night. I was fucking exhausted at work today but it was so worth it. This is not just great TV but it’s clever and thought provoking. It’s augmented but it’s all stuff that you could genuinely see happen in the next few years. It’s harrowing. No wonder I had such difficult sleeping last night!

  • Peep Show
I decided to watch the last season of Peep Show last week and, it nothing else, it just made me miss the first 3 series when the show was actually really good. So I decided to watch them again. As of today I’ve looped back round to the last season again. I’d feel ashamed but it was so worth it. Except season 4. That series is just utter shit.

TBT – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

comic book, films, fucking awful, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, review, TBT, X-Men

It’s been just over 10 years since Brett Ratner’s addition to the series of X-Men films that Bryan Singer started back in 2000 and, without meaning to be too dramatic, it’s still painful that this film exists. I know that Days of Future Past went and deleted it from the film canon but that doesn’t make it any easier. I vividly remember going to see this film with my friends: I was 18 years old, full of hope and excitement at what the next instalment would bring. I left feeling utterly depressed and glad the whole thing was over. A lot of my sadness at the time revolved around the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I’ve always loved the character of Beast and was glad that he was set to be involved in this film. As a firm lover of Frasier I even, initially, didn’t mind the casting of Grammer; I mean Hank is an intelligent and peaceful creature so I could see where they were coming from. Upon leaving I was bemoaning the fact that Beast had been so utterly wasted. As the years went by my hatred for this film only grew and, had it not been for the even more appalling X-Men Origins 3 years later, I could easily say this was worst film in the whole franchise. And, for once, I’m not just being melodramatic.

I’m so irrationally angry at this films existence that I imagine writing this review is going to be hard so I’m going to simplify it and break it down into the good and bad points.

First, the good:

  • The Cast

This film’s cast does have quite a few plus points as the rest of the films have. Ian McKellen is always a delight as the villainous Magneto and, no matter how much better J Law is at acting, I think Rebecca Romijn will always be the ultimate Mystique. She’s sexy, weird and dangerous instead of endless inspiring and preachy. In terms of the rest of the cast, most of the regulars are just phoning in what little they get to work with but, alongside newcomer Ellen Page as Kitty, the main highlight has to be Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix. She gets short shrift in terms of the Dark Phoenix narrative but Janssen is fantastic in the moments she gets to unleash the Phoenix. We deserved more of her.

  • Action sequences

Whatever you may think about Ratner’s directorial style you cannot deny that his action sequences are memorable. Yes, this isn’t always a positive (see the floating house/Xavier shaky jowls moment) but the danger room sequence and final Phoenix showdown are both pretty spectacular.

  • Political Elements

The film’s narrative isn’t exactly strong but there are some aspects that work really well. The attempt to bring in the political elements with the cure provides an emotional struggle for the mutants. It follows the strong human vs mutant struggle we’ve seen in previous films and provides some decent moments. Angel’s storyline, though rushed, has some great moments and Beast’s internal struggle works great (particularly when added to the similar themes in the prequels).

Now the bad:

  • It’s just not very good

There is a lot of shitty parts of this film that stand out. The continuity is all over the shop and the editing is just awful in places. This film isn’t all about the detail it’s just about getting the story told in the most exciting way. Day quickly becomes night, cars have lights on to make shots better and things aren’t where they’re meant to be. It all just shows a lack of finesse and care that these films had under the watchful eye of Bryan Singer. Plus, who ever cast Vinnie fucking Jones needs to get sacked. Hearing his awful cockney accent shouting “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch” was something nobody needed or wanted.

  • Too many characters

There are just too many characters stuffed into this thing that nobody really gets the development they deserve. Even big players like Jean don’t get enough to do and she spends most of her time standing behind people looking bored. The new guys are introduced and ignored until they are needed for a cool shot or funny gag later one. We needed to get to know these characters and care about them instead of see one execution of their power near the end of the film. We needed more Hank for fuck’s sake.

  • Terrible treatment of existing characters

Ratner was brutal in this film when it came to killing off existing characters. Not brutal in terms of number, per se, but in the way he did it. There was no respect for the key characters here and they are completely turned around from the people we know already. Xavier’s characterisation here is completely different to the one we knew and he spends most of him time being a huge dick. It’s almost a relief when Jean kills him off. But then she does and in a really understated way. However, he gets more of a look in than Scott who, thanks to James Marsden’s desire to follow Singer to Superman Returns, gets killed off in the most pathetic way about 10 minutes into the film. Then there’s fucking Rogue who went through 2 films worth of struggling with her identity only to get rid of her powers so she can have sex with Bobby. What kind of fucking crazy message is that to give young girls? Get rid of your uniqueness in order to land a guy: fuck that! It’s a horrible use of these characters.

  • The rushed Dark Phoenix Saga

X2 remains the best film in the franchise in my opinion and it so expertly set up the Dark Phoenix Saga that fans eagerly awaited X3. Of course, The Last Stand managed to fuck that up by gluing this story onto the end of the main mutant cure narrative. This means we only get about 15 minutes of real Phoenix force before everything is resolved. Considering this is such a huge event in the comics, The Last Stand really doesn’t do it justice.

  • Too much Wolverine

By this point in the trilogy it had become clear that Wolverine was the most bankable member of the cast and, as such, Fox had made him the main character. Which is kind of crazy. It also meant that almost every emotional aspect of this plot fell back to him instead of the people it should have done. Xavier’s death: how does Logan feel? Jean’s descent into evil: how does Logan feel? Mutant cure: how does Logan feel? Who gives a fuck!? I want to know who thought it was a good idea to take the Dark Phoenix Saga out of Jean Grey’s completely and give the emotional resolution to fucking Wolverine? I love Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as much as the next guy but this shouldn’t have been his movie.

Conclusion:

By no means is The Last Stand the worst films ever made nor, thanks to fucking Origins, is it the worst X-Men film ever made. The problem remains that it was much worse than the two films is followed. Bryan Singer had made something great with his first two films. He not only set about placing X-Men firmly in Hollywood but also showed the great potential for superhero movies. Arguably, the focus of modern cinema could have been very different without them. So Ratner’s shitty attempt to follow in his footsteps is all the more painful because of the reputation he fucked with. Still, there are some positives. Mostly nothing to do with Ratner but, still, it’s good to know that we can find hope in anything.

Tuesday’s Reviews – X-Men: Apocalypse

disappointing, films, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, meh, Michael Fassbender, review, X-Men

Anyone who has been following this blog for long enough knows that I’ve had a long and tortured relationship with the X-Men film franchise. I’ve been a fan of your friendly neighbourhood mutants ever since the amazing 90s cartoon and X-Men Evolution back in early 2000. Then, of course, Bryan Singer brought the gang to the big screen in 2000 with X-Men and its superb sequel. Still, the films that followed never quite managed to achieve the original greatness so I wasn’t exactly loving the prospect of X-Men: Apocalypse. Especially when each of the trailers were such utter shit. Still, a guy at work saw the film when it first came out and insisted that it was worthwhile. He pretty much loves anything he watches so I wasn’t exactly convinced so it took a while to get round to it. So, will Apocalypse fall into the same traps that we saw The Last Stand did?

Before all of the action kicks off in X-Men: Apocalypse a group of teenage mutants sneak out of Professor Xavier’s mansion to watch Return of the Jedi. Upon exiting the film, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) utters the immortal phrase “everyone knows that the third movie is always the worst”. It’s a funny enough line considering the franchise’s history but the question remains about any potential self-awareness hidden underneath the humour. Were Bryan Singer and co. really calling out Brett Ratner for the disastrous The Last Stand (something they erased from the canon thanks the events of Days of Future Past) or were they preparing for the inevitable criticism of the end of their new trilogy?

I mean whatever your interpretation, it doesn’t bode well that the script is already preparing you for a shitty ending. Especially when the opening scene sets you up pretty well. The scene lifts off where the post credits scene of the last film left off. We are in Ancient Egypt and Apocalypse/En Sabah Nur is in the process of transferring his consciousness into the body of Oscar Issac. Unfortunately, before he can bring about the end of the world, the first ever mutant is betrayed by his people and ends up buried under the remains of his own pyramid.

Of course, we all know that’s not where he’ll stay and, thanks to some interference from Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrn), Apocalypse is risen from the dead and takes an instant dislike to the modern world. As the myths dictate he goes about rounding up his four horsemen to aid in his task. Storm (Alexandra Ship), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) and, our old friend, Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Of course, Erik’s return to the world of evil causes concern for his ex-ally Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and he and his mutant students quickly find themselves embroiled in the disaster.

However, there is a lot more to the story than the above summary suggests. The action takes place 10 years after the climax of the last film so there are several old faces to reintroduce alongside all the newbies. The first hour basically consists of little vignettes detailing each character’s new storyline and it takes fucking ages. We see Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) acting as a vigilante in Berlin, Erik settling into a human life complete with wife and daughter in Poland, Alex Summers (Lucas Till) helping his younger brother Scott (Tye Sheridan) come to terms with his powers, and Jean Grey having nightmares about a coming evil. And, really, that’s not even scratching the surface. The film reintroduces us to Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult); reminds us, as if we could forget, that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still exists; and introduces Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Pyslocke, Angel and Jubilee (Lana Condor).

There are a lot of players in this latest instalment and, because everyone has their own share of baggage, the whole things feels stuffed to bursting. It inevitably means that character plays a secondary role here and most people get little, if any, development. Scott and Jean get some chance to make a connection with the audience but they still don’t get what they deserve considering their history with the audience. Charles, Hank and Moira really get little to do and the rest of the new cast are pretty much just set dressing. I mean what is the point of introducing a villain like Apocalypse and making him so fucking undefined? Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to overload the film so much that there is no real sense of characterisation here?

Instead, the studio have focused on the characters that they believe are most bankable people. That’s why it is Eirk and Mystique who once again have to battle with their inner demons just as they have been doing for the past two films. The Last Stand failed because it was so wildly different to the preceeding films. Apocalypse fails because it’s so fucking similar. We’ve had two films of Erik killing people because his family are killed and Charles trying to convince him of his hidden goodness. We didn’t need another. He’s murdered so many people by this point you’d probably just give up. Then you have Mystique who has gone so far into Katniss territory that it’s embarrassing. I get that J Law can do no wrong but that doesn’t mean I need a 2.5 hour film of her making trite, inspirational speeches. It’s another Hollywood cliche at this point.

The film makers have got Apocalypse all wrong. X-Men hasn’t succeeded on spectacle or grandeur. It works well when there is depth and emotion. It works because we get to know the characters and appreciate their struggles. This film has more in common with Zack fucking Snyder that it does with its own franchise. At its climax the film just descends into the same wanton destruction that has become such a staple of the modern superhero film. Thanks to a kickstart to his powers, Magneto finds that he can manipulate the metal deep in the Earth and pretty much destroy everything in existence. He tears down buildings and ships thousands of miles away. Masses of unnamed people must be killed in this epic finale but its all so low-key. There are no consequences, no drama, It’s all just action.

I have to admit that I didn’t hate this film as much as I thought and I think there is great potential within the new cast for some future movies. However, I think this went too far. There was so much going on that there was no room to develop the main story. The film isn’t that long when compared to many recent releases but it felt neverending. It’s difficult having to compete with films like The Avengers where so many familiar faces are pushed together and make millions in the box office. Fox clearly just pushed things too far and the film-makers couldn’t handle it. The story isn’t all that interesting when you get down to it and the villains are just pathetic. We don’t even know anything about Apocalypse. What are his powers? What motivates him? Why does he pick the mutant he does? We don’t fucking know because there was no time.

Fans applauded Singer when he retrospectively altered the timeline and got rid of everything that happened in The Last Stand. He wiped the slate clean and did what fans have been doing ever since 2006: forgetting it ever existed. It’s just a shame, then, that he went and fucked it up by doing another shit third film. It’s by no means as bad as Ratner’s contribution but there is so much that needed to be defined and tweaked by this film. There are too many dinner party guests and not enough chairs or plates. Unfortunately, it’s also the audience that is going hungry.

TBT – X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

comic book, fucking awful, Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, TBT, Wolverine, X-Men

I’ve read a lot of mixed criticism about Deadpool since I watched it last weekend. It’s upsetting because, whilst it does have its flaws, it was a refreshing addition to the comic book genre. Yes, it’s not going to change anything and, unless it comes up with a few stronger ideas, it won’t become Fox’s new big franchise. However, it should be said that it definitely made up for Deadpool’s first cinematic appearance. It’s been 7 years since the unrecognisable version of the character appeared in Wolverine’s origin story but the hurt still runs as deep as ever. Ryan Reynolds knew he had to get this movie made to apologise to fans like him for allowing Fox to fuck up such an iconic and loved character. If you ask me, he more than did… and, considering how much ground he had to make up, that’s a fucking huge achievement.

After all the of the success of the first two X-Men films it was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who stood out most for fans. Audiences loved Jackman’s portrayal of the straight-talking Canadian so it made sense, from a financial point of view, to make a standalone Logan film. Although, I question why we needed to revisit his origin story when we’d already seen that in X2. It’s a story we’ve been shown from the first film so it seems redundant to go over this ground again.

Still, it does give us a fantastic opening scene where we see Logan fighting in multiple wars, jumping through the years. It’s a stunning, if incredibly hard-to-follow, sequence that shows the sheer breadth of his life. Then we stop in a more recent year to revisit a story we already know. Although, this time Logan’s not alone. This time he’s joined by a half-brother in misguided and desperate attempt to utilise some of the previous films’ characters. Going against the canon already set by Fox and the comic books, turns out Logan is related to Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but what the fuck can we do about it now.

Now during their many years of military service, Logan and Victor see a lot of death. Victor gets a taste for blood and the pair end up in front of a firing squad. As both have healing abilities, they are imprisoned and taken under the wing of William Stryker for his secret team. They are joined by a few fellow mutants (mostly forgettable and underdeveloped) and a wisecracking mercenary, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds). They do a few jobs for Stryker before Logan sees the light and leaves. Opting out of professional killing and living in the middle of nowhere with his lady love, Kayla (Lynn Colins).

Although, it’s no big surprise to anyone that his perfect life goes tits up and Stryker pulls him back in for a mission of revenge. Along the way he undergoes the all too familiar experiment that bonds metal to his skeleton and meets a few new faces. Unfortunately, there is nothing in Origins that isn’t just a massive comic book cliché. It’s all just too familiar and, frankly, really fucking boring. None of the new characters are given any real introduction or depth. All of the returning ones are just floundering.

Even Logan, when you set him apart from the rest of the X-Men, doesn’t necessarily scream main man. He needs the rest of the team to bounce off. What made him so good in the first two was the way he argued with do-gooder Scott, flirted with Jean, and saw through Xavier’s slightly pompous image. When he’s leading the show he wears a little thin and the whole escapade just seems like its missing something. Not that Hugh Jackman doesn’t play the part well, it’s just that the character is too much of a side-kick to be able to handle a full-narrative.

This film makes so many mistakes that it’s just outrageous. Bryan Singer’s films were so successful because they revived the camp superhero genre into a serious and noteworthy affair. After The Last Stand undid most of that works, Origins almost destroys any credibility the franchise had left. The fight sequences are shot in the most absurd manner that means its almost impossible to follow, the CGI is more than a bit dodgy and the script is so cringe worthy you should probably watch with the sound off. No matter how hard Hugh Jackman tries to keep it together, Origins is just X-2‘s tired, bloated and embarrassing older brother.

To paraphrase the man himself, Wolverine may be the best there is at what he does” but, as Origins more than proves, what he does best isn’t very nice.

TBT – X-Men (2000)

anniversary, comic book, fucking awesome, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, TBT, X-Men
Last week when I was blissfully celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest teen movies of all time, one of the greatest comic book movies of all time was also celebrating a milestone birthday. On July 14thX-Men, Bryan Singer‘s first step into the murky world of mutants, turned 15 years old. With Days of Future Past coming out last year and X-Men Apocalypse less than a year away, Singer really is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of superhero movies. Now I won’t lie to you, X-Men isn’t the best: it has been overshadowed by Singer’s second outing and, perhaps, by Days of Future Past itself.However, Singer brought together a fucking amazing cast and introduced Professor X’s squad of mutant heroes to the big screen. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there is no doubt that it is a film that deserves to be recognised.

Before he made X-Men Bryan Singer admits to not being a fan of comic books. Instead he was interested in making the film more human and pick up on the social ramifications of the introduction of mutants to the world. Since it’s release 15 years ago, Singer has continued to stick his toe into the waters of superheroes and, after a brief stop at the abysmal Superman Returns, has come back to take his rightful place at the head of the good ship X.
The strength in Singer’s first film comes mostly from the amazing cast that he brought together to bring to life the people that filled so many of our childhoods. Most notably were veteran actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. They have so much fun with their characters but, in the way they have with every role, never bring anything less than their A game. Without wanting to get too deep in hyperbole, these two were born to play Charles Xavier and Magneto. I love McEvoy and Fassbender as much as the next person but they’ll always be the understudies.
Although admittedly, the pair aren’t exactly given a lot to do. For this is, first and foremost, Wolverine‘s film. Yes, this was the film that turned Hugh Jackman from some Australian actor into a bona fide God in the geek world. Wolverine is angry, funny and fucking hard. Jackman became Wolverine and over the years I’ve become more and more worried that he’s lost his grip on reality. Seriously, have you seen how fucking huge he was in Days of Future Past? Someone needs to stop him.
The list of great actors is seemingly endless with the likes of Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, and Famke Janssen. However, none of them really get much to get their teeth into; Halle Berry in particular gets short shrift as Storm who is relegated to a portable wind machine instead of the badass she is in the comics. So X-Men does have a problem with it’s massive cast and a lot of the characters remain underdeveloped.
Well aside from Paquin’s Rogue who is a central part of the narrative. Magneto, a metal manipulator who resides in the pro-Mutant/anti-Human camp, sets out to create a mutant world by turning all of human kind into the freaks they fear. The narrative is pretty simple and, after a short introduction to Magneto and some other key players, it basically gets straight to the point. There is a bit of guff that could probably have been lost here and there but Singer’s film is actually pretty lean. It’s over far too quickly for my tastes.
You could, as Roget Ebert did back in the day, argue that the conclusion isn’t quite as dramatic as it ought to be. There is something of an anti-climax but it does the job. X-Menset out to introduce us these new characters. Whilst it doesn’t do it as well as it could, it is still a highly enjoyable film. You won’t be disappointed: just eager for more. What he maybe lacks in an explosive finale, Singer more than makes up for with quality. The production design is great, the special effects were impressive at the time, and there were some truly satisfying set-pieces to enjoy. X-Men, as a first step into this new world, was a strong and important film. I defy anyone to watch it and come out truly hating it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

fucking awesome, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, review, sequel, time travel, Wolverine, X-Men

 (Sorry it’s another long one.)

As I’ve already spent time on here trying to prove that we owe a lot to Bryan Singer and his early adaptations of Marvels’ mutant heroes. Without the well-made and still brilliant X-Menback in 2000 we quite probably wouldn’t have been treated to such cinematic delights as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy, Joss Whedon’s Avengers and the revamped Amazing Spider-Man. Singer was the guy who, after the heartbreak from Joel Schumacher’s reign of terror, reminded us that comic book films could be great. The moment he stepped away from the franchise was when it all started to go wrong. So I have been on tenterhooks ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be back to direct this sequel to 2011’s acclaimed X-Men FirstClass. Add to that the fact that it would be an adaptation of the brilliant ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline and we have a painstaking wait for the release date on our hands. I watched the trailers so many times that I was acting them out in private doing my best P. Stew impression.

Singer’s film takes inspiration from the 80s storyline that saw Kitty Pryde’s consciousness being sent back to her past self in order to prevent a horrific dystopian future. However, with the dismal Last Stand showing Kitty (Ellen Page) to be only about 20, there was always going to be a problem creating a sequel to First Class that centred on her character. Step forward everyone’s favourite magnetic Canadian and we have a guaranteed hit with film audiences.

Opening with scenes of an apocalyptic future where a small band of mutants, some very familiar, are going to great efforts to avoid the deadly and now adaptable Sentinels. They are soon discovered by ex-headmaster Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and ex-villain Magneto (Ian McKellan) who have a plan to prevent the moment that started this horrific chain of events. Using Kitty’s newly discovered power to send people’s minds back in time, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to his 70s body to gather the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Eric  (Michael Fassbender) together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) fucking everything up by shooting the creator of the aforementioned Sentinels.
Queue plenty of 70s paraphernalia, including lava lamps, flairs and questionable hair styles. I read a review that suggested Days of Future Past didn’t have as much fun with recreating its chosen era as First Class did. Having seen the film twice I can only assume that the critic responsible missed the previous films historically accurate but fucking ridiculous misogyny and objectification of women. Singer does everything he has to do to show that Wolverine is back in time without needing to continually force his female cast to strip off unnecessarily.
Instead, Singer focuses on plot and has gone to great lengths to ensure that the potentially confusing time-travel narrative doesn’t get out of control. The two timeframes are handled beautifully and come together perfectly. The film’s climax, where the action jumps between past and future, is expertly conducted and provides the first time in 15 years that Storm (Halle Berry) becomes as awesome as she is in the comics. He has great control of the special effects and, unlike plenty of these films, doesn’t get bogged down with gratuitous action sequences. Under Singer’s firm hand, everything happens to help the narrative move forward. Of course there is the usual check-list of things X-Men clichés and there is something of a bloat of in-jokes to keep the hardcore fans happy. However, there are also so many fantastic things: the introduction of Blink, whose power is used fantastically in the future battle sequences; terrifying Sentinels; a sharp script and exciting cameos.

Without a doubt, the film’s stand out sequence is the scene in which the newly introduced Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is shown diffusing a tense situation in bullet time set to Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle’. It’s a fucking beautiful scene and is incredibly funny. Had someone told me prior to my first viewing that Evan Peters would have the standout performance in this film I’d have slapped them for being so absurd. However, the brief moments that Quicksilver is on screen show that the character has great potential in future films. So much so that I’m terrified of the way Marvel will handle the character in Avengers 2.  Peters made the character his own and I was genuinely sad when Xavier sent him on his way early on.
Since, despite having a cast of great names, of both the acting and comic book worlds, this film is all about James McAvoy. McAvoy made a fine start in First Class but was outshone by his more prominent co-stars. Here we see Charles Xavier as we have never seen him before: both physically and emotionally broken and without his powers. He rejects his purpose and is willing to turn his back on his future. McAvoy is mesmerising as he struggles to reconnect with the two people who turned their back on him. Even alongside the physically intimidating and much loved Wolverine, McAvoy comes out as one of the standout stars.
An even more impressive task considering the legendary Patrick Stewart, the name that will forever be synonymous with Xavier’s, is back along with his partner in crime Ian McKellan. Ever since the post-credits scene after The Wolverine (after which I felt compelled to applaud) I have been impatient to see their return. I have always appreciated the fact that these two classically trained actors have never approached this material in anything but a professional manner. Having Stewart and McKellen on screen in these roles is a fucking joy to watch and, during the films climactic moments, nearly had me in tears. It’s always great seeing amazing actors in roles that they clearly enjoy.
A quality that you can always appreciate about Hugh Jackman: no matter how terrifying his continually pumped body gets (seriously it’s beginning to worry me. Look how veiny he is in this film. Step away from the weights Hugh) he always has fun with the character. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a great deal to do here. Wolverine is left to take his shirt off and act as little more than the facilitator to the younger generation. This could have been worked with anyone being in his place but I guess it’s always nice to see the ole bone claws every now and then.
Wolverine goes back to prevent Mystique from assassinating Trask and causing the government to take greater action against the mutants. One would assume this would be good news for all J Law fans but I have to say I was utterly disappointed with the way she was used. Despite a few awesome fight sequences, Mystique had very little to work with. There is little explanation for her sudden descent into super villainy and no real attempt to further flesh out the character from the first film. There are hints at a relationship with Magneto and a tiny reference to her history with Hank but nothing to excite. J Law is really just going through the motions here.
This is something of a problem with the film as it has such a large cast to work with that many end up getting swept under the carpet. You know you’ve got too many characters when you introduce someone as fucking cool as Bishop only to have him do nothing. It’s fucking criminal. I mean Peter Dinklange is one of the greatest actors working at the moment and his casting as Boliver Trask, designer of the mutant killing robots that haunted all of our childhood dreams, seemed like pure genius. For some unknown reason Dinklage turns up for the odd political meeting where he spouts on about mutants and robots and then just stands around. I don’t understand what these people were thinking. Great actors deserve great roles even in the fantasy world of mutants, robots and time travel.
Likewise Michael Fassbender is once again unable to really get to grips with the supposedly evil Magneto and is only given one sequence of slight conflict. This is Fassbender’s second time playing with the mental manipulator and he has failed to come close to greatness he briefly displayed in the opening moments of First Class. This wasn’t Magneto’s film, I know, but there still doesn’t feel like there is any connection between Fass and McKellen’s truly villainous version besides their name and power. With an actor of Fassbender’s calibre you could create a fucking gruesome nemesis (I mean this is the man who appalled us in 12 Years a Slave after all) if only you gave him something to do besides making a football stadium float.

To be fair though the floating stadium is a pretty amazing visual. It’s the closest Singer gets to unnecessary but it stands for everything this film is about. Days of Future Past flirts with darkness in the opening sequence (we see death, destruction and a glimpse of mutant prison camps) but it is all about fun. It’s the film that comes closest to the feeling and tone of the original comics whilst remaining sophisticated and well-crafted. 

It’s been just over a week since Days of Future Past was released in the UK and I’ve already had to fit in a double viewing. It’s safe to say that Bryan Singer has more than made amends for the disappointing Super Man Returns and returned to near enough his comic book best. Unfortunately, Days of Future Pastis, undeniably, a flawed film: it ignores some of its better cast members and characters and sometimes gets a little too self-indulgent. However, it’s exactly what it should be: an unashamedly joyous, exciting and well-made superhero movie. You finally get the sense that, after 15 years of trying to avoid it, Bryan Singer is finally comfortably with the idea of making a comic book movie and it’s entertaining as fuck. 

The Wolverine (2013)

comic book, Hugh Jackman, Marvel, review, Wolverine, X-Men

The Wolverinemarks Hugh Jackman’s fourth (fifth if you insist on counting the shameless cameo in First Class) outing as the mutton-chopped mutant and, after the disappointing Origins four years ago, it had a lot to prove. For those who have read my brief historyof X-Men movies will know, I didn’t hate Origins as much as the average person appeared to. So yes, the plot was weak and confused about what it was trying to do. Yes, there were a lot of characters added and destroyed without any attempt to give them any depth. However, despite the huge list of faults, I sort of enjoyed it. Especially after the travesty that was Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand. Yes, it may have something to do with my unquenching love of Remy LeBeau but there were some good moments. If nothing else, I certainly think there was enough to Origins to suggest that a Wolverine centric film was possible. Despite the many differing opinions that came out after its release. So there was really just one major question that director James Mangold and co needed to address: would that film be The Wolverine?

Unlike its predecessor which, obviously, took a look into Logan’s lengthy past, The Wolverine picks up some time after the events of Last Stand. It starts off in fairly similar territory to First Class where, instead of an angry and brooding Magneto seeking vengeance, we find Logan doing his best Grizzly Man impression. Plagued by heavenly visions of his lost love, an even hairier than normal Wolverine spends his days mooching about in the mountains feeling sorry for himself with a bear serving as his only friend. After his companion meets a very grizzly end we see a glimpse of the mutant we remember when Logan comes out of hiding to seek revenge on the hunter’s responsible.
The plot then moves us to Japan after the mysterious Yukio (Rila Fukushima) whisks our hero off to the bedside of her dying employer, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi). Through several flashbacks we learn that Logan saved Yashida from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and now, as the old man lies dying, he wishes to say his goodbye face to face. Rather than simply presenting a sword to his saviour, he offers to take on Logan’s accursed healing ability in order to provide him with a mortal existence. For the sake of making a substantial film, Wolverine refuses and the old man dies hours later. In the preceding days all hell breaks lose and the grumpy metallic mutant must race through a series of stereotypically Japanese settings in order to protect Yashida’s meek granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) from pretty much everyone else in Japan.
One of the greatest things about anything involving Wolverine is Hugh Jackman. His dedication to and love for this character is clear to see. Especially when he finds himself more vulnerable than he is used to and has to deal with the consequences of a possible mortal existence. This film, more than his previous outings, gives Jackman the chance to give the world’s favourite mutant a human side. It’s Jackman’s own likeability and clear enjoyment of everything he’s asked to do that has led to the character being so well received by audiences. Just like Robert Downey Jr. has become synonymous Iron Man, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. There has never been a hint that he has given anything less to this role than he would to a more traditional genre and it’s always fun to watch him striking down his enemies with his galvanised bone claws. He puts his all into the role. Something that can be most obviously seen in his overly ripped new body. It’s obviously a source of great pride for both the actor and the film-makers as every scene Logan stars in there seems to be a problem with his shirt staying in place.
Although that might have something to do with the sheer number of fights his manages to get himself into. They come so thick and fast that it becomes painfully obvious that Mangold had such a little amount of faith in the overall product that he felt the need to distract his audience with an endless supply of over-the-top action sequences. That is not to say that these aren’t enjoyable moments. The film’s stand-out sequence takes place a top the speeding bullet train where Logan must face off against a gaggle of evilly inclined men whilst avoiding the many obstacles along the way. Yes, it may be nothing more than a CGI fuelled romp but it is one of the best ‘fighting on a train’ moments in cinematic history. Logan really gets the chance to dig his claws in and show just what he is capable of.
Of course, the problem with a standalone Wolverine film isn’t the character himself as many have suggested. The major problem is laziness. Just like Captain Jack from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Wolverine became a firm favourite with fans which has turned him into nothing more than a way to bring money in. Neither The Wolverinenor his first solo outing have been given the care and attention that the previous instalments were given. Clearly Mangold wasn’t as invested in the project as he should have been and his direction is at best lacklustre and at worst outrageously laughable. It’s easy to understand why the positive moments are forgotten when you compare them to the worst. Take for example the moment when Wolverine is struggling to save Mariko while ninjas impale him with poisoned arrows. Seeing Logan slowly make his way up the hill with ropes coming off his back like a freaky rope hedgehog is one of the stupidest scenes I’ll probably ever see on film. You have to question what Mangold thought he was doing in these moments.
Like the decision to include those dream sequences where Logan discusses his issues with an ethereal Jean Grey. Famke Janssen turns up wearing a slinky white negligee to remind us all why Logan was undertaking a hermit existence during the first section. Aside from getting the chance to place a camera in direct sight of the dearly departed Jean’s chest, these scenes add little to the overall narrative. If anything they are distracting and cloying. It’s a horrible clichéd and lazy method to give the main character some depth and emotional turmoil. These scenes become nothing more than a horribly cheesy and silly way to keep the film within the canon and attempt to prove that there is a softer side beneath the muscles and glower.
When it comes to The Wolverine the biggest disappointment has to be the lack of convincing villain. Yukio and, at a pinch, Mariko aside the supporting cast have no character development. The list of enemies working against Wolverine is a long one and includes an incredibly suspect blonde doctor (Svetlana Khodchenkova), a ninja bowman Harada (Will Yun Lee) and Mariko’s jealous sword-wielding father (Hiroyuki Sanada). Although it never really becomes clear what is motivating any of them. In fact, in some cases their motivations seem to conflict with their actions so it is completely incomprehensible why they make the choices they do. As cool as Harada seems when he is introduced wearing a hoodie, flinging arrows at baddies and racing across rooftops, he quickly becomes a pointless addition to the plot. On the one hand he is serving Yashida and on the other he is in love with Mariko; how he decides to follow creepy blonde doctor is an utter mystery.
Blonde doctor has way more potential once she reveals herself to be Viper (or at least a terrible version of Viper) but, once again she is given no real chance to develop. There is never a point where she seems as though she’s going to be a real danger. She has very little memorable moments aside from that one fairly gross scene where she sheds her skin. We know nothing about where she came from or why she is doing what she’s doing. A superhero film needs more than just a great protagonist and with antagonists like this you have to ask why Wolverine even bothered making the effort.
In fact, the only welcome new addition to the cast is Fukushima as the very manga Yukio. A mutant with the ability to see the moment when a person dies she is also very handy with a sword. With her shocking red hair and anime schoolgirl-inspired clothing, she provides a much needed injection of energy and excitement. Watching her whip and weave and slice her enemies is both an energetic feat and a treat for the eyes. It looks set to be a great partnership is she makes it into any following X-Men/Wolverine projects.
Undoubtedly she is one of only good things to come out of the uninspired final act is her showdown with Viper. Without her it simply descends into a chaotic mix of robots, ninjas and plot twists that have been signposted since before the opening credits. Clearly by this point the makers had decided that their audience were so exhausted with the previous mass of fights that the final showdown didn’t matter… provided you amp up the fighting and the danger. Logan is basically going through the motions and trying to get out of here as soon as possible.

Which is exactly the feeling that most of the critics had upon watching. For my part I can understand why they felt disappointed in this second attempt to give Wolverine a solo film that he deserved. It’s better than Origins but, compared to the great X-Men ensemble pieces this just doesn’t seem good enough. Although, I can’t deny that I bloody enjoyed this film. As you’ve just read, I had my issues with the overall slickness and quality of the film but, ultimately, I left feeling satisfied enough. I mean you’ve got Wolverine facing off against ninja and yakuza for 2 hours. How can that fail to provide even a modicum of excitement in an audience of comic book fans?
It falls down because, in an age of incredibly good superhero movies, Mangold and his team just didn’t give the genre the care and attention it deserved. The narrative is mechanical, the dialogue is fairly uninspired and most of the characters are mainly used for window-dressing. Thankfully this film has one major lifeline in the shape of Hugh Jackman. He’s played Logan since 2000 and it’s become second nature to him. Despite obviously being able to pull of a performance without any effort he still plays the role with as much gusto and effort as he would in the early days. This is Wolverine’s film and, I for one, hope we see more of the man with metal bones for a few more outings… just without the underlying impression that this is simply about exploiting fans for as little effort as possible.