X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

 

After X2: X-Men United, the superhero series was invigorated and raring to go again. Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, so Brett Ratner took over the chair and creative control of the franchise. This has often been seen as a bad idea. Brett Ratner, not to be blunt, is terrible.

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It’s the story of the mutants dealing with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, GoldenEye, Taken 3) in the previous film. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) appears on the surface to have gotten over her death and has taken on a more important role within the school alongside Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry, TV’s Extant, Cloud Atlas). Meanwhile, Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass) has been recruiting new mutants to join The Brotherhood in the fight against the government, which has created a new treatment or “cure” for mutants. Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano) is interested in the cure, but her boyfriend Bobby (Shawn Ashmore, TV’s The Following, Frozen).

There a lot of moving plot points in this movie, but the script is far too weak to fully explore them all. There are multiple times when dialogue is unreal, too much exposition is given (or sometimes, not enough), and characters are doing things that betray their character traits.

The actors are trying to perform to a weak script, and most of them do as well as they can, but Brett Ratner focuses too much on trying to be a spectacle, often sacrificing character moments under piles of action. Now, the action is good, and leads to a solid climax which is handled nicely, but we have a conflict of style. On one hand, we have the previous film, which establishes a seriousness and a stake in what happens. On the other hand, we have a goofy style which pushes against and a more-comic-booky look to the film, something that was handled much better in the prequel X-Men: First Class.

While the climax is handled nicely, Ratner chooses to play down the denouement, which, considering this was supposed to be a closing of the trilogy, is what really kills this movie. We have so many plot threads untreated and ultimately unthreaded that it set the series up for several films of trying to fix the damage, before finally X-Men: Days of Future Past was able to do.

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This isn’t the worst X-Men movie of all time. That honor is currently held by X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that doesn’t mean that this wasn’t an epic letdown from X2, and served to topple the franchise for a couple years.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, Anna Paquin

Screenplay: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language.

 

X-Men was a very popular comic book adaptation, especially for the time period, when those movies hadn’t really been doing well. I originally wasn’t a major fan of the original X-Men, but I honestly don’t think I got it. I didn’t really know the X-Men mythos, so when X2: X-Men United came into the fold, and I saw the trailer, featuring a creature I would come to know as Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, TV’s The Good Wife, The Smurfs 2) trying to assassinate the President, that I knew I had to see this movie.

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X2: X-Men United continues the story six months after the original film, and follows the mutants as they deal with a mutant attack on the President. Logan (Hugh Jackman, The Prestige, Prisoners) is looking for his origins in Alaska. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return) has continued to teach at his school, and spends free time playing chess with imprisoned Magneto (Ian McKellan, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Golden Compass). Meanwhile, William Stryker (Brian Cox, Troy, Her) has taken the attack in the White House personally, and chooses to round up the mutant children at Xavier’s school and keep them imprisoned, and Wolverine finds that he may have more connections to Stryker than he knows.

If X-Men woke up the superhero genre, X2 proved that superhero movies can actually be about something while also being great films in general. Without X2, we may not have had the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series.

It also proved that people can perform as superheroes. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan carry this film and drive its story nicely as two friends with very different compasses who must unite against a common enemy in Brian Cox’s Stryker, who also lends his seasoned expertise to the film. Hugh Jackman has also honed his skills as a performer with Wolverine.

Singer’s directing and the film’s editing give us multiple branched out storylines that all come together very well for a powerful and shocking climax that creates ripples for the series for several films to come.

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X2: X-Men United was the best film in the series up until this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, and it has aged very well, becoming one of the most notable superhero films ever.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, Shawn Ashmore

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

131 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.

 

Wow, we have a lot to cover here. If you aren’t big on comics or superhero movies, let me catch you up on this real quick. Days of Future Past is pretty much one of the biggest and most important arcs in the entire X-Men series, and now its a movie.

Okay, so real quick, I will be discussing spoilers about previous X-Men films here as it is really the only way to properly review Days of Future Past. Okay? Begin…

 

Alright, let me catch you up to speed here. It is the future (the film doesn’t designate what year, but I’m told through interviews with the filmmakers that it is roughly 2023). Mutants have been mostly captured or killed off and there are precious few left fighting for their freedom against robotic beings called the Sentinels that the government has unleashed on the mutant population. According to the series chronology:

1. & 2. X-Men Origins & First Class (technically First Class exists within the large reach of Origins)

3. X-Men

4. X2: X-Men United

5. The Last Stand

6. The Wolverine

7. Days of Future Past

 

Okay, so it comes down to this. Wolverine was intercepted by Magneto and a somehow still alive Professor X at the end of The Wolverine. He is told that he is needed and that the war they all feared is here. In the past, Raven/Mystique killed a man named Bolivar Trask, who is responsible for creating the Sentinel program. Yes, the Sentinels were previously seen at the beginning of The Last Stand. Wolverine joins together with Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Iceman, along with some powerful newcomers to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to thwart the murder before it happens and save the timeline of the future. Back in time, he meets up with a younger Professor (James McAvoy, post First Class) and Beast who have their own problems. Young Professor has created a serum that obliterates his mutant powers but allows him to walk again, and also allows Beast to be “normal” looking. There is a lot going on in this film, and it is phenomenal filmmaking that helps to fix a lot of the problems that the previous have created. Overall, I love the story, but it still irks me that there is little to no explanation about Professor X’s survival and rebirth. I’ve seen a lot of info on the internet, but I still don’t feel like that can be considered fact in this series.

I feel like I don’t need to discuss Hugh Jackman’s performance in this film. He knows the character. He holds the record for most performances as a superhero with all seven films featuring him.

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James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender take their characters to new levels in this film. McAvoy’s young Xavier is so broken and destroyed by the direction his life has taken. It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch. Fassbender shows a lot of signs on the way to his metamorphosis into adult Magneto. I think what really elevates these two performances is that these got to work with the originators of the roles for the first time in the series.

Ellen Page turns in a very quick and very well-done performance returning to the series as Kitty Pryde.

One of the scene-stealers here is Peter Dinklage (TV’s Game of Thrones, Knights of Badassdom), who plays Bolivar Trask. This man could’ve been a regular old evil man villain, but Dinklage has transformed him into a man who has motives and faults. This is a true character.

As far as editing goes, this story could’ve been a big mushy mess of timelines, but it is placed very well together with key images to designate exactly where we are. Compare it to the confusing time-jumper Oculus out last year.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if Days of Future Past takes away an Oscar nod for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, if only for the scenes with Quicksilver.

One thing I do want to know before finishing this review is the possible confusion with Avengers: Age of Ultron, which releases next year. So, Quicksilver is featured in this film. Quicksilver is featured in that film. Let me point out that, from a film standpoint, these are different characters. The two series are separate and exist in separate shared universes. More on this later.

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Anywho, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men yet and, personally, the best film I’ve seen yet this year. Have you seen it? What did you think? Is your brain melting from all the stuff? So much stuff!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of X-Men, click here.

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

X-Men (2000)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn, Ray Park, Anna Paquin

Screenplay: David Hayter

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

This is where it all begins. Remember when you saw Spider-Man or Batman Begins or even Iron Man. The Modern Superhero Revolution. It all started 14 years ago when Bryan Singer brought together a star-studded cast and a great script from David Hayter.

X-Men follows Logan (Wolverine) and Marie (Rogue), two lost souls in the near-future, as they team up with Professor X and his heroic team of mutants to stop Magneto from turning human beings into mutants like him. It is a more complex story than I originally expected, with a nice amount of twists and turns.

This cast is one of the main reasons that this film not only succeeded, but also developed the superhero genre into more than cheese. We have Hugh Jackman in his first portrayal as Wolverine, a character who be a staple on the franchise and appear in every installment. Logan is a complex character, and Jackman gets to flex those claws a lot more in later installments, but this is a nice introduction to the character. We get to see the softness in his relationship with Rogue (Anna Paquin, TV’s True Blood, The Piano). We also get a nice strong turn from Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, The Call), still somewhat early in her career (we are talking pre-Bond girl Berry here), as Storm.

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Nice work should go to Famke Janssen and James Marsden as Jean Grey and Cyclops, respectively. Their relationship in this film offers some conflict to be mined, and Marsden is portraying Cyclops for crying out loud, not an easy sell, as the character could have just come off as silly.

All these able performances are under the powerhouse work of Bromance buddies Patrick Stewart (TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Ian McKellan (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Stardust). These two classically-trained actors bring such depth to the characters of Professor X and Magneto. They carry the film and up the ante for future comic book adaptations.

The soundtrack in this film is absolutely iconic now. I find myself humming it and getting pumped up at the same time, very nice work.

The special effects do seem a bit dated, but there isn’t much to be done about that.

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This is a great start to a franchise and every single superhero movie since owes something to Bryan Singer’s incredible saga. You really feel like you know the characters from this original outing alone. Easily one of the most impressive superhero blockbusters of recent memory.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of The Wolverine, click here.

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