The cinematic X-Men universe has been a mixed bag, with some of the movies doing quite well (see Deadpool and Days of Future Past), while others were plain awful (X-Men: Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand). The movies have struggled to get the tone right and have also created a convoluted and contradictory timeline, it’s time for a reboot and where better to end it than with the driving force and most consistent part of the series- Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
Since the first X-movie only Jackman has popped the claws as the Canadian mutant and while he’s often been in lacklustre movies he’s managed to do the character justice. Now, he is finally given the kind of swansong the character, and his efforts, deserve.
Set in 2029 we find Logan in dark times, working as a chauffeur and living out in the Mexican desert looking after Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who has destructive seizures and seems to be in the early stages of dementia as he enters his nineties. Logan and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who burns easily in sunlight, keep Xavier drugged to dampen his powers. Logan’s healing powers have slowed, meaning he limps and carries severals scars. He hopes to save money to buy a boat and sail away with Charles so that his seizures can’t hurt anyone.
The other X-Men are revealed to be dead and mutant kind has died out, with no new mutants having been born in decades. While on a job Logan is approached by a Mexican nurse Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks for his help as she is being chased by shady figures. Logan refuses to engage with her and leaves. One of these, the cybernetically enhanced bounty hunter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who works for the Transigen corporation. Logan denies all knowledge and Pierce tells him to call him if he hears anything.
Logan is called to another job but it turns out to be Gabriella who has arranged it, she offers him $50,000 to take her and her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota and a safe place known as Eden. The money will be enough for the boat and Logan reluctantly agrees, however when he returns he finds Gabriella murdered. Returning to Mexico he discovers that Laura has stowed away in the boot of his limo and Pierce arrives shortly after. Xavier claims to communicate with her and says they must keep her safe.
Logan is subdued by Pierce’s men, but Laura then reveals that she too has adamantium claws, similar to him and kills many of the men. Logan, Laura and Charles escape and head for North Dakota with Pierce in pursuit, using Caliban and his mutant tracking powers to continue the hunt.
A message left by Gabriella reveals that Transigen bred new mutants, using DNA they had on file in order to develop super soldiers, of which Laura is one of the X-23 programme. However, upon discovering that Transigen had decided to abandon the project due to the fact the kids were hard to control she and several other nurses helped the kids escape before they were “put down”.
Will the jaded Logan be able to form a bond with Laura? Can they make it to North Dakota, and if they do will the promised safety exist or merely be revealed as a dream? And what have Transigen created to replace Laura and her peers, and will Logan be able to defeat this new threat in his weakened state?
I have to say I really enjoyed this movie, which felt like a solid conclusion to the series and a good place to leave this version of Logan. However, I appreciate that it won’t be for everyone and the downbeat, bleak future wasn’t appreciated by MWF and the friend we saw it with. For me, it worked and I liked the way it slowly revealed the fate of the other mutants and the reasons for their extinction.
Rated 15 here in the UK this is by far the darkest and most brutal film in the series, and the first time that Wolverine’s berserker side has really been shown. Previous fights have always been rather bloodless and tame, but this kicks off with a brawl where Logan takes on a gang of criminals in a fast, vicious encounter. It’s good that after suggestions of his dark side we finally get to see it on show here. Otherwise it’s all just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, as is the case in Doctor Who where they repeatedly tease that he was a badass during the Time War only to never deliver on this.
It is hard work in places and Logan is a lot more bitter and jaded than his last outing which makes sense, we left him during the cheerful altered present of Days of Future Past, surrounded by friends at the Xavier School, so it stands to reason that years down the line, with his friends gone he would have reverted to his angry, cynical ways. There’s a suggestion that the X-Men didn’t go out in glory and there’s definite tension between Logan and Xavier, and when it’s finally revealed what happened it’s a gut punch of a twist.
The whole road trip is a tough journey, with tragedy and violence dogging the trio across the US, and the stakes feel higher than in any previous movie.
It’s here I have to give a lot of praise to Patrick Stewart, who does a sensational job as the ageing, shattered Xavier. His performance is genuinely moving, almost heart breaking as he captures the sense of a man long dependent on his mind who is now losing it slowly. His crankiness and vitriol is a world away from the dignified, compassionate leader of the past, but there are glimpses of this throughout, especially when Laura arrives and he sees the opportunity to aid her and do the right thing. It’s quite nice to see that the relationship between the two has changed and shifted, and that there’s some closure between then.
But this is Jackman’s movie and he excels again as Logan, capturing all the different aspects of the character- the brooding loner, the reluctant hero, the savage and even the man trying to do better. Coughing, limping and stiff it’s a shock to see the most robust of the X-Men in such a state, and yet it works.
The rest of the cast do their jobs extremely well, with props going to newcomer Keen who captures the almost feral detachment of Laura and who slowly gets the audience to feel for her while avoiding any child actor cliches or excesses. Her relationship with Logan develops slowly and at times unsentimentally, and it’s interesting to watch as she slowly tries to form a bond with someone for the first time while he tries to pull away due to the fact that he’s lost so many people.
The villains are well done, especially Richard E. Grant as a slimy, manipulative scientist behind the experiments.
The bleak future world is wonderfully executed, with machines replacing human workers, a gigantic wall at the Mexican-US border and a sense that corporations are running the show now. The reason for the absence of mutants is revealed in quite a clever way, and the quest to safety is tense as throughout it’s never certain what awaits the group when I get there.
The final sequence, a mad dash for safety and Logan unleashing his berserker side against Pierce’s men and the latest Transigen experiment X-24 is bruising, vicious and intense. The ending is emotionally raw and well played, and a fitting finale for the series.
As a series the X-movies have often stumbled, but it’s good to see that they stride out on a high, a well executed and solid movie. It’s the most grown up of the series, and not just because of the blood and swearing, it feels like the story of a grown man still struggling with who he is and what his purpose in the world is. Jackman shows again why he was brilliantly cast as Wolverine and leaves big shoes to fill in the inevitable reboot.
Although it is a shame we won’t get to see Jackman’s Wolverine team up/fight Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool.
Verdict: Dark, brooding and bleak this is the most grown up and emotional of the franchise. Jackman and Stewart excel playing aging, failing versions of their characters dealing with loss and change. The plot is solid and moves along well with a few nice twists along the way. Finally a film that delivers after a series which often botched its potential. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
The marketing for this movie has been so good that I feared that when I finally settled in to watch it yesterday witg MWF and my youngest sister we’d all be in for a disappointment. Thankfully however it delivers.
The movie whips along at a great pace and both the humour and action deliver throughout. The title sequence alone is hilarious and sets the tone for the irreverent and violent movie to follow. The laughs come thick and fast and Ryan Reynolds is in his element as the wise cracking title character. This is great for the audience as Reynolds has made no secret of how much the failure to use the character in X-Men: Origins: Wolverine hurt him, it irked a lot of nerds and I’ve written about it once or twice.
Reynolds owns the movie, narrating the tale with knowing gags and allusions. The breaking of the fourth role is something the character does in the books and it works here, making it a little different to your average Marvel hero movie.
It’s not a massive breakaway though as the origin story and revenge aspect is familiar turf, but it’s still a raucous and funny flick. The plot concerns mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds), who meets and falls for Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) who can match him sarky comment for sarky comment. All is good until Wade is diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Clutching at straws he joins a shady program that will make him a superhero.
It turns out this is a lie and the leader is Ajax (Ed Skrein) a mutant who can feel no pain and is bringing dormant mutations to the surface to create super slaves. Wade’s mutation kicks in and he develops enhanced healing abilities but is left scarred and disfigured, fearing that he can’t return to Vanessa he dons a mask and heads after Ajax to get his face fixed and some payback.
Along the way he is assisted by X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Colossus feels that Deadpool is wasting his powers and should join the team to help the world.
This led to one of my favourite fourth wall breaks as Wade points out that he visits the X-mansion but only sees two “as though the studio couldn’t afford a third X-Man”. Colossus is different from his previous on screen portrayals, here a cheesy goody-two-shoes and Russian as he is in the comics, NTW is a traditional moody teen.
What follows are some wonderful OTT fight scenes that vary from cartoony to bone crunchingly vicious and there are some ace sight gags, including a gross bit mid healing. The jokes never let up and there was consistent and loud laughter from the audience I was with yesterday.
I loved it and the cast are great, even if Reynolds owns the movie. The standouts for me are TJ Miller as Wade’s mate who gets some fantastic jokes and with whom Reynolds bounces off brilliantly. The scene where he reacts to his friend’s scarred face is a bad taste masterpiece.
Skrein is decent enough as the villain, aided by Gina Carano’s Angel who is a bruising, tough henchwoman who has an entertaining smackdown with Colossus.
It’s gleefully stupid and crude in places, but that works for me and I thoroughly enjoyed. It probably won’t stand up to many repeat viewings but it’s a whole lotta fun and Reynolds is such a good fit as Deadpool it’s up there with Reeve as Superman and Ledger as Joker for excellent comic book casting.
I eagerly await the sequel and wholeheartedly recommend this to all Marvel fans and anyone who likes violent, cheeky comedy.
Verdict: Not as revolutionary as it might lead you to believe but still a fresh approach to superhero movies. The laughs and fights flow freely and Reynolds is sensational. For some it might be too crude and bloody, but it works for me. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Okay, I’m kind of cheating and writing this on Monday afternoon but that’s because I’m away this weekend for family stuff and probably wouldn’t get a chance to post. I rewatched Daredevil this week and it got me thinking about other comic book characters who have moved to the big screen, so here’s my ten least favourite. My 10 favourites will be up tomorrow. As ever, they’re in no order, as I can’t be bothered to rank them.
1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
As seen in: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Played by: Sean Connery, Jason Flemyng, Shane West etc
The obvious one to open with. Alan Moore’s comic book is a wonderfully twisted, inventive tale that unites various literary characters (Mr Hyde, Allan Quatermain, Mina Harker and Captain Nemo) join forces to fight evil for the British Empire. Its a very grown up piece of work with lots of dark edges and black humour, so making it into a film was an odd choice. Rather inevitably everything that made the books so fresh was stripped back and it was remade as a kids action movie, and stunk up the place.
They added Tom Sawyer (Shane West) to sell it better to the Yanks, turned Mina into a full fledged vampire and sanded off so many edges you could have bowled with it. Utterly tedious and so bad Sean Connery hasn’t graced our screens since. That’s right, he kept going after The Avengers, but this one made him retire.
2. Emma Frost aka the White Queen
As seen in: X-Men: First Class (2011)
Played by: January Jones
Emma Frost is badass. She’s an incredibly powerful telepath who winds up leading the X-Men, but in this film she’s essentially Kevin Bacon’s moll and they push more about her being able to turn into a stupid diamond lady. Poor show, and a missed opportunity to have a strong female villain, similar to how they dropped the ball with Mystique in the other X-movies.
As seen in: Spider-man 3 (2007)
Played by: Topher Grace
Check out my review of The Amazing Spider-man for a hint of how much I loathe this film, and one of the worst things is how badly Venom is used. In the books Venom is a genuine threat and a match for Spidey after bonding with Eddie Brock, who hates the wall-crawler.
He’s largely a villain, but there are times when he works as a vigilante. In the film he’s just whiny Topher Grace and never convinces, especially as he goes straight to teaming up with Sandman instead of just going toe-to-toe with Spidey.
As seen in: X-Men (2000)
Played by: Tyler Mane
Sabretooth is terrifying in the comics, he’s bigger and stronger than Wolverine and also a complete psychopath. Its his ruthless, calculating side that makes him a good bad guy, backed up by his physical power, but in the film they ditched all the psycho stuff and hired Mane, a wrestler for the role, reducing him to just being Magneto’s muscle. He may not have looked the part as much, but Liev Schreiber’s Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was an improvement.
5. Robin and Batgirl
As seen in: Batman Forever and Batman & Robin (1995 and ’97)
Played by: Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone
Batman’s sidekicks are always going to be a tough sell. Get them wrong and they look campy and lame, and they definitely got them wrong here.
First of all there’s Robin, played by Chris O’Donnell. O’Donnell looks well too old for some of Dick Grayson’s adolescent bitching and is just irritating. Why make him a grown man, surely they could have found a teenage actor that would have worked better. O’Donnell is always quite wooden on screen but here he’s even worse. Robin is tough to get right, we get that, but in the comics he’s smart and quick witted, here he’s just another person Bats has to rescue.
After the failure of Robin we shouldn’t have expected much from the Batgirl and it really goes wrong, quickly. First of all, they change the backstory- she’s Alfred’s niece? Huh? Why couldn’t they keep her as Barbara Gordon, or a new character who started fighting crime independently of the dynamic duo?
Instead she just turns up and is given a suit, robbing her of a decent origin story and just having her tag along, awkwardly flirt with O’Donnell and help kill the franchise.
Its a shame, as I really like Alicia Silverstone and was gutted by just how poorly she was used in the film.
As seen in: X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand (2000-06)
Played by: Halle Berry
This one hurt a lot.
I love Storm. Since I got into the X-Men through the cartoon series in the ’90s she’s been one of my favourites. She’s this wonderfully strong woman who leads the team and has this aura of authority. So of course she should be in the team when they made a movie. Sadly they went with Halle Berry for the part.
Halle Berry makes awful movies. She’s not a great actress and as such Storm was relegated to just a rather dull part of the team and doesn’t really develop over the course of the trilogy. Her powers are mighty but she’s a frightfully weak character. Her only real purpose is to run around, lecture Wolverine (and lust after him? Or am I seeing something noone else is?).
Oh, and she wears stupid wigs and delivers one of the worst lines of all time.
As seen in: X2 (2003)
Played by: Alan Cumming
Don’t get me wrong the first attack on the White House is awesome, but Cumming’s Kurt is too mopey and also, his accent sucks. The character should be a lot more fun.
8. Judge Dredd
As seen in: Judge Dredd (1995)
Played by: Sylvester Stallone
First of all, a confession. I quite like the Judge Dredd movie, but mainly because I can flick a switch that allows me to completely separate it from the comic books and I love Sly Stallone. Think about the two in connection and well, it sucks.
As all 2000AD fans know the first mistake is that Stallone takes off the helmet, something which hopefully won’t happen in Dredd, and secondly the tone is wrong. Yes, the comic is capable of daft, juvenile humour but it also contains black humour and satirical barbs, here its just another action movie, but set in the future.
And Dredd is too human and emotional, his cool headed toughness is what fans love about the character.
9. Commissioner Gordon
As seen in: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin (1989-97)
Played by: Pat Hingle.
One of the best things Christopher Nolan’s Batman revamp did was allow the world at large to see Jim Gordon as a decent character, thanks to Gary Oldman’s good work. Before that he’d always been shown as a luckless buffoon who completely relied on Batman, whereas in the books they’re shown to work closely together and build up a solid trust and respect for each other. I know Hingle’s character is only on the sidelines, but it still grates how useless they make Gordon.
As seen in: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Played by: Ryan Reynolds
Okay, I’m not a massive Deadpool fan, I haven’t read a lot of his books but what I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed. So I was stoked he was appearing in the Wolverine movie, and even more so when I found out he was going to be played by long time man-crush Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds seemed a perfect fit for the Merc’ with a mouth and did impress when he was on screen, unfortunately that wasn’t very much. Not only did they squander a good character they wasted the chance for Reynolds to really cut loose as the motormouthed character. When he finally became Deadpool they made it so he couldn’t talk. Bloody idiots.
Well, here’s hoping the Reynolds starring follow up will be a marked improvement, maybe even break the fourth wall a bit?
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO