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.
When it was announced that the X-Men’s next onscreen adventure was to be based on the Days of Future Past storyline from the comics there was a bit of a geek meltdown. DoFP is one of the most famous X-stories out there, and featured a dystopian future where many of the Marvel heroes had been killed by mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels. Startling bleak in it’s depiction of the nightmarish future the plot hinged on Kitty Pryde (aka Shadowcat) having her mind sent back in time to her younger body, where she had to stop events which would lead to her hellish future.
It was a great storyline and worked because of the dark tone, and the fact that Kitty Pryde was the group’s sweet, innocent youngster but could/would become this battle hardened woman who would witness most of her friends die. It was a great idea for a movie and would also feature a crossover between the casts of the original X-trilogy and the prequel X-Men: First Class.
Changes would have to be made, in the movies Kitty Pryde, played by Ellen Page was only a minor character, could she carry a movie for the fans? And also, to reach the First Class cast was tricky as Kitty wouldn’t have been around. And so, the decision was made to make the focus of the movie be Hugh Jackman’s Logan aka Wolverine.
I’ve seen a lot of criticism for this online, with many people complaining that Wolverine has been the main focus for all the movies (First Class aside), it’s not exactly untrue but it misses the point- Wolverine is a big fan-favourite, probably the most popular X-Man and Hugh Jackman’s work in the role has been superb, with him putting in charismatic performances even when the movies have been lacking (see X-Men: Origins: Wolverine).
Also, it makes sense to have Wolverine go back in time to his younger self, as he is one of only a few characters to legitimately cover both time periods. The movie also plays a trump card in suggesting that Wolverine is the ideal candidate as his healing factor means he will survive the trip better.
The movie starts in the future where the Sentinels have hunted and killed many mutants, and a small band survive underground. Kitty and a group of Professor Xavier’s former students survive by staying one step ahead, when the Sentinels attack Kitty transports Bishop’s (Omar Sy) mind back a few days so they can get out in time.
Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) meets them accompanied by Wolverine, Storm (Halle Berry) and former advesary Magneto (Ian McKellen). They plan to send someone back to 1973 where they hope to stop shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), a former ally of both Xavier and Magneto, from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man who invented the Sentinels.
Trask’s death fuels anti-mutant feeling and the captured Mystique’s DNA is what enables the Sentinels to adapt, making them able to counteract mutant powers and be even more effective killing machines.
The problem is that to convince Mystique to stop in her assassination will prove difficult as she had become increasingly militant and embittered, and Xavier alone would not be able to convince her, they need Magneto’s help too. However, in ’73, Magneto and Xavier are enemies and convincing them to work together will prove challenging.
Wolverine goes back and finds the young Xavier (James McAvoy) a very different man, stripped of his powers, afraid and self-hating. Convincing him proves a challenge, and he is less help than anticipated, but Magneto (Michael Fassbender) represents a greater challenge, being locked up in a high-security prison.
Meanwhile, in the future the Sentinels plan to launch a massive attack on the remaining X-Men, who can’t flee while Kitty is holding Wolverine’s mind in the past.
Can they hold the line in the future long enough for Wolverine to succeed in the past? And if Wolverine, Xavier and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) do break Magneto out will they be able to get him onside? Will that be enough to stop Mystique in her quest for revenge?
I really dug this movie, and thought that it worked. The X-Men movies have never fully succeeded in my book, being rather fun and well done, but often flawed thanks to changes to the characters and casting (Halle Berry continues to disappoint and lack the gravitas and power to be a good Storm, and Hoult’s Beast is nowhere near as funny or lovable as the comic book version)
However here the cast are one of the greatest strengths, with Jackman still proving charismatic as the clawed Canadian, and playing it just right. The tone of the movie is such that there are some nice character moments and plenty of humour amidst the superheroics. Jackman’s Wolverine differs from his comic counterpart, and has always lacked the underlying edge that made the character so popular, but he’s managed to create a compelling onscreen character and has great presence.
Also impressive are McAvoy and Fassbender as the younger Xavier and Magneto. McAvoy has the harder job as the whining, self-loathing Charles is less than sympathetic, but he does a good job in showing us the reasons why and a glimmer of the decency which will help him become the Xavier of the future, and he also displays fantastic comic timing, getting several of the film’s biggest laughs. Fassbender meanwhile is tremendous, capturing the fire of Magneto along with the easy, commanding presence that McKellen bought to the role, but with more youthful vigour and an impulsive, angry nature.
McKellen and Stewart do their roles with ease and capture the sense of two friends who have set aside all disagreements for the greater good and convey that there is genuine affection there.
Jennifer Lawrence impresses as Mystique, despite not being on screen as much as I’d like. She manages to capture the character’s icy determination, while also managing to convince that there is a fragile, damaged young woman beneath it who has turned to violence out of desparation and disillusionment.
The future X-Men are a little underdeveloped, and even Ellen Page doesn’t get much to do. They have cool powers, and as a Bishop fan it was cool to see him on screen, but I never found myself that invested in any of them.
Hoult and Berry continue to struggle with watered down versions of their characters, and while Hoult has some chemistry, Berry continues to be woefully lacklustre as Storm, one of my favourite comic book heroines.
Representing the non-mutants and impressing throughout is Peter Dinklage as Trask, in a powerful, commanding performance. Dinklage has great on screen presence and the film should be applauded for not making him a textbook nutjob. Trask believes himself to be the good guy and Dinklage does well in making it clear that the nightmarish future is not what the man wanted, and that he saw the war on mutants as a way to unite mankind and bring about lasting peace.
He’s misguided and short-sighted, and there is a nasty side to him, mixed with rampant egotism, but Dinklage ensures that he remains human and believable throughout. In the middle of a vast ensemble cast Dinklage, and his impressive ’70s ‘tache is one of the standouts.
The plot works well as long as you go with it, and it zips along at a decent pace that kept me engaged throughout. There’s also a nice vein of humour running throughout the movie and the movie thankfully avoids just making tons of ’70s jokes. The plot is simple enough to follow and the cutting between past and future works well, especially as climactic fights kick off in both time frames. (The denouement is a little cheesy and didn’t work for me).
For an Marvel fan this is a solid movie, providing a lot of the action you require from a blockbuster, but grounding it in compelling characters, strong performances and a sense of humour. Not all of it works, but for the most part it’s a success and it’s great to finally see the Sentinels on the big screen, and they do make for an impressive, terrifying threat (even if the design does seem rather similar to the Destroyer from Thor).
Verdict: It’s not perfect, but it’s an immensely enjoyable and successful big screen version of an iconic X-Men storyline. Jackman, McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and Dinklage are the standouts, as many of the supporting players get lost in the crowd. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Post-credits sting: A tantalizing glimpse of one of the most powerful and impressive X-villains.
No matter how much you try to heed the advice of Public Enemy, hype is a hard thing to avoid getting caught up in, especially if you’re a film geek. Interviews, teaser trailers, promotional artwork- it all does it’s job in getting you excited for the next big release. And then you hand over your money, sit down and it’s just a massive disappointment, so here’s a list of the 5 movies which have let me down the most.
This list is partly inspired by the fact that Jurassic Park: The Lost World was on earlier and that flick was a big letdown. Aside from two great sequences (the glass and the grass) and the fact it’s got Jeff Goldblum in the lead, it has very little to recommend it and is terrible compared to the excellent original.
5. Superman Returns
Why I was excited: I’m a massive Superman and it had been years since the Man of Steel had been on our big screens. Also Brian Singer had done an okay job with the X-Men movies. Also, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor sounded like an attractive proposition.
Why it was a let down: Singer botched it completely. It started with the old John Williams music and the same style credits as the Christopher Reeve classics, but after that it dropped like a lead weight. Brandon Routh was weighed down by a dull, overly serious script and the fact that they had the most noble of heroes essentially become a stalker as he loitered around, spying on his ex, the blandest Lois Lane ever, played with little spark by Kate Bosworth.
4. Star Wars Episode I- The Phantom Menace
The obvious inclusion.
Why I was excited: I’d only had a couple of years to really become a Star Wars fan, after rediscovering them through the ’97 special editions, but I fell fast and hard for Lucas’ film saga. New adventures, maybe more about the awesome sounding “clone wars” mentioned in Episode IV, and see how Darth Vader went bad. Add into this an early glimpse of a new, badass looking bad guy and I was ready to be charmed again.
Why it was a let down: Look, we all know what went wrong- Jar Jar, Anakin as an annoying little brat and the fact that Darth Maul was massively disappointing. The script and performances were stilted and awkward, with Lucas seeming to have forgotten about characters and being in love with the tech. Oh, and f**king Jar Jar, best summed up by Tim in Spaced:
3. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
WIWE: The most badass of the X-Men gets a solo run out that explores his background and a second chance at doing Sabretooth properly. Also, there were going to be a ton of other mutants in the mix as Logan became Weapon X.
WIWALD: Gods love him, Hugh Jackman does his best, but Liev Schreiber’s psychopathic Sabretooth aside, there was nothing to recommend this film. Add to this that the film makes no sense within the timeline of the other X-Movies (Emma Frost is a teenager here, but a fully grown woman in First Class, set 20 years earlier?).
The film then compounds it’s flaws by taking a whole bunch of X-Men characters and making rubbish versions of them- the Blob is taken out in a boxing fight, Gambit is a bland douchebag and despite the wonderful casting of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, they fail to even coming close to capturing the character’s wisecracking awesomeness.
True testament to how bad it is? Will.I.Am isn’t the worst thing in the movie.
2. Aliens Vs Predator
WIWE: Two of the best sci-fi nasties throwing down? Hell yeah!
WIWALD: It took the two monsters but then cut out all the things that made the original movies so fun- there was no element of real danger, the violence was largely bloodless and lacklustre, and they even cut out the swearing, despite it being one of Predator‘s most quotable lines. The little nods to the earlier films just served to highlight what dross this was, and the female lead was a complete non-entity.
1. The Matrix Reloaded
WIWE: The first flick blew me away and remains a firm favourite, so all the talk of a trilogy which expanded on the world of the Matrix and seeing what Neo (Keanu Reeves) had done after hanging up the phone in the first movie had me buzzing with nerdy enthusiasm. Throw in a couple of interesting new characters and a shot of Neo fighting numerous Agent Smiths? My mates and I were there on opening night.
WIWALD: Traditional sequel rules applied- make everything bigger, but this turned out to be a mistake as it ruined all the good things from the first.
Interesting questions regarding reality and the mind’s power were replaced with impenetrable pseud-philosophical balderdash. The cool special effects were overdone and that Neo vs Smiths fight just looked horribly
A chase along the freeway should’ve been a standout sequence, but I remember getting bored halfway through. I disliked the film so much I never bothered to see part 3 and the only positive I can remember was Monica Bellucci.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Back in 2009 one of my favourite Marvel characters got a solo outing on the big screen, and I was pretty excited to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, unfortunately the film sucked. Despite some good casting (Liev Schreiber made a pretty good psycopathic Sabretooth and Ryan Reynolds would be perfect as Deadpool given a decent script) the whole thing felt watered down and lame, especially as it wasted some of the X-Men’s best characters (Deadpool, Gambit, Emma Frost).
You’d have thought that I’d have learnt my lesson, but no, when another solo adventure for Weapon X was mooted I found myself getting all caught up in excitement, especially as it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a direct sequel to the last one and that it would be set in Japan. Meaning it would involve ninjas, samurai and yakuza (oh my!). This is something they actually did in the comic books, with Wolverine having spent time in Japan learning to fight and trying to use the samurai teachings to control his anger.
So, I was pretty excited to check out The Wolverine yesterday.
Opening with a scene in World War II where Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a POW in Nagasaki when the bomb drops and saves the life of a young Japanese officer Yashida, from the blast by hiding in a prison pit and covering him with metal. Yashida witnesses Logan’s powers of regeneration.
In the present, following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan has withdrawn into the mountains and is haunted by having had to kill the woman he loved, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in his dreams. Trying to avoid violence and his former ways, he nonetheless gets involved in a bar brawl with illegal hunters, but is aided by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mysterious Japanese girl who has been following him. She informs him that Yashida is dying and wants to say goodbye, and reluctantly Logan goes with her to Tokyo.
Yashida has become a rich man, head of a powerful business empire. Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) but is at death’s door. He believes he can offer Logan a deal- that he can take Logan’s healing factor and “immortality” so he can live on and that Logan can finally live a normal life and die and be at peace. Dubious of this, Logan refuses and is suspicious of Yashida’s shady Western doctor (played by Svetlana Khodchenkova).
While staying at Yashida’s complex Logan sees the problems and tensions within the Yashida family, and is drawn to Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who appears to be controlled and trapped by her father and her strict sense of honour. After Yashida dies and Logan experiences bizarre dreams involving the doctor. At the funeral Mariko is attacked by yakuza heavies and Logan protects her, they escape thanks to the aid of a mysterious bowman who turns out to be Mariko’s ex, Harada (Will Yun Lee).
Logan and Mariko go on the run, but Logan realizes that something has been done to him and he is no longer healing as before. Weaker and more vulnerable, Logan still decides to protect Mariko and in hiding the two bond and try to unravel why someone is after Mariko and what’s happened to Logan.
Can they get to the bottom of things? Will Logan recover his powers and if he doesn’t how will he manage? And is the Wolverine side of his character really gone or does he need that savagery to win the day.
First of all, this movie is a vast improvement on Origins, but that’s faint praise. This movie is definitely more fun and while it doesn’t quite match up with the comic book character’s Japanese connections, it’s still an interesting spin. Wolverine is out of his comfort zone and struggles with some of the Japanese customs, and this, along with the loss of his healing powers ensures that the character is more vulnerable than before.
This is a nice move because his near-indestructible nature can strip some of the peril from his adventures. Here we see the character stripped of this and forced to adapt. Jackman does a great job capturing the surprise and confusion the character experiences throughout the film, while still being a total badass. It’s interesting because it highlights one of Wolverine’s flaws, he fights like someone who can’t be hurt and so wades in recklessly, which is usually fine and dandy, but here puts him at a disadvantage.
That’s not to say that the Canadian mutant can’t handle himself, and some of the fights are wonderfully choreographed, with him slashing, hacking and brawling through martial artists. I quite like that his fighting style reflects his character and that they didn’t just make him a kung fu master. Unfortunately, while there are feral about him we’re still yet to see the character fully unleash the berserker rage comic fans are familiar with. But I guess, they’re never going to make a 15 movie and lose a massive chunk of their audience.
Jackman, is as ever, superb in the title role. While some of the films he’s appeared in have been a little shaky, the actor always does a good job with the character, and here he manages to convey the conflict and changes the character experiences. From his haunted, despairing first appearances right through the film as Wolverine starts to live again. The growing passion and dedication bleeds into the character slowly, and is one of the character’s lasting traits- despite his protestations of being a loner and cynicism, Logan is still a hero and is unable to sit on the sidelines when he sees injustice going on. That being said, he does have a nice line in sarky quips.
It also has to be said that Jackman looks sensational, he’s insanely ripped and carries himself with this understated confidence which gives the impression that he is a man not to be trifled with.
The rest of the cast do alright too, especially Rila Fukushima as the young Japanese girl sent to collect Wolverine, she bosses him about, declares that she’s his bodyguard and brings a wonderful streak of humour to proceedings, and the two characters have genuine chemistry. Her own mutant power is handled well, and brings a touch of sadness to the character. Also, she’s never overly sexualised and something of a badass when she gets fighting, and I found myself really warming to the character.
As the love interest Mariko, Okamoto does well enough and is rather sweet and decent, but despite them making her know a bit of karate and be a skilled knife thrower, she does slip into “damsel in distress” mode a bit too much. And the whole Japanese honour thing is a little forced in places.
Famke Janssen’s dream appearances as Jean Grey are quite well done, giving insight into Logan’s turmoil, but with Jean also being rather nasty to the poor dude in places, showing how his subconscious is torturing him.
One of the flaws is there’s lack of any real villain until the end stages. The yakuza and ninjas are good heavies, but you know that as soon as Wolverine sorts out getting his powers back they won’t be much of a challenge. Svetlana Khodchenkova’s snakelike mutant is quite good fun, but underused.
And when the big bad does finally rock up it’ssomething of a disappointment, and looks kinda dumb.
There are a few nice touches of humour, and some good one-liners, and the script is rather well done, and manages to handle some of the dafter plot aspects well enough.
All in all it’s a thoroughly entertaining superhero romp, but compared to the Marvel Universe films this is lagging behind. Jackman’s performance is good and the action sequences are well done, and the ending is encouraging for further adventures where Wolverine won’t be quite as mopey,
Verdict: In terms of the X-movies this is one of the better installments and great fun, with Jackman continuing his great work as the cigar chomping mutant. He’s far and away the film’s greatest strengths. It’s a little daft in places, but pulls through, however it suffers from lack of a decent villain and in comparison to the Avengers movie universe it looks shakier. 7/10
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
Sam Raimi did a pretty good job on the first two Spider-man movies he made. Sure, there were many flaws- not enough quipping, the rubbish Green Goblin suit (seriously, you hire an actor like Willem Dafoe then give him a costume that allows him no facial expressions? Why not do a CGI-Gollum kinda thing?). And then there’s the third film, which manages to totally mess up Venom, turns Peter Parker into a whiny little em0-douche and remains one of the worst cinema experiences I’ve ever had. The only part I remember fondly is the Bruce Campbell cameo.
With that movie killing off the franchise Sony decided to reboot the whole thing, and that brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man. I also think its a legal thing, Sony own the rights to the X-Men and Spidey, but only if they keep using them. If they don’t it falls back to Marvel, I think that’s how it works. Which kinda sucks as it means there won’t be any Wolverine, Spidey, Quicksilver, Beast or Scarlet Witch in the Avengers movies.
Anyway, what does the new movie do differently?
Well, for a start it shows us more about Peter Parker’s parents, his dad’s a scientist working in the field of genetics and after a break in gathers his files and flees into the night with his wife, dropping off Peter with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).
Peter (Andrew Garfield) grows up with him, and its the traditional Spidey deal- geeky, clever, photographer who’s picked on by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). Peter’s smitten with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and shyly flirts with her, developing a relationship with her.
Curious about his parents’ leaving and subsequent death, Peter goes to the Oscorp building to meet Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a former colleague of his dad. Connors reveals that they were working on merging human and animal DNA to cure various illnesses, Connors hoping to also discover a way of using lizard DNA to restore limbs as he has lost an arm.
While snooping around Peter is bitten by a souped up spider and quickly gains superpowers. Initially he uses these for messing about, but becomes a masked avenger after Uncle Ben is whacked by a criminal he allowed to escape. (If anyone complains can I just ask how the hell is that a spoiler? Its part of every Spidey story, ever. It’d be like saying revealing Krypton gets blown up is a spoiler)
Meanwhile, with Peter’s help, Connors makes a break through with his research, and like all good movie scientists tries it out on himself, transforming into a giant monstrous lizard, and severely screws him up mentally.
Also, Spider-man is exposed to the public and the NYPD are after him, the task force being led by Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen’s father.
Can Spider-man prove he’s a good guy? Can he stop the Lizard? When’s Stan Lee going to turn up?
I really enjoyed this movie, I had high hopes, and thankfully, for the most part it met them.
First of all, I have to say that Andrew Garfield is wonderful as Peter/Spidey. Despite being older than me, he’s somehow entirely convincing as an awkward, nerdy teenage boy. Peter here is shown to be witty, clever and perfectly endearing, just as the character is in the comics. He captures the mix of smarts and heart that makes Peter become a hero and also does a great job conveying Peter’s conflicting emotions, I totally bought into his performance and it is possibly, after RDJ as Tony Stark, the best superhero casting ever.
The thing that I love most about his performance is that he totally nails the contradiction in Peter Parker. Yes, he’s shy and awkward around Gwen Stacy and a bit of a nerd, but even before the spider bite he shows some of the confidence and swagger he’ll have when he dons the suit. He intervenes to stop Flash tormenting another student, does a fairly good job charming Gwen and has a nice line in quips.
This kicks into high gear when he becomes Spider-man, I always thought that one of the things the Maguire version lacked was the fast talking, wise cracking that Spidey has in the books. Luckily here it stays in place, with Garfield’s Spider-man making gags, trash-talking criminals and conveying the fact that despite the angst in his origins, Peter enjoys being Spidey, especially in the early days. He’s a teenage boy who gets to swing through the streets and fight crime, of course he’s going to have fun with it, and I love how Garfield and the scriptwriters make that clear here.
Speaking of swinging through the streets, the effects in this movie are fantastic. Following Peter as he thwips from building to building is a joy and there are times when you feel totally into the action, also, despite the heavy use of CG there’s a kind of realism to it. Everything feels like it has some heft, it doesn’t look light or false, there’s a real texture and weight to everything. The fights are done really well, with Spidey’s twirling, flipping and swinging making them visually engaging and dynamic. They capture the same high-octane, sprawling scope of comic book fights.
The rest of the cast are pretty good too. As Gwen, Emma Stone is a delight. I can’t remember much of the character in the comics or cartoon, but she never really made an impact on me, but here Gwen is better defined. She’s shown to be intelligent, brave and compassionate. You totally understand why Peter is smitten with her and also why she’s attracted to him. Apparently Stone and Garfield are dating in real life, which explains the fantastic chemistry they have on screen. They bounce off one another very well and their flirting is done in a really light, realistic way.
One of the decisions I really liked in the film was having Gwen find out early on that Peter is Spidey, which is done in this really brilliant scene between the two of them and has real sweetness. I think this’ll mean they can avoid any of the comedic hiding identity stuff in the sequels which is kind of old hat now. It also sets up a really touching scene where Gwen talks about how she’s grown up worrying about her dad’s safety in his job and now has to worry about Peter as well.
As Captain Stacy Denis Leary is on fine form, he manages to convey this real no-nonsense toughness, while also hinting at being a decent bloke. He’s also exactly right for the part as he looks pretty tough and the kind of girl’s dad who’d make a teenage boy uncomfortable.
In the villain role Rhys Ifans does fairly well although for the second half of the film he is in full lizard mode. He manages to show that Connors is essentially an alright guy, but manages to show the darker side once Connors flips out. In his scenes with Peter there’s a genuine warmth to the boy and it hints that its because of Connors’ affection for Peter’s dad. It teeters close to hamminess at times, but he is playing a man-lizard who’s gone crazy, so its to be expected.
The lizard’s an odd choice for a major villain, and they beef up the character by having Connors still being in control and also giving him a definite plan, which is kind of anchored in Connors’ desire to build a better world. It kind of works having this be Peter’s first foe as its a real physical threat while not being overly evil, meaning Peter will emerge from this still enjoying being Spider-man with the darker opponents still to come.
There are other nice touches- I like how Flash Thompson isn’t portrayed as a complete douchebag, and actually has a few decent moments, as well as being a Spider-man fan himself.
Martin Sheen oozes respectability and decency as Uncle Ben, and Sally Field is as charming as ever as Aunt May, and its nice to see them step away from having May being some frail old dear, Field seems full of life and sass and I’m hoping she gets more to do in the follow ups.
There will be follow ups, and I’m eagerly awaiting them, because this one knocks it out of the park. Yes there are questions unanswered and being an origin story it treads familiar ground, but it does so with some nice new touches and a real deftness of touch. It handles the switches in tone really well, has a brilliant leading performance and is an improvement on the Raimi movie. Reboot successful.
Oh, and the Stan Lee cameo? Its totally class.
Verdict: A great superhero flick that really gets you invested in the characters and plot. Garfield seems born to play Peter Parker and they get the tone right, with Spidey retaining the enthusiasm and joy that make him such a likable character. The supporting cast do a good job and it leaves you wanting more. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO