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 X-Men series has always been a mixed bag, with the movies getting some things right (the casting of two generations of Xavier and Magneto, the Deadpool movie, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine) and some things rather wrong (pretty much everything in X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, Emma Frost). This continues to be the case here, with the movie succeeding but in a frustrating manner.
Picking up a few years after Days of Future Past in the early 80s, it finds a world where human and mutant relations are still tense but improving. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) continues to run with his school, isolated from the world and helping his students master their powers.
Former friend turned enemy Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is in hiding in Poland, where he lives a quiet life with his wife and daughter. But when he uses his powers to save a co-worker’s life he is exposed and tragedy follows.
The tragedy makes him vulnerable to the influence of a new threat. Having lain dormant since Ancient Egypt, the world’s first mutant En Subah Nur (Oscar Isaac), has returned. He plans to cleanse the weak from the Earth and rule, and to aid him he gathers four followers, mutants whose powers he enhances. This earns him the nickname Apocalypse.
He recruits Magneto along with a winged cage fighter Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) a violent psychic who can create weapons from psychic energy and a young thief with powers over the weather, Storm (Alexandra Shipp).
Apocalypse’s return is felt around the world, including by Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) a powerful telepath at the school, who has nightmarish dreams of what he plans.
Fearing for Erik, shape changer Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) returns to the school along with the teleporting Nightcrawler (Jodi Smit-McPhee) who she rescued from a mutant fighting ring. She wants Xavier’s help, and is reunited with Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult), her former lover with whom things remain tense.
Charles’ power draws the attention of Apocalypse who kidnaps him, and the mansion is destroyed in the process. The US military then captures Mystique, Beast and Quicksilver (Evan Peters).
Nightcrawler joins Jean and Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and they attempt to rescue their friends and work out how they can stop Apocalypse, if they can. What are his plans for Xavier? Can the inexperienced heroes save the day? And is Charles’ faith in Erik’s goodness misplaced?
Quite complicated stuff, right? And that’s one of the movie’s strengths and weaknesses. The plot is quite involving and there are quite a few interesting subplots and character arcs, but because of this a few are a little undercooked, even with the movie clocking in at over two hours (it doesn’t feel that long to be fair), it’s hard for all the aspects to get a fair crack.
This means that while some parts work perfectly, others are frustratingly underdeveloped and some just flat out fail. I’ll focus on what works first.
The casting is solid across the board and the returning players like Lawrence, Hoult, Peters, McAvoy and Fassbender all know what they’re doing and have a good feel for their roles, with Lawrence in particular impressing as a conflicted, lost Mystique who struggles with being regarded as a mutant hero.
It’s a strong performance, with Lawrence managing to capture the character’s fears and inner turmoil well without lurching into moping and she also shows the character developing into a badass leader, her own experiences helping her rally the younger mutants she finds herself in charge of.
The character of Quicksilver is vastly different from his comic book counterpart, but works well with Evan Peters making him a likeable slacker who gets one of the film’s best action sequences and who exudes an easy charm.
Hoult is good in the role of Hank McCoy, even though as a fan of the comics I hate that they’ve made the Beast a bit of a wet blanket and moper. If they reboot the series, could we please have the chatty, happy beast from the comics?
Several of the newcomers do well, particularly Tye Sheridan who gets to play a relaxed, impulsive Cyclops although the movie shows him starting on the road to being the serious leader he becomes. He shares decent chemistry with Sophie Turner, who is very good as the confident Jean Grey.
While his performance as Magneto is great, capturing the rage and power of the character, Michael Fassbender is let down by the storyline he gets. While his anger and decision to join Apocalypse is understandable, it doesn’t feel completely convincing especially as the plan unfolds. Apocalypse’s plan is so awful it’s hard to imagine that Magneto would sign up so easily.
Similarly dealt a poor hand is the character of Storm who has been criminally misused in all the X-films. While Alexandra Shipp looks the part more and carries herself with more badass flair than Halle Berry ever managed her storyline is woefully executed. A neat trick is used to have Apocalypse use their language barrier to trick her as to her intentions, but it takes her far too long to realise that he’s a wrong ‘un. And her decision to come good is late in coming and inspired by one minor act rather than the mass destruction that proceeds it.
The character is horribly underwriiten, and while an improvement, it’s annoying to see a strong, leading lady of the team relegated to the sidelines once more.
Storm becoming a good guy isn’t a spoiler is it?
Now the villain, Apocalypse has serious powers and his “strong survive” attitude is a good motivation but he feels like a watered down version of the books character and the look doesn’t quite work for me. His posturing and view of himself as a godlike figure makes him a good villain, as does his callous streak. But it felt like something was missing, particularly how quickly he wins over his horsemen.
All in all it’s a frustrating watch, with some massively entertaining sequences and a crowd pleasing cameo (which only confuses the timeline more) and some good performances, but the missteps jar you out of it and the timeline of the films is now so muddled none really work, although they seem to have decided to pretty much erase X-Men: Origins: Wolverine from the continuity, which is a good thing.
The formation of a new team is bound to make fanboys happy and it just about works, but after the excellent Days of Future Past this is a step backwards. Entertaining, but it feels rushed and underdeveloped. It might actually have been worth making this a two partner, to fully explore the characters and maybe have the changes have more weight and reason behind them.
It keeps you hooked, and there are great fights, a few laughs and some nice moments, but those problems gnaw at you and stop you fully going with it.
Verdict: Hit and miss heroics. Some nice touches and solid performances carry it through, but there are quite a few flaws and the characters are underdeveloped. On the whole it just about wins out. 7/10.
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.
My favourite movies of the year, in order.
10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug/The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Peter Jackson brings his Middle Earth series to an end with two strong, engaging and entertaining fantasy epics. The decision to split a slim book in three may seem more commercial than artistic, but to his credit Jackson pulls it off with only a few short sections that drag. Full reviews here and here.
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Evans returns as the star spangled Avenger and does a cracking job as a man having to deal with his past and a changing world. In the age of drone warfare it addressed some key questions and at times was more conspiracy theory than superhero action flick. Great support from Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie and further proof of just how well Marvel have gone from page to screen. Full review.
8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
I know some folks were disappointed, and it lacks the action and intensity of the first two installments but I dug it immensely, especially Jennifer Lawrence’s performance and the bravery of actually giving Katniss’ PTSD time on screen rather than galloping through to the action, which will definitely come in the final movie. Full review.
7. 22 Jump Street
A surprising comedy sequel that manages to be just as funny as the original, thanks in part to great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and a scene stealing performance from Ice Cube. Full review.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past
The best X-movie yet?
Time travelling superheroics allow two generations of heroes to be shown and features fantastic performances and a solid, engaging plot. Full review.
5. Gone Girl
David Fincher delivers a gripping, twisted thriller that’s a little schlocky in places but benefits from solid performances from Ben Affleck and a seriously creepy Rosamund Pike. Full Review.
Jon Favreau delivers a sweet, charming movie about family, friendship and the simple things in life. It boasts a cracking soundtrack, but don’t watch it on an empty stomach as the food porn is strong. Full review.
Okay, so we’re all getting a little sick of “Let It Go” now, but this is still a solid, top drawer Disney flick with some fantastic songs, brilliant gags and a captivating fairytale plot. One of the best in recent years and bound to be one that lives on. Full review.
2. The Lego Movie
A cracking animated movie with wonderful voice casting, brilliant gags and a really dynamic, exciting look and feel to it. Also, “Everything Is Awesome” is the only thing that can challenge “Let It Go” for earwig of the year. Full review.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel gambled by making a movie about unfamiliar characters on the other side of their cinematic universe but it paid off in one of their best movies yet. Featuring a fantastic band of misfits as the heroes this wasn’t just a sci-fi action adventure but one of the funniest films in years. Chris Pratt excelled as the roguish Star-Lord, but he had fantastic support from the rest of the cast.
Loved it in the cinema and loved it just as much on DVD. A belter of a movie, and already eagerly awaiting the sequel. An easy winner of my favourite film of the year. Review here.
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.
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.
Seriously suffering with blogger’s block at the moment so here’s just a selection of ideas I’m considering for my fourth tattoo.
A little bit geeky, but I love the X-Men and the logo is simple and quite cool, also . I’d go for the red and black one.
Eastern philosophy meaning “do no harm”.
Even geekier than the X-Men thing, this is the symbol the Winchester brothers have in Supernatural to stop them getting demonically possessed. It looks pretty badass.
The Babe Wore Red
From Frank Miller’s Sin City books, not sure it could be as visually striking as on the page/screen but might still look quite badass.
Something like this one of Bettie Page:
But a more curvy, fuller figured lady Satan in my case, like an April Flores type:
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Following yesterday’s post here’s the other side of the coin, which I’m writing on Wednesday evening. Again, they’re in no real order.
1. Iron Man
As seen in: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and Avengers Assemble (2008-12)
Played by: Robert Downey Jr
I know I said I wasn’t doing these in order, but I’m kicking off with my personal favourite. RDJ is Tony Stark, he perfectly captures Tony Stark’s swaggering bravado, as well as conveying the conscious that drives him to become a hero. Its an effortlessly cool performance and RDJ drips charisma, and almost steals the Avengers movie too. I’m eagerly awaiting seeing more of RDJ’s Stark in Iron Man 3 and the Avengers sequels.
As seen in: X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class (2000-11)
Played by: Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender
Two great actors give great performances as the X-Men’s major nemesis. McKellen plays the older Magneto, zealously pursuing his plans to place mutants on top, the anger and bitterness he carries from his experiences in the concentration camp the driving force as he refuses to be oppressed again, yet his actions force him down a dark path, and its implied he’s not entirely comfortable with what he may be becoming. He’s a charismatic leader, oddly charming with an eye for recruiting alienated mutants for his team.
As the younger Magneto in the prequel Michael Fassbender steals the show, his Eric is all tightly wound rage as he doles out vengeance on the Nazis who robbed him of his childhood and experimented on him. He’s given a chance of redemption through his friendship with Charles Xavier, but believing that humans will never accept mutants they go their separate ways.
Both actors convey the intense anger that burns within the character and their motivations and methods, while extreme always seem in keeping with the character and they never completely lose the audience’s sympathy.
As seen in: Superman, Superman 2, Superman 3 and Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1978-87)
Played by: Christopher Reeve
Reeve is the definitive Superman, utterly iconic in the role. He captures the Man of Steel’s simple, noble heroism and does a fantastic dual performance playing the bumbling awkward Clark Kent so effectively that despite the weak disguise you wouldn’t instantly connect the two.
4. The Joker
As seen in: The Dark Knight (2008)
Played by: Heath Ledger
Proof that you can tweak a character without ruining them. The comic book version of the clown prince of crime is one of the best villains in comics, but wouldn’t work in the more realistic world of Nolan’s bat-movies, and so they give a refreshing new spin on the character. Heath Ledger is phenomenal as the utterly demented Joker, portrayed here as a deranged, highly intelligent villain who’s only motivation is a love of chaos and panic. Ledger adds some nice flourishes and a manic energy throughout. Best of all when he tells the story of how he gained the scars on his face he later tells a different version, meaning he remains shrouded in mystery and keeps the audience guessing.
5. The Punisher
As seen in: Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Played by: Ray Stevenson
I really dug this version of the Punisher, and for my money its the best cinematic version, keeping with the darkly comic, violent vision that Garth Ennis brought to the character during his run as writer on the books. Stevenson has immense physical presence and looks like he can handle himself. He’s silent for much of the film but Castle’s never been a chatterbox and its nowhere near as cheesy as some of the Thomas Jane version was.
As seen in: The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
Played by: Andrew Garfield
Garfield brings the perfect mix to Peter Parker of the awkward geekiness and the cocky, gleeful side he’s allowed to unleash when he gets powers and pulls on the suit. You can see more of why I thought it was ace in my review of the movie a while back.
7. The Comedian
As seen in: Watchmen (2009)
Played by: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Watchmen is loaded with interesting, complicated characters, and in the movie the cast all do great work bringing them to life, but for my money its JDM who does the best job.
The Comedian is an odd character, he does some truly heinous acts and should be utterly reprehensible, but somehow he’s also an oddly sympathetic. Warped by his experiences and plagued by inner demons, its apparent that despite beginning as a Robin-like teenage hero the dark side was always there, and JDM perfectly conveys the bitterness and cynicism that infects the character as well as the remorse he seems to feel and the horror he feels when he uncovers the central plot shows that at some level that he’s retained what drove him to become a costumed crimefighter.
8. Nick Fury
As seen in: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers Assemble (2008-12)
Played by: Samuel L Jackson
For me, Nick Fury will always be a grizzled Second World War vet chewing on a cigar, but the Ultimate universe reboot of the character is undeniably cool. They revamped him as a badass black guy clearly based on SLJ, so who else were they going to tag in when it came time to putting him on the big screen?
SLJ brings gravitas to the role and makes Fury totally badass, a good guy who’s not adverse to manipulating others to get what he needs. Despite being just a soldier he maintains authority among his super powered associates and it never phases him. He’s cool, in charge and gives a vibe that he’s not to be underestimated.
As seen in: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (2005-08)
Played by: Christian Bale
Nolan’s revamping needed a strong Batman, and Bale is probably the best live action Bat (the cartoon Bat is still the best). Bale’s good playing all aspects of the character- the smooth, frivolous public persona he adopts as Bruce Wayne is perfectly realized and he makes a far more convincing playboy than say Keaton did.
Bale brings real intensity to the character, and a steely edge. He manages to convincingly show us Batman’s obsession and devotion to his cause. And when he fights Bale convinces as a proper hard case, and he has the look about him of someone who could be extremely vicious, which is a good vibe to have when you’re playing Batman, and which no previous screen-Bat has ever really nailed.
But they keep him human when we see that part of him longs to hang up the cowl and make a life with Rachel, believing that Harvey Dent can save the city. When Bruce talks to Alfred after her death its a really heartbreaking tender moment as he says they can’t tell Harvey that Rachel was going to chose Bruce, made even sadder by the fact he’s mistaken.
There’s also a sly humour to Bale’s bat, especially in his scenes with Alfred, which I like as it matches the tone of the comics, and doesn’t tip over into goofy banter and quipping.
The Dark Knight Rises will be Bale’s last outing as the caped crusader, and you gotta feel bad for whoever they tag in for the next reboot, they’ve got some big Bat-shoes to fill.
10. Captain America
As seen in: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Avengers Assemble (2012)
Played by: Chris Evans
Like with Superman, Captain America is a character who could all to easily have been extremely cheesy, a kind of outdated concept of a star-spangled, all American hero, but Evans does a good job of showing the simple decency that drives Rogers to volunteer for the super soldier program. Evans plays Cap as still being deep down the small, awkward guy and means that he retains his noble decency and seems an obvious choice to lead the Avengers. I’m interested to see what they do with Cap adjusting to the modern day in the sequels.
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