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X-Men: The Last Stand

The X-Men are back on the big screen for the third time and Brett Ratner does everything he can to ruin everything that Bryan Singer tried to accomplish with this trilogy. Most of the main characters from the first two movies reprise their roles, but there are way too many characters to give anyone a decent amount of screen time. The end result is a bunch of mutants running around fighting each other but you don’t give a fuck about who is fighting or why.

The movie starts twenty years before the events of the main story, a middle-aged Charles Xavier and Magneto meet with a Class 5 mutant named Jean Grey. They have a brief discussion about how powerful Jean in, and whether or not she will control her power or if it will control her. The movie jumps ahead another ten years to a young Warren Worthington III as he tries to hide his mutant wings from his disapproving father.

The movie jumps to the present day as Worthington Labs announces a cure for the mutant gene. This causes a huge rift in the mutant community. Some mutants want the cure and others view it as a form of extermination. Magneto uses it as a chance to recruit more mutants to join his side. He recruits Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega (who should be named Quill, but whatever, details aren’t important).

Meanwhile the X-Men have lost Jean Grey from the events of the second movie, and Cyclops still hasn’t gotten over losing her. Shadowcat (Ellen Page) and Colossus have bigger roles on the team, and Beast (Kelsey Grammer) also joins the X-Men. Cyclops is all emo and goes to Alkali Lake and Jean reappears and the two are reunited. The joyous reunion is short-lived because Jean Grey is no longer Jean Grey, now she is the Phoenix.

Magneto keeps on recruiting more mutants to his cause. When he frees Mystique from her mobile prison, he also frees the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) and the Multiple Man. They join the Brotherhood of Mutants without any persuasion, as soon as they are introduced they are recruited. How convenient. When Magneto and his posse go to recruit the Phoenix/Jean Grey, they bump into Xavier and a few X-Men who have the same idea. Magneto and Xavier both try to persuade her to join their side and Xavier ends up getting disintegrated.

The X-Men are without their leader and Magneto gets ready for an assault on Worthington Labs to destroy the cure. The remaining X-Men (Wolverine, Storm, Beast, Iceman, Colossus, and Shadowcat) form their last stand and try to defend the island. There is a mutant battle and mutants fight and mutants die. Jean momentarily regains control of herself and asks Wolverine to kill her and the Phoenix and he does even though he doesn’t want to.

There’s a scene after the credits where it’s hinted that Xavier has transferred his consciousness to a comatose guy. If genes are responsible for mutation, this new body shouldn’t have any powers, just throwing that out there.

There are a lot more mutants in this movie than in the previous two. They add mutants without establishing who they are. Callisto, Kid Omega, Psylocke, Arclight, Multiple Man, and the Juggernaut are all new mutants and they don’t waste anytime trying to establish their characters. They literally come onscreen, say their name and mention their powers and pledge their allegiance to Magneto. Super lazy writing.

The  X-Men are also treated like an afterthought. Cyclops is barely in the movie. Rogue’s character is completely wasted. She never even obtained the ability to fly like she did in the comics… she voluntarily gets the cure and stops being a mutant. Xavier dies simply for shock value. Colossus is on the team for the whole movie, but he has fewer lines than he did in five minutes that he was in the second movie. And where the fuck is Nightcrawler? Adding Beast was a nice touch, but you couldn’t have another blue mutant on the team?

The worst addition to the franchise was Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel (Ben Foster). They introduce his character in the beginning, he has a dramatic escape from being forcibly given the cure by his dad, he comes to the mansion for sanctuary, and he saves his dad from falling. That’s his arc. He doesn’t join the X-Men. He doesn’t fight. He just wastes screen time and keeps other characters from getting developed.

The first two movies balanced action who deeper themes of acceptance, of tolerance, of being proud of who you are… this movie is just noise and fireworks. Ratner takes all the characters that Singer established and ruins them. He takes all the care and thought and attention to detail and casts it aside. He doesn’t care that the first two movies were foreshadowing something great, he wants explosions and meaningless special effects. And he delivers. This movie looks awesome. It’s just not coherent and the story sucks and any decent performances by the actors are lost in the chaos. This is a terrible way to end a great trilogy.

Critically Rated at 8/17

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X2: X-Men United

X2 is a great sequel and one of the best comic book movies to date. Bryan Singer returns to direct, and most of the cast from the original come back, with a few new mutants and characters joining the fun. The story is bigger, the stakes are higher, the fights are more elaborate… this is a perfect sequel.

The movie starts with a bang as the teleporting Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) launches a near fatal attack on the US President. The President escapes injury, but the stage is set for the next level of the mutant/human war. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) dispatches Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) to track down Nightcrawler, while Professor X and Cyclops (James Marsden) go to visit Magneto in his plastic prison.

Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been tortured into giving William Stryker (Brian Cox) information about Xavier’s school for mutants. Stryker has been using his son’s power to manipulate and control mutants. Professor X and Cyclops walk into Stryker’s trap and they are captured. He plans on manipulating Xavier into using Cerebro to kill all the mutants.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has been hunting around Alkali Lake for clues to his past, but when he doesn’t find anything, he returns to the mansion and winds up acting as the babysitter while everyone else is advancing the plot. He catches up with Rogue (Anna Paquin) and meets her new boyfriend Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). The happy homecoming is short-lived as Stryker’s forces attack the mansion and the mutants are forced to flee.

Iceman takes Rogue, Wolverine and their friend John/Pyro (Aaron Stanford) to his parent’s house to hide out. Iceman comes out as a mutant to his family, and they aren’t too accepting. His little brother calls the cops on them and there’s a little showcase of raw mutant power before the X-Men (minus Cyclops and Xavier) all meet up again.

The X-Men are making their escape, but then the get attacked, but then they are saved by Magneto and Mystique. And so they decide to all join forces and become X-Men United. They make their way to Alkali Lake to confront Stryker, save Xavier, and save the world. Of course there has to be a slight twist and so there is one. So if you haven’t seen this movie that’s been out for more than nine years, be grateful that I didn’t spoil anything. This movie sets everything up for a great third installment, but then Bryan Singer left and Brett Ratner came in to ruin the final film.

One thing that has bothered me since the first time that I saw this movie is that Iceman doesn’t stop the raging floodwaters. I mean he’s Iceman. He can turn water vapor into ice. Surely he can turn cold water into ice. I mean there’s snow all around, it’s already cold, and it wouldn’t be that hard.

The first movie uses mutants as a metaphor for racism and equality. Charles Xavier is like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Magneto is like Malcolm X. This movie uses mutants as a metaphor for homosexuality and equality. Iceman comes out to his parents. He fearfully tells them that he is a mutant and his mom’s response is, “Have you tried not being a mutant?”. Director Bryan Singer is gay, and for him to include a scene like this in a summer blockbuster could have been controversial, but I think it adds to the context of the film.

This is a great movie, it’s a great sequel. It’s the best X-Men movie to date. There are great characters and awesome fights. There are morals and messages and themes and references to the comics that only avid fans will get. The opening sequence with Nightcrawler is one of the best opening scenes in any movie. It draws you in and you are instantly hooked.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy. The studio plans on it being the start of a new trilogy. It’s the origin story of Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr and how they became Professor X and Magneto. It’s set in the swingin’ sixties, right around the Cuban Missile Crisis, which plays an important part in the film. I love movies with alternate histories, it’s better that blatantly sabotaging history like they did in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor.

X-Men First Class Poster

The movie starts out with a familiar scene: a young Erik Lensherr is being separated from his parents in a concentration camp and he demonstrates his ability to manipulate metal. An evil Nazi doctor (Kevin Bacon) tries to get Erik to recreate the event and kills his mom. For motivation I guess. And so Erik gets a little emotional and unleashes his powers.

Meanwhile back in America, a young Charles Xavier meets a young runaway shape shifter named Raven Darkholme, and he invites her to live with his family within ten minutes of knowing her and without consulting with his parents. It was a simpler time back then.

The movie jumps to the 1960s and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne from Bridesmaids) finds out that a former evil Nazi doctor, currently using the alias Sebastian Shaw, is planning on starting World War III. He’s the leader of the Hellfire Club, filled with mutants like the telepathic Emma Frost (January Jones), the teleporting Azazel, and the tornado-maker that they call Riptide for some stupid reason. Moira decides she needs to find an expert on mutants, and she turns to Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) for help. Charles and Raven decide to help the CIA stop Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club.

Meanwhile Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is busy tracking down former Nazis and killing them, all the while searching for Sebastian Shaw to seek revenge for killing his mom. Erik, Charles and the CIA all find Shaw at the same time, and shit goes down, Shaw escapes, and Erik and Charles become friends.

Charles and Erik meet Dr. Hank McCoy, and Charles makes his first use of Cerebro to track down mutants to join their cause. They recruit the winged stripper named Angel, the ultrasonic screamer Banshee, the rapidly evolving Darwin, and Havoc the hula hooping energy blaster. There are some pretty lame powers. A spitting dragonfly lady?!? A man with such a shrill scream that he can use it to fly?!? Darwin has an awesome power, too bad it looks stupid as fuck on screen.

While the young recruits are bonding the plot keeps trudging forward and eventually the Hellfire Club manipulates a Russian general into sending weapons to Cuba, thus starting the Cuban Missile Crisis. The X-Men go to battle with the Hellfire Club and Erik gets to Shaw and gets his revenge.

Erik goes crazy with power and tries to destroy a bunch of military ships. Charles tries to stop him and they fight and Charles ends up getting shot. Erik is sad that Charles got paralyzed and stuff, but he decides to part ways with his friend, taking Angel, Riptide, Azazel and Mystique with him. The movie ends with Erik, now calling himself Magneto, recruiting Emma Frost to his side… The sides are set for X-Men: First Class 2 – How Xavier Goes Bald.

I would rate this the third best X-Men movie. X2 is the best, followed by the original X-Men, and First Class is after that. The film was rushed into production, and there are a few parts where it is evident, but for the most part it’s a solid script with a lot of good moments. The cast lacks the star power of the original trilogy, and a lot of the mutants are second string. They changed a lot of stuff from the comics. There are some cool fight scenes, but I was disappointed with a lot of the powers. They are pretty second-rate. There are way too many mediocre mutants showcasing boring powers.

The third X-Men movie was a huge setback for the franchise. The Wolverine movie had its moments, but it was a terrible movie and butchered a lot of good Marvel characters. First Class is a step in the right direction, and even though it has a few flaws, it still redeems the franchise.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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X-Men (film)

Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) directs the big screen adaptation of the X-Men. In the not too distant future, mutants with superpowers have been popping up more and more. People fear what they don’t understand, and people fear mutants, causing US Senator Robert Kelly to attempt to pass the Mutant Registration Act. Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants decides to wage war on mankind, and nothing can stop him… Except for Charles Xavier’s X-Men.

The movie begins with a young Eric Lehnsherr being separated from his parents in a concentration camp. He tries to get back to his parents, but the guards won’t let him. Desperately he reaches for them, and the gates start to bend and twist towards him, until the guards knock him out. This is a real quick scene and it’s a great introduction to the world of the X-Men. Right off the bat, you know that this world is both real and familiar, but also fantastic and different. You’re introduced to a mutant using his powers right away, and it also establishes Eric Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto as a sympathetic villain. No matter how diabolical he gets, you understand his reasons perfectly.

Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is advocating the Mutant Registration Act, which would force mutants to identify themselves. Magneto (Ian McKellen) doesn’t want to go along with this, and he’s going to do something about it. His Brotherhood of Mutants wage war on humanity. The Brotherhood consists of the shape shifter Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), Toad (Ray Park), and Sabretooth (Tyler Mane).

Magneto’s old friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) leads the X-Men, another team of mutants who are determined to stop the Brotherhood. The X-Men members are the telepathic/telekinetic Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), the cycloptic Cyclops (James Marsden), and the weather-controlling Storm (Halle Berry).

Meanwhile, a young mutant named Marie a.k.a. Rogue (Anna Paquin) accidently almost kills her boyfriend just by touching him and runs away. She meets a hairy, angry cage fighter named Wolverine and decides to get in the car with him. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue get attacked by Sabretooth and get rescued by Cyclops and Storm and they take them to the X Mansion. They chill there for a while, and they learn about how good Xavier is, and how misguided Magneto is. There’s bonding moments and character developing and a mutant montage.

Magneto is moving along with his plan, and he kidnaps Senator Kelly and turns him into a mutant. And he reveals his plan to turn a bunch of diplomats and world leaders into mutants at some summit for something. But Senator Kelly escapes and goes to the X-Men for help. He dies from complication of being turned into a mutant, but Magneto doesn’t know that, so he doesn’t know that he would just kill everyone if he goes through with his plan.

The next step in Magneto’s plan is kidnapping Rogue. Magneto will use Rogue to power the mutant conversion machine, the stress of which will kill her. So the X-Men have to step up and save Rogue and stop Magneto from killing diplomats and world leaders at that summit thing. And I don’t want to spoil the ending, but they do.

It has a pretty decent cast. It was Hugh Jackman’s breakout role. Patrick Stewart is perfect for Xavier. Ian McKellen is formidable as Magneto. Rebecca Romijn was a sexy blue chick way before Avatar. Halle Berry looks pretty but her Storm sucked in this one, she didn’t do anything. She had a stupid accent too.

This is a good flick. Not only did it launch the X-Men movie franchise, but it gave Hollywood the green light to start churning out comic book movies. I know they changed a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. But the movies are their own thing. They acknowledge the comics. They make references to them. There are some differences with characters between the film version and the comic version. But that is ok. Bryan Singer made an awesome movie. It’s fun. It’s rewatchable. It’s a summer blockbuster popcorn movie.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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