Sorry for the delay.
For this FFFD entry, I watched the X-Men trilogy. But not X-Men Origins Wolverine...for obvious reasons.
This film almost set off the post 2000 Superhero film craze by itself and it's not hard to see why. From the unexpected starting point of the Holocaust to a cast including Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, these kind of superhero films banish the memories of the cheesy action-entric Superhero films of the 90s (Spawn, Blade, Judge Dredd).
So you have the famous comic book story finally appearing on the big screen and it's Hugh Jackman as Wolverine who steals the show. His charisma, visual appear and character is by far the most interesting of all the mutants who appear on screen and it is his character that most goes through a narrative 'arc', neatly ending up in place for a sequel (which I'll move onto later).
Ian McKellan is a joy to watch, bringing a sobering intensity to a villain single mindedly bent on the death of humans. Despite this, the character (aided by McKellan's stellar acting) is much more than a single minded entity. Patrick Stewart is equally as intense as Prof. Charles Xavier, the head of the X-Men and the father figure to the mutants in his school. There is also Anna Paquin as Rogue, a great role well played. She is a fragile as you'd expect someone in her position to be and seems to be the one mutant on the screen in fear of her powers. Famke Janssen's Jean Grey is the love interest for Hugh Jackman and her character is given enough to do to make sure she isn't just eye candy for the audience.
Unfortunately, given that the film sets up a whole mutant filled universe and already has several great characters to flesh out, the rest of the mutants end up being little more than window dressing. Rebecca Romijn Stamos has some of the finest body makeup I've seen and her character is by far the most useful on display. Halle Berry has pretty much nothing to do apart from going milky eyed before doing some weather stuff. Cyclops is merely the alpha counter to Wolverine. Sabretooth and Toad are henchmen who happen to have super powers.
The story isn't too twisty and turny but provides danger and spectacle. The film must also be commended for not drowning the story in pseudo-science and exposition about mutants. Instead, it merely shows that mutants are among us and deals with the political, moral and scientific problems that this brings.
It's not the best of superhero films. It'll be dwarfed in scale in a few years time by Sam Raimi's Spiderman. But it's a really cool film and gives a great sense of achievement in creating a film that sounds of silly being executed so well.
However, it is peanuts in comparison with X2. Which I'll move onto shortly.
Now THIS is how to you do a sequel.
You take the ensemble cast from the first film, add several new, well written characters to expand the roster. You up the ante, increase the action and the quality of the action scenes. You somehow (god knows how) give almost every character at least one 'moment' for surprisingly deep character development and you have yourself one of the finest superhero sequels of all time.
So let's start at the beginning. Nightcrawler's attack on the White House.
Wow! Wow wow wow! It is stunning. A perfect example of how you can make a deeply exciting CGI-filled action scene. Alan Cumming's role as Nightcrawler is actually one of the most undeveloped in the film, simply that he is found part way through the film and never really develops. The increased role of Bobby (Iceman) is great and his homecoming and his family is a really nicely done, personal and emotion scene. Pyro's addition and inevitable turning to Magneto's side isn't a shock, but it is nicely written how he feels like he's treated like a child and Magneto gives him the respect he craves. Lady Deathstrike is the simple hench woman role but she has a great fight with Wolverine. Rogue's confidence in her own powers has grown a little since the first film and less of the film's running time is spent on her than in X-Men.
In the first film, Magneto's powerful moment came during a stand off with some police. In this, it's his escape from his plastic prison. It is stunning! It is so good. The plot means that Magneto and Xavier start working towards a common goal and it's always nice to see each play off each other. Magneto's single minded attempts to turn things to his advantage is great too.
New character (to the film series), William Stryker is superbly played by Brian Cox. He's a mean man and given just the right level of fanaticism to be dangerous. It's a great role and it's nice to have a narrative that writes humans as the main villains.
So yes, this film manages to juggle a huge ensemble cast with much more finesse than the first film, whilst increasing the stakes and scope of the film without losing touch with the well written, well acted characters. Oh, and it totally sets up a sequel.
A joyful film to watch.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
And this is where it all goes wrong....
Actually no. It doesn't. I remember walking out of the cinema having watched this film feeling really, really disappointed and I've not watched it since.
And you know what?
It's no where near as bad as I remember it being.
It's not on par with either X-Men or X2 but Bryan Singer had left the series to direct the shockingly shitty Superman Returns. So it was left to Brett Ratner and a budget of $210 million dollars to pick up the slack.
What you end up with is a hugely scoped CGI-driven action film that briefly touches on an awful lot of moral dilemmas that a stronger script would have had fun with but instead, they're barely glossed over. The idea is that scientists have discovered a cure for mutation.
Now X-Men has been seem as an allegory for a variety of minority groups and their role and treatment within society as a whole. So, thematically, a cure for mutation could have been treated as seriously as a cure of homosexuality, instead, the film doesn't plunge the potential depths of what ideas the script comes up with but instead focuses on action.
Most of that action is great. The final fight on Alcatraz is great as the X-Men work together in the first large scale mutant on mutant fight the series has seen. The tone of the film gets undermined a bit by Vinnie "I'm the Juggernaught, bitch" Jones and the jarring shift of Magneto and Mystique's relationship.
There are still some great moments in the film, however. Jean Grey and Xavier in the house is one in particular that stands out. All the main characters are present and accounted for but there is no real growth for them which means that disproportionate amounts of the film are taken up with the love triangle between Rogue, her boyfriend Bobby, and Kitty. This leads Rogue to try to get the cure but again, it's an underwritten dilemma. There are some new additions to the role call, Famke Janssen as Dark Phoenix has little to do other than smoulder and look confused. The usually fantastic Ben Foster is criminally underwritten here too.
It's not a bad film, not like I remember it being. It tries to end the series with a bang and in doing so, loses touch of the greatest asset the film series has, its characters.