A Look Back At X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand is better than X-Men: Dark Phoenix? What a joke driven by hatred and uncontrolled emotions of negativity towards the latter.

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Ian McKellen as Magneto.

Released in 2006, X-Men: The Last Stand was the third movie of Marvel’s mutants which made $459,359,555 worldwide establishing new box office records at the time including the Memorial Day weekend opening and a single-day record for Friday openings. It was also the highest grossing X-Men movie until X-Men: Days of Future Past exceeded it in 2014.

While the first two flicks were directed by Bryan Singer (who literally abandoned this movie in favor of the big letdown Superman: Returns), this one was done by Brett Ratner who is best known for Rush Hour films. For the superhero concept of the film, Ratner clearly depended on the script by Simon Kinberg (who directed X-Men: Dark Phoenix) and Zak Pen (X2: X-Men United).

The story begins some time in the past with Charles Xavier and Magneto visiting the house of a little girl named Jean Grey whose power of telepathy and telekinesis make her dangerous. Her own father thinks she has an illness. In another scene, a young boy desperately tries shaving off something on his back which turned out to be a mutation. To put it short, the prologue establishes the two concepts this movie tried to emphasize – the Dark Phoenix (from the classic comic book storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and the Mutant Cure (in reference to one particular episode of the 1990s X-Men animated series).

The result? A rather unfocused narrative that bogged the movie throughout. In the present day, Charles Xavier and the X-Men are no longer hiding from the federal government (which in turn has Hank McCoy/Beast as part of the US President’s cabinet). A cure that can neutralize the mutant gene has been revealed and eventually Jean Grey suddenly returns back to life in front of Scott Summers/Cyclops. Then trouble in the story (and for this film in particular) sets in.

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Dark Phoenix and Professor X.

On storytelling, the lack of focus on a central concept really dragged this movie down even though the filmmakers made attempts to link them together. This is a very unfaithful adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga – instead of showing the Phoenix Force as a cosmic entity the filmmakers used the dual-personality concept in Jean Grey. There are no alien civilizations (read: no Lilandra) involved nor anything related to outer space (a key element in the comic book storyline). With regards to the cure concept, Rogue in this film makes a move to be cured loosely following what was shown in the animated series.

Having these two concepts connect to each other showed Magneto getting motivated to rally the mutants to oppose the humans. Jean Grey meanwhile gets controlled by the Phoenix personality and gets very destructive with power which makes her an asset to Magneto and his brotherhood of evil mutants.

As the filmmakers struggled to tell the story, the social relevance and symbolism emphasized in the first two films got weakened. The core concept of mutants getting isolated and discriminated by humanity simply because they are so different became much less relevant here.

As if that was not bad enough, the characterization also changed for the worse. Magneto here became one-dimensional as a villain and the way he reacted to Charles Xavier’s destruction in front of him and Jean Grey reflected bad screen writing. Any true X-Men fan would know that even though he and Xavier were adversaries with a past friendship, Magneto should have been outraged over his old rival’s destruction and strike at Jean Grey (even if it is suicidal for him to fight a more powerful entity, the Phoenix).

For his part, Charles Xavier turned out to be a manipulator of Jean Grey’s mind making him look as evil and manipulative as Magneto. Jean Grey, despite actress Famke Jansen getting more screen time than before, ended up as a visual tool and was clearly NOT the central figure of the story rather she ended up being a tool of power by Magneto. By today’s standards, Jansen’s portrayal of Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix pales in comparison with Sophie Turner’s performance in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

More on characterization, the triangle between Iceman, Rogue and Kitty Pryde was executed with no real depth and only served to show Anna Paquin’s character search for the means to be normal (because Rogue absorbs the power and life of people she touches) which ended up being not so meaningful for viewing. Young adult Angel’s (one of the original X-Men in the comics) minutes-long presence in the movie only served to showcase special effects. Storm’s prospect of succeeding Xavier as leader of the X-Men and the school was sloppily done. Oh yes, the showing of multiple mutants (in supporting roles, non-speaking roles or as mere background characters) that weakened the narrative of the first two films was even worse here. As a result, there’s quite a lot of fan service in this movie.

Going back to storytelling, I should say that the early demise of Cyclops (played by James Marsden for too little screen time due to his work with Bryan Singer on Superman Returns) and Charles Xavier were attempts by the filmmakers to raise the stakes and even shock viewers. The problem is that the third act of the film became more of an action and CGI bonanza ultimately failing to justify the loss of Cyclops and Xavier. The story ended with not much impact on me as a viewer and the late scenes showing Magneto recovering a little of his power (plus the post-credit scene about Xavier’s survival) were unsatisfactory. By comparison, X-Men: Dark Phoenix concluded with satisfaction.

Performances? The actors did what they could with the weak screenplay. Patrick Stewart played Charles Xavier managing his school but gets burdened heavily as Jean Grey returns with the Phoenix in her (which makes Xavier feeling guilty over his past manipulation of Jean’s mind). Ian McKellen played a one-dimensional Magneto (forget about the reasonable fighter for mutants you saw in the first two films) and really had little room to flesh him out. Clearly this version of Magneto, even though he has a lot of screen time here, is rubbish when compared to the cinematic Magneto in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is clearly the hero of this movie and was given a lot to do showing a deeply concerned Wolverine as well as showing him with lots of action on-screen. His emotional reaction towards Jean Grey near the end of the movie was believable. Halle Berry meanwhile failed yet again to capture the leader in Storm from the comic books.

Another thing to mention regarding the weak script is the lame attempt at humor in the film. Just look at the exchanges of words between Wolverine and Beast which only made me frown instead of laughing.

Exchange 1

Dr. Hank McCoy: Wolverine. I hear you are quite an animal.

Logan: Look who’s talkin’.

Exchange 2

Logan: Well, for all we know, the government helped cook this up.

Dr. Hank McCoy: I can assure you, the government had nothing to do with this.

Logan: I’ve heard that before.

Dr. Hank McCoy: My boy, I have been fighting for mutant rights since before you had claws.

Logan: [to the Professor] Did he just call me boy?

If there is anything positive at all with this movie, it is the spectacle (action, stunts and special effects). If you want to watch an X-Men movie without thinking too much and just enjoy the spectacle, The Last Stand is heavily loaded! The scope of destruction (including the major showcase of Magneto’s power with the Golden Gate Bridge) is also great and helped this weak movie look epic (even more epic than the better film X-Men: Dark Phoenix). There is also a big battle of multiple members of Magneto’s brotherhood attacking the soldiers at the Alcatraz facility. Action is where director Brett Ratner is good at and it temporarily helped this film feel fun to watch. The visual design and special effects are of good quality as well.

 

One last positive thing to mention here is the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy/Beast and his performance was, indeed, superb. I really saw the scientist, the intellect and the fighter of Beast from the comics translated nicely in cinematic form.

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A striking shot as a result of Magneto’s power.

By today’s standards of superhero movies, X-Men: The Last Stand unsurprisingly went from big-budget disappointment to what is now an overall bad movie that just happens to have some fun action sequences. As far as adapting the Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics, this film is definitely inferior to X-Men: Dark Phoenix. X-Men: The Stand does look good when compared to the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

If you are a true fan of the X-Men or if you are moviegoer who wants the best superhero cinematic experience, I won’t recommend watching X-Men: The Last Stand.

But then if you are a moviegoer who cannot do anything except hate and uncontrollably bash the new movie X-Men: Dark Phoenix, then maybe The Last Stand will be your bout of fun.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: X-Men: Dark Phoenix

I’ll get straight to the point here. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (or Dark Phoenix in North America) is a better superhero film than I expected (and at the same time I never expected a faithful adaptation of the classic comic book storyline the Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and Simon Kinberg‘s feature film directorial debut turned out to be a surprisingly solid effort. I really enjoyed this.

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X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the 2nd attempt by 20th Century Fox to adapt the Dark Phoenix saga for the big screen and I can say it is a brave effort. While it never attempted to fully and faithfully adapt all the elements of the classic storyline (note: that would require hundreds of millions of dollars more budget, more production time and at least two whole films to produce), the new movie is absolutely a better adaptation than X-Men: The Last Stand (which is an even worse movie by today’s standards).

As far as the current X-Men Cinematic Universe (starting with 2011’s X-Men: First Class), Dark Phoenix is very character-driven even though it has a huge cast. There was tremendous pressure behind the scenes on the part of Sophie Turner to portray Jean Grey struggling with her added powers and the good news is that she delivered very nicely! This new movie is clearly focused on Jean Grey whose emotions, struggles and acts of power are magnificently pulled off by Turner each time the screenplay requires her to act.

Turner is clearly more comfortable with playing as Jean Grey and it seems she paid close attention to the Dark Phoenix comics. Unlike Famke Jansen’s Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, Turner cinematic act is more believable, more emotional and even more terrifying. There were moments to feel sorry for Jean Grey as her life turns upside-down plus there were times that she would be better off going far away into the deep void of the galaxy so that nobody else would get harmed by her. If you pay very close attention to Turner’s act, you will feel varied emotions along the way.

Turner is not the only standout. Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Tye Sheridan each played their respective roles (Beast, Charles Xavier and Cyclops) with more heart, more drama and more intensity. Through Hoult and McAvoy, you will relate more with them as the film makes gentle connections back to X-Men: First Class (why the time was formed, who was supposed to remain or go away, etc.). The conflict between Beast and Xavier that happened later (combined with the revelations from the past) dramatically blurs away the boundary that separates good and evil. As for Tye Sheridan, I see a lot more of the literary Cyclops in him this time and thanks to the script, he exceeds James Marsden’s Cyclops by a hundred a miles. Sheridan and Turner also have better on-screen chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey.

James McAvoy’s Xavier deserves everyone’s attention. He not only looks and feels like his comic book counterpart, he also clearly displayed how much the character has matured. McAvoy also successfully captured the on-screen aura of authority Patrick Stewart had in the first X-Men movies.

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto appears rather late into the film but that does not make him any less significant. As before, Fassbender is intense with playing his character and, more importantly, he contributed nicely into the story. Jennifer Lawrence portrayal of Mystique is the shortest one yet but before leaving the film, she delivered some nice lines (with some reconnecting to X-Men: First Class) and acted nicely. Fans of Nightcrawler and Storm will be happy to know that their roles become more significant in the late stage of the film. Lastly, Jessica Chastain‘s addition as Vuk was a nice addition. While others put her down as one-dimensional, which is true, it does not detract from the film at all. Even with lacking variety of character, Vuk still makes a strong villainess and she really acts alien. Vuk would stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

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This is one of many great looking visual effects of the Cerebro scenes.

When it comes to storytelling, this movie did not try to make an in-depth adaptation of all the elements of the Dark Phoenix Saga of comics. Instead, the filmmakers adapted a few elements of the literary classic (and even a few selected elements from X-Men: The Last Stand), focused on the present day X-Men (story is set in 1992), looked back occasionally at X-Men: First Class and made the most with what they have.

The result is a cinematic story about the X-Men now publicly recognized as legitimate mutants (and youths) with Charles Xavier having fully established a direct link with the President of the United States. After the rescue mission in space involving the solar flare, a race of shape-shifting aliens arrive on Earth with a secret agenda of their own. As mentioned earlier, Simon Kinberg surprised me with his directing. The storytelling, even with the slowest moments played, never felt dragging to me at all. The pace, in my experience, was between medium to fast. As this movie was written by Kinberg, Dark Phoenix is clearly his vision for the X-Men Cinematic Universe and he stamped his mark on it despite the fact that reshoots and story revising had to be done. If you are looking for humor, you really won’t find much as the story’s tone is intensely dramatic.

You want fun? X-Men: Dark Phoenix delivered solidly! This movie has more than enough spectacular content (action scenes, stunts, visual effects, etc.) that any moviegoer can enjoy! Very clearly the filmmakers consciously worked hard to deliver entertaining stuff to bounce back from the heavy drama. There was a lot of physical damage caused by Phoenix in her conflict with her teammates which is a solid start of her causing trouble to others. Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Xavier, Beast and Magneto used their respective abilities VERY EXTENSIVELY combined with high-octane stunt coordination which results several minutes of on-screen fun leading into the finale! The spectacle of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which was extensively done with a blistering pace, easily exceeds what was showcased in First Class, Apocalypse and even that of Days of Future Past!

As for those blink-and-you-will-miss-it visual moments, there were times that images shown on the big screen reminded me of Jim Lee’s X-Men. I won’t point out where they are or when they will come out but anyone who extensively read the X-Men comic books drawn by Jim Lee (who co-founded Image Comics and now works as DC Comics’ co-Publisher) will spot the technical fan service.

Last but not least is the music provided by the great Hans Zimmer and this film marks his return to the superhero movie genre. While the music he and his team provided here is nowhere as energetic nor as intense as that of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the music is still steps above that of X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men: The Last Stand and even the popular X2: X-Men United. The highlight of Zimmer’s music is the tune played during the moments when Jean Grey’s tremendous power as Dark Phoenix was realized in that day-time encounter with the X-Men. That particular music really emphasized the danger she poses to others.

There were some issues about the movie that might be problematic or annoying to moviegoers, particularly superhero movie fans. For one thing, Simon Kinberg re-used certain elements from X-Men: The Last Stand for this new movie and that includes Jean Grey having a childhood problem and Charles Xavier getting involved to solve it only to be blamed for it many years later. There were even a few lines from the 2006 movie repeated.

Also questionable was the lack of an explanation regarding Jean Grey’s Phoenix Power in this film and the one we saw in X-Men: Apocalypse. If what she unleashed in the final battle with Apocalypse was not the Phoenix force, then that’s a major blunder by the creators in relation to this movie. Perhaps an extended cut of X-Men: Dark Phoenix will solve that.

Lastly there was the use of shaky camera photography during some moments with the action sequences. While they were temporary, they prevented the film’s strong spectacle from achieving perfection.

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Overall, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a thrilling, heavily dramatic and very solid superhero movie worthy of being the conclusion of the X-Men Cinematic Universe that 20th Century Fox first launched in 2000. From this point on, there is no guarantee we will see McAvoy and the gang return as the cinematic X-Men now that 20th Century Fox is fully controlled by the Walt Disney Company through Marvel Studios. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is not perfect but it strongly resonates with me as I am a long-time X-Men comic book reader. While others out there would bash this movie for not having the common elements of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, X-Men: DP has its own flavor and the filmmakers utilized what they had established in the X-Men Cinematic Universe since 2011. The reported reshoots may have prevented Kinberg and team from fully realizing their original vision of the Dark Phoenix story but still they succeeded in making a better Dark Phoenix adaptation captured on film.

If Marvel Studios would launch the X-Men through the Marvel Cinematic Universe and attempt a new and more ambitious Dark Phoenix adaptation of their own, it will take much longer and will cost them more time and money to do so. That’s something we may not see in the next decade. All the more reason to enjoy X-Men: Dark Phoenix now.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is highly recommended.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my retro comic book review of X-Men #1 of 1991, my retro movie review of 2000’s X-Men, my retro review of X2: X-Men United and my review of Logan.

 

 

A Look Back At X2: X-Men United

While I barely enjoyed the original X-Men movie back in 2000, I still had hope that its sequel would be better, more engaging and more entertaining. That hope of mine was realized on April 30, 2003 when I saw X2: X-Men United (or X-Men 2 in some countries around the world) in a cinema here in the Philippines.

Commercially X2 grossed $407,711,549 worldwide and that is 37.58% more than what its predecessor made. It also gathered several positive reviews from movie critics back then and its overall success proved that there was indeed more room for artistic and commercial growth for further superhero movies. I remember leaving the cinema happy and satisfied, looking forward to more X-Men films.

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Kelly Hu’s screen time as Lady Deathstrike was short but she really stood out in her fight with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

 So how did it all come to such an outcome in 2003? In my honest opinion, director Bryan Singer and his creative team learned from their shortcomings in the previous movie, create an engaging story without necessarily faithfully adapting elements of the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills (a rather unholy story) and ramp up the enjoyment factor.

The story opens with Nightcrawler cleverly breaking through the security in the White House in an attempt to attack the President of the United States. That opening clearly showed how clever and creative the filmmakers got to not only deliver the thrills but also emphasize visually the gap between humans and mutants. To put it short, that opening sequence is still awesome to watch.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns to the mansion and tells Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) he found nothing in Canada. Wolverine wanted to know more about his unknown past but Xavier refuses to help him even though he set the deadly loner on a path.

In Washington D.C., military scientist William Stryker meets with the President (along with a fake Senator Robert Kelly who is actually Mystique in disguise) and gets authority to launch a secret operation on the mutants. Along the way, Mystique learns about the location of not only the plastic prison containing Magneto but also that of a secret base. The secret attack on Xavier’s mansion and the escape of Magneto then sets of the crucial events for the rest of the movie.

X2 can be described as a film laced with lots of improvements over its predecessor technically and creatively. I see more of the literary Wolverine in Hugh Jackman this time around while Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen showed even more traits of the literary versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively. Anna Paquin showed more confidence in playing Rogue while Halle Berry and Famke Jansen showed similar results with their characters. Allan Cumming and Brian Cox are solid additions as Nightcrawler and Stryker (who is not a military scientist in the present day of the graphic novel) and they mixed well with the returning cast members.

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Mystique and the soldiers.

Like its predecessor, symbolism was used to emphasize the gap between humans and mutants on the big screen. The scene wherein Bobby Drake/Iceman showed to his parents his uncanny ability to freeze emphasizes his reluctance to show the truth about himself…something that could potentially break the family. William Stryker, meanwhile, keeps mutants company for as long as he has control over them and combined with the fact that he bore a hatred for mutants (note: something unfortunate happened to his family), he can be compared to a slave owner from centuries ago.

When it comes to spectacle, X2 is definitely more thrilling and more action-packed. The filmmakers knew how to balance the screenplay’s exposition and dramatization with action when it is needed on the right time. The standout action sequence is undoubtedly the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike (played by Kelly Hu).

The script is stronger this time. With key members of the X-Men separated during the first half of the film, character development sets in nicely. The link between Wolverine and Jean Grey got emphasized somewhat while Cyclops is away. Also Magneto delivered the film’s most memorable line: You should have killed me when you had the chance!!! That line is a nice throwback to the past friendship between Xavier and Magneto.

Like the 2000 movie, liberties from comics were implemented for “cinematic presentation.” Anyone who read Wolverine’s origin with Weapon X can tell that William Stryker was never part of it. As for adapting the 1982 graphic novel, this film is clearly unfaithful and the filmmakers decided to take the easy route on selecting certain elements to make a screenplay that can be deemed bankable by the movie studio.

Unsurprisingly there are flaws here and there. Freezing people’s movements done by Xavier is unbelievable. As a telepath he can read people’s minds, manipulate their perception, make himself invisible to others by warping their perception and even reprogram minds but freezing people is not one of those abilities. Also considering Xavier’s persistent use of his telepathy, he failed to detect before entering the plastic prison (to meet Magneto) that a trap was set up for them.

As for Jean Grey’s heroic sacrifice near the end of the film, that one took me out of the movie. She left the jet without anyone noticing, stands in front then uses her power to prevent the rushing water from touching them while slowly lifting the jet (which for some reason could not operate properly) to let X-Men survive. It sure is dramatic and it is one of Famke Jansen’s most notable moments in cinema (apart from her erotic acts in GoldenEye) but it goes against what X-Men fans know. Any X-Men fan can tell that Iceman could have used his power to freeze the water and Storm could have manipulated the weather to help out. Heck, Cyclops could have gone out and launch a massive optic blast at the water.

Another obvious flaw is the large cast of characters which prevented the film from further implementing anymore character development. The love triangle aspect continued from the previous movie barely moved forward as James Marsden’s Cyclops (a leader in the comics) was literally set aside. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat in this movie was only used to emphasize a seconds-long chase and show off the filmmakers’ visual effects.

By today’s standards, X2: X-Men United is no longer the great superhero film it was in twenty-o-three. It is, overall, a good movie and clearly it is a major improvement over its predecessor. The many improvements on the overall quality, engagement and fun factor of X2 made 2000’s X-Men look more like a dress rehearsal.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.

A Look Back At X-Men #1 (1991)

When I was in high school, Marvel Comics launched the comic book X-Men #1 (Volume 2, 1991) which sold an estimated eight million copies worldwide. The times back then were very exciting as the comic book had great art by Jim Lee (inked by Scott Williams and colored by Joe Rosas) combined with the writing of Chris Claremont.

For this retro review, I have the gatefold cover edition of X-Men #1 which has the complete set of covers and a cover price of $3.95. The comic book used high-quality paper (or glossy paper) for its content. To put things in perspective, X-Men #1 was released with multiple editions. The comic books carrying cover prices of $1.50 had individual covers and lower quality paper.

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The front cover.
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The back cover.

So what was X-Men #1 all about? Was it deserving of the tremendous sales success it achieved for Marvel? Did the combined talents of Claremont and Lee create something super special?

To begin with, X-Men #1 marked the beginning of a new chapter of the X-Men. In the events that happened prior to this comic book, the X-Men founder Charles Xavier had been away for many years and along the way the team went through several changes with its members. At one point, the classic villain Magneto even became the head of the X-Men. The pioneering X-Men members of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman and Beast meanwhile found their temporary place outside by forming X-Factor. Eventually the Muir Island saga which incidentally reunited Xavier with his mutants.

So in this comic book, the X-Men got reformed and Xavier returned to his mansion for the first time in many years. The stakes are much higher this time because Xavier needs to adjust to the dynamics of the X-Men whose membership has grown so much two teams (Gold and Blue) had to be used. As if that was not challenging enough, the world, as Xavier noticed, is more hostile towards mutants than ever before.

In out space, two groups of people engaged in a spaceships chase which triggered Magneto (now living in a new headquarters orbiting Earth) to take action. He tells them he is no longer interested in their cause and simply wanted to be left alone.

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Magneto’s presence and energy signature alerts authorities on Earth.
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Charles Xavier shares to Jean Grey his observations as he tries to adjust with his return to his mansion. He was away for so many years and so was Jean Grey and her pioneering teammates.

Because he made his presence felt (his energy signature was detected and so was his floating headquarters), authorities on Earth had no choice but to launch the first stage of the Magneto Protocols.

In Washington DC, Col. Nick Fury meets with the President of the United States who expressed his concern about the incident in outer space which involved American shuttles that got destroyed.

US President: It’s my understanding, in fact, that the terrorists who hijacked our vehicle look to him (Magneto) as their inspiration. Suppose he makes their cause his own?

Nick Fury: If the Soviets act like hotheads, Mister President, they could make things worse.

US President: You have an alternative?

Meanwhile at the Xavier mansion, the X-Men participate in an training session with Cyclops (blue team leader) and Storm (gold team leader) watching and coordinating from the control room. Charles Xavier, who is still adjusting upon returning, closely watches the large team.

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Sarcasm by Cyclops annoyed Xavier who preferred him to keep focus on the exercise.

Of course, with the team so large, conflicting personalities and problems with bonding with each other was inevitable. Clearly the newly revamped X-Men had a long way to go before achieving true solidarity.

And then Nick Fury contacted the X-Men with the Magneto situation…

For a comic book released in 1991, this one was quite a grand product. Sure it did not have a gimmick cover of foil nor hologram nor chromium but having a gatefold cover with art of the X-Men and Magneto drawn by the great Jim Lee was itself a big luxury at the time.

Very clearly, Jim Lee and Scott Williams did their best ensuring great art for the comic book. The X-Men all look very fit (as if they all regularly spent time in the gym), their redesigned costumes were meant to look cool (although the many pouches and “suspender” of Cyclops’ costume look really silly), Magneto looks ageless and the Acolytes were designed to be the new nemesis of the X-Men.

And then there was the action…..

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Action between the X-Men and Magneto.

Jim Lee has a great vision for high-octane action designed to show impact while at the same time give readers something great to look at. In my view, Lee was influenced by action movies and he developed ways to not only make comic book action flow nicely but also deliver impact.

This comic book has a lot of action and Jim Lee cleverly visualized the capabilities of the X-Men with striking visuals. The way Wolverine looked striking at an enemy was pretty intense. Cyclops’ use of his Optic Blast to separate Magneto from Wolverine showed a lot of power. Psylocke’s physical strike against Magneto reminds me hard action scenes from Hollywood flicks.

With regards to the writing, Chris Claremont managed to redefine the X-Men for the new age while at the same time did his best to balance the story, establish the threat and build up the tension for the inevitable conflict with Magneto. In this particular comic book, it is the blue team taking on the classic villain.

Apart from the main story, X-Men #1 also came with extra stuff like behind-the-scenes sketches by Jim Lee, a preview of things to come (notably the post-Claremont concepts), a 2-page image of the X-Men enjoying the pool side of the mansion, and a villains gallery! All these extras were drawn by Jim Lee!

Overall, X-Men #1 is still a compelling comic book to read even by today’s standards. The comic book speculator boom has long been over but if you are looking for the modernizing of the X-Men for the 1990s, this one really is a milestone. Clearly, X-Men #1 was made to start the new age of the mutants with the 1990s in mind while at the same time it took the bold move of gathering Xavier and the pioneering X-Men members and putting them back into Xavier’s mansion forming a much larger team than ever. This move of mixing classic X-Men members with newer ones resulted a nice variety of personalities.

When it comes to getting this for your collection focused on Marvel’s mutants, X-Men #1 is highly recommended. Remember, you should look at this comic book as a piece of X-Men history and don’t focus on making a profit with it. Just enjoy it for what it is.

By the way, X-Men: Dark Phoenix is opening very soon in cinemas. You bought a ticket already?


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

A Look Back at X-Men (2000)

The first time I saw the first live-action movie of the X-Men was on August 30, 2000, here in the Philippines. Back then my interest in comic books had waned but I was still an X-Men fan by heart. I enjoyed reading the comic books written by Chris Claremont, the early 1990s comic books drawn by Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio, and the X-Men animated series.

Prior to its Philippine opening, X-Men was released in the cinemas in the United States on July 14, 2000, and in the weeks leading to August 30, there were several pirated copies of the movie in video CD format made available here in the Philippines. I resisted the temptation of watching a pirated copy in favor of the cinema experience.

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Arguably the one superhero movie that sparked the 21st century wave of superhero movies which we moviegoers enjoy now.

Back on August 30, 2000, it was a rather intriguing experience for me to see the X-Men and the villains portrayed by actors on the big screen (and there were no IMAX cinemas back then). While I felt Hugh Jackman (then a newcomer) lacked impact on portraying Wolverine, Patrick Stewart captured the essence and look of Professor X/Charles Xavier. Halle Berry’s half-baked foreign accent ruined the cinematic Storm while James Marsden and Famke Jansen really had no chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey. Ian McKellen was passable as Magneto while I found Rebecca Romjin’s Mystique a distorted version of the character. On the side, the supporting role of Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly was very solid and it was too bad he did not have enough screen time.

More on the storytelling, I noticed back then that X-Men really felt more like a build-up laced with some spectacle rather than a complete standalone story. Of course, the filmmakers really had to do lots of build-up and they could not just expect moviegoers to be fully aware of the X-Men comics and mythos. At least the movie did a decent job of assembling the characters, emphasizing the theme of public fear of mutants as well as the struggle of mutants, and establishing the elements of good and evil.

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Magneto and Charles Xavier.

There is also symbolism with how the filmmakers translated Charles Xavier and Magneto from the comic books to film. Xavier strives for helping mutants use their powers for good purposes while trying to help them survive in human society that fears them….plus help humans understand mutants in order to accept them. Magneto, who as a boy lived through the Holocaust and witnessed how brutal humans are to his people, strives for the rise of the mutant race even if it means harming innocent humans.

Wolverine and Rogue, in their own ways, are the lost people who have yet to realize their true purpose. They symbolize the mutants struggling in society and in the case of Rogue, played by a very young Anna Paquin, she is the lost youth whose future is clouded with uncertainty since her mutant ability makes her a danger to others by simply touching them. Wolverine/Logan, for the newcomers reading this, has been lost for decades and what makes his plight painful is that he could not remember his past nor is he aware he is over a hundred years old living with claws and a healing factor that delays his aging.

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A young Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He came into the film as a replacement for Dougray Scott, the guy originally hired to play the superhero icon. Fortunately for Jackman, he became a superstar and a movie icon.

When it comes to spectacle, X-Men is satisfactory. There is enough action to balance with the storytelling and character development but for the most part they lack impact even back in 2000. The standout action sequence is the fight between Wolverine and Mystique which is a mix of martial arts and stunts (aided by wires). The next best sequence is Wolverine’s fight with Sabretooth at the Statue of Liberty. The fight between Toad and the other X-Men meanwhile would have looked better had there been none of those silly moments pulled of by Ray Park (Toad). Special effects that emphasize Cyclop’s optic blast and the Liberty Island energy generation looked tame.

Flaws in the movie? Apart from the uneven quality of cinematic performances and use of cheesy dialogue, not to mention the half-baked use of a foreign accent for Storm, the presentation of Xavier’s estate as a school filled with multiple students remains alienating (note: the “school for gifted children” in the comics had only the X-Men members living and learning in comfortable privacy). Next, Magneto showed carelessness over the handling of his machine designed to mutate humans and his plan to use Rogue as a source and handler for the Liberty Island incident was illogical.

As there were so many characters in the story, the key element of Cyclops as a mature and calculating leader in the comics was absent in the film. James Marsden ended up playing a Cyclops who really did not have much to do other than looking cool with his visor.

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Mystique in action.

And then there was the scene in which Magneto kidnapped Rogue only to face several police officers outside. During that scene, Charles Xavier mentally controlled, temporarily, Toad and Sabretooth to try to push Magneto into submission (with Sabretooth’s large hand holding his neck). Magneto answered back by threatening to kill the police officers with their guns and bullets (controlled by Magneto) forcing Xavier to just give up. Knowing that Magneto’s helmet protects him from mental control by Xavier, I said to myself – why didn’t Xavier have Sabretooth or Toad remove the helmet so that he can control Magneto? That scene took me out of the film.

Overall, by today’s standards, X-Men of 2000 is a satisfactory superhero flick. Directed by Bryan Singer, it was fairly good in 2000 but did not age well. Really, the film was more of a build-up and set-up for expanding the X-Men Cinematic Universe. Fortunately for Singer and 20th Century Fox, this movie was successful and justified the plan to release sequels (best sequel: X-Men: Days of Future Past) and spin-offs (the best is Logan) which not made billions of dollars more in ticket sales for the studio but also helped make the superhero movie genre wildly popular today.

If you plan to watch this movie, don’t set your expectations too high. Try to enjoy X-Men for what it is and see if you can tolerate the flaws. Definitely this one is no classic.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.

 

 

 

3 Reasons To Anticipate X-Men: Dark Phoenix In Cinemas

Previously I expressed concern as to why X-Men: Dark Phoenix (opening in the Philippines on June 5 and in the United States on June 7) could end up as a disappointment just as the Walt Disney Company finally took over 20th Century Fox (which led people into believing that integration of the X-Men Cinematic Universe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be done instantly).

For one thing, the new movie is the first film of Simon Kinberg as director and to date his credentials include screenwriting, producing and working as a 2nd unit director in the very poor 2015 Fantastic Four movie. Also this movie is the 2nd cinematic adaptation of the classic comic book storyline and the first one from 2006 was bad and there were a few visual elements that the two films shared.

Still there are good reasons to watch this movie whether you are an X-Men fan or not. By now, Avengers: Endgame has satisfied moviegoers which easily makes X-Men: Dark Phoenix the superhero film to anticipate.

Why should you care about this? Here are my reasons (and, yes, I will watch it).

1). This new adaptation is looking more faithful to the Dark Phoenix Saga storyline than how X-Men: The Last Stand ever did – While it is unwise to expect a 100% faithful adaptation of the literary classic, X-Men: Dark Phoenix’s trailer showed the mutants fly into space for a mission, Jean Grey did something desperate and then something happened that changes her. This scene is very similar to what was shown in the comic books decades ago and considering the fact that the cinematic Jean Grey (played by Sophie Turner) unleashed her phoenix power in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, things are making sense. I also liked the shots in the trailers showing Cyclops getting very concerned with Jean Grey which parallels the comic book story.

If there are enough storytelling elements that link this new movie with the literary classic and they get executed nicely, it could make a satisfying experience to moviegoers who are familiar with the classic storyline as well as those who are unfamiliar.

2) Simon Kinberg just might have pulled-off a Dances With Wolves. What do I mean? I mean to say that Kinberg may have prepared himself a lot and somehow managed to not just direct the film efficiently (reminder: this is his directorial debut) but probably outdid himself on executing the scenes strongly, getting strong performances from his actors, carefully crafting the spectacle while maintaining focus on storytelling. As seen in Hollywood history, directorial debuts are often weak efforts of career movie directors so naturally the odds are against Kinberg. Still, Kinberg may have made a very solid directorial debut in comparison to Kevin Costner’s own first directorial effort with Dances With Wolves which grossed over $400 million worldwide and won several Academy Awards including Best Picture and, yes, Best Director! Of course, I’m not a filmmaker myself nor do I have access in Hollywood productions but I did my film research a lot and my Hollywood mentor Rusty Lemorande enlightened me on the history of directorial debuts. Very soon we will find out the true results of Kinberg’s directorial debut.

Surely enough, the executives of 20th Century Fox had their own reasons to hire Kinberg as director despite his lack of movie directing experience.

3) This could be the end of the X-Men Cinematic Universe as we know it. Believe it or not, this film franchise that 20th Century Fox launched is almost twenty years old! Never mind the fact that 20th Century Fox was acquired at last by the Walt Disney Company. I have this strong feeling that the filmmakers did their best to make X-Men: Dark Phoenix a solid film on its own and, possibly, worthy of being the final film of the current cinematic universe. If you love the X-Men cast of Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, then you should watch them perform in this new movie because there is no guarantee that you will see them reprise their roles in future movies under the umbrella of the Walt Disney Company through Marvel Studios.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is a few weeks away from opening in cinemas worldwide. Watch out for it as well as my review.

For your viewing enjoyment, here’s the movie poster.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Dark Phoenix (X-Men) Deliver The Fun In Cinemas This June?

The newest movie poster of Dark Phoenix (or X-Men: Dark Phoenix in some other countries) has been released and so has the second movie trailer which you can watch right here.

Previously scheduled for a November 2018 release, Dark Phoenix is all set to to fill up the movie screens – including IMAX – in cinemas around the world this June and fans of the X-Men movies developed by 20th Century Fox will finally be getting their fill of fun.

The new movie is the 2nd cinematic adaptation of the classic Dark Phoenix storyline of the X-Men comics. It has superstar Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Jessica Chastain as an alien shapeshifter. Given the fact that 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past erased X-Men: The Last Stand (the unfaithful Dark Phoenix adaptation) from canon, the 2019 X-Men film will be the DP cinematic story to see.

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Space travel confirmed for the newest cinematic adaptation of Dark Phoenix. There was space travel also in the comic books of the Dark Phoenix storyline.

Dark Phoenix is set in the year 1992 (9 years after X-Men: Apocalypse) and Charles Xavier’s team of mutants face their most formidable and powerful foe yet who happens to be one of their own…Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean gets hit by a mysterious cosmic force. As a result, she gains tremendous power but struggles to contain it. What makes things more difficult is her raging emotions.

At least from its premise, the movie has potential. I myself am an X-Men fan as well as a long-time comic book collector. The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of my favorite storylines of not just the X-Men but of all superhero comics in general. I could never forget the very powerful storytelling pulled off by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The Dark Phoenix Saga in comics has always been very engaging to read on my part.

Within that storyline, the stakes were raised very high and each member of the team – Charles Xavier, Colossus Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and others – each had a nice contribution to the overall development of the team as it struggled with the moral complications related to Jean Grey’s struggle with Dark Phoenix not to mention her being responsible for the countless deaths of inhabitants of planets destroyed. Also included in the saga was the Hellfire Club

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Quicksilver moving towards a very powerful Jean Grey.

Naturally I cannot expect Simon Kinberg and his team to pull off a 100% faithful adaptation of the literary storyline. As such he and his creative team have a story of conflict and division that looks like will challenge each X-Men member personally as their team struggles with Jean Grey.

The newest movie trailer is an improvement over the previous one and now the cinematic plot looks clearer. I just hope that the marketing team at 20th Century Fox did not reveal potential surprises from the movie.

As much as I enjoyed the X-Men movies and comics, there are a few signs of concern that can potentially make Dark Phoenix a major disappointment.

The first sign is that this movie is Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut. Checking his record on IMDB.com, he worked as a screenwriter, producer and as Second Unit Director (notably on the pathetic 2015 Fantastic Four movie). I’m not putting Kinberg down but those credentials don’t convince me he could effectively direct a solid film. As I learned in film school from my Hollywood mentor almost 15 years ago, the film debut of a Hollywood director is often the worst film as he makes more films.

Many times in Hollywood, the director’s 2nd movie turned out not only a major improvement over his/her first film but also a critical and/or commercial hit. Look at the 2009 Star Trek movie which was J.J. Abrams‘ 2nd movie as director. That was a critical hit and it grossed $385,680,446 worldwide. Remember when Iron Man 3 made $1,214,811,252 in global ticket sales in 2013? That movie was Shane Black‘s 2nd directorial effort!

I can only hope that Kinberg can prove me wrong by making a really great and fun movie despite the tremendous odds stacked against him. It is very rare that a movie directed by a first-time director would become a hit. Maybe Kinberg can pull off a Dances With Wolves with Dark Phoenix.

The next sign is that key storytelling elements from the 2006 disappointment X-Men: The Last Stand seem to be resurfacing in the new movie according to the latest trailer released today. Those elements include Charles Xavier taking special responsibility of Jean Grey when she was a little girl. Jean Grey becoming unstable with her tremendous power which affects her relationship with the X-Men. Also if you look closely at the movie poster posted below, you will notice Jean Grey wearing (on the other half) a coat that resembles what the X-Men: Last Stand Jean Grey (then played by Famke Jansen) wore.

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The official movie poster from 20th Century Fox.

Still there is potential in the movie to deliver something new as far as storytelling is concerned. Key portions of the latest trailer show Cyclops showing greater concern for Jean Grey (which reminds me of what I read in The Dark Phoenix Saga) and he even pushes Charles Xavier to answer his questions. Xavier could only say “I don’t know what to do!”

It has been reported that Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige reviewed the script of Dark Phoenix although it’s not necessarily a sure sign that the X-Men cinematic universe will end and somehow the X-Men will become part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) within the movie.

Even though there are uncertainties, I intend to watch Dark Phoenix in the local cinemas this June. The uncertainties actually motivate me watch and find out the answers if there are any. Also I want to experience again the fun of watching Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and Hoult reprising their roles. Sophie Turner meanwhile proved to be good as Jean Grey in X-Men: Apocalypse and I really want to see her portray the character struggling with the Phoenix. I am confident she can do a much better job than Famke Jansen.

Now if only the clock could move faster…


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.