A Look Back At Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk

I love reading a crossover comic book that was made by very talented creators to be a whole lot of fun from start to finish. Back in the early 1980s, rivals Marvel Comics and DC Comics collaborated temporarily with inter-company crossover comic books that were made to be entertaining to fans of their respective properties.

What I’m going to review here is the 3rd superhero crossover comic book between Marvel and DC titled Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.

Cover
The cover.

Background

Before I start, let me clarify that this particular comic book was specifically published as issue number 27 of the DC Special Series which was a series of one-shot comic books. By comparison, the 1981 crossover comic book Superman and Spider-Man (which I reviewed previously) was published under the Marvel Treasury Edition line of Marvel Comics as issue number 28.

Going back to Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, the comic book was the final issue of the DC Special Series line and it carried a cover price of $2.50 which was quite high for its time.

The people at DC Comics made sure that the crossover was handled by the best talents they had back then. The late Len Wein (best know for creating Wolverine) was assigned to write the script (and ensure that elements from both the Hulk and Batman would mix nicely) while José Luis García-López was hired to illustrate. Dick Giordano was the embellisher and editor while Allen Milgrom and then Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter were the consulting editors. In return for their assistance, Marv Wolfman and Mike DeCarlo were acknowledged with thanks.

Now we can begin with this retro review of Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.

The early story

The story begins when a few persons in Gotham City witness their dreams turning real beyond logic. A man dreamed he was in the arctic hunting and wakes up to discover his room was filled with snow. In a cinema where a horror movie was shown, a couple kissing each other discover, to their shock, that monsters of different sizes surrounded them out of thin air.

At the waterfront of the city, the Joker (accompanied by his gang members) talks to an unseen being (Shaper of Worlds). He gives his assurance to the being that he and his gang will acquire a specific item (needed by the being). For the Joker, what was discussed was a simple business arrangement.

A short time later inside a high-tech facility of Wayne Research, Bruce Banner (the Hulk) secretly works under the false identity as David Banks. He works along with the scientists but not on the scientific projects. Rather, he works odd tasks such as lifting hardware and putting them into places that need them. Of course, Banner did not get hired for a salary but for something much essential to him and his condition with Gamma Rays.

“I had to get a job here somehow so I could get close to the experimental Gamma-gun they’re working on,” he thought to himself.

Suddenly the facility gets filled with laughing gas incapacitating all the people inside. Banner fortunately manages to wear a radiation suit for protection. Moments later, the Joker and his gang enter searching for the Gamma-gun. From this point on, Banner decides to act.

Quality

When it comes to the selection of characters from Marvel and DC, having the mismatch of Batman and the Hulk was a very splendid idea. Not only was having the large green brute and the world’s greatest detective together as temporary rivals a fascinating concept, having them work together as a duo turned out to be a really great move. When it comes to the selected villains of the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds as the anti-hero figures of the story, the two looked like an odd pair but if you focus on the details of the story, you will realize that it made a lot of sense having them two together. The Shaper needs something which requires him to depend on the Joker who in turn brings his gang with him to cause chaos to acquire what the alien needs

All of the above details would not have worked had it not been for the excellent writing by Len Wein. Clearly Wein knew a whole lot about the defining elements of the Hulk and Batman (and the same with the Joker and Shaper), and he carefully blended those elements together to make a story that is thrilling, intriguing, engaging and at the same time still made sense. More on crossing over, there are other characters connected to Batman and the Hulk that made appearances and a few of them fit in nicely into the story.

As this was released in 1981, it was typical of the time for writers to use thought balloons to help readers understand what the characters were thinking. The use of thought balloons in this comic book truly defined Batman who not only had to fight the bad guys but also manage his way with the Hulk and do a lot of detective work.

Going back to the Hulk and Batman, this comic book has a lot of fun stuff. More than once did the two superheroes engage in action-packed encounters and their exchange of words was very nicely done. Their match-up (or mismatch) really works.

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A perfectly crafted action scene between the Hulk and Batman, complete with accurate depictions of each character! 

When it comes to the common complaint by some readers out there that the comic book was more of a Batman story and made the Hulk less prominent, I should say that the slight imbalance is not a problem at all. In fact, for me it makes perfect sense that Batman has more spotlight than the Hulk. Why? Because Batman is a detective and he performed a lot of researching, information gathering and other moves to solve problems. His detective work in the story made perfect sense for the narrative. As for the Hulk, his character really has very limited options other than causing destruction and disturbing the public. Since early on, the Hulk was best known for attracting the attention of the American military (led by General Ross) and huge destruction defined the encounters. For this crossover, the creators did not show the Hulk engaging with the military (save for the phonies) but rather he struggled to figure things out whenever he encountered Batman or the Joker. There is no way the Hulk could do detective work like Batman and having him fight the military would have weakened this comic book’s presentation. Clearly, having the story slightly slanted towards Batman is still the right move.

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Very highly imaginative and dynamic artwork by José Luis García-López.

The artwork done by José Luis García-López is excellent! He really captured the looks and details of each and every character Marvel and DC that appeared in this comic book. Back in the early 1980s, I got to read several comic books that showed Batman, the Hulk, the Joker and others and the way they appeared in this comic book was indeed accurate of the time. José Luis García-López also knew how to balance spectacle with character development and expository dialogue in terms of visual pacing and framing shots. Also his work becomes even more imaginative during the final conflict. Undoubtedly this is still a great looking comic book!

Conclusion

Overall, Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk is a great comic book and easily it is one of the greatest intercompany superhero crossover comic books ever published! From start to finish, this comic book proved to be highly engaging and there never was a single boring moment. The creators led by Len Wein (he is sorely missed) made the best possible story anyone can make involving Batman and the Hulk.

You can read a hard copy of this comic book by getting Volume 1 of Crossover Classics or, if you can afford to, hunt for a copy of this in its DC Special Series form which now sells for $280 for a very fine copy to as much as $400 for a near mint copy as of this writing according to MileHighComics.com

In ending this, I declare that Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk 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

 

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A Look Back At Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

When a filmmaker has high concepts but ends up receiving insufficient resources to realize them, disaster normally strikes not only the film crew but also the fans.

This was precisely what happened in the horror movie Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, written and directed by Rob Hedden. Released on July 28, 1989 in the United States, the movie was the result of Paramount Pictures’ rejection of proposals on making a direct sequel to Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood involving that film’s lead character Tina Shepard (played by Lar Park Lincoln).

Hedden, who previously worked for another movie studio and participated in the unrelated Friday The 13th TV series, was hired to make the sequel and he had the idea of bringing the horror icon Jason Voorhees out of Camp Crystal Lake (and its related locations) and came up with concepts of having one story set on a cruise ship (for a claustrophobic horror experience) and another story set in New York City (which includes ideas of having notable locations there as key places for misadventures and action).

“Everything about New York was going to be completely exploited and milked,” Hedden said in an interview. “There was going to be a tremendous scene on the Brooklyn Bridge. A boxing match in Madison Square Garden. Jason would go through department stores. He’d go through Times Square. He’d go into a Broadway play. He’d even crawl onto the top of the Statue of Liberty and dive off.”

The movie studio liked Hedden’s concepts and gave him a budget. The big problem was that there simply was not enough money granted (a little over $5 million) and it was too expensive to film on location in New York (I wonder if Hedden actually made some research about the city as he came up with his New York ideas). Although the given budget was the BIGGEST for a Friday The 13th film at the time, Hedden had no choice but to combine the two concepts into one single narrative. As if insufficient funds were not bad enough, Hedden implemented another concept to look at Jason as a child through the hallucinations of the film’s lead – Rennie Wickham (played by Jensen Daggett). Of course, the hallucinations led to spending some money on “special” effects, make-up, and set-up.

Now, we can start taking a close look at Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

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Kane Hodder as Jason on location at Times Square in New York.

The movie begins with shots of New York City (with several spots of Vancouver, Canada pretentiously presented as spots of the more famous city). Over at Camp Crystal Lake far away, a guy and his girl prepare to make love riding a boat floating on the lake unaware that Jason is deep underwater (following the events of Part VII). Through expository dialogue, the guy tells his girl about the legend of Jason who had murdered several people who came near the camp.

Due to an anchor cutting an underwater power cable, loose electricity reanimates Jason (played by Kane Hodder) who went up to the boat to kill the guy and the lady, one by one.

Very soon, a group of graduates from Lakeview High School prepares to embark on a cruise ship for their much-awaited visit to New York. Beyond logic, the scene shows that Crystal Lake is magically connected to the Atlantic Ocean and the background scenery shows that they are in Canada (note: back then it was more affordable to shoot scenes in Canada and pretend to be in the US).

At this point, the film introduces the final girl Rennie who is a gifted student but remains terrified about water since childhood. The leading man meanwhile is Sean (played by Scott Reeves) who is handsome but lacks the heart to follow the footsteps of his successful father who is the captain of the ship. Rennie and Sean both show signs of pain and lack from their respective past and these elements, predictably, make them a matching pair for moviegoers to follow.

Aside from the two, the film introduces mostly disposable characters like Rennie’s overbearing uncle (who happens to be a teacher in the same high school she attends and was clearly written to be the one character to irritate moviegoers into being sympathetic with Rennie and others), the good-natured lady teacher, the hard rock musician, the aspiring filmmaker, the jock, the pretty bad girl, the dude who talks without taking a look, the doomsayer, etc.

Just before the ship leaves, Jason climbs his way up to join the trip. Then he’s stalking starts.

Quality

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was very bad when it was first released more than thirty years ago. By today’s standards, this film has aged terribly. Its quality is even worse now.

Let’s start with the most obvious flaw – the movie failed to live up to its promise of Jason’s taking Manhattan. The film’s subtitle is a big lie as much of the movie is set in the ship and New York (including the fake NYC spots that were filmed in Vancouver) does not appear as the definitive location until late in the story!

While the story was set on the ship, the film crew seem to focus on producing on-screen fillers creatively. Sure we get to see Jason stalk and kill characters (with some off-screen death blows) but the dialogue scenes, the transition scenes and character “development” stuff in between were very cheaply and poorly handled.

With Rennie, however, the team managed to make her somewhat engaging as the lead of the film by slowly defining her personality (nicely done by Daggett) and creating on-screen hallucination sequences emphasizing the emotional and psychological damage she suffered from encountering Jason when she was a young girl. The flashback of little Rennie encountering little Jason (which does not make sense at all as far as in-story history is concerned) under Crystal Lake was not only badly done but done without any sense of logic. One can argue that little Rennie only hallucinated of seeing kid Jason (supposedly out of fear and paranoia) but that sequence was just a waste of time even though the filmmakers tried to make moviegoers connect and feel with her. Sean, the other lead, was literally protected by plot armor (note: he was not one of the disposable characters) but his character was not written to do much except serving as a supporter for Rennie.

Lousy stuff? Lots of them here and there! Even though he saw his captain father dead, Sean does not show very much emotion and even worse, he easily forgets about him even as he sees Jason quite a number of times later. He should at least show some deep anger (if not lust for revenge) against Jason. Even though he did not witness Jason killing his father, it was made clear to him and the rest that Jason (and not the doomsayer) was responsible.

How about Wayne, the film-obsessed guy? Even though he and his pals took weapons to go around and hunt Jason, he still bothered to use his camera (while clumsily holding the gun) and film his way around! That is so stupid and it was no surprise that he ends up getting disposed of! Being obsessed with filming, Wayne could have decided to accompany one of his armed pals and used his camera for both video documenting and even help an armed guy see something (example: zooming at a spot or object far away).

As for lousy stuff reflecting the very low budget of the movie, I can point out that the scene in which Sean, Rennie, the uncle and lady school teacher board a lifeboat clearly looked fake and was shot on a studio set. The same thing can also be said about Rennie’s fall into the water (pushed over the deck by Tamara) and she was NOT left behind by the ship that was supposedly moving. The location where JJ played rock music before getting killed looked cheap.

More on production cheapness, either the filmmakers ran out of money or they became too lazy with the wardrobe and hoped moviegoers would be too stupid to notice anything. Look back at the scene when Rennie got pushed off by Tamara into the water and was saved by Sean (who jumped to do his heroic act). Even though they got wet, both Rennie and Sean STILL WORE THE EXACT SAME CLOTHES until the end of the film! Those characters did not change clothes even though Rennie returned to her room!

Speaking of which, the filmmakers disregarded the fact that, in the story, the ship was filled with a lot of students going to New York. There were guys and gals partying, playing games, enjoying the scenery (of Canada!), etc. And yet as the film played on, the filmmakers literally abandoned those many other students. The only exception here was the short scene in which the good-natured lady teacher brought some students with her and told them to stay and wait in the restaurant. A short time later, as she mentioned to her companions that there were students left in the restaurant, Sean replied to her depressingly, “There is no more restaurant.” Without showing any scenes, the filmmakers creatively and nonsensically got rid of the others. I suppose Hedden and team had no more time and money left to show what happened to them all.

The cheapness also affected the look of Jason. Adult Jason in Friday The 13th Part VII had a very menacing, gritty and rotten face design. In this movie, adult Jason’s face looks melted and cartoony! And then there was the inaccuracy with regards to how the film presented little Jason. In the early flashback scene, a kid Jason with a normal looking face was shown drowning (which contradicts the fact that Jason always had a deformed face). There was a ladies’ rest room scene wherein kid Jason (with a slightly deformed face this time) appeared to Rennie via a hallucination. Then there was another kid Jason, more deformed, during the flashback of little Rennie. Whatever the filmmakers did, none of those physical presentations of Jason proved to be scary. Clearly whatever little amount of money they spent here ended up wasted.

On the presentation, the film’s pacing was inconsistent and it sure had several dragging moments. Granted, this was Rob Hedden’s debut as a movie director but I’ve seen other slasher horror films that were paced better and had kills that were executed satisfactorily. The fear factor of this movie was weak overall. Meanwhile, Jason illogically has the ability to teleport in this film which is complete nonsense. I believe that the teleportation was implemented as a convenient way of cutting down on time and expense to complete the production. I suppose showing Jason physically moving from one place to the next to get to his running victim was too expensive and too inconvenient for Hedden’s team.

If there are any good points in this film, I should say that Rob Hedden and his team at least tried to be creative with Jason’s kills (but the teleporting still makes no sense). Tamara (whose mirror got dropped and broke into pieces) got stabbed with a sharp mirror piece. A guy in the sauna gets killed with a hot rock forced into his body. And then there was the city thug who got killed with a syringe piercing through his body (which is impossible and cartoony to look at).

The most memorable kill sequence by Jason was the “boxing fight” with Julius. In that sequence, Hedden told the actor to punch Jason many, many times with real physical contact. That sequence lasted rather long but Jason’s kill of Julius was undeniably good and with impact. Too bad that kill sequence could not carry this movie up.

Another good point to take note is Kane Hodder’s improved take on Jason in terms of action and looking threatening. This was his 2nd time to play Jason and he showed more confidence playing him.

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Kelly Hu was only 20-years-old at the time of production. Jason Voorhees, not Wolverine, was the first pop culture icon she encountered on the big screen.

The stunt done inside a diner (with a particular stuntman who would later have his moment playing Jason in a certain 2003 movie) was at least satisfying to see. Last but not least, this movie featured a very young Kelly Hu who is now a successful and popular Hollywood actress. Fourteen years before she got to fight superhero icon Wolverine on the big screen, she encountered the horror icon Jason right here. What happened to Hu’s character and Jason? You should take time out to watch her scene here.

Conclusion

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Symbolically speaking, Jensen Daggett realized that the film was doomed and it took Jason to catch her attention from behind!

Overall this movie is very, very bad. I can only recommend this to die-hard Friday The 13th fans who are more than willing to set aside logic all for the sake of seeing Jason stalk and kill people. There is little entertainment value here and drastic cheapness will disturb viewers along the way. Not even the short Time Square on-location sequence could save the film. The kills of Jason are a mixed-bag at best and clearly this movie is not even scary to watch. I remember the very first time I saw this way back in the summer of 1990 on laser disc format and there was not even a single moment I got scared. I got to replay this movie on DVD to take a closer look and still I did not get much entertainment value in return.

Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan should be skipped as it is a clear waste of time. If you plan to watch it at all, play the movie only when you want to bore yourself to sleep.


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 Adventures #1

Back in 1991, Marvel Comics successfully launched X-Men #1 (Volume 2) which arguably marked what was back then a new era of the X-Men. That comic book was written by Chris Claremont and the art was done by Jim Lee with ink work by Scott Williams.

Lee was granted a lot of creative freedom and that could be seen in the way he redesigned and modernized the looks of the X-Men, especially with Cyclops (with that suspender), Rogue (that yellow-green tight suit plus brown jacket), Jean Grey (technically a swimsuit with those padding on the legs), etc.

Those re-designs were eventually adapted by the producers behind the memorable X-Men animated series of the decade which lasted five seasons.

Of course, Marvel Comics itself wanted to make more money as the said animated series launched. Alongside it, they launched a new comic book series that adapted stories from the animated series (which itself were adaptated stories from the past comic books, mainly Uncanny X-Men). This resulted the X-Men Adventures comic book series and here, I review the launch issue.

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X-Men Adventures #1’s cover.

Released in 1992, X-Men Adventures #1 adapted the memorable launch episode of the animated series. The story begins with the Watcher doing some expository dialogue as Sabretooth causes some destruction in a city. As it turned out, it was a TV news feed of him as the narrative shifts into a home in suburbs wherein a married couple talk about Jubilee. The husband Martin thought about registering Jubilee with the government which turns off wife Martha. Jubilee overheard them and predictably agonizes over her situation (note: she melted the VCR and mutants like her have been viewed negatively).

Then a Sentinel arrives in the neighborhood searching for her. Strangely enough, the Sentinel simply crushes the bedroom of Jubilee only to find out she was not there and registered an “identification error.”

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Jubilee in trouble at the mall.

Jubilee then spends time in the shopping mall only to discover the Sentinel crashing in to find her. Within that place, X-Men members Storm, Gambit and Rogue decide to take action against the Sentinel. This is where the story really takes off.

Creatively, this comic book retells the events of the launch episode of the animated series. Writer Ralph Macchio did a serviceable job translating the episode into a decent flowing comic book.  Like the animated episode, the aspect of mutants living in fear (expressed through Jubilee) was nicely captured.

What really stands out here is the artwork by Andrew Wildman. Not only did he do a good job drawing so many characters and giving them nice facial expressions, he pulled off a good effort to insert spectacle into the comic book. The Sentinel’s crashing into the shopping mall, Rogue’s punch on the Sentinel’s head, and Wolverine’s strike against a wall using his claws all have that strong impact.

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Andrew Wildman’s approach to action had a lot of impact.
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Team interaction of the X-Men.

I also like Wildman’s way of capturing the spirit and look of the X-Men, especially during the Danger Room sequence showing Beast, Morph and Gambit doing exercises. Even the scenes that feature no action but lots of talk had an interesting look and Wildman did not even rely on the method of making the characters beautiful.  No single boring moment with the art here.

Overall, X-Men Adventures #1 is a fun read. As of now, this old comic book from 1992 is not really valuable but that just might change if ever the Walt Disney Company (which now has the other media rights to X-Men due to their acquisition of 20th Century Fox) decides to have Marvel Entertainment revive or even continue the X-Men animated series.

Whether there will be a significant development or not, X-Men Adventures #1 is 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

 

 

X-Men at Toycon 2019

During my time at the Toycon 2019 at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City this past Saturday, I checked out the X-Men stuff. I am a long-time X-Men fan and that particular franchise is my favorite among all of Marvel’s superheroes.

As before, I looked for some back issues of X-Men at one of the few comic book sellers at the convention.

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Lots of old X-Men comic books displayed for sale.
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A copy of X-Men #1 (1991) drawn by Jim Lee featuring Magneto. I did not bother to buy this one.

After carefully searching what was available and calculating with my limited budget, I bought a few copies of Uncanny X-Men drawn in the early 1990s by Whilce Portacio. I intend to have these comic books signed by him in the near future.

As I went around the floor of the main exhibition hall of the convention center, I saw several X-Men statues and action figures. The one that caught my attention was the Dark Phoenix figure.

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Too bad the filmmakers could not find a way to replicate this classic Dark Phoenix form for the big screen. 

And then I went up to the 2nd level of the convention where there was one function hall that had several displays of toys and action figures for people to look at. Of course, the X-Men were there and here are some pictures I took for your viewing pleasure.

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I like this set up showing two opposing sides. I just wished Magneto had been placed closer fronting Charles Xavier.
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The 1990s X-Men look.
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Dazzler, X-Factor, Cable and some X-Men.
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Another 1990s X-Men set.
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I like the set up here with the X-Men and a fallen Sentinel.

For more X-Men insight, check out my Logan retro movie review, my X-Men #1 (1991) retro comic book review, my X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie review, my retro movie reviews of X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Check out my first Toycon 2019 article here.


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: 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review 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