X:Men – Comical Conversions

X-Men

This is commentary on films long released and does contain storyline spoilers.
 

Growing up in the UK, the only comics I was ever exposed to were The Beano, The Dandy and later on Eagle. Had I grown up in the US I suspect I would have been nose deep in Spiderman, Batman and the like from an early age; however as it was, I only knew these characters for the Saturday morning cartoons and serials.

I suppose that means I was less concerned when I heard there were to be big movie versions of the likes of Spiderman and Batman as I had no notion as to whether the films were true and honest to the source material or not. This meant that I approached the films with quite an open mind and took them for what they were, not what I thought they should be.

So I look back at Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Daredevil & Elektra and can see some light amongst the oft-reported dark. In fact I would much rather watch them again then the Fantastic Four films, which I thought were terrible!

The one major exception to all of this was X-men. Around the age of 16 I started watching the TV cartoon and by the time I left University I had them all recorded on VHS (and have since upgraded them to an eFormat). When I found out that Bryan Singer was converting the series into a film I was concerned. I cared about Wolverine, Rogue and Jean Grey. I knew the history of Phoenix in great depth. And I prayed they would find someone to play Moira MacTaggert with a better Scottish accent!

I’m about to head off to see the 5th film in this franchise, but thought I would share with you my thoughts on the first four instalments and then write a review for First Class when I get back.

X-Men

Back in 2000 this film blew me away! I loved Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and whilst some of the casting was bad (I’m looking at you James Marsden), in general I think Bryan Singer got this film right.

Obviously I was disappointed that the wider raft of characters were not present, but I was realistic in my own expectations. I would have loved to see a full strength Rogue, however her origin story and the end result are a bit far-fetched for a first film, so I accepted the absence (but still a “Whatever you say sugar!” in her southern drawl would have been nice!).  Again, Beast and Gambit were sadly absent, but thankfully Jubilee was made into a tiniest of bit parts!

The plot worked, the script wasn’t too cheesy, and the acting wasn’t too badly hammed.  The special effects were good enough and Ray Parks got to pretend he was Darth Maul all over again!  It’s a close call, but this isn’t my favourite movie of the franchise, but it was still a great start.

X2

Three years for a sequel! Not fair Bryan, we wanted this much sooner! (Clearly too busy doing uncredited bit parts in bad Star Trek films!)

The plot to this film is much stronger than the original and I enjoyed the direction that most of the characters were taken.  Some were thankfully reduced to bit parts (I’m still looking at you James Marsden!) and others came to the forefront.  I thought the story and some of the small details were done really well; I loved Mystique’s use of mercury to free Eric.  Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler was a bit of an odd choice, but his chemistry with Halle Berry was noticeable and it sold the role for me.

What didn’t work so well were the “youngsters”, and by that I mean Rogue, Pyro and Iceman.  Talk about needing to be slapped more!?  Ironically the other youngsters despite having tiny roles showed what I would have expected from people educated by Xavier, and yet the older ones were clearly running under the influence of their hormones too much!

Lady Deathstrike was downplayed and any hint of a romantic link to Logan was absent whilst Brian Cox’s William Stryker was a ham and cheese feast!  I would have liked to see a bit more of his non-mutant sidekick soldier (Sgt. Lyman) as well.  Initially he seemed so competent and yet he and his force are practically thrown away at the end with a rookie mistake!

There was something about the gradual change in Jean as she becomes Phoenix that really grabbed me.  I think it comes back to knowing the back story and guessing at / hoping for the future arcs, such that when she dies at the end and ultimately “something” is shown flying under the lake, I was reduced to tears!

Definitely my favourite of the first three films.

X-men: The Last Stand

Oh dear!  This film promised so much and simply didn’t deliver.  Well off canon, which is OK if you tell a good tale, the story was incredibly predictable and even the nerdy references with the overload of new mutants was pretty average.

As a way of finishing the story it works, but this is no “The Return of the King” trilogy closer!  As a popcorn movie this is fine, but I was disappointed.  The new bad guys were rubbish and adding Kelsey Grammer to the older good guys line-up was criminal!  The only nerdy addition I liked was Ellen Page as Shadowcat and she only showed how annoying the youngsters around her were.

Anyway, there was an upside to the film…  RIP Cyclops!!!!!!!!  YAY!

But the final thing which sums this movie up is this is Olivia Williams. What kind of Scottish accent is that? I’ll take the cartoon version of Moira over you!  No wonder you wanted to be uncredited!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

By the time Wolverine hit the cinemas, my life was very different (babies) and so it passed me by.  It got good reviews in some circles and I just assumed I would pick it up on DVD or Blu-ray later.

In the end I borrowed a copy and watched it late on a Friday with the kids in bed and my wife out stitching up the locals (as a Doctor, not as a comedienne or con-artist).  I remember my first impressions were good, but not overwhelming and I couldn’t remember too much of the plot, so when I decided to write this article I thought I had better go watch it again!

Now installed in my Blu-ray collection I sat down and watched Wolverine over morning coffee!  A bit odd I know, but times have changed, my kids are a bit bigger and if I really want to crank up the sound on my 5.1 Dolby Digital set-up, sitting on my reclining sofa watching the 58″ plasma, then I generally do it during the day with the kids at school!

What a great film!  I had forgotten so much. The cast was all excellent, the plot was well written and the script, whilst not Oscar territory, was definitely an improvement over the earlier films.  Like Batman Begins, taking a single X-Men character and dramatising their origin story really allows you to invest more time in the emotional side of thing.

X-men diehards will dislike the breaks from canon, but again if you tell a good story who cares? The addition of some of the unused X-men characters like Gambit gave me a tingly feeling of nerd-joy and the ending showing Xavier and introducing the memory loss made me pleased that they had decided to link this film into the stories laid down by the first three.

I have two things that I didn’t like, minor though they are…

  1. Why use Hugh Jackman to play Wolverine’s Dad, when it turns out that he isn’t his Dad?
  2. Why when the whole film has been carefully crafted to feel “real” do you use Fred Dukes (aka The Blob) in such a terrible fat suit!

Anyway, this is a great film so I wish I had seen it on the big screen.  Now I just need to wait 7 hours until I get to see First Class!

Jason Ayers

Writer at Moviescramble. Master of the Yorkshire Martial Art of Ecky Thump. When he is not being a Dad or office slave he loves nothing more than watching dodgy super-hero movies or fake historical dramas with excessive nudity.

Lives 'down under' now so also enjoys getting stereo-typed as Butlers and White Imperialists when treading the boards.

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