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Posts Tagged ‘X-Men’

We lost Stan Lee this week at the age of 95.  Many people first became aware of him from his cameo’s in Marvel movies, but his impact on popular culture goes far beyond that:  For better or worse, make your own mind up; without Stan Lee we probably wouldn’t be seeing all the comic book movies that are dominating cinema screens.  Like many people I first became aware of him from the animated shows of the 1980’s.  These animated show were the start of a push to develop Marvel properties into other media.  Initial results were mixed at best but eventually led to what we now know as the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Stan Lee 1922 2018

But it all started before that, growing up Lee born (Stanley Martin Lieber) loved swashbuckling movies, and dreamt of becoming a novelist.  One of his earliest jobs as a writer came writing obituaries before at the age of 17 a family connection got him a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, the precursor Marvel Comics was at the time a new division of a pulp magazine.

Lee’s first job actually writing in a comic book came with the text fillers for Captain America Comics #3 in 1941.  This was the first time he used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which later became his legal name.  Before long he moved from fillers to writing the backup feature, “‘Headline’ Hunter, Foreign Correspondent”.

His early creations Jack Frost, Father Time, and Destroyer may not be household names now, but things were about to change.  At the age of just 19 Lee was made interim editor, a position that quickly became permanent, one that he remained in for just over thirty years before becoming Publisher.  After the war, were Lee served in first the Signal Corps, and then the Training Film Division, he formed a partnership with artist Jack Kirby, together they created a few characters you may have heard of: the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and the Fantastic Four. x men fantastic four thor iron man black panther hulk ant man

He also created Daredevil with Bill Everett. And with Steve Ditko with, Doctor Strange and his (and Marvel’s most successful character) Spider-Man. Doctor Strange Daredevil Spider-man

As significant as the characters they created, in 1963 gathered them together along with some older character, most notably Captain America to create the  Avengers, a rival to DC’s Justice League (originally Justice League of America). With various reboots, relaunches, spin-offs, alternate universes, and ever changing line-up, The Avengers have been a constant fixture within the comic book world.     The Avengers

In 1981 Lee moved from New York to California in 1981 to develop Marvel’s movie and TV, while the live action of these were forgettable at best, the cartoons introduced a whole new generation to Marvel.  They also provided the springboard of what was to come.  The success of Blade for New Line Cinema, X-Men with Fox Studio’s and Sony’s Spider-Man movies proved there was a market for quality comic book movies that snowballed into the MCU, and who knows where that will take us? Excelsior!

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A few years ago I wrote about The Dark Knight Returns and how a previous Batman could return to reprise the role of batman. This type of role is unusual if not unique. Can you imagine an old superman or Spider-Man? But one other comic book character does have a literary source for an older version of the character coming out of retirement, Wolverine.the dark knight returns

Wolverine: Old Man Logan was an eight-issue storyline from writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven, published by between June 2008 and September 2009.  Set in an alternate universe over fifty years in the future (designated as Earth-807128).  A dystopian future where super heroes have been destroyed and the United States is divided five territories ruled by super villains.  Logan, who has long since given up the Wolverine persona for reasons that become clear in flashback, lives in the territory known as “Hulkland”.  The territory originally belonged to The Abomination and later conquered by the Hulk is now run by his the incestuous hillbilly grandchildren.old man logan

Hugh Jackman has hinted that Old Man Logan is the basis for the third and final Wolverine solo film, but has since suggested that this isn’t true.  If true, this would leave the door open for Jackman to reprise the role for at least the next twenty years.  It is common for actors to return to the parts that made them successful (Vin Diesel retuning to both Xander Cage and Riddick, Matt Damon coming back for a fourth The Bourne and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to both The Terminator and Conan.), but it is rare for an opportunity to present itself so easily.arnold schwarzenegger terminator genisys

Jackman’s Wolverine has been a fans favourite since the first X Men movie fifteen years ago.  As good as Jackman is, it isn’t all about him, Wolverine has always been a fans favourite in the comic books too.  So as X-Men Apocalypse that he may or may not be in sees the end of a second trilogy, a reboot, or at least a recasting could be on the cards. Jackman will be a hard act to follow as he has become so iconic in the part (despite being a foot taller than the character in the comic books).  The perfect time for Jackman to reprise his role would be after another character had either failed or had completed a successful run and everyone is debating who will take over the part.The Wolverine

This all assumes there will still be a market for comic book movies in a decade or more.

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When writing about a female led comic book/superhero movie I purposely missed out the X-Men.  The X-Women are so complicated they need their own article.  20th Century Fox currently hold the rights to the X-Men.  The film series so far consists of: X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  The next film in the series will be X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) followed by an as yet untitled Wolverine sequel (2017).  There has also been a suggestion of a spin-off X-Force movie.

The problem is twofold, the X-Men exist as a group or team and work best as such.  The second problem, the X-Men haven’t always made best use of their female characters.  In the comic books Wolverine has been truly successful as a solo character and in turn is the only one to get a his own movie.  The one female character that could hold a film, Psylocke has never been properly introduced.  The most notable character that advances have been disappointed with is Storm/Ororo Munroe.  Many people blame Halle Berry for her performance, in reality it is more down to the writing.

Jean Grey / Phoenix (Famke Janssen) is better written for the screen but is used to the greatest effect when playing against Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.Jean Grey  Phoenix Famke Janssen

Marie / Rogue (Anna Paquin) has been used to less effect in each film until the most recent where she is reduced to a cameo.X-Men: Last Stand (2006) Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) Promoted from a cameo for to a leading role in Days of Future Past.Kitty Pryde Ellen Page

Raven Darkholme / Mystique could be the answer.  Always an interesting character in the first three movies  played by Rebecca Romijn, replaced by Jennifer Lawrence for the prequel movies, First Class and Days of Future Past, star power has been added to the mix.  I suggested the possibility of a Mystique movie five years ago.  I’m would have to be a different story to fit with the existing continuity but could still work.Raven Darkholme Mystique Rebecca Romijn Jennifer Lawrence

I mentioned about the idea of an X-Force movie, this could do two things.  Continue the old film series with some of the old characters alongside the First Class team.  It also gives the chance to introduce unused characters or reintroduced characters that were wasted in The Last Stand such as Psylocke.  Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock/Psylocke first appeared in Captain Britain, vol. 1 #8 in 1976 as a supporting character to her brother Brian Braddock Captain Britain.  Originally having precognitive abilities, then later revealed as a telepath, she also gained Jean Grey’s telekinesis ability.  She later transferred into the body of female Japanese mutant ninja Kwannon.  She gained Kwannon’s skills and elements of her personality.  The Character has a lot of millage and could introduced in her Japanese form with an origin story to follow using an English actress.Psylocke

I don’t see Fox rushing to join the race for a female comic book movie.  But like the idea of an X-Force movie.

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This month’s movies are A remake of a recent classic, a retelling of a fairytale, a sporting documentary, a literary adaptation two very different revenge thrillers and three summer blockbusters. Edge of Tomorrow came out two days before the end of the month and I haven’t seen it yet, hopefully it will be on next month’s list.

Brick Mansions: Remake of the 2004 French film District 13 written by Luc Besson. The late Paul Walker again proves to be a likeable leading man and the parkour skills of David Belle (reprising his role from the original) are always thrilling to watch. Unfortunately the film is unoriginal and a little dull.Brick Mansions

Pompeii: Gladiator-a-like action film set in the last days of the titular Italian city before Mount Vesuvius buried it is ash. Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie is rubbish but it is such good fun rubish its hard not to enjoy it.Pompeii

Blue Ruin: Low budget revenge thriller that is both considered and thoughtful. Throwing away the conventions of the genre it is full of suspense a tinged with a sense of despair and dread.Blue Ruin

Sabotage: What appears to be a more intelligent movie than you would expect for Arnold Schwarzenegger turns out to be as dumb as you would expect. intimately though, despite a critical panning and a week box-office, I enjoyed it.Sabotage

Next Goal Wins: Documentary about the national football team of American Samoa, described as the worth national team in the world. A timely reminder of what sport is all about away from with multimillionaire footballers. Jast as with Senna (2010), you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy the movie.Next Goal Wins

Two Faces of January: Based on Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name the movie is old-fashioned in a good way. Beautifully shot and fantastically acted (Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac), Hossein Amini’s supremely confident directorial debut owes a debt to Hitchcock.Two Faces of January

Godzilla: After the success of his micro budget Monsters, Gareth Edwards is given £160million to play with. The film is a worthy successor to Ishirō Honda’s original and helps wash away the bad taste left by the Roland Emmerich version. The human characters aren’t great but we are here to see the monsters.Godzilla

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Based on the seminal 80’s two part X-Men story of the same name. The casts of First Class and the original trilogy come together in one of the best X-Men movies yet. It also opens the door to tell future stories without worrying about the continuity of original trilogy.x men

Maleficent: The concept is good and it looks really good. Angelina Jolie is fantastic and clearly having fun but it is all let down by a really dull story.Maleficent

I could happily have chosen Blue Ruin, Next Goal Wins, Two Faces of January or Godzilla as my movie of the month. But I have to go with the film that I am most looking forward to seeing again, allso the film that has inspired two articles this week: X-Men: Days of Future Past. X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Movie-Poster

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* SPOILER WARNING** SPOILER WARNING** SPOILER WARNING*

Having watched the X-Men: Days of Future Past I decided to look out the original comic book first published in 1981 in The Uncanny X-Men issues #141-142 by writer/artist team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin. I had read it many years ago but didn’t remember much beyond the basic story. I was most surprised at how short it was consisting of around 40 pages over two issues. So unlike so many films that cut out large chucks of source material, Days of Future Past expands on the idea. The film has always been sold as “Inspired” by the comic and not a direct adaptation. The differences in plot are for the continuity of the film series as well as for dramatic reasons. I thought I would list a few.

  • The future in the comic book is 2013
  • The film future is 2023

days of future past comic cover

  • In the Comic; Kate Pryde travels back in time to inhabit her younger self, chosen, as the newest and youngest member she hadn’t been trained to defend herself against psychic attack yet. She is referred to as Kate in the future and Kitty in the past.
  • In the film Wolverine travels back to inhabit his younger body as he in the only one whose mind can survive the process. (and because it was the only way of writing him into the story as in the film timeline he doesn’t meet the X-Men until around 2000)

wolverine and kitty pryde

  • Kate is sent back by Rachel Summers
  • Wolverine is sent back by Kitty Pryde.kate pryde
  • Kate is sent back around 30 years to 1980
  • Wolverine is sent back 50 years to 1973days of future past 1980
  • In the comic book Mystique has formed a New Brotherhood of Mutants: Avalanche, Pyro, Destiny and The BLOB.
  • In the film Mystique acts alonebrotherhood of mutants days of future past
  • Mystique and The Brotherhood of Mutants kill presidential candidate Robert Kelly, Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert.
  • Mystique kills Bolivar Trask, the designer of the Sentinels.Trask
  • In the comic book the future resistance are made up of: Sprite (Kate Pryde), Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Franklin Richards (from the fantastic Four), Rachel Summers (the daughter of the alternate future counterparts to Cyclops and Jean Grey, she has not appeared in the movie universe) and Magneto
  • The future resistance in the film are: Kitty Pryde, Storm, Wolverine, Iceman, Bishop, Colossus, Blink, Sunspot, Warpath, Professor Xavier and Magneto

days of future past

  • In the comic book we don’t see Mystique killing Kelly, Xavier and MacTaggert, we are only told about it.
  • In the film we are shown Mystique killing Trask.mystique days of future past
  • In the comic Mystique’s attack sets of a chain of events leading to the sentinels taking over America and about to embark on a nuclear war with the rest of the world.
  • In the movie Mystique is captured and her ability (and those of others we are shown) help create a next generation of Sentinel that recreates mutant abilities and uses them against their enemies.Days-of-Future-Past-Sentinels
  • In 1980 Wolverine has his adamantium.
  • in 1973 Wolverine is yet to have his adamantium.Wolverine-Bone-Claws-X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past
  • In 1980 Xavier is bald.
  • In 1973 he has hair.days of future past
  • In the comic the attack happens during a senate hearing in Washington.
  • In the film the attack happens in Paris, were the Americans and Vietnamese are negotiating the end of American involvement in the Vietnam Wartime out of mind
  • In the comic the X-Men team who stop Mystique are Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Angel, Sprite and Nightcrawler.
  • In the movie they are: Wolverine, Professor Xavier, Magneto and Beast.Blink-and-Warpath-in-X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past
  • In the comic book the X-men resistance escape from a concentration camp try and break into Sentinel HQ to stop the nuclear war from happening.
  • In the movie they hold up in a monastery in China knowing they will be found and killed but holding out as long as they can, Wolverine being their only hope.days of future past movie
  • After the attack on the senate hearing fails the story in the comic book is over.
  • The movie has another act where magneto fucks things up and they have to stop him too.

maneto

  • The characters in the comic book version of the future do not know if they have succeeded in changing the future. Rachel Summers (herself from an alternate reality) speculates “our world may not change at all, instead Kate’s actions could create an entirely different timeline… an alternate parallel earth”.
  • The movie appears to exist in a single changeable reality, when they succeed the future is rewritten, the characters disappear and reappear in a new reality with only Wolverine remembering the dystopian world.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Kitty-Pryde-2

I’m sure there is lots more I have missed.

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Over 50 years and 23 movies James Bond has moved with the times without aging. The stories in the films are largely self contained. The continuity from one film to the next is shaky at best. Comic books have a different approach having story arcs that last months or years, eventually however they rewrite history often as new writers come in. Sometimes this is done within the story other times it is simply what we now call a reboot. Comic books often contain more than one story at a time, these stories can appear at any time in the within the timeline of the characters, this helps distract from the reinvention of the characters. This has found its way into the movie adaptations. Batman, Spiderman and Superman have all had the reboot treatment recently.The X Men

The X-Men took a different approach. Bryan Singer’s first film in 2000 took all already established group, any origin or back story was told in flashback over the first two movies. Instead of rebooting the series, X-Men: First Class (2011) went back and told the origin of the characters in the 1960’s keeping the existing continuity (more or less). Despite positive reviews and a strong box-office the film has never received much love. When everyone expected a First Class sequel or another origin movie. What they came up with was nothing short of stunning in its audacity. Returning director Bryan Singer has come up with sequel to The Last Stand (and The Wolverine (2013) that was a sort of sequel to The Last Stand) and First Class, that at the same time rewrote continuity of the entire franchise except First Class and part of Origins: Wolverine, wiping out the events of The Last Stand. A similar thing was achieved in Star Trek (2009), while that series gave the opportunity to reboot and recast the series within the continuity of the original films and TV show the X-Men has a far different agenda and appeal. All the events from 1973 onwards can be re written without having to worry about continuity of the original trilogy, and best of all within the new continuity, the events of X-Men: The Last Stand did not happen. Like so many other comic books, the X-Men seem to pick and choose between a multiverse and single changeable reality.  The way characters disappear from the screen when the past changes suggests that it becomes a “dead reality” and not part of an alternate reality.

the last stand

So where does that leave us? The possibilities are endless but a few thoughts on what this opens up. Days of Future past ends with Wolverine in the hands of William Stryker (or does it?), I think we have seen enough Weapon X and Wolverine getting his adamantium, but what he does after this is up fro grabs. A new path in his life could result in Wolverine joining The X-Men prior to 2000 as he did in the original movie. This allows him to appear in X-Men Apocalypse. It would mean he doesn’t meat Rogue when he did in that movie. That will change her timeline dramatically, although we do see her at the School at the end of the movie, so she makes it to the X-Men one way or another. This leaves the door open for a Mystique and Rogue Movie. The biggest criticism many fans have of The Last Stand is the way it handled The Dark Phoenix story, this could now be retold. It could work as a standalone movie told in two time periods, the other story coming from The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix. However poorly handled Phoenix/Jean Grey was in that movie Famke Janssen is perfectly cast. The other character who was short-changed in that movie is Psylocke aka Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock. She was unrecognisable from the character in the comic book. She could be re-introduced, however, she was famously missing from the original Age of Apocalypse comic.X2

There are a few clunks and contrivances along the way but when you look back at it the X-Men franchise has done what so many other franchises have failed to do. Just eight years after Tim Burton reinvented Batman (1989), Joel Schumacher had killed the franchise with Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). It took Christopher Nolan another eight years to reinvent the character with Batman Begins (2005) and the rest of the Dark Knight trilogy. It took Sam Raimi just five years to reboot and destroy Spider-Man between 2002 and 2007 resulting in a reboot in further reboot in 2012. The X-Men has recovered from the disasters of The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine to come up with three decent films X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013) and now X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).days of future past

The post credit sting doesn’t reveal anything we don’t already know, the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse based on The Age of Apocalypse story arc has been announced and is set for release in two years time. As long as Bryan Singer stays onboard as director I am looking forward to it.

 

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2009 X-Men origin: Wolverine was a mess; it suffered from too many characters and an incoherent plot.  Previous X-Men movies have handled the character well revelling parts of his mysterious back story in flashbacks and exposition.  An origin story is just that, taking the character back to the origins and exploring how he became the charter we know.  With the back-story out the way how does a second Wolverine movie stand up?the-wolverine

Set some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), haunted by the death of Jean Grey, Logan (Hugh Jackman) has dropped the moniker Wolverine and is living a solitary existence in the woods.  He is tracked down by a young woman whose employer is keen for him to visit Japan.

A notably better movie than Origins or The Last Stand but it still lacks the magic of the other X-Men movies.  The most notable thing about the story is the scale and subtext.  While the X-Men movies are concerned with global issues and have social subtext, The Wolverine is concerned with a story more personal to the character and subtext (if there is one) that is more existential. This helps the movie survive on its own merits away from a big franchise.  There is enough exposition to allow a newcomer enjoy the movie without being bogged down with the back-story.  The Wolverine

The mutant level is also kept to a minimum with just a couple of other “gifted” characters.  These include the villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who like lots of other characters in the movie are based on characters from the comic books.  We get a version of Mariko (Tao Okamoto) Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and Silver Samurai, comic book purists may not like them, but they do work within the context of the movie.  Viper is well used both orchestrating the henchmen and getting involved with the action herself, although her first appearance in a movie she seems very familiar, coming across as a combination of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) from Batman & Robin (1997) and Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) from Elektra (2005). As with the comic book character she is based on Viper goes back to the traditions of the early days of the comic book villains she dresses in green.  She is interestingly the only character in the movie who dresses in what can be described as a comic book costume. Viper and Mariko in the wolverine

The action scenes are well handled when they involve Logan fighting with sword or claws but fall down when CGI gets involved.  A case in point is a fight seen on a bullet train, there are elements of it that are really good but others that are ludicrous.  This kind of sums the whole film up, some of it works some of it doesn’t.  The final showdown could have been better but it does neatly tie up the story and leaves us wanting more.  As you would expect for a comic book movie, there is a “stinger” a short way into the credits.  Without spoiling it too much I will say it appears to relate to the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  For the first time in an X-Men movie they have managed in the one scene to achieve what the Avengers movies do, creating excitement for the next film.Rila Fukushima

Although different in tone the movie does fit in with the other movies in the series with one exception: Unless I am missing something, there is a huge continuity error, Logan lost his memory towards the end of Origins (it appears to be 1979), and yet in the present day he appears to have memories of 1945.  As mentioned in a previous article, we still have more than 20 years of Logan’s life that is unaccounted for between the end Origins and his first appearance in X-men, so there is lots of space for another stand alone story. 

It doesn’t always feel like an X-Men movie and it is flawed, but it is largely a fun and enjoyable.  It has its charms and some great moments marks a great improvement on Wolverines other solo outing.

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