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John Byrne & Rich Larson X-Men poster

Logan: Last of the old guard

To me, the modern era of superhero films began on November 21, 2000 with the release of the first X-Men movie. To be sure, superheroes had been a part of movie theaters since at least the 1930s and one of the biggest movies of all time Batman came out in 1989. But it wasn’t until the release of X-Men which was the first superhero team movie, had a big budget and used modern special effects is when our modern era of superhero films started.

And over the last 17 years there’s been dozens of other superhero movies to follow like Spider-Man, Hulk and new Batman and Superman movies to name a few. But the one constant over this time is that actors will cycle in and out of roles portraying the heroes. Since 2000, two people have played Batman, two Superman and two The Incredible Hulk. And while this really hasn’t happened for characters like Iron Man or Captain America yet, Marvel has announced that while older characters like those will still be a part of the Marvel movie universe, other characters in other films like Doctor Strange and The Guardians of the Galaxy will be taking their places in future movies.

That’s why it’s so interesting that since the start of the modern era of superhero movies, only ONE actor has played the character of Wolverine consistently over all those years and eight films; Hugh Jackman. Jackman began his career in his native Australia before relatively quickly landing the role of Wolverine which made him an international star.

Logan, aka Wolverine, debuted in X-Men sort’a like he was in the comics at the time — an oddball loner with two incredible powers. Logan can heal himself of any wound almost instantly and has a set of six adamantium covered claws that pop out of his hands whenever he wants to cause mayhem. His backstory is a mystery. The most he can remember is of military experiments that enhanced his powers, hence the claws of adamantium. But the side-effect was to effectively erase his memory. So, with his incredible healing factor Logan might be 30 years old or he might be 130 years old, we/he can’t be sure.

And because we can’t be sure means that Jackman as Logan has been able to pop up in some unexpected places in X-Men movies over the years. There are really two different X-Men movie franchises, the first trilogy that began in 2000 and the second First Class trilogy that began in 2011 and went back into the 1960s to see what the origins of the X-Men with new actors. But a clever plot-twist with the second film in that series Days of Future Past meant that a Wolverine living in our present could be sent back to relive his life and have adventures in the 1970s since Logan would look the same as he does today as 40 years ago.

But all things must end and now comes what’s reported to be the final Wolverine movie Logan, due in theaters March 3. This time, it’s the near future and an older Logan, still Jackman, and a much older Professor X (Patrick Stewart) must protect a girl with special powers from a group of rogue robotic assassins out to steal her for themselves or eliminate her if they must. And it’s up to Logan, who’s healing powers have started to break down, and Professor X, who’s begun to lose his grip on sanity, to save the girl to start a new era of X-Men.

The only thing is this idea of the “last” Wolverine movie. Now I could see it being the last Jackman Wolverine movie, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Wolverine continues long into the future with many different actors all playing that role. Don’t believe me, just ask the likes of Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer or Christian Bale if they thought they’d be the last guys to play Batman and see what they say.

Whilce Portacio The Uncanny X-Men #282 cover

X-Men Apocalypse movie review

Grade: C

xmen_apocalypse_ver18Here’s the thing — I am a fan of all things X-Men. I collected X-Men comics, watched X-Men cartoons and love the X-Men movie series. Well, mostly love. I wasn’t a big fan of the third X-Men movie X-Men: The Last Stand but otherwise I think for the most part those films are my favorite of all the comic books to movie series with X-Men: Days of Future Past being my favorite of the bunch.

That’s why it sucks for me so much to report that the latest X-Men movie X-Men: Apocalypse is a real stinker.

X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in 1983, 10 years after the previous X-Men: Days of Future Past which itself took place 10 years after the first X-Men: First Class. Which is the first problem with the movie — the characters have been around for 20 years of movie-time at this point yet they simply haven’t aged. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy) should be in their 50s with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult ) in their 40s with the passage of time, yet they all look as young and vibrant as ever.

Which admittedly is a minor quibble that’s easily overlooked except the movie’s chock full of stuff like that.

Most of the story deals with an ancient godlike En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Apocalypse is accidentally awakened in Egypt where he’s been slumbering for 5,000 years and promptly goes about recruiting a new team of his four horsemen of the apocalypse which he finds in the mutants of the 1980s. These acolytes include Magneto, Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). Apocalypse’s plan is to enhance these four mutants powers so they can go around and destroy the world so that the weak (or most everyone on the planet) dies leaving only the strong behind.


And why do these four mutants go along with Apocalypse and his planetary genocidal scheme? Well, that’s never really explained or explored. One minute these mutants wouldn’t harm a fly and the next they’re ready to murder mankind on a global scale which really makes no sense. So you give me something and say you’re the boss, and I’m ready to become a mass murdered because you say so no questions asked?

And lots of regular people die in this movie. Magneto kills a handful up-close and while using his powers to destroy cities ala Metropolis in Man of Steel thousands, if not millions more. And what price does he pay at the end of his movie for harming so many? Nothing whatsoever. This man who survived the death camps at Auschwitz and spent the first movie of the series hunting down the man who killed his mother becomes a mass murderer that would place him in the top tier of killers of all time. Worst of all at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past he’s a smiling, unburdened and free from being in jail of all the mass-destruction he’s caused.

Seriously, at the end of the movie many major cities have massive Magneto caused damages, yet at the end of the film everthing’s supposed to be hunky-dory.

X-Men the Age of Apocalypse posterAgainst Apocalypse and his minions are Xavier and a hodgepodge team of mutant students including shapeshifting Mystique, strong Beast, telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), able to shoot blasts of energy from his eyes Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), lightning-fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters), able to transport himself short distances Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and stands around looking concerned Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne). But these aren’t the X-Men per-se, they’re mostly students and other helpers from previous films thrown together in order to try and stop Apocalypse when Xavier is incapacitated.

Which is another problem with the movie — these characters have no training whatsoever in using their powers or working tighter as a team, yet here they fight like seasoned veterans of 1,000 wars. They aren’t so much the X-Men, but instead they’re who the X-Men will be at the end of the film when the movie studio is teasing the next one in the final scene.

Of course these good-guys, Apocalypse and his horsemen meet and do battle, this time in a ruined Cairo Apocalypse leveled when making a grand pyramid to himself. Which is another problem — for a character who’s strong enough to level a city from sheer willpower lane he doesn’t seem like he’d need the help of anyone else to ruin/rule the world.

And now that I think about it, this is the third X-Men movie of the current franchise yet there’s never really been a legitimate X-Men team. Okay, there were the future X-Men in Days of Future Past but otherwise in these prequel movies the main characters have always been young students thrown together in some fight to save the planet from some level of devastation. Yet in the decades of movie time between films Xavier never took the initiative to actually build an X-Men team, EVEN THOUGH THE MOVIE’S HAVE ALWAYS HAD X-MEN IN THE TITLE!

If there are two rays of light in X-Men: Days of Future Past it’s of the character of Nightcrawler who’s actually used quite well in this movie — his powers allow him to go places others can’t — and that of Quicksilver who was used to good effect in the previous movie too. Otherwise, the movie was mostly cloudy.

I dunno. I was really looking forward to X-Men: Apocalypse for a long while and have really enjoyed watching this current version of the cast inhabit their roles the last few films. But this movie was such an utter disappointment on so many levels I don’t know if with the next one — and there will be a next movie, X-Men: Apocalypse earned more than $500 million at the box office — I’d be so quick to see it.

That next X-Men movie might be one I wait to turn up on cable some Saturday night.


X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) movie review

This is a repost of a review I originally wrote back in 2006.

In yet another case of a movie not quite living up to the hype, X-Men: The Last Stand (aka X-Men 3) mostly delivers on the visuals but underperforms on the story.

In X-Men 3, a “cure” has been found for the “mutant gene” dividing the mutants into two camps. One camp, lead by Magneto (Ian McKellen), wants the cure destroyed and the mutants left as-is. The other, lead by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), wants to take a “live and let live” approach, allowing the mutants themselves decide their own fates.

Whereas the fight scenes between the mutants are awe inspiring, the story is paper thin with major holes and dialogue that’s shoddy/cliché. Characters motivations/actions seem to be driven by moving the plot forward rather than how those characters would normally act.

One would suspect that when a movie costs a reported $200 million to make at least some of that money would be spent on developing an excellent script, but apparently not.

Most frustrating of all, many of the major twists and turns in the movie seem to be driven more by contract negotiations with the actors than by servicing the plot.

Back in 2002 I called X-Men 2: X-Men United one of the best movies of the year and lamented that I couldn’t wait for X-Men 3. Unfortunately, X-Men 3 wasn’t worth the wait. (7/10)