Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dark Phoenix (2019)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel and TSG Entertainment

Dark Phoenix – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp

Director: Simon Kinberg

Synopsis: After a mission in space goes awry, a deadly cosmic force connects with the powerful Jean Grey creating an unstoppable force that threatens to have deadly consequences for mutants and humanity alike…

Review: Fox’s X Men franchise was for a time, the pinnacle of superhero films in the 2000s, at least before the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet even as the MCU grew, Fox remained undeterred and, even with a few misfires, produced some outstanding superhero showdowns. However, with the deal to bring Fox under the Disney/Marvel umbrella now officially complete, this franchise is now coming to its conclusion. Though there is one more entry to come before the passing of the torch, this represents one final opportunity for the franchise to go out with a bang, but unfortunately it fizzles out into nothing.

Eight years after the events of the Apocalypse, the X-Men are summoned to a space mission that has gone badly wrong, leaving the lives of the astronauts in serious peril. During the rescue mission, a cosmic force of unknown power latches itself onto Jean Grey, creating the very powerful Dark Phoenix. Upon touching back down on Earth, though everything seems to initially be fine, trouble begins to brew and the X-Men must try and contain Jean’s power before she becomes too powerful for any of them to stop.

For every high that this franchise has experienced, there has always been a crushing disappointment, and sadly Dark Phoenix falls into the latter category, which given its troubled production, shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Things started off brightly when we first met these characters, though in the wake of the underwhelming Apocalypse, this continues that downward trajectory. For a story that is very popular in the comics, and one that has already been attempted before in The Last Stand, writer/director Simon Kinberg efforts to translate it for the big screen fall completely flat. It has a promising start, but once the Phoenix is born, the plot meanders along, only occasionally perking up every now and again to deliver an action scene, which while exciting, is not nearly enough given what we know this series is capable of.

One thing these films absolutely got right was the casting of the younger versions of these characters. James McAvoy is once again excellent as Xavier, being that father figure presence. Though he doesn’t get nearly enough material to work with, Michael Fassbender is solid once again as Magneto. Though, Jennifer Lawrence has definitely had better moments in the blue of Mystique. The key player here is Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, she does a sterling job conveying the pain and anguish that her character is experiencing at that moment in time, but her arc definitely had room for improvement.  Jessica Chastain’s presence  as a villain adds nothing substantial to the plot. Her motivations are threadbare and she’s just not intimidating enough to be taken seriously, a scandalous waste of her immense acting talents.

With the future of this franchise now in the hands of the folks running the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were probably hoping for the franchise to sign off in spectacular flaming glory. The potential was there, but even with the talents of all these actors, and another excellent score from Hans Zimmer, it’s just not realised. The great journey that we have been on these characters started off well, but they didn’t get the send off that they would have wanted. It’s a real shame that the penultimate entry in this iteration of the X-Men franchise flickers briefly before being extinguished with a whimper.

Another attempt at this iconic story is regretfully another misfire, thanks to some lacklustre performances, stilted dialogue and a very tedious plot. This is one phoenix that won’t be rising from the ashes any time soon.

 

Advertisements
Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men: Apocalypse (2016)

xmen apocalypse
All image rights belong to 20th Century Fox, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Oscar Isaac, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: After awakening from a multiple millennium long sleep, the world’s first mutant En Sabur Nur otherwise known as Apocalypse finds himself in the 1980s and seeks to bring about human extinction, and Charles Xavier and the X Men must stop him.

Review: Despite the nine films we have now had in this franchise, the events of 2014’s Days of Future Past scrambled those timelines for good and effectively erasing all the X Men films from existence, with the exception of 2011’s First Class. The reboot that set the wheels in motion for this new trilogy and the new direction that the franchise is heading. The first X Men trilogy certainly had after two great instalments, an ignominious third chapter is probably the reason the whole franchise got rebooted to get to where we are now. After two spectacular entries to the new trilogy, one could have hoped for that brilliant third chapter, yet sadly, the latest instalment once again falls short of matching the great quality of the films that came before it.

This isn’t to say that Bryan Singer’s latest venture into the world of mutants is anything like the car crash that was The Last Stand, it certainly has its moments, but there are problems too. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender having firmly established themselves in their roles as Professor X and Magneto bring very credible and powerful performances to the mix. For Magneto in particular when it looks as things are looking up for him in a new life, it isn’t long before it all goes very badly wrong. While she doesn’t give her strongest performance as Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence, also brings some solid acting to the mix.  Without doubt one of the highlights of Days of Future Past was Quicksilver’s moment of brilliance. He has a similar scene here, and it is fun to watch him in action, but it’s nowhere near as glorious as his moment in Days of Future Past.

Of the newcomers, by far the biggest stand-out is that of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, a perfect casting choice as she gives off that vulnerability but extraordinary power that we saw from Famke Jensen in the first two X Men films, with her love interest Cyclops now played by Tye Sheridan. The two of them share a connection over their powers and it is exciting to see where this could go. Similarly Kodi Smit-McPhee gives an excellent performance as a young Nightcrawler. The script by Simon Kinberg does give each of these characters to flesh out their characters, but this isn’t applicable to every mutant.

Yet when it comes to the villains, this is where the film REALLY loses its way. Oscar Isaac may have been an inspired choice to play the titular villain as he’s fast becoming a very prolific and great actor. Yet frustratingly, his performance while having its menacing moments, does feel somewhat underwhelming in a similar vein to Ultron in last years’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is supposedly the most powerful mutant to have ever existed and he is nowhere near as menacing as he could and perhaps should be. This frustration extends to his horseman, Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto. With the exception of Magneto, their motivations are not entirely made clear and they are also given very little material to work with and flesh out their characters, unlike the younger mutants who are fighting for the X Men.

The plot is a little bit disjointed and messy in terms of its pacing at times, and there is one side arc that arguably could have just been cut out of the film altogether, although it is quite possible that it was there to help set up a future X Men film down the line. The CGI remains of a decent standard and the action scenes in particular the final throw down are enjoying to watch, but they are nowhere near as enthralling as those that were helmed by Vaughn in First Class and by Singer himself in Days of Future Past. Thus ultimately this was a real missed opportunity for Singer to make a film worthy to its two predecessors and to cement itself as a great X Men trilogy. The film’s extensive cast all certainly give their all, but with so many characters all vying for screen time, some do get left in the shadows of the great Egyptian pyramid that Apocalypse emerged from.

McAvoy and Fassbender bring the best performances, and a handful of new performances shine, but the underwhelming villain mean this doesn’t match the quality of Days of Future Past.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men First Class (2011)

xmen first class
Image righrs belong to Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Production, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners and 20th Century Fox

X Men – First Class Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, January Jones

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis: In the middle of the Cold War, the US government seeks the help of a young Charles Xavier aided by a young Erik Lensherr, to stop the rise of Sebastian Shaw, a mutant hell bent on mutant supremacy, and human extinction.

Review: When we were first introduced to characters such as Professor X, Mystique, Magneto and the rest of the X Men crew back in 2000, they were already well established as seasoned mutant veterans, and the battle lines were already firmly drawn particularly between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr with very different ideologies. However, the origins of that rivalry were ultimately not explored in a substantial amount of detail in the original trilogy. What made them into the enemies that they ultimately become? Matthew Vaughn after directing the brilliant Kick Ass, has the answers to the questions with this prequel tale of the story that was set in motion by Bryan Singer.

It is the 1960s, and we meet a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) , with a head full of hair and not wheelchair bound, and his loyal friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence by his side. Through circumstances and the plucky wit of CIA Agent Moira McTaggert, they come across the brilliant but somewhat warped Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon.) Shaw is a firm believer of mutant superiority and that mutants are the next step of the evolution process. His methods and madness certainly play on the mind of Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) who is hunting Shaw with a vengeance after some brutal tests that he carried out on him when Erik was a teenager. Through circumstances, the two cross paths and become allies in their fight to take Shaw down. But of course there is a very obvious difference between the two men in terms of their philosophy, and despite their initial friendship, the cracks begin to show.

With a whole new cast of mutants we had grown to love over the course of the original trilogy, this new crop had a great challenge on their hands, and thankfully they all came through in flying colours, particularly from McAvoy and Fassbender. McAvoy gives the younger Xavier a youthful spirit and while he remains the incredibly powerful mutant he is, he clearly loves life and cherishes those closes to him, specifically Raven, played by Jennifer Lawrence. After Rebecca Romijin’s great work with the blue skinned mutant, but Lawrence manages to give the character terrific depth as she struggles to decide where her place in the world really lies. Fassbender’s Lensherr is a man driven by hatred and revenge after some deep personal tragedy, and his performance is also incredibly powerful. It’s the work of these three that ultimately helps drive the movie forward, in particular the relationship between Charles and Erik, added with a very fine cameo from everyone’s favourite claw wielding mutant. Yet there’s a plethora of new mutants on show, and not all of them get a chance to shine which is a bit bothersome to say the least.

After showing his hand in the superhero genre with Kick Ass, Vaughn does a tremendous job once again. The screenplay that Vaughn penned with Jane Goldman along with Zack Stenz and Ashley Edward Miller goes deep into what it means to be a mutant. Are they superior to us weak and pathetic human beings, or should they be a part of society. And for some, they want to just hide away altogether. Vaughn knows how to handle the big action scenes and once again he delivers some gripping moments, with the final throw down in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis conflict is enthralling to the maximum. After suffering a few trips, this prequel gave the franchise a welcome return to form, no doubt leaving fans Xstatic and keen to see more!

With exciting performances from the new cast, especially from McAvoy and Fassbender, combined with some expert direction and action sequences, the franchise returned with a triumph!

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men- Days of Future Past (2014)

DOFP
Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men Days of Future Past Film Review 

Cast:  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Nicholas Hoult,  Ellen Page, Evan Peters.

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future, with humanity enslaved and the X Men on the brink of extinction. Wolverine is sent back into the past in an attempt to change the future and prevent the extermination of all mutant kind.

Review: With the original trilogy of X Men films that came out in the 2000s, and the 2011 prequel X Men First Class, as well as the two Wolverine stand alone films. There were two different  timelines of this popular franchise with different casts.  Two loose ends that needed tying up. They were tied up and the end result is an enthralling combination of both of these timelines as past and future collide in epic proportions with the triumphant return of the man who launched this universe way back in 2000.

That man, Mr Bryan Singer has pulled out of the bag the best X Men movie that has been put to screen, whilst at the same time erasing the wrongdoings that went down in his absence (cough, The Last Stand). The amalgamation of both the First Class storyline and the present day X Men storyline is a master-stroke, and full credit for that must go to screenplay writer Simon Kinberg. Under Singer’s direction these two sets of actors, both of which are all exceptionally talented, go all out .Every one of them give excellent performances from the veterans like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, to new recruits such as Fan BingBing as Blink.

The mutant race is facing a dire threat in the form of the Sentinels who are coming to eradicate them. The mutants, past and future alike must stand together to avoid the extinction of all mutant kind. The real scene stealers come from The First Class cast, but the original cast are by no means out of their depth. One of the stand out performances comes from James McAvoy as the young Xavier. He is at his lowest low after his fall out with Magneto and must be urged to come to the fore once again. First Class really humanised the wise Professor X, and with Days of Future Past, that carries on.

Similarly as the young Magneto, Michael Fassbender, has similar grievances with Xavier and once again these two men clash. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has had a tendency to stand out in previous X Men movies and while he is central to this story, and he is still a really cool character, he’s outshone on this occasion by the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X.  Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique is another character who takes it up a gear. Her role in this movie requires here to be a lot more of a badass when compared to her role previously, and she pulls it off well.

With the old cast, they are not in the movie as much as their First Class counterparts, they feel somewhat underused, and some only make fleeting appearances. Likewise with the new selection of mutants, there are some exciting action scenes with these new characters, but they are almost over before they really get going. Yet with the central action of the film being focused on the events surrounding the First Class cast, it is understandable why the original cast have comparatively little screen time. With one scene involving one new character that you WILL remember once you have left the cinema.

The main antagonist in the form of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the Sentinels and brilliantly played by Peter Dinklage. While his motives are not completely clear, he nevertheless he gives an excellent performance. The action here is not quite as intense as First Class. The battle is not being waged right in the middle of the Cuban Missile crisis, but it gives it a great run for its money with a superb final showdown taking place in Washington DC.

Time travel films can be horrifically inconsistent if they are done badly, and plot holes can be found in abundance. Luckily with this film that is just simply not the case. The story is solid and it is very well done with excellent directing and great execution. It makes you care about all the characters and they all provide memorable performances. It breathes new life back into the old franchise that suffered a regretful fate following X Men 3. Furthermore, the franchise returned with a bang following First Class and with Days of Future Past, it is clear that this particular line of comic book superheroes still has a lot of Xciting things going for it!

With such a large cast of old and new, it means some characters do not have a large amount of screen time. However with Singer’s return, the amalgamation of these two franchises results in the best X Men film that has ever been made. 

a