Action, Reviews

Lucy

Lucy

Copyright © 2014 by Universal Pictures

Story
After a night of partying, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced by her boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbæk) to deliver a briefcase containing a valuable but illegal substance known as CPH4 to Mr Jang (Choi Min-sik), the leader of a Korean mob. Reluctantly, she is made to transport the drugs along with three other volunteers. When the bag that is sewn into Lucy’s stomach is broken, she begins experiencing heightened strength and intelligence while the acceleration in brain function enables her to develop a psychic and empathetic connection to everyone around her. The now unstoppable vigilante easily exacts revenge on her assailants but knowing her cerebral capacity is reaching to its maximum, she seeks Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) through mind travel to comprehend the rapid transformation her body is facing and its side effects.

Review
Hailed as ‘the most Hollywood of French film makers’, Luc Besson’s filmography encapsulates a string of high-octane actioners that not only did big business all over Europe but had profitable runs in the United States as well. The moniker rings true to this prolific visionary since ‘Léon: The Professional’ became the first of many English language hits to transcend expectations on both sides of the Atlantic and is a turning point for youthful Natalie Portman’s meteoric rise to stardom.

Not unlike ‘The Fifth Element’ (the highest grossing motion picture from France for 16 years until ‘The Intouchables’ surpassed it in 2011), ‘Lucy’ is borne out of the same creative mold that dares to defy regular action and science fiction tropes, culminating in a pseudo-philosophical exercise of Darwinian proportions. At a trim running time, Besson opts for quick cuts, alternating between Lucy’s hostile situation and Professor Norman’s lecture.

It effectively substantiates the connection of human evolution and actual footages are interspersed for dramatic profundity. The final say of what ‘Lucy’ is trying to achieve seems to be as polarising as the audiences who were in the same showing as I am (a full house by the way). Even when the credits have rolled, the chatter came awfully loud ranging from a sensational come back for Besson to being just meh (a weakness creeping up on the 55-year-old of late).

One thing is for sure; the effort has paid off handsomely and is on track in becoming the French’s most lucrative investment to date. Although it is significantly smarter than ‘The Transporter’ or ‘Taken’ series, viewers may be taken aback by the lack of stylised hand-to-hand combat or wire-fu which is already customary by today’s standards. The thought of seeing Johansson kicking the behinds of her tormentors à la Black Widow is reduced to a Jean Grey instead.

Despite the deficiency, a proficiently orchestrated car chase resorts to set things back on course when prior events have begun meandering. The ending can be frustrating and confusing for action fans who are only there to witness Johansson dabble in popcorn fluff but the risky selection would not have worked if this bona fide actress was not 100% onboard fully from the day of her participation (it is reiterated by the director himself on her enthusiasm towards the script).

The outlandish and mythical concept is kept from unraveling into absurdity through Johansson’s potent mix of a hapless yet strong-willed heroine. Her transformation from a coerced drug mule into a godlike entity is credible and you cannot help but cheer her on when she storms into the battlefield with guns ablazing. It is what keeps the movie afloat. She will continue to be everywhere after this. I can only hope the doubters will see it for what it is in time; a scientific and spiritual overview hidden within the frames of undemanding fun.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality

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Action, Reviews

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past

Copyright © 2014 by 20th Century Fox

Story
All mutants in the future are being hunted down and captured by the Sentinels, robots created from Trask Industries. The remaining X-Men band together to survive the attacks with Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) ability to project Bishop’s (Omar Sy) consciousness back in time. He ensures the team anticipates the Sentinels next move and the success of deflecting these adaptive androids prompts Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 in convincing his younger self (James McAvoy) on the cataclysmic future mutants faced from the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the inventor of the original mutant-hunting machines by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). His death will spearhead the programme and Mystique’s capture enhances the new batch of Sentinels into their current indestructible form. With Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) on their side, Xavier must locate his adopted sister to prevent her actions from shaping the continuous mutant genocide.

Review
Ever since Bryan Singer returned to the franchise with the magnetic and mind-bending revamp on the formative years of Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr’s friendship in the 1960’s, his next course of action is to fix the continuity issues that has plagued ‘The Last Stand’ since ‘First Class’ introduced an alternate look into its storytelling. In short, Singer is trying to wipe out that bad aftertaste left by Brett Ratner and just start over, without having to recast the stars of the original trilogy. What better way than to craft an intricate extension for both timelines with a classic from Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s time travelling escapade.

Many have wondered prior to the release how would the existing and newer mutants share the screen in a running time of just 130 minutes long. It is finally answered with the main players from the 2011 preboot shouldering most of the emotional weight whilst the jaw-dropping action sequences are left for the internationally diverse recruits to impress in the grim future; the display of powers in the opening is awe-inspiring but the most visually-stimulating is Blink’s (Fan Bingbing) ability to create portals of teleportation. As with all other installments, the problem still seems to be too many mutants (blink, and you may miss them for good).

Rather than just being mere silent survivors of the apocalypse, it always helps if the viewers are better acquainted to these characters’ background and their timely fight against the Sentinels. That being said, it is welcoming to see Stewart and Ian McKellen back as their older selves, providing the dignified elegance in a chaotic world literally going up in flames. There are a few surprise cameos that will delight any ‘X-Men’ fan but Halle Berry’s Storm may as well been that as she continues to struggle as a force to be reckoned with. It is great news of her younger self being considered for the next chapter (hopefully, more on her challenging upbringing than her weather-wielding powers).

The drama unfolds soon after Logan is transported back to his younger self in 1973. Jackman can sleepwalk in the role and still be captivating whenever he is on screen (he does take a backseat for his younger cohorts to shine this time around). In ‘First Class’, the scale is tipped more in favour for Fassbender’s damaged master of magnetism to flex his acting chops but the mantle now has shifted to McAvoy. His portrayal of a broken Xavier is easily the heart that bridges the soulful connectivity to Fassbender and Lawrence’s representations.

A major difference in Singer’s present effort compared to his first two entries is the much needed humour injected into an otherwise still very serious film. The backlash surrounding Evan Peters’ Quicksilver I would have to say is quite unfounded here. A scene stealer from the moment he steps into the picture, his antics are absolutely hilarious and gets top marks for most original breakout in a heavily guarded facility. Too bad his services do not extend further into the plot. It surely would have elevated the dismal tone which follows after that.

For those who are not aware of the X-Men’s next endeavour, it will be set in the 1980s. A fun retrospect to the various decades and the wealth of pop references which go hand in hand to set this new trilogy apart from its more contemporary trio told in the 21st century. Do not be baffled if some key points cannot be accounted for. It is getting neatly there with each episode. Sure, the running time could have been longer coupled with a more climatic battle but it is no small achievement when your (Singer) latest nearly tops the best (X2) in the series. Be sure to also stay right till the end of the credits for a peek to an X-travagantly ‘apocalyptic’ teaser.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language

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Action, Reviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Spiderman 2

Copyright © 2014 by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Story
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is graduating from high school and is torn between his love for Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and the promise he made to George Stacy (Denis Leary) while trying to keep his beloved city safe as Spider-Man. As the relationship heads to a rocky direction, Parker is saddled with Electro (Jamie Foxx), a former employee of OsCorp whose genetics have been altered after a freak accident is now bent on destroying the city with the help of Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Parker’s once best friend has returned to Manhattan upon receiving news of his father’s (Chris Cooper) terminal illness. He discovers the same medical condition Norman is suffering from will affect him too once he hits puberty. Desperate for a cure, he seeks for Spider-Man’s blood as the healing properties may be able to reverse his worsening state. Worried that it will be unstable, Parker refuses the request which leads to Osborn’s alliance with Electro and the ensuing massive destruction.

Review
As with all reboots, the decision to start over is always driven by the fact that the last chapter did not fare too well with either the fans, critics or both. After the rather convoluted ‘Spider-Man 3’ bit off more than it could chew, Sam Raimi, director of the original trilogy had intended to move on with part 4 to salvage a less than stellar critical reception before the deal fell through between him and Sony due to the new script unable to progress its story artistically. It is not a roadblock for Sony though to still get another take released before the rights expire and are returned to Marvel.

While the remake of Spidey’s beginnings in Marc Webb’s 2012 version threads similarly to the Tobey Maguire one, what Webb differs in his interpretation is the prominence in both the burglar who murdered Parker’s Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and parents who harbour a dark secret. The unresolved arcs provide for a more gripping watch and add intrigue to a rather well-paced but not necessarily amazing film. With the rate current franchises are heading now, many do not just end in their own universe. They set themselves up for a larger picture or to branch off into other equally interwoven tales via spinoffs and secondary but no less popular characters.

Its follow up jumps right back into what truly happened to Parker’s parents and their association with OsCorp. A rousing start to a tragic end, the film continues at a quicker pace than its predecessor and only slows down for the required character exposition on new foes for our web slinger to battle and his tumultuous romance with Stacy. It is a stroke of genius for the writers to focus on Parker’s love life as it is the strongest element surrounding this new production. Never once a dull moment whenever the two are together; whether it is discussing the future of their relationship or saving the world, their chemistry is so spot-on, it only adds to the disappointment that Stacy is not his eventual other half.

The news of Shailene Woodley hired as Mary Jane Watson in a supporting role but had to be left out for the couple’s scenes to be more believable is a mixed bag. I am definitely all for Stone to carry on with her dominance in Hollywood but it would have been nice to see Woodley in action as the redhead who finally gets to say ‘I do’ to our masked superhero. It can act as a precursor to how she will fare against her blonde counterpart. These are big shoes to fill for a part that was previously written-in only as a means of conflict to the earlier pairing of Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.

For those who are concerned that plotting is cluttered with superfluous extras, fret not, ‘Spider-Man 3’ it is not. Although the marketers will have you believe there are numerous baddies, it is in fact not the case at all. They remain dormant or elusive for most of the film and will only reappear in the coming features. The many unanswered questions will leave some insatiate after 142 minutes of suspending with Spidey, notwithstanding an amazing aerial view of Manhattan. It is frustrating to not obtain a neatly tied up conclusion, but if you are a fan, you will know that the premise here is just a platform to launch for more elaborately constructed schemes and mayhem.

Go in with an open mind and you will find there is still much to love about Webb’s second time direction. The action is serviceable, effects are rendered beautifully and comic timing transitions naturally while your friendly arachnid is out saving the day. It also helps if your appealing leads are all in fine form – DeHaan’s Osborn is cold but approachable and his turn as the Green Goblin needs to be at the forefront in the next round, a much meaner and crazier reincarnation than James Franco’s insecure take.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A-
Plot: B+

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence

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Action, Reviews

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox

Story
Set to events after X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine / Logan (Hugh Jackman) has left the X-Men team and is residing in Canada where he is constantly haunted by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Because of the great loss, the emptiness he is feeling is taking a toll on him emotionally. During his time as a soldier in World War 2 when he was held captive in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki, he rescued an officer named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) and protected him from the atomic bomb blast that took place. Back to the present, he gets word from Yukio (Rila Fukushima) that Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is dying of cancer and wants Logan to follow her back to Japan upon Yashida’s request to repay his life debt. Upon arrival, he is embroiled with the Japanese mob, samurais and ninjas while still in conflict with his inner demons.

Review
After the lackluster direction of X-Men Origins, a lot has been riding on for its follow-up to turn the tide and restore movie goers’ confidence, casual and avid alike about our favourite clawed hero. It is a step towards the right direction when Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan) was approached to helm the sequel and Christopher McQuarrie, who had written the acclaimed ‘The Usual Suspects’ had been in charge with the script. It could very well turn out to be brooding and gritty, not unlike ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘The Black Swan, but alas, the final product, while has been adjusted to James Mangold’s more mainstream sensibilities does not lose sight of its original vision. Even with a script re-write from Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, the emotional turmoil and void that our protagonist is going through are very much present in the film.

While the essence of the movie is retained, has the world weary Logan stepped out of his cave and searches for inner peace in the Land of the Rising Sun enough to make ‘The Wolverine’ the comeback everyone is hoping it to be? It definitely is a resounding ‘yes’. It is without a doubt right now that Jackman owns the role. After his stint at Les Miserables last year that earned him his first Oscar nomination, Jackman continues with this winning streak and takes us on an emotional journey not seen in the past movies. It is through the exploration of having to live forever with no purpose as your loved ones are taken away one lifetime after another provides a vulnerable facet to Wolverine.

He is ably supported by a cast predominantly Asian with endearing performances from Fukushima and Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida. From their renditions, it does not seem that they are novices to the film industry. Although only meant to provide continuity from Last Stand, it is always welcoming to see a fellow X-Man (or Woman) thrown into the mix. Having Janssen back as Jean adds the necessary dimension needed for the audience to feel Logan’s pain, loss and detachment from the rest of the world. Her strategically placed scenes also act as a threat to Logan’s blossoming relationship with Mariko.

For some who may find this character driven piece a little too slow, it does make up for it with some well choreographed action. It is a prerequisite in all comic book adaptations these days. While Origins was bombarded with one loud action piece after another, ‘The Wolverine’ only unfolds its fights and chases after sufficient time has been spent on dramatic exposition. The highlights begin with the attempted kidnapping of Mariko at the funeral, which stretches to a fight between Wolverine and the Yakuza clan on top of a bullet train and a drawn out swordplay involving Yukio and Shingen
Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) whilst Logan attempts to rid off a robotic parasite joined to his heart.

There have been criticisms about the third act faltering into typical comic book fare and revelations at the end were none too surprising but to the naysayers, this is the most personal and intimate tale in the franchise as it can ever be, thanks to efficient storytelling from Mangold. Whether the change of pacing, setting and direction can inspire bigger returns in the overall box office remains to be seen as a few key markets have yet to open ‘The Wolverine’. While Logan is not certain where he intends to go after all the kerfuffle in Japan, it is safe to say that our spiritual journey with him has been most satisfying and we can only hope for the film makers to keep pushing the envelope should there be a continuation to his adventures.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language

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Action, Reviews

X-Men: First Class

First Class

Copyright © 2011 by 20th Century Fox

Story
A prequel to X-Men, it is set in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis serving as the backdrop in shaping and severing Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto’s friendship (Michael Fassbender). It heavily focuses on the early years of their lives and how the the X-Men are recruited to combat the malicious threat of the Hellfire Club, a secret society bent on world domination. It is through the actions of the group leader, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) that prompt Magneto to form his very own Brotherhood of Mutants.

Review
Seeing as to how this is not about Wolverine for once, Matthew Vaughn, the director of said flick and would-be director of Last Stand draws inspiration from Bryan Singer’s original and repeats the opening sequence where we first discover Magneto’s ability. It still evokes goose bumps every time I see it. Here, we discover that the young Magneto is forced to use his gift by a Dr Klaus Schmidt aka Sebastian Shaw and failure to do so will lead to the end of his mother’s life. We would not have a movie if he succeeded, right? Through the death of his mother, his anger unleashes his magnetic powers and thus sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Although the film spends a great deal of screen time fleshing out Xavier and Magneto’s characters, without a doubt, Magneto wins hands down for being the showstopper of this prequel. I have nothing against James McAvoy’s portrayal as the younger and sexier Xavier (it is just oozing with charm), but when you are up against with a more tormented and damaged character, there is only so much you can bring to the table. Any lesser actor taking on this role, he would have completely vanished from a star turn performance by Michael Fassbender as the grief-stricken orphan. With such magnetism, we are fully immersed in his plight for revenge and vigilantism. It is a bit of a downer whenever the focus shifts to the other cast members.

The film makers should have just made a Magneto spin-off instead of incorporating his back story into this prequel. From what is shown here, it seems like it is just a tip of the iceberg to his complicated past. One can hope for more in the upcoming sequel but it is unlikely that such emphasis will be to his favour as Days of Future Past (the next chapter) will have an even bigger challenge of juggling a huge cast from events in both First Class and Last Stand. However, it is admirable that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who played supporting roles in the earlier installments are finally given the chance to shine.

All mutants ever wanted are to fit in with the rest of the world. Through the noteworthy performances from both of these young thespians, we understand the difficulties of being different and living in a time with a lot of intolerance, it is sometimes better to be like everyone else. Of course it would never be complete if there isn’t an antagonist who is trying to rein mutant supremacy over the human race. As the main villain, Kevin Bacon hams it up as Shaw and does incite some relevance on his decision to level the playing field, which Magneto mirrors in X-Men.

Seems to be quite a handful to handle in a 132-minute movie, right? Fret not, in the capable hands of Vaughn and a well-written script, what we get is a return to form with superb acting from the main players, consistent pacing and some nifty action sequences (particularly the one when Shaw’s boat receives a new facelift from Magneto). The only thing I would have liked to see done differently if the secondary characters (Xavier’s first batch of students) are given more to do, rather than just being merely there to drive the plot forward. We will just have to wait with bated breath for the next one to grace our screens to address some of the inconsistencies faced between the older trilogy and this preboot.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Wolverine

Copyright © 2009 by 20th Century Fox

Story
A spin-off from the X-Men film series, it chronicles the life of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), focusing on his violent past and his relationship with his half-brother Victor Creed / Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). The plot also details Wolverine’s early encounters with Major William Stryker (Danny Huston), his time with Team X, and the bonding of Wolverine’s skeleton with the indestructible metal adamantium during the Weapon X programme.

Review
It was only a matter of time before our most beloved X-Men on screen was headlining his own movie. After getting a glimpse of his past in the first two X-Men films, Wolverine’s complicated background is fully revealed here. We learn that his real name is James Logan and his mutation was triggered when his adopted father was killed by his real father. In an act of rage, James kills him and flees with his half-brother, Victor. As it happened in 1845 and they have the gift of regeneration, they spend the next century as soldiers fighting in the American Civil War, both World Wars and the Vietnam War. It was fascinating to learn that they were such an integral part to world history and it would have been good if the film makers explored this facet of their lives a little longer.

Instead, what we get is just a snapshot of those events and how they supported each other through those harrowing times. It further cements their relationship when Victor kills a senior officer in 1975 and James jumps to his defense, prompting their execution by firing squad which they survive. They are then offered a place to join Team X by Stryker that consists of other mutants including Agent Zero (Daniel Henney), Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), John Wraith (will.i.am), Fred Dukes (Kevin Durand), and Chris Bradley (Dominic Monaghan). They join the team but James decides to leave the group when he does not see eye to eye with his team mates on their mistreatment for human life. After six years, he is seen working as a lumberjack in Canada and living with Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). But a series of events concocted by Stryker lures James back to the colonel and agrees to undergo the painful operation of melding his bones with the unbreakable metal under the pretense that Stryker is helping him to exact revenge.

It is noble that James went through all that pain for love. Again, if the film delved more on James and Kayla’s relationship and their time together in Canada, it would have made a far stronger conviction once he decided that it was the only way for him to rid off all that anger. Understandably, the focus is all on Wolverine and Hugh Jackman does not disappoint. Having played him for the fourth time with a committed physical training regimen, he is every bit the Wolverine as envisioned in the long running comics. If the bar was not set so incredibly high by the works of Bryan Singer, this would have been a respectable effort as a standalone film. As it is not, the finished product, though polished is lacking in the grittiness that defined the first two in the series. The characters are layered with enough complexities to whet the audiences’ appetite for coming installments.

The same cannot really be said here. We are introduced to many interesting and colourful characters but they are just too supporting or blandly straightforward for us to care about them. It is unfortunate as there are many standout performances, most notably from Liev Schreiber, Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch as Gambit, another fan favourite finally brought to life after numerous unsuccessful attempts prior to this. Although just a brief appearance, it is also worth mentioning that Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal of Wade Wilson aka Deadpool is spot-on and captures the essence of this wisecracking mercenary with lethal swordsmanship skills. Still waiting for him to headline his own movie since negotiations began in 2003! He definitely gave the immortal brothers a run for their money during the final battle.

Whether it is a clash of creativity between the film makers and the personnel of Fox which could have altered the original vision of this project, to the purists who are hoping that this is the equivalent of DC’s Batman Begins, they may need to wait for another attempt to bring these established characters back to their glory days. Fret not, while it is not the redemption that we are hoping for after the last outing, it is still commendable for what has been presented on Wolverine’s early days. Now that it is already covered, let us hope for his next romp as the clawed one, it will be a return to form with his usual cool, rough and gruff demeanor, bub.

Rating
Entirety: B
Acting: A-
Plot: B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity

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X-Men: The Last Stand

The Last Stand

Copyright © 2006 by 20th Century Fox

Story
After the events from X2, the humans and mutants are seemingly living peacefully together. But wary of possible threats on mutant kind, both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants continue to fortify themselves should such a day occur. Things are set in motion when Worthington Labs, a pharmaceutical company has successfully developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their abilities and is offering a ‘cure’ to all mutants who wants it. Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his Brotherhood are convinced that all mutants will be forced to accept the cure and manage to persuade many in joining his fight against it. Matters are further complicated when Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is resurrected as the Phoenix, a Class 5 mutant who possesses potentially limitless telepathic and telekinetic powers and her loyalty lies with Magneto instead. To prevent the battle from escalating to a full fledge war with the humans, the X-Men will once again need to make their stand for peaceful co-existence led by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) against the Brotherhood’s more radical approach.

Review
After two highly enjoyable and emotional outings with our favourite mutants, expectations will indeed be high for its next saga. Third time should still be a charm considering how X2 ended with so many possibilities that Last Stand can head. Loosely basing on two comic book story arcs ‘The Dark Phoenix Saga’ and ‘Gifted’, the emotional gravitas that you can get out of it is abundant. Unfortunately, it felt hollow and slightly manufactured. The characters are there just to move the plot along and do not impact any lasting impressions as compared to earlier installments. The decisions made by some major characters feels calculated and killing them off halfway through to muster some shock value only screams desperate and unnecessary.

As many have put the blame solely on Brett Ratner for this outcome, things began falling apart right after Bryan Singer, director of the first two movies left the project to direct Superman Returns instead (another well-made albeit underrated treatment of The Man of Steel). The story was to focus on Jean’s transformation and how she is manipulated by Emma Frost to gain control of her powers. While the finished movie still retains Jean being misguided by Magneto, the entire script had to be rewritten from scratch. Though Matthew Vaughn (Singer’s first replacement) would have surely retained the emotional depth and skewed towards heavier characterisation as will be seen in the next chapter of the X-Men saga that he undertakes, it was still a commendable feat that Ratner was able to get the job done in order to meet its release year in 2006. Vaughn withdrew even before filming began due to family issues and was cautious about the rushed production.

It is a culmination of many unfortunate circumstances that leads to this misstep and Ratner should be spared from all the loathe he has been receiving since the movie’s release. Granted that I would have preferred to see more of James Marsden’s Cyclops (again!) on screen or the motivations behind Pyro’s (Aaron Stanford) decision to join the Brotherhood, there are still many great moments that Ratner did bring to the table. Known for his flair in directing stylised action sequences as was evident in his Rush Hour series, the X-Men’s powers once again take centre stage to contribute to three very exhilarating and dramatic scenes. It starts off with Jean’s family house getting an unplanned make-over, followed by the restructuring of the Golden Gate Bridge to provide access to Alcatraz Island which leads to the climatic battle among the humans, the X-Men, the Brotherhood, the Omegas (a group consisting of mutant outcasts) and Jean.

While character development for the main and new characters are light, the introduction of a cure to the mutants’ abilities reflect how being in the minority who are different will usually need to adhere to conditions that are perceived as normal or acceptable, providing the political angle that permeated in its predecessors. To maintain its serious tone throughout, John Powell, the composer for this film scored a splendid soundtrack infusing the orchestra with lyrics from Benjamin Britten’s Requiem Mass to create a heightened sense of intensity in each rousing scene. As the focal point to the entire plot, Famke Janssen gets to shine and reminded us why she was one of the best things to happen in GoldenEye. Although the explanation as to how she unleashed the Phoenix is left to be desired, her portrayal as the conflicted and ‘darker’ Jean deserves recognition for elevating the overall mediocrity of the film’s storytelling.

Despite the flaws and some unanswered questions raised, it is still recommended for all X-Men fans and casual moviegoers alike to see and be entertained with state-of-the-art effects, stylised action, great acting and a thought provoking story with subtle political undertones. For all the ongoing internal issues that plagued this project, it deserves a lot more love than what it is getting now. It may be the last stand for some of the mutants here but the journey is ubiquitously far from being the last.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A-
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language

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