Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Have you ever tried... not being a mutant?

No 432 - X-Men 2
Director - Bryan Singer

So, for the first time in this little blog, I jump straight into the middle of a trilogy as the original X-Men isn't deemed up to scratch. The only shame is we miss out on the wonderful little introduction to Magneto which I love because it sets a wonderfully bleak tone to the entire trilogy.
Instead, however, we get a truly epic assassination attempt in the White House as Nightcrawler whooshes in and attempts a presidential attack. The pace is super fast as clouds of blue smoke show the mutant getting ever closer to its prey. What is impressive about these opening scenes is that they really play with the idea of teleporting, the way that he can vanish mid kick and appear else where. It is an exciting dynamic which would be exhausting for a whole film, but for a few frantic scene setting minutes - it is brilliant.

Bryan Singer's X-Films have excellent introductions. And it is very pleasant indeed to actually see Alan Cumming in a good film (which seems to happen less and less often).
So, why is this superhero film in the top 500? It couldn't be just down to the excellent set pieces. And there are some truly amazing set pieces.
Lets look at what happens when Magneto manages to rip the iron from a prison guard's blood stream.

Moments in which Magneto manipulates the metal to create a travelling disc and two mental bouncing bullets'o'doom show the phenomenal powers these mutants can have and how dangerous a foe someone like Eric is. It also allows for some cool whizzing destruction within a beautifully minimalist perspex prison. Where everything is made of perspex, regardless of whether its needed or not. The serene minimalism of the environs just amplify the destruction. KABLAMMO
But mere set pieces alone won't be enough. What seems to be the real triumph for the X-Men trilogy are the villains. The X-Men themselves tend to be quite dull (even Wolverine, although that may be because the franchise is near enough DEMANDING I love him) but Magneto is a fascinating bad guy, and Mystique is also wonderful (and - in those few moments in the films where you see her out of the epic make up - Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is very pretty). However, there is one role in particular which shines like a beacon of mad and evil genius. May I introduce you to Stryker.
Brian Cox's secret military unit chief is so evil he becomes almost a cartoon. He is much more of a comic book villain than any of the mutants, regardless that he is the one without super powers. This is a man who lobotomises his own son to milk him for his mutation (a hallucinatory drug which makes people super obedient and which is the useful weapon of this film), this is a man who kidnaps the little mutant children just so he can watch the mutants die. He is a properly evil man because he is unscrupulous, bigoted and callous. You have to love a villain that embraces their villainy. There is no attempt in the film to humanise Stryker. There is no attempt to understand his motives. He just hates mutants and wants to rid them. His plot (which is cunning) to destroy the mutants is the central thread of the film, but there are at least three more littered throughout.
Firstly.... the plot which appears in every X-Movie, Wolverine wanting to discover his identity and his past. In this search we learn a little bit more about Adamantium (alas it has nothing to with this) and we meet Lady Deathstrike - who comes off looking like 'Lady Wolverine', in that she also has those claw hands - only she has catlike agility, rather than beserker rage. To be honest, her character is kind of dull and nondescript until the very end, where Kelly Hu manages to show a tragically beautiful resigned sadness - made all the more tragic by her little metal 'tears'.
The second plot is the teenager plot. With Rogue, Iceman and Pyro being whizzed about with the pivotal X-men in order for them to have that choice.... do they want to be goodies or baddies? To be honest, their little plight is boring in comparison with the maliciously campy villainy of Stryker.... None of the subplots ever feel as exciting as the film's villain. You want to be watching Brian Cox.
Probably the most exciting subplot is the Dark Phoenix subplot. It is mostly hinted at throughout the film, we see flashes of Jean Gray's power... we see some truly immense acts of telekinesis and even I, with my very limited comic book knowledge, was getting super excited about what was being promised for the third film.

It is just a shame that the third film is really rather pants. Besides the introduction of Ellen Page in that other X-Men subplot.... the changing faces of Kitty Pryde.

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