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Marvel Movies Reviews Superheroes

X2: X-Men United (2003) Review: An excellent comic book sequel that improves on the first movies already good quality.

I like that they put Cyclops near the front of the poster but forgot to make him an actual character in the movie.

X2: X-Men United, still directed by the same professional asshole, is an example of a sequel that surpasses the original. I’ve always complained about the X-Men movies being low-key Wolverine films, and while that still somewhat applies to this movie, I forgot how much more of an ensemble this movie is. Characters like Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry), and Magneto (Ian McKellen) get plenty of screen time and character development that adds to the team element that I feel these movies should have more of. Some of the characters get sidelined, looking at Cyclops here who gets the Hawkeye treatment of being brainwashed by the villain early on and then doing absolutely nothing, but all in all this movie does an excellent job of building up the fact that this is a team, not a solo effort. Hell, we even have Magneto acknowledging the Wolverine-centric previous movie by saying, “You still think this is all about you,” this is probably paraphrasing, but it stands to show that this movie is attempting to be more about the team than just one character.

The plot of this movie follows the themes that the previous movie established, dealing with people’s intolerance of mutants and the lengths they will go to eliminate that threat. Following a threat on the President’s life by a brainwashed Nightcrawler–an excellent scene that remains one of my favorite comic book movie moments–people begin fearing mutants even more which makes the President contact a man named William Stryker. William Stryker, played wonderfully by Brian Cox, is an excellent antagonist. He not only serves as a threat to mutant-kind but is also a shadowy figure from Wolverine’s past that adds a layer of mystery to the action elements of the story. While Stryker’s nefarious goal seems generic, eliminate all mutants, the villain is given a clear motive and we see what dangerous lengths prejudice can lead to.

One of my favorite aspects of this movie has always been the team up the X-Men have with Magneto and Mystique, the only remaining members of Magneto’s Brotherhood–they get a new addition at the end with Pyro joining the team. This team-up shows that while the X-Men and Magneto have differing goals and methods, their viewpoints are not that different and they are fighting similar fights. We see that Magneto is less of a pure villain and more of a misguided man that has been corrupted by the darkness he has witnessed over his lifetime. We even see Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) getting some deeper character development with limited screen time. We know that she is someone that has been judged by her appearance, and based on her brief conversation with Nightcrawler we gain some sympathy for her even though she has been apart of some atrocious acts. This movie gives mutants a common enemy in William Stryker allowing for the filmmakers to develop the world.

X2 is an improvement on a movie that was already good. The characters are given more screen time and the filmmakers build out the world by giving the mutants a common enemy in William Stryker. The movie ends with a set-up for a sequel, and I can already tell you that payoff is not worth it–that review will be coming soon.

Rating 4/5

Categories
Marvel Movies Reviews Superheroes

X-Men (2000) Review: An early and important entry into the superhero movie genre.

X-Men. Directed by an asshole and starring some impressive actors who deserve the movies credit over him.

X-Men, directed by a professional piece of shit, was released in 2000, way before the onslaught of comic book movies and television shows that audiences are used to today. Before X-Men, the primary comic book/superhero films that had been released were four Superman films of varying quality–and by that I mean it ranged from good to abysmal–and four Batman films of varying quality (see my comment about the Superman films). Comic book films in the early 2000s weren’t at the same level that we see now. X-men was something unique and special and we can attribute the success of the MCU to its success and the success of the Spider-Man trilogy that would begin shortly after this movie was released.

X-Men tells the story of a group of people called mutants and explores how they are faced with prejudice and bigotry from a world that doesn’t understand them. It is common knowledge that Stan Lee began writing the X-Men series to comment on the civil rights movement that was brewing in our own country at that time. One could argue now would be the perfect time to see the X-Men come back into the forefront of superhero media as a way to comment on the turmoil we see minorities still facing to this day.

This particular X-Men story focuses on the character of Wolverine, iconically portrayed by Hugh Jackman, and Rogue, played by Anna Paquin, as they enter into the larger mutant world. Both Wolverine and Rogue are taken in by Professor Charles Xavier, played by Patrick Stewart, who runs a school for mutants. There they meet Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry), and come into contact with radical mutants such as Magneto (Ian McKellan), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), Toad (Ray Park), and Sabertooth (Tyler Mane). The differing viewpoints of Xavier’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants drive the primary conflict of the story. Charles wants cohabitation with humanity, but Magento wants superiority. Magneto is a holocaust survivor and is plagued by the haunting memories of what humans are capable of, ironically he becomes the same kind of monster subjecting others to violence and terror through prejudice and fear.


If I had one complaint about the movie, it would be that Wolverine takes too much of the center stage. He is an iconic character and I think it is an excellent idea to use him and Rogue as a way to help explain the world to the audience, but for me, X-Men has so many excellent and iconic characters that fall to the wayside so the movie can show the badassery of Wolverine. Cyclops, who is a massively important figure in X-Men comics and stories is here played as the butt monkey. His heroism and leadership are portrayed as corny and unnecessary next to the gruff and gritty Wolverine. Another complaint, and this is a personal preference, I hate the black leather costumes. The costumes from the comics are colorful and add layers to the characters that wear them; what we get here are knockoffs from a Joel Schumacher Batman film, minus the nipples.

X-Men is an iconic and important movie that helped design and influence the culture of blockbuster movies today. It is not without its flaws, but if you are looking for an entertaining action film with some excellent performances you can’t go wrong with X-Men.

Rating 3.5/5

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Comics

Somebody Save Me! Smallville and the mythos of Superman. A slightly Wild Review.

Show stars Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk, and Michael Rosenbaum looking their angsty early 2000’s best!

Smallville, which began in 2001 and ended in 2011, has remained–at least for me–an impressionable show. For me, Smallville is the perfect nostalgic show; it helped bolster a love for Superman as a character and honestly just plain makes me happy. The show is a perfect example of early 2000s genre television. I find it interesting that both Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were both on at the same time–for two years, from 2001 to 2003–due to the obvious influence that Buffy had on Smallville, as well as other shows of its kind. Smallville has now influenced multiple shows itself, with CW’s slate of superhero shows owing a lot to Smallville’s success and cult following. While a lesson on 2000s genre television would be fun to explore, what I want to talk about is the legacy of Superman and how Smallville both adhered to the character’s mythology as well as distanced itself. The show was famous for its declaration of “No tights, no flights,” which helped distance the character of Clark Kent from his alter ego of Superman, but the show still follows similar themes that are featured in the comics. While Clark Kent remains to be Kal-El of Krypton, the stories of Smallville liberally drew from the mythos of the comics to create a teen drama full of romantical intrigue and soap opera-like storylines.

As of writing this, I have recently finished Season 3 of the series. The third season features Clark grappling with his destiny, his identity, and his relationship with the people in his life. A glaring negative of the show is some of the recurring conflicts that remain unresolved and/or uninteresting. Clark’s relationship with Lana is a key component of the show, and Clark’s unwillingness to share his secret with Lana causes most of the tension that exists within their relationship. This itself is not a bad concept, but the hump the show can’t seem to get over is the fact that the conflict never changes and creates a stasis for the plotline and the characters. Now, bitching about the relationship drama that happens in a season that aired around 18 years ago seems pedantic but bear with me, this show has occupied a lot of my headspace for nearly 20 years now.

One component of Season 3 that works incredibly well is the main antagonist, Lionel Luthor. Lionel Luthor, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, is Lex Luthor’s father; an evil, self-absorbed, and vindictive business executive whose narcissistic impulses create hatred and division, not only in his family but also in the world around him. Lionel Luthor wants to know the secret of Clark Kent, but unlike everyone else who genuinely wants to know more about their friend, Lionel wants to exploit Clark and use his extraordinary abilities to cure his terminal illness. Lionel occupies the antagonism role that Lex fills in the comics.

This is no review, just a rant from a person obsessed with an old superhero show, but what I propose would have been unique and different for the show is that they threw the mythos out the window and forged something different. Lana, Chloe, and even Lex Luthor should all have discovered Clark’s secret during this season. Clark already has a confidant in Pete Ross, his childhood friend, but Pete is the only one who knows his secret other than Clark’s parents. This puts an unfair burden on the character of Pete who constantly remains worried he will accidentally reveal Clark’s secret. I understand that Lex knowing his secret is possibly a controversial take, but we already have the comic character of Lex embodied in his father, and it could have been interesting to see what Lex would have done with the knowledge of Clark’s secret. Maybe, he would have still turned to darkness, or maybe, Lex would have become an anti-hero willing to protect Clark through any means possible, malevolent or not.

This may seem like a random post, but Smallville has remained a favorite of mine throughout my life, and doing a deep dive into the content of the show is something I’ve always wanted to do. I have many thoughts about this show and may explore some of those in more mad ramblings at a later date.