A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 137 – X2

X2 – July 15th, 2010

We’re back to X-Men tonight, with more mutants and more backstory and more Peter Wingfield. Wait, damn, sorry. He’s totally not even close to a starring role in this, but as an indication of my thing about him, let me share a little something: When we saw a preview for this movie in the theater, there was a very quick – maybe half second – shot where his face was in profile. It was dark, he wasn’t the focus of the scene, and he was in full camouflage makeup, and I didn’t know he was in it at the time. And I said “Oh hey! That was Peter Wingfield’s nose!” So. Yeah. Anyhow, moving on. More mutants, more backstory, more threats against mutant-kind.

This time, the threat is that which was promised by the first movie: Humanity. A human named William Stryker has it in for all mutants and he knows enough about them to use them against each other. Now, Stryker’s a character based in the comics, and he shows up in the Wolverine movie we’ll be watching on Saturday. This one sort of leads into that one in a way. I do like the whole thread of the Mutant X project that’s woven in, and all the references to government research into mutants and mutation. It adds a level of threat and an ominous tone to the whole thing and I like that. It’s a busy movie, with a lot of little threads, so a cohesive mood and tone really helps.

The basic plot follows Stryker’s plan to get a hold of Professor Xavier and use his immense telepathic ability, along with a reproduction of Cerebro, to target and kill all mutants. He arranges for an attack on the President, invades the school and kidnaps a number of children, takes Xavier captive and sets up his final plan. But then alongside that you have Stryker’s taunting of Wolverine, dangling tidbits about his past and how he came to be as he is, and Wolverine’s whole quest to answer just those unknowns. And then around it all you have Magneto and his rhetoric, teamed up with the X-Men in order to save Xavier because even if he disagrees with their methods, he wants to stop Stryker as much as they do. So the plots are layered and woven and personally, I think it works quite well.

Magneto’s mutant superiority line meshes well with the Stryker plots, both the current and Wolverine’s past. It also works to give a good view of just how he gains followers and I think part of what makes him work as a character in these movies is that he’s at least somewhat sympathetic. While one wants to believe Xavier’s view of the world, and his methods are certainly preferable, one can’t help but notice that humans like Stryker keep proving Magneto right in the worst ways. So when you take the current plot, with Stryker and his current plan and the captured mutant kids, and the past plot with Wolverine’s history, and link them with Magneto, it all makes a tragic sort of sense.

Aside from the big plots, there are some smaller things I like. For one, I adore Nightcrawler. By the things I’ve heard, Alan Cummings’ makeup as Nightcrawler was a hell of a lot more arduous than his other blue paint job was in Riverworld. He does the part well, given that this is an AU of the comics. But even more, I love his bamfing effect, with the wisps of dark blue smoke. It’s a great touch. I like the scene with Bobby Drake’s family, where he has to tell them he’s a mutant. I like the character arc for Pyro, and I like how even working together it’s clear that there are two factions for the mutants. I like the mutants in general. I mean, mutants are the whole meat of the world and the movie has a good bit of fun showing us as many as it can without making it gratuitous and hard to follow.

There are the students at the school and there are a lot of them. Off the top of my head I can think of Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Siryn and Artie as easily identifiable characters (Jubilee was easily spotted by her yellow coat in the first movie and she’s credited in this one, though I missed her on this viewing). And then in a computer Mystique accesses to find Magneto, there’s a great little list of people Stryker’s keeping tabs on (and projects, like Project Wideawake), including the Maximoffs, Sam and Paige Guthrie, Lila Cheney and Remy LeBeau, amongst others. And the next movie has even more, even though I have some issues, but I’ll get to those tomorrow.

Overall, I think the first two movies do a nice job setting up individual plots and closing them while keeping them part of the larger world and overarching ideas. The first movie moves nicely into the second, and this is getting a little ahead of myself but regardless of one’s opinion on what happens at the end of this movie and the beginning of the next, there is continuity there too. I like that. The performances are good (Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart again deserve special note for being so fucking awesome and playing their roles so thoroughly) and I have no complaints about the script. And while this movie has some decidedly dark moments, I think it works quite well indeed. If I want happy fluffy X-Men I’ll pop in the early seasons of Evolution instead.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

X2

July 15, 2010

X2

As with Superman 2 (at least the almost non-existent Donner cut) this is a sequel that stems directly from its predecessor. We start out with a very cool scene involving the movie-verse version of Nightcrawler breaking into the White House – apparently in an effort to assassinate the president of the United States. I love the way they’ve realized Nightcrawler for the screen with his cool telleportation cloud and “bamf” sound effect. It helps that beneath all that blue make-up there’s Alan Cumming, who has enormous charisma no matter how much rubber he has glued to him.

Then we’re right back with the X-Men team and it’s as though we’ve never left. That’s what’s so great about this movie. It’s like an organic offshoot of the first one. It extrapolates naturally from the setup and world that the first movie established so well. Human Mutant tensions are still the primary focus. The twist is that this time it’s not Magneto trying to rule the human population – it’s crazed anti-mutant human agitator and military strongman William Stryker who has a plan to eliminate all the Mutants everywhere.

There are a lot of threads to this movie and all of them are intertwined and connected. There’s Wolverine’s obsession with his forgotten past. There’s Jean’s mysteriously augmented and increasingly out of control powers. There’s Magneto’s eventual escape from his plastic prison. And there’s Stryker’s plan, which is pretty convoluted. It might have made for a muddy and confusing film, but Bryan Singer does a masterful job of working with all the parts of the movie, building each on the other. The ultimate result is that the movie has several climactic moments, each more apocalyptic than the last.

The movie even sets us up in the end for one of the darkest and most impressive story lines in the classic X-Men mythos – the dark phoenix saga. Which had the potential to be so ultimately cool… but more of that tomorrow.

For tonight I’m just going to forget X-Men 3 and enjoy this fantastic movie on its own merits. It introduces new X-Men favorites to the cinematic family. (Nightcrawler of course, but also a great cameo by Colossus.) It has some great action and cool twists. (Magneto’s escape scene is still one of my favorite parts of the movie.) It even has some slightly subversive bits of allegory. (Bobby – aka Iceman – comes out as a Mutant to his parents.)

In every way it is a worthy follow up to the first X-Men movie, and just like when I first watched it in the theater I find myself now wishing I could see more of this universe.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment