X-Men: The Pubic Years

Who doesn’t love the X-Men? Before Iron Man changed thing like a bat-themed vigilante changed Gotham, almost anyone you stopped in the street could reel off more mutants that any superhero type, even if they’d never held a comic beyond using it to beat its dorky owner around the head before going off to do man stuff (as one of the frequently beaten, I assumed this involves lots of sex making with those terrifying cootie-carriers called “girls”, and chopping down trees while shirtless). Yes the X-Men enjoyed some pretty lofty times capturing the hearts and minds of millions, helped exponentially by the still acclaimed 1993-97 animated series and game-changing block buster movies. But then Mojo infiltrated 20th Century Fox in order to destroy his enemies in the most effective way possible: bad ratings. Sub-standard films staring way too much Halle Berry, not enough Deadpool and WAAAAAYYYYYY too many subplots followed. Initially ­X-Men: First Class appeared to be a salvation from this near-devastating blow to the franchise. But as with a certain blue-skinned woman, looks can be deceiving…

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Should have Watched ‘Skeleton Warriors’ Instead…

I could pretend this is all part of some build up to Halloween, but instead it’s a reaction to this statement: trailers SUCK! We all know what it’s like to hear about a film in production we really want to see, followed months later by the first teaser, and then finally the big jizz-inducing trailer. When Ghost Rider underwent his new millennium comic book make-over I was hooked on his Hellblazer­-esque adventures as he threw rogue demons back to Hell as he rode the lonely road to damnation, so when the film was announced, teaser leaked and trailer aired during 2006, I was giddy as a paedophile at a park. So how disappointed was I to discover the film was a steaming pile of Batman & Robin after a promising ad campaign? VERY, that’s how much. I don’t know if this is a relatively new thing I was too young and optimistic to notice until then or whether it’s always been this way, but what I do know is that Ghost Rider was the first time the penny dropped at how marketing really works to sell shit like it’s toothpaste, leaving you short changed and with a vile taste in your mouth. With Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance now threatening cinema screen with a 2012 release (isn’t it enough we might be facing an apocalypse next year without this to further dampen our spirits?), I figured it was time again to tongue the wretched turd stains on my teeth left by its’ predecessor. Taste buds at the ready…

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Last Time Was Just the Four-Play…

In an uncharacteristic change of pace, this session I’ll be following up on Fantastic Four instead of randomly selecting a film from the Vault of Woe (it’s a real mess in there, so often it’s easier to grab at random then trudge in search of a specific item like ‘childhood memories’). F4  was a warm-up act as it isn’t exactly a steaming pile of rancid trash – more ‘lame duck on the lawn’ than ‘dead goose in the bed sheets’, which would actually be a more fitting title for this sequel that destroyed the franchise potential of Marvel’s First Family faster than you can say Spider-Man 3. So join me on a journey through time and space as we attempt to find out when exactly the Surfer ‘rise[s]’, as the title indicates yet never explains…

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The Mediocre Quadruplets

First up: anyone expecting Batman Begins or Spider-Man 2 from this film should’ve tried picking up an issue of Fantastic Four. Those that needed a reminder will see that this comic has never been dark, edgy or any kind of gritty. It is what it is, a campy romp that has not adapted its style to suit the ever darkening tastes of new generations of readers one iota since the 1960s. Fantastic Four is colourful, fun, immensely stupid and packs every issue with lectures on family values and responsibilities. So once again, anyone expecting Fantastic 4 to be anywhere on the level of Daredevil, Batman, V for Vendetta, Sin City, Darkman, or (God forbid) Watchmen, it’s time for a reality check. Fantastic 4 stays true to its roots; it’s bright, cheerful, kid friendly stuff that’s actually a lot of fun…having said that, the comics it draws its inspiration from are too cheerful, silly and full of child friendly diatribe, and it reflects here. Ironically Fantastic 4’s biggest mistake is that it is too much like Fantastic Four (see what being painstakingly faithful to source material gets you, fan boys!) – swings and roundabouts.

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Logan’s Run: Wolverine

Until First Class redeemed the uncanny trend, the X-Men series was following the same unsettling quality curve of the Star Wars saga: film one established the plot and characters, a little slow in places but ultimately laying the groundwork for something larger than itself; the superior sequel ups the action, drama and stakes, leading to a darker, bleaker finale; part three is a vaguely passable piece of entertainment but far too unfocussed and rushing as it tries to tie up all the loose ends while continuing to develop the larger and stand alone narratives, coming off as half good, half terrible and wholly disappointing. And then we come to the prequel, a film misguidedly focused on how the story and characters we know and love ended up in the predicament we meet them in all those years ago, and taking an adult topic (political process and civil war, and violent revenge and child napping for genetic experimentation) and woefully attaching it to a film aimed primarily at children for toy sale revenue. The parallels are intriguing but unfortunate. But while it could be argued that the Star Wars films were family friendly blockbusters so Phantom Menace was simply tapping into a new generational market of sprogs (if you want to be lynched), X-Men is more young adult+, even though every 3 year old and his invisible friend knows and loves Wolverine, that cuddliest of gruff cigar inhaling psychopaths. And so with the mature bit out of the way it’s time to see why X-Men Origins: Wolverine is comparable to the most rejected film in geekdom history.

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Trilogy Trilogy The Third: Blade Trinity

And so comes the Trilogy Trilogy comes to an end, and I figured as it’s currently the box office age of comic adaptations, to look back on the series that kick-started Hollywood’s 14 year-strong love of Marvel. Blade Trinity is the first incidence of Marvel’s unhealthy relationship with disappointing threequels for damn fine, virtually critic-proof franchises, as both Superman III and Batman Forever had established prior (fuck you DC). Yes, if the first film is a dragging but absorbing origins tale and the sequel the darker, more character and action focused story that builds upon the existing cannon while taking it to newer extremes, the third in a franchise is the misguidedly ‘funny’, lower guidance rated bastard spawn set to undermine the status quo and drag an otherwise damn fine series of films to an undeserved low that’ll make you seriously consider if a complete DVD (or 3D BluRay holograms straight into your brain if your reading this in retrospect) collection is worth it in the long run. So with the tone already set lower than a child’s birthday party in Joseph Fritzl’s basement, let’s begin.

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Trilogy Trilogy pt.Deux: Spider-Man 3

On flitting through the substantial list of films awaiting review, I was struck by how many are threequels. On reflection, there has never been a film trilogy or saga that has not lived up to the rule that the third in a franchise will in some way disappoint – I’m discounting Lord of the Rings in this, and to a lesser extent Army of Darkness. So I present the second in my Trilogy Trilogy: Spider-Man 3.

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