Top 5 on The Strip: Batman versions

1. Batman (Earth Two version): This version of Bruce Wayne settles down with Selina Kyle and has a daughter, Helena Wayne, who becomes Huntress. Eventually, Bruce becomes police commissioner. After a one last adventure as Batman, he is killed in battle trying to stop the destruction of the city. As he was still using his secret identity, Doctor Fate of Earth Two changes reality to keep his identity secret and lets everyone believe that Bruce died of cancer at Wayne Manor.

2. Batman film — Michael Keaton: Michael Keaton, the first of the film cowl wearers, was derided when he was announced in the mid-1980s. No one could believe that “Mr. Mom” would do the trick. And then 1989’s Batman hit the silver screen and the noise stopped. Not only was Keaton excellent, but also he brought a much-needed severity to the character and was wholly believable inside and outside of the tights.

3. Flashpoint Batman: In the Flashpoint version of Batman, Thomas and Martha Wayne — the murdered parents of Bruce Wayne in all Batman origin stories — don’t die. Instead, Bruce is killed in Crime Alley in their place. In their grief and attempts to cope with Bruce’s death, Thomas becomes Batman and Martha becomes the Joker. Eventually, both learn that in the true timeline, they die in the place of Bruce and he becomes Batman to avenge their deaths.

4. Batman film — Christian Bale version: Christian Bale took a franchise that was mired in the depths of mediocrity and downright unintentional hilarity and gave it life again. Bale made it cool to like Batman and the Caped Crusader’s credibility was restored. It only took two movies, arguably, to achieve this feat: Batman Begins in 2005 and The Dark Knight in 2008, all lead by Bale. The Dark Knight Rises was just an added bonus to seal the deal.

5. Batman kills the Joker/Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 3 Batman: In a version of the Injustice storyline, Batman actually kills the Joker. After the Joker plants a bomb killing Lois Lane, Batman captures him and attempts to turn him in. As they’re riding to Arkham Asylum, the Joker intimates that he will likely try again to torment Superman and hints at trying to kill Superman’s baby. Batman snaps and well, breaks the Joker’s neck.

Top 5 on The Strip: Best X-Men arcs

God Loves Man Kills

1. God Loves, Man Kills

The mutant struggle against one of the X-Men’s most human protagonists is a tragic tale of self hate and bigotry. It’s easily one of the most sorrowful tales of the lengths homosapiens will go to in their efforts to eradicate mutantkind. William Stryker is the leader of the anti-mutant movement and stops at nothing to punish mutants in the eyes of other humans and the media.

Days of Future Past

2. Days of Future Past

One of the more recent X-Men movies, Days of Future Past shows what would happen if the Sentinels, mutant-hunting robots, took over North America and eventually the world. It’s a good look at the effects of a singular event affecting multiple realities.

Onslaught

3. Onslaught

If Professor Charles Xavier were to lose himself in the cause of fighting mutant hate and believed in the goals of his nemesis Magneto, Onslaught would be the result. The merged consciousness of two of the greatest minds in mutancy does not equal a good being and what becomes the genesis of Xavier giving up the fight even temporarily.

Messiah Complex

4. Messiah Complex

A child born with the possibility to save mutants in their darkest hour makes up the Messiah Complex storyline. Although it’s centered on a child with the name Summers, it’s interesting to see what happens when Cable – a known battle-hardened warrior – becomes slightly more human when he’s tasked with protecting a child.

Age of Apocalypse

5. Age of Apocalypse

One of the largest stories ever to come to the X-Men fold, the Age of Apocalypse is the focal point for a lot of changes in the X-Men universe, and, Marvel at large. Apocalypse manages to take over North America and kill numerous important mutants in the process. The fallout continues to rankle some storylines today.

Top 5 on The Strip: Comic book roles with multiple actors

Batman

1. Batman
The Dark Knight has long been a friend of the big and small screen. Five actors have stepped into the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman: Adam West in the 1966 television show, Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns, Val Kilmer in 1995’s Batman Forever, George Clooney in 1997’s Batman and Robin, and Christian Bale in the Dark Knight trilogy of films from 2005 to 2012.

Superman animated

2. Superman
At least six men have played the iconic superhero in television and film roles. Starting with George Reeves in 1951, the role was then taken the big screen by Christopher Reeve in four films from 1978 to 1987, then television by Dean Cain in 1993 and Tom Wellington in 2001, and back to film by Brandon Routh in 2006 and Henry Cavill in 2013.

Spider-Man animated series

3. Spider-Man
There have only been two actors to suit up as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler: Tobey Macguire for three outings in 2002, 2004 and 2007; and Andrew Garfield in two films in 2012 and 2014.

Joker-Animated Series

4. The Joker
Batman’s arch nemesis has only appeared three times but each time has been memorable, film or television. Caesar Romero originated the role of the maniacal clown prince of crime with the television version of Batman also starring Adam West. Jack Nicholson took over the role opposite Michael Keaton in 1989’s Batman, Mark Hamill has voiced the Joker for Batman: The Animated Series and Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for his portrayal in The Dark Knight.

Hulk animated

5. The Hulk
Four actors have portrayed the unstable Dr. Bruce Banner and his counterpart, the Incredible Hulk. Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno played the Hulk while Bill Bixby played the good doctor in the live action television version first. Hulk moved to the silver screen and was first portrayed by Eric Bana, then Ed Norton and finally, Mark Ruffalo.

Strip Talk #21: Don’t let outside opinion sway your film loves

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineListen, there comes a time in the entertainment business that things (i.e. songs, movies, art) will be remade. And we will have to live with it. Just because something is a classic, that doesn’t mean it’s sacred and off limits. No, this is Hollywood. Land of the movie stars, mega rich and lack of creativity so distinct that it is often duplicated and imitated worldwide. Hollywood knows nothing about creativity and originality so, inevitably, there will be a remake or reboot of a franchise where multiple people have played the same role over the course of several movies. Let’s take, for example, Batman. The Caped Crusader has been played by numerous people yet remains popular. So, with the passing of the torch by the latest to step into the iconic tights — Christian Bale to Ben Affleck — there’s been a frenzy of criticism surrounding the casting. Justified and unjustified, you might say.

I’ll admit, I’m not exactly seeing Affleck in the dual role. I get his sex appeal and his acting chops. He’s got all of that and then some to spare, but he doesn’t exactly jump out at me as the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. But, in fact, history shows that the first actor to bring Batman to life — Michael Keaton — faced the same sort of scrutiny. And what do you know? He just happened to weigh in on the situation:

My guess is he’s a smart guy. I don’t know Ben, but he’s been around long enough to see all this stuff happen,” Keaton said. “My guess is he’s laughing [at the criticism], he’s laughing and I hope he’s going, ‘Shut up!'”

And that about sums up my feelings on the matter.

Now, full disclosure, I love Keaton as an actor. I really do, and I loved him as Batman. I’m just old enough to remember the hype surrounding the original movie and to remember not being allowed to see it without an adult present. But I don’t remember the criticism Keaton received, and from what I know, there was plenty of it. I read about it and my initial thought was, who cares? My next thought was, Keaton made an excellent Batman/Bruce Wayne so I guess he proved quite a few folks wrong, didn’t he? My third thought on the matter, after reading the interview with Keaton on Affleck as a choice, was, why did they ask Keaton? Is he in charge of casting, because if he is, that’s news to me. He doesn’t care and, yet, someone felt they had to go there as if it’s the elephant in the room that no one is talking about. No one is talking about it because it’s a non-issue. Not important. Next.

Here’s my main point: What does it matter what anyone thinks, outside of Affleck and studio executives? He’s the one getting paid for putting on the cowl and cape. They’re the ones risking two franchises with casting (remember, Superman and Batman are affected by the next film). All of the critics in the world aren’t necessarily the end-all, be-all for a movie. And, you should never listen to a film critic, anyhow. It’s all subjective in the first place and how someone feels about a movie could change with the next human over. This is what I want you, the reader, to take from this: Make up your own mind and don’t rely on someone else’s thoughts to determine what you like and don’t like. Because, as I like to say all of the time, you aren’t the one cutting the check or depositing it, either.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #19: Captain America (Steve Rogers)

Name: Steve Rogerscaptainamerica-fixed

Affiliation: Formerly the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., Avengers Unity Division, Illuminati, Invaders, U.S. Army, Secret Avengers, Captain America Corps, Secret Avengers, New Avengers

Special abilities: Enhanced speed, agility, reflexes, healing and stamina comparable to a man at the apex of physical perfection. These are the result of his receiving the Super Soldier Serum, designed to create the perfect soldier who is resistant to disease and injury.

Background: Steve Rogers was a frail and sickly man rejected from the Army during World War II. After he is finally accepted through multiple attempts, he is subjected to an experimental procedure called the Super Soldier Project. During this project, the frail Rogers is intravenously and orally fed a mixture called the Super Soldier Serum and bombarded by Vita Rays, designed to create the perfect soldier. The creator of the serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine, is murdered minutes after the successful procedure and the formula is lost to history thereafter.

Rogers is then sent on numerous missions to serve the Allied wartime interests of defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers. During a mission circa 1945, Rogers and friend Bucky Barnes were attempting to stop a bomb-laden plane launched by Baron Zemo. The plane exploded in mid-air, apparently killing Barnes and throwing Rogers into the ocean. Rogers then entered suspended animation, freezing into a glacier until his discovery decades later by the Avengers as they were fighting against Namor.

Rogers, now thawed in the present day, joined the Avengers and led the team through many a crisis including stopping Baron Helmut Zero and a revived Red Skull, preventing Onslaught from taking over the world and destroying reality, bringing an end to the Civil War — which led to his death at the hands of Red Skull and hypnotically possessed lover Sharon Carter — and participating in stopping the X-Men’s Phoenix Force from destroying Earth.

Relationships: James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Winter Soldier/Captain America), best friend/partner; Sharon Carter, lover; Peggy Carter, lover; Sam Wilson (Falcon/Captain America), partner

First Versus game appearance: Marvel Super Heroes

Appearances in other media: Captain America in: The Doom Tube of Dr. Megalomann (video game), Spider-Man and Captain America in Doctor Doom’s Revenge (video game), Captain America and the Avengers (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game), Marvel vs. Street Fighter (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Maximum Carnage (video game), Avengers in Galactic Storm (video game), Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety (video game), Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems (video game), Spider-Man (video game), Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro (video game), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (video game), Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad 2, Captain America: Super Soldier (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad: Comic Combat (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), Lego Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel Avengers Alliance Tactics (video game), Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (video game), The Great Gold Steal (novel), Captain America: The First Avenger (film), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (film), Marvel Universe: LIVE! (theater), Ultimate Avengers (animation), Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther (animation), The Avengers (film), The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (film; not yet released)

Marvel character highlight #18: Jean Grey/Phoenix

Name: Jean Grey-SummersPhoenix

Affiliation: X-Men, X-Factor, The Twelve, X-Terminators, Phoenix Corps

Special abilities: Omega-level telepathy; telekinesis; Phoenix Force, which grants the ability to travel unaided through space; psionically manipulate matter and any form of energy; create powerful “cosmic” fire; resurrect from death and manipulate life energy in others; and manipulate timelines.

Background: Jean Grey had an ordinary home life with her parents and older sister in upstate New York. That changed when Jean’s friend Annie Richardson died after being hit by a car. Jean telepathically linked with her dying friend, manifesting her powers for the first time. To save Jean, her parents sought the help of Charles Xavier, who connected with Jean and brought her out of her coma. Jean then went to live with Charles at the newly formed Xavier Institute, learning to use her powers. While there, she fell in love with fellow teammate Scott Summers and continued to go on missions. During one mission in space, Jean was exposed to a mortally lethal dose of radiation poisoning. As she was dying, Jean cried out telepathically and the Phoenix Force answered her. The Phoenix Force created a duplicate body — which it resided in with Jean’s essence — and placed Jean in a healing cocoon that sunk in Jamaica Bay. The Phoenix Force posed as her for years, while a clone of Jean (Madelyne Pryor) married Scott and had a child with him. Jean was resurrected from the cocoon and rejoined her teammates. Later, Jean and Scott’s marriage fell apart and Jean was killed again. She then resurrected herself using the Phoenix Force and ascended to a higher plane of existence, the White Hot Room.

Relationships: John Grey (father), Elaine Grey (mother), Sara Grey-Bailey (sister), Scott Summers (former husband), Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (Cable; genetic son), Stryfe (clone of Cable; genetic son), Rachel Summers (genetic daughter), Hope Summers (step-granddaughter), Nathaniel Grey (X-Man, genetic son), Madelyne Pryor (Goblin Queen, genetic clone), Corsair (Christopher Summers, father-in-law), Vulcan (Gabriel Summers, brother-in-law), Havok (Alex Summers, brother-in-law and lover)

First Versus game appearance: Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds

Appearances in other media: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (television), The Marvel Super Heroes (television), X-Men animated television series (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Wolverine and the X-Men (television), The Super Hero Squad Show (television), X-Men (anime), Iron Man: Armored Adventures (television), Astonishing X-Men (motion comics), X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), The Wolverine (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), X-Men: Apocalypse (film), X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants (video game), X-Men (video game), X-Men: Gamemaster’s Legacy (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy (video game), X-Men: Mutant Academy 2 (video game), X-Men: Next Dimension (video game), X-Men Legends (video game), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (video game), X-Men: The Official Game (video game), X-Men: Destiny (video game), Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (video game), Marvel: Avengers Alliance (video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (video game), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (video game), Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (video game), Marvel Heroes (video game), LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (video game), Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (video game), Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (video game)

Property review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

 X-Men: Days of Future Past

20th Century Fox, 2014

 

 X-cellent return to form

Set aside any preconceived notions you may have had at the announcement of a new X-Men film. We’ll wait because we know just how hard that may be to do. Now that it’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.

X-Men Days of Future Past is phenomenal.

Everything that went wrong with The Last Stand (editor’s note: See 2Q2014’s property review) has been corrected. See, the acting wasn’t the problem; it was the storyline and the execution. Days of Future Past manages to take the bleak problems of its predecessor and turn them into bright spots, ironically, because Days of Future Past is a bleak and dark turn of events for the merry band of mutants.

Days of Future Past, while different from the Animated Series and the comic book original, is a solid adventure for the X-Men. The story posits that a single assassination is the linchpin that leads to the extinction of mutants by the Sentinels, aggressive mutant-hunting robots of the future. By stopping the assassination of Dr. Boliviar Trask, the X-Men will prevent the genocidal Sentinels from ever coming into being and, more importantly, prevent the slaughter of millions of humans and mutants, alike. To do this, they send Wolverine back into time to the point of divergence and hope that he can convince estranged friends Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to work together for the common good once more.

The story takes some twists and turns, but by the end, you realize that this is a story of redemption and broken dreams healed. That’s not just for the characters, but also for the movie franchise. Let’s face it: Last Stand was horrible and a desecration of all that stands in the X-Men universe. Days of Future Past gets everything right and then some, starting with the re-emergence of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Next comes the healing of story butchering. Events that take place in Last Stand (no spoilers!) are erased throughout the film, but in particular the last five minutes of Days of Future Past quickly place a stake through the heart of Last Stand. Finally, comes the attention to detail, which is a major component of any comic book adaptation. Sure, Days of Future Past takes some liberties with the source material, but we’ll allow it if it means the story will flow better. Here, it does and the changes make sense. There’s no half-baked change for the sake of change.

Something else that Days of Future Past manages to accomplish is a sense of clarity. A time-traveling tale can be confusing with the lack of the right amount of distinguishing features to differentiate between eras. However, the film has a stunning amount of clarity, which makes everything obvious as to which time period is at the forefront. We had no trouble understanding the chain of events of the film — despite a lot of jumping between 1973 and 2023 — and additionally, the powers of all mutants involved were correct and instantly clear. That’s what happens when there is an obvious and immense level of detail paid to the source material, something Last Stand sorely lacked. And, unlike its predecessor, we had few gripes. We would have liked to have seen more Quicksilver and more of the newer mutants who joined the cause. Also, a little elaboration on the answer to the question of how the Sentinels evolved to the future state would have been nice, considering that original version’s answer of Mastermold was left out of the film entirely. However, those are small quibbles and a small price to pay for such a large love letter/apologetic note to fans.

Days of Future Past serves a multipronged purpose: pacify the veteran X-Men film fans; fix the problems of Last Stand; continue the story of the uncanny mutants through the First Class cast; continue the reboot of the film franchise; and serve as the swan song of the original trilogy’s cast. Days of Future Past manages to complete its tasks and usher in a new era of prosperity and promise for one of the most recognizable comic book franchises ever. Days of Future Past is an x-cellent return to form.

 

Like the comics: 7

Casting: 10

Plot: 10

Overall score: 27 out of 30 or 9

 

How we grade

We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in the case of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of maximum of 10 per category, and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.

Strip Talk #18: Days of Future Past isn’t a reality fast enough

 

Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.
Photo by Brandon Beatty/Gaming Insurrection
GI recently took a field trip to the movies. Editor-in-chief Lyndsey Hicks stands with the X-Men: Days of Future Past promotional poster.

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineIt’s no secret that I favor Marvel over DC in the grand scheme of comic book things. I always have: I began watching X-Men: The Animated Series almost as soon as the show began airing, and I’m far more knowledgeable about Marvel’s characters for several reasons. One of those reasons is because I find the writing in Marvel properties to be far more tight and logically sound, even with some of the more preposterous plots roaming around the Marvel universe. And one more reason is because the X-Men: Days of Future Past arc is my all-time favorite of any comic book series.

Partially because of the introduction of Bishop and the fact that Sentinels finally get their moment in the spotlight, Days of Future Past is pretty fun to watch and read. I’ve seen the entire Animated Series adaptation and I have to say it’s my favorite. Yes, I’m well aware that Kitty Pryde is the original person to travel back in time in the comics, but I love Bishop in that role. It was possible to believe that Bishop would find a way back and become a catalyst in the future changing, or shifting, if you believe that parallel universes replace each other.

And the best part about the entire saga? For me, the lack of Summers overexposure. I can even deal with the pushing of Wolverine here if it means that I won’t have to deal with the combined might of Jean and Scott at the forefront. Yes, we get a little bit of that “Summers magic” with Rachel Summers but it’s a small price to pay for the relative comfort of knowing that neither Jean nor Scott are hoarding the spotlight yet again. Though, my problem with the tale is who the hell is Rachel Summers exactly? If you don’t do some advanced reading and figure out who she is on your own, you might never figure it out.

Despite some loopy alternate universe travel and sketchy explanations for Summers’ involvement, the tale is solid. I liken it on the same level as Age of Apocalypse in that there’s a plot involving villains who manage to take over the world through their own nefarious means and misguided extremism. Except in this case, the plan backfires and everyone — mutant and human — suffer the consequences. You can’t get more “X-Men” than that.

With a movie adaptation coming in about two months (May 23, as a matter of fact), you can be rest assured that I will be there on opening day more than likely. I’ve been awaiting this newest installment of the X-Men movie franchise ever since the Last Stand debacle since I don’t consider X-Men: First Class a true sequel to Last Stand; it’s a reboot, albeit a good one. I’m ready to jump back into the world of the X-Men, and what better way than to leap into the arms of my favorite arc on the big screen?

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Marvel character highlight #17: Rogue

Name: Anna Marierogue

Affiliation: X-Men, Avengers Unity Division, Salvagers, Lights, Advocates Squad, X-Treme X-Men, X.S.E., Brotherhood of Evil Mutants

Special abilities: Rogue has the ability to absorb the talents, knowledge, memories, personality and abilities of a person that she comes into direct skin-to-skin contact with. The transfer of these abilities and knowledge is relative the length of time that she touches the person, though the transfer can become permanent. When she first absorbed an ability, the transfer was involuntary. As of the events of the Mutant Messiah arc, she has gained complete control over the usage of the absorption. With the absorption of Ms. Marvel’s (Carol Danvers version) powers, Rogue gained flight, near invulnerability and superhuman strength. She has since lost the Ms. Marvel powers, but retained the absorption ability.

Background: Rogue began life in Caldecott County, Miss., with her father, mother and maternal aunt. One night when she was 14 years old, she kissed a boy, Cody Robbins. At the moment that they kissed, Rogue’s latent mutant powers activated. The activation put Robbins in a permanent coma. Rogue then ran away from home and eventually ended up in the care of Mystique, who used her to further the goals of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Rogue permanently absorbed the powers of Ms. Marvel during a fight and joined her once-foes, the X-Men. Rogue later became involved with Gambit, lost her Ms. Marvel powers and fully realized the evolution and development of her powers after a trek to discover the true intent behind diaries of Destiny.

Relationships: Owen, father; Priscilla, mother; Carrie, aunt; Cody Robbins, crush/first kiss; Gambit (Remy LeBeau), lover; Mystique (Raven Darkholme), foster mother; Destiny (Irene Adler), foster mother; Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), foster brother; Graydon Creed, adoptive brother

First Versus appearance: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

Appearances in other media: Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, X-Men (Sega Genesis), X-Men: Mojo World, X-Men: Mutant Academy 2; X-Men: Next Dimension, X2: Wolverine’s Revenge, Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, Marvel Heroes, Deadpool, X-Men (film), X2: X-Men United (film), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men: Days of Future Past (film), X-Men: The Animated Series (television), Marvel Anime: X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men (television), X-Men: Evolution (television), Spider-Man: The Animated Series (television)

Property review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

X-Men: The Last Stand
20th Century Fox/Marvel Entertainment, 2006

 

X-cruciatingly bad x-ecution

 

We get that the X-Men film properties reside in a different universe than the comic book version. And we have no problems suspending disbelief when asked. But we will never sit idly by and watch a film take so many liberties with source material that entire comic book arcs are destroyed in one fell swoop.

So it begins with X-Men: The Last Stand, the third in the trilogy of films centered on our favorite mutants of Marvel fame. Last Stand was riding high on the fumes of X2: X-Men United, and rightfully so since X2 did a pretty decent job telling the tale of (the previously reviewed) God Loves, Man Kills and starting the Phoenix Saga. And that’s when things take an ominous turn. We should have known something was up when Bryan Singer didn’t return to the director’s chair. We really should have known something was up when Last Stand’s synopsis came calling. While X2 did a passable job with sort of mixing arcs together, Last Stand attempted to mesh Dark Phoenix Saga and the Gifted arc with little-to-no success. The film, while technically sound and well-paced, is riddled with errors and unnecessary changes that detract from the overall viewing experience.

To explain just what we find fault with in Last Stand, let’s start from the beginning. And bear with the spoilers here; they’re integral to explaining everything wrong with the film and are a great example of why Last Stand should have never been made. If you don’t want it spoiled — though you should have seen it by now — stop reading here.

First, Cyclops was never killed by Jean Grey, either as the Phoenix or Dark Phoenix, at any point in their history together. The Phoenix entity made sure that Jean was kept alive and healed so that she could reunite with Cyclops at some point. The Phoenix understood and knew that Cyclops was important to Jean. So, killing him made no sense.

Second, Phoenix would have never and never, ever killed Professor X. Charles Xavier was a mentor to Jean and was one of the few people on Earth that the woman trusted. She wouldn’t have killed him. Also, Wolverine was angry with Xavier about erecting the psychic blocks in Jean’s mind, but Cyclops was actually the person who had that particular scripted conversation with Xavier.

Third, Beast was a member of the team for many years and didn’t just return during the Phoenix Saga. He was there the entire time.

Fourth, while we’re on the subject of team members’ appearances in the film, we should point out a long-standing issue we’ve had with the X-Men films: Rogue and Iceman were NEVER a couple. Likewise, Kitty Pride and Iceman didn’t flirt with each other. Kitty was actually interested in Colossus — which was outright ignored in the film — and Iceman was a frequent makeup/break up paramour of Lorna Dane (Polaris). The made-up romance triangle with de-aged characters is an insult.

Fifth, Juggernaut is not a mutant. If the writers had bothered to do some research, they would have come across Cain Marko’s origin story that stated in detail that Juggernaut is a mystical avatar given his powers by the Gem of Cyttorak. He was an ordinary man mystically transformed by the Gem. Thus, when Leech’s powers activated near him at the end, he should have been completely unaffected. And, Juggernaut should have immediately recognized Magneto by this point and Magneto should have known who Juggernaut is — stepbrother of Charles Xavier. No aspect of that important relationship was ever mentioned.

Sixth, Dark Phoenix never joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She didn’t need to. She was, however, manipulated into joining the Hellfire Club, which was also conveniently glossed over by X-Men: First Class (see the real origin for Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost).

Seventh, Rogue never took the cure. She was interested in it, but never took it. That’s something that’s touched upon in the Animated Series episode of The Cure (first airing, Feb. 20, 1993). Also, her given name is Anna Marie, not just Marie. See this quarter’s Marvel Character Highlight.

Eighth, Psylocke was present in the movie, but if you blinked, you missed her. She is killed at the end along with several other characters. She also is not a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Callisto (the leader of the Morlocks in the comics) isn’t either, and neither is Jamie Madrox aka Multiple Man.

Ninth, Jean does not have split personality as the Phoenix. She IS the Phoenix. The entity that is the Phoenix is part of her, not some different side to her. Basically, the Phoenix possesses her and bonds with her. It doesn’t just show up randomly. In the comics, the real Jean was sealed under Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix manifested her in reality.

Finally, Wolverine doesn’t kill Jean during the Dark Phoenix Saga. He was completely in love with her. Given that several of his love interests over the years have died, there was no way that he would have killed her then. He does kill her in New X-Men, but Dark Phoenix Saga that is not. Also, Sabertooth is not present, which doesn’t make any sense, either.

That’s just barely touching on what’s wrong with the film. It gets so many little things wrong with the “loose” adaptations that you have to wonder what exactly did it get right. One of the few things that does go right for the film is the casting. The lead characters are still perfectly casted, and the choice of Kelsey Grammar as Beast/Hank McCoy is one of the best castings we’ve ever seen. He was the perfect and only choice for that role. However, there’s still no fan-favorite Gambit — which would have solved the Rogue/Iceman problem — and there’s still way too much emphasis put on Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is comfortable as well he should be since he’s the perfect Wolverine. But a little less emphasis on him and little more on the story might have helped. Alas, James Marsden was wasted in the film and the character of Cyclops paid the price. That’s a shame, really, because Cyclops is supposed to be a centerpiece in the Dark Phoenix portion, not Wolverine.

Last Stand isn’t a good movie, in the sense of being an X-Men film and in the sense of being an adaptation telling a story of the X-Men. It seems Marvel has trouble whenever it gets to three (see last quarter’s review of Spider-Man 3), and that’s a problem when you’re telling two of the biggest arcs of your most famous group of not-so-ordinary folks.

 

Like the comics: 1

Casting: 7

Plot: 2

Overall score: 10 out of 30 or 3

 

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.