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.

Property review: Dr. Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme

Photo courtesy of the Marvel wikia

Dr. Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme

Lionsgate, 2007

Dr. Strange DVD conjures fine story

Dr. Strange is strange, indeed. He’s got the potential to be a top-tier character, yet he’s not out there for Marvel that much. However, he has received the animated movie treatment like most of the peripheral Avengers so he has some prominence. And his film isn’t that bad.

Dr. Strange takes some time getting into. Starting off slow, the film handles Strange’s backstory with care, mixing in different parts from the mainstream and Ultimates incarnations. We see how Strange is at the top of his game, loses everything and hits rock bottom and finally becomes Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. In his journey, Strange learns to care about others and that money and position in life aren’t everything. Even though Strange has one of the most cliché tales, especially involving a friend-turned-foe, the story isn’t bad and it’s paced pretty well. The addition of the backstory involving his sister’s death is slightly weird, since it’s not in the actual comics. While it gives Strange some emotional depth and makes him more relatable than his comic counterpart, it’s not actually necessary.

What really makes the film worth watching is its voice acting cast. The voices chosen are perfect. With Kevin Michael Richardson among them, the cast is pitch perfect and almost could have been considered for the same roles in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (ed’s note: Richardson does make an appearance in MvC3, not as Baron Mordo but as Galactus). Bryce Johnson, as the voice of Strange, is also excellent. There are a few more well-known names such as Phil LaMarr, Marvel stalwart Fred Tatasciore and Tara Strong that round out the strong cast.

Also standout is the quality of the animation. The characters animate beautifully and the lines and style are clean. It’s in the same vein as The Avengers movies, but look better than Hulk Versus.

Dr. Strange is an interesting character, and his animated feature provides a decent-if-not-cliché look at his memorable background and struggle to become something greater than himself. Give it a go if Strange’s tale of might and magic will intrigue you.

HOW WE GRADE

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

Like the comics?: 6

Casting: 9.5

Plot: 8

Overall: 23.5/30 or 7.8

Property review: Watchmen (film)

WATCHMEN

Warner Bros., 2009

Who watched the Watchmen? Sadly, not many

When you have a successful and highly regarded graphic novel as a basis for a movie, there shouldn’t be problems with the resulting product. And yet, Watchmen didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Maybe the movie-going public is or was tired of superhero flicks at the time, but “Watchmen” should have done better at the box office because it’s a fantastically made film.

The color choice and set pieces are amazing, and the atmosphere of slowed violence in motion will make your jaw drop. It’s visually striking in just about every take and coupled with smart, tight writing, the movie moves along at a decent clip. It is slightly too long but at least the story told within will more than keep your interest. This is a film that needed to be experienced on the big screen, and thankfully, that’s how we learned about it.

The tale of an alternate timeline of costumed superheroes, the continued Cold War and Richard Nixon managing the White House through the ’80s is a fantastic one, and we couldn’t help go in curious as to how it would all work. Having never read the original Watchmen graphic novel, we reserved judgment until after reading it and seeing the movie. It’s easily become one of our favorite comics since and with good reason: It’s smart, it’s gorgeous and it’s believable. The movie continues in the same vein and had most of the tools to succeed such as recognizable names attached to the project and established story.

The acting and casting isn’t necessarily the draw here but it’s serviceable. Everyone gives the same vibe off: They know their character and how that person or being fits into the larger scheme of storytelling. In particular, we salute the acting chops of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played The Comedian, for his ability to steal the scene in all of his appearances. He is one of the true draws here, and he gives you your money’s worth and then some.

There’s several minute changes overall that mostly the diehard fans will immediately notice, but to the standard moviegoer, it’s nothing that will make you stop watching. If you know nothing about the graphic novel, the movie will, if anything, create some curiosity for the original. Much like it’s earlier-reviewed brethren “300,” “Watchmen” lifts nearly every scene directly from its source material.

Some people have an issue with that, as it doesn’t exactly inspire creativity on the part of the director, but we disagree. This is one of the few instances where we’d rather have the graphic novel told directly with little to no changes than the translation screwed up (see: most video game movies).

If you’re looking for something a little different than the Dark Knight or mutants solving world crises, we suggest looking at the tale of non super-powered heroes who are just fighting for the right to exist. This one’s a gem.

How we grade

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

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 9.5/10

Like the comics?: 9.5/10

Overall rating: 27/30 or 9.0

 

Animated property review: X-Men The Animated Series

X-Men the Animated Series Vol. 1  |  Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2009

X-Men origins told correctly

If there ever was a quintessential property in the 1990s of comic book origin, it’s X-Men the Animated Series. The Fox staple in the early part of the decade was a great excuse to get up on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons. It also was a great learning tool for those who didn’t know much about the X-Men and wanted an introductory course to the famous mutants.

What we love about the series is the fact that it takes itself seriously. It told stories just as the comic book version told them 10 years before, and it’s pretty close to the origin stories with only minor changes. Our only gripe with some of the episodes in the first volume is the brevity of the story arcs. Sagas such as Days of Future Past and The Cure are told in one or two episodes, something that isn’t normally be done in the comics. However, some are revisited in later seasons of the show, so that can be forgiven.

The production values of the Animated Series, for its time, were top-notch. The writing was superb, and the coloring and drawing were extraordinary for a cartoon production. Few series, with the exception of fellow Fox production Spider-Man, could match what the Animated Series brought to the table in terms of visuals and storytelling. The first volume sets the pace with Night of the Sentinels, and it’s obvious that care is taken with characters and their backgrounds. Most characters are true to their history and those who have been re-established for the Animated Series are well done and not out of place (i.e. Morph).

The voice acting is another standout established within the first volume. The characters all sound like they should, and it is this first set of episodes that established the standard for future X-Men voice acting projects for the next 17 years. The best example: All X-Men characters used in Capcom’s versus series through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were voiced by their Animated Series actors.

The first volume of the Animated Series hit DVD in 2009, a welcome addition to any X-Men fan’s collection. The first 16 episodes encompass the two-disc set and were only $20 at the time of purchase. That’s a bargain for well-crafted X-Men stories in a series known for its technical prowess that seemed to take forever to come to DVD.

How we grade

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

Voice acting: 10/10

Plots: 8/10

Like the comics?: 8/10

Overall rating: 26/30 or 8.6

Comic property review: “The Spirit”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookMovie.com

‘The Spirit’ lacking in focus, execution

“The Spirit”
Lionsgate, 2008

Despite reviews to the contrary, “The Spirit” isn’t a bad movie. It is a mess in some spots and it requires multiple viewings to fully understand what’s going on but, overall, it’s not bad; it’s just that its attention span is all over the place and could benefit from a pacing specialist’s undivided time.

Visually, it’s gorgeous. If you fell in love with the look of “Sin City,” you will love “The Spirit.” It sings for its supper in its lush graphics, and the mix of comic style and computer generated work does it a world of good. The costume direction is also a winner, and most of the characters look awesome with a softened glow about them against a gritty backdrop of crime, death and resurrection. Of particular note are the costume changes of Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both who steal the show with their chemistry and impeccable timing. Gabriel Macht and Eva Mendes do a fine job in their lead roles and inspire feelings of sympathy and understanding for their predicaments.

“The Spirit” isn’t without its flaws, however. First of all, it’s not particularly true to the comics. The Octopus never shows his face in the original property. However, we can let it slide because it’s Samuel L. Jackson. He’s allowed to ham it up, and he’s a marquee name. Another change is the fact that the Spirit didn’t originally have the healing factor power he’s given. Again, the addition is jarring but it’s needed to pull the movie closer to the sensational to lure audiences in. However, it didn’t work as the film has only grossed nearly $39 million.

Thirdly, the story jumps around quite a bit. It’s not told nearly as well as “Sin City” and it’s not paced particularly well, either. In some parts — mostly those featuring Jackson — it’s hilarious and dark. In others, it’s slow and tedious, and you wish it’d pick up the pace and stop dragging its heels toward the inevitable Octopus-Spirit showdown climax. And finally, the climax, while it seems to take forever to get to, isn’t all that great. It’s really anticlimactic. What we really wanted was more of an emotional payoff for the Spirit’s romantic entanglements. Otherwise, it’s got a twitch factor that either you’ll get or you won’t. Despite its weirdness, we got a decent comic book movie fleshed out with interesting characters. Color us happy.

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

Casting: 9.5/10
Plot: 6/10
Like the comics?: 4/10
Overall rating: 19.5/30 or 6.5


Comic property reviews: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies

In the first quarter 2011 of Gaming Insurrection’s The Strip, we took a look at all three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Read on to see how we feel about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III.

Before we start, a little bit of explaining:

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

A screenshot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles make an interesting discovery in their lair in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

TMNT movie origins great way to start franchise

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

New Line Cinema, 1990

Pulling from the comics to tell its origin story, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does the franchise proud in its first stab at the movie business. With a few changes to some key elements, the movie Turtles still manage to convey the never-say-die attitude of the teen amphibians. Crucial fights and subtle humor are thrown in with great character development.

The casting is superb mostly. Judith Hoag was excellent as the plucky April O’Neil, and her pairing with Elias Koteas’ Casey Jones was enjoyable and believable. Shredder was menacing and imposing as well as his bodyguard, Tatsu (a movie only addition). The costuming looked great and so did the Turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Factory pulled out the stops to make the suits for the Turtles, and it shows. Our only quibble with the characterization was the inclusion and creation of April’s boss and his son. They weren’t wholly necessary to the story, and while they set up interesting subplots for the core group, they didn’t really add to the movie. In fact, it seems they dragged it down in parts.

We particularly enjoyed the fact that by the time the first movie was released, the cartoon was in full swing, thus making the movie possible. While the movie works to distance itself from the cartoon quite a bit, it still retains elements from it to draw in the younger crowd. Subtle nods to the franchise’s two origins (comics and cartoon) are featured throughout, helping the movie firmly ground itself as a sci-fi kung-fu flick. This is a must-own for the children of the ’80s crowd who remembers the days when Turtles fought with honor.

Like the comics: 7/10

Casting: 9.5/10

Plot: 9/10

Overall rating: 8.5

New character Keno joins the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in their quest to take on Shredder again in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

One liners’ add hilarity to Turtles’ movie sequel

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze”

New Line Cinema, 1991

What’s not to like about the sequel to one of the most successful independent movies of all time? Not much. Everything that made the first film a year earlier successful is back, though with a few changes. First, there’s no Casey Jones. And the actress playing April was changed. And there’s the addition of Ernie Reyes Jr. as the Turtles’ friend Keno and villains Tokka and Razhar. But other than that, the Turtles are still the Turtles.

There’s more action and more one-liners. And the return of Shredder makes it a little bit more believable that he’s a major villain for the Turtles than the comics would have you believe. It’s not very plausible that Shredder would be a one-note villain who only appears in a movie to try to kill the heroes, so it’s obvious that his role was increased here, tying in the various games AND cartoon.

Character development was handled in the first movie and not too much is dwelled on here. We wish more was written about Keno and why he was so proficient in martial arts and insistent upon helping the Turtles. His lack of explanation sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent tale for the Turtles. Also, is it too much to ask that Vanilla Ice should have been toned down? True, he doesn’t show up until the end, but really, Ninja Rap? It was odd and disconcerting as a child seeing him and that hasn’t changed in the 20 years since movie’s release. He does absolutely nothing for the film, and his cameo is beyond stupid. But, at least the Turtles got to dance.

Overall, watch the sequel if not for a laugh at the now-ancient fashions of the day, but for the ramped up humor that comes from creating a sequel for a TMNT movie.

Like the comics?: 5/10

Casting: 8/10

Plot: 7/10

Overall rating: 6.5

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles try to return home to their time in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III./Photo courtesy of TMNT.com

Boldly go where no Turtle should really ever go

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III”

New Line Cinema, 1992

A hackneyed plot and poor special effects make the third TMNT film the worst in the bunch. There isn’t much that could save the franchise from going downhill with the third movie. The plot of the Turtles time traveling literally doesn’t make much sense, and the first time that Lyndsey saw it in the theaters, she claims to have spent 20 minutes trying to make sure she was in the right movie.

The acting is garbage, the story is utter nonsense and has nothing to do with the TMNT universe, and there’s no mention of previous villains or characters that made an impact on the Turtles’ adventures. The bright spot in it all is the casting and return of Elias Koteas as Casey Jones. He, despite some ham-fisted acting, is a beacon of hope in a movie that is far from shimmering.

There is nothing here that really resembles the TMNT universe save the abandoned train system home that the Turtles found in Secret of the Ooze and Jones. We had trouble understanding the point of adding the scepter and why even some of the strange plots from the cartoon universe weren’t expanded on, such as the Utroms or Rocksteady and Bebop. If the movie can introduce samurai that we’ve never heard of, the least the writers could do is include mutants that we have heard of. This is one sewer tale that should have stayed underground.

Like the comics?: 0/10

Casting: 2/10

Plot: 2/10

Overall rating: 1.5

Comic property review: “Punisher War Zone”

Photo courtesy of ComicBookResource.com

Third time’s a charm for Punisher

“Punisher War Zone”
Marvel Knights, 2008

If you can ignore the fact that this is the third attempt at bringing Frank Castle’s tale to big screen, you will love Punisher: War Zone. This is really what every Punisher film so far should have been: Gory, over-the-top action punctuated by the loss that Castle suffers.

With his family and humanity lost to senseless gang violence, Castle has to go the route of the Punisher. There is no other way and Lexi Alexander does an excellent job digging into the motif of Castle’s desire to lose himself in death. Using quick action shots, detailed costumes and a penchant for showing the worst ways to kill a man, War Zone achieves the effect that should have already been achieved by two previous actors: Death by Punisher.

War Zone’s Castle, Ray Stevenson, has the look of a man consumed with rage and revenge. He wears Castle’s raw emotions on his face well, and he makes an excellent dark anti-hero mired in a cesspool of a city.

Dominic West (who was also in last quarter’s review subject 300) is also excellent. Villains have become his strong suit and Jigsaw is a testament to his ability to take a character, immerse and make himself unrecognizable. Doug Hutchinson is a surprise standout as well. Having impressed us in his previous soap opera roles, he plays mentally insane well here. The other characters are rather stereotypical but they don’t necessarily get in the way of the story.

Overall Punisher: War Zone should have had a better draw in the movie industry. It received a bad rap because of its late-to-the-party status and drama surrounding production, but it really is a good adaptation of a comic book franchise and deserves to put ahead of the other attempts to bring the Punisher to the big screen.

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

Casting: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Like the comics?: 10/10
Overall rating: 9

Otaku #03: Death Note Vol. 2

Death Note Volume 2 fills out its pages with interesting twists

Brandon Beatty, contributing editor

Previously in Otaku, I reviewed the manga Death Note, which tells the story of high school ace Light Yagami who finds a death note, a notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it.

Light, learning of the death note’s powers, decides to use it to kill off criminals. However, when criminals worldwide start dying simultaneously, the authorities send in L, a legendary detective to track down the killer. In volume two, the battle between Light aka “Kira” and L rages on when Light uses Kirchro Osoreda, one of his reserved criminals to lure out Raye Pember, a member of the FBI team sent to Japan at L’s request to investigate members of the NPA’s Kira Task Force who are suspected of leaking information on Kira. When Osoreda dies and Pember’s identity is known, Light quickly hatches a plan which results in not just Pember but all of the FBI agents in Japan dying simultaneously. As a result, L is forced to not only reveal himself, but also to rely on the remaining six members of the NPA task force, including Light’s father.

Death Note Vol. 2/Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

At this point in the story, I’m still in awe of how Light has evolved from a model high school student to an individual of pure evil, who believes that his actions are shaping a better world. He proves this when he kills Naomi Misora, Rayes’ fiancé and a former FBI agent who was close to revealing Light as Kira. As volume 2 continues, L, now going by the name Ryuzaki, is not out of the battle yet by providing the task force with fake police IDs in addition to making his hotel room the secret HQ for the Kira investigation.

Suspicious that Kira can still access classified information from the NPA, Ryuzaki increases the psychological warfare by placing a hidden camera and listening devices in the final two homes Pember was investigating where the Yagami family are suspects. Light, in the final pages of volume two, discovers that he is under surveillance and hatches a plan to counter Ryuzaki’s efforts using Ryuk to find the cameras. Readers picking up the second volume of Death Note will not be disappointed, since Tsugumi Obata has kept the plot fresh from the start of the series. His writing has ensured that Death Note is more than a regular who-done-it mystery.

The master talents of artist Takeshi Obata will not disappoint manga otaku. He regularly successfully mixes supernatural and physical elements with few hitches. The stage is set. Two chosen people are fighting in a battle destined to be one of ages. Who will win? Stay tuned as we continue to review a supernatural mystery manga that’s taking the world by storm.

Contributing Editor Brandon Beatty can be reached via e-mail at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com.

Marvel character highlight #04: Juggernaut

NAME: Cain Marko

AFFILIATION: Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, X-Men

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Unstoppable force once moving, superhuman strength, endurance and immortality through the gem of Cyttorak.

BACKGROUND: Cain Marko became part of Charles Xavier’s family through the marriage of his father and Xavier’s mother. Cain bullied Charles at any opportunity because of several factors, including the fact that his father was abusive and because Cain was jealous of Charles’ success and intelligence. Later, Cain joined the army and was sent to Korea. It was here during an expedition that Cain stumbled upon the Gem of Cyttorak, an artifact of a lost civilization. Upon reading the inscription, Cain was transformed into a living avatar of the gem. He was lost in a cave-in shortly after that took years for him to dig his way out of. The gem, however, sustained him. He has no need of food, water or oxygen. He is immortal and once moving is an unstoppable force through the magic of the gem. He is not, however, a mutant. According to classified documents on the X-Men adversaries, Cain is a mystical being and avatar of a god. He has menaced the X-Men since though in alternate universes such as the Age of Apocalypse, he has been part of the group that he hates with all of his being. Juggernaut is also known as a freelance worker for hire, sometimes teaming with Black Tom Cassidy or working with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

RELATIONSHIPS: Charles Xavier, stepbrother. David Heller (Legion), uncle.

FIRST VERSUS GAME APPEARANCE: X-Men vs. Street Fighter

APPEARANCES IN OTHER MEDIA: Marvel vs. Capcom (arcade), Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (arcade), X-Men Legends (PlayStation 2/Xbox), Marvel Ultimate Alliance (Wii/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3), X-Men the Animated Series (television), X-Men: The Last Stand (film), X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (PlayStation 2/Xbox), X-Men: Next Dimension (Xbox/PlayStation 2/GameCube), X-Men: Evolution (television), Wolverine and the X-Men animated series (television), Spider-Man & The X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (SNES), Uncanny X-Men (NES), X-Men (arcade), Marvel Super Heroes (arcade).

Comic property review: ‘300’

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hot, sweaty, loud: ‘300’ gets it right

‘300’

Warner Bros., 2007

You don’t have to know much about the ancient Greek Battle of Thermopylae to enjoy what Frank Miller’s 300 has to offer. You also don’t have to have a lot of testosterone or Y chromosomes to enjoy the slick visuals, fight scenes or lack of clothing that the Spartan faithful wear. This isn’t a particularly deep film but it doesn’t aim to be. It aims to be loud, cool and sweaty. And that’s exactly what you get in the comic book adaptation directed by Zack Snyder.

300 has been faithfully recreated frame by frame by Snyder, the illustrious comic book screen master who has brought forth visions such as The Spirit and Watchmen. 300 was one of his first attempts to bring a comic to life and it’s well done. Because Snyder doesn’t stray too far from the source material, everything has a grimy comic sheen draped all over it. The comic book goop the film is mired in doesn’t betray the direct lift of material; it actually enhances the beauty of the visuals. This film is undeniably gorgeous and it knows it. Even the green screen material doesn’t detract from the beauty of the film. Usually it’s obvious that folks are employing it in a scene but 300 more than covers its tracks and has a grand time doing it.

Also gorgeous are the various actors that make up the principal cast. The abs are fabulous, hair is perfectly coiffed and no one is out of shape or unable to fight. The beautiful people of the world apparently all fought in the Spartan army against the god king Xerxes and only one lived to tell the tale. That previous comic book sheen comes full circle in many of the visual elements, and the folks who kill the Persian army in stylized sequences featuring no less than six gruesome deaths are no exception. The History Channel was actually heavily involved in the costuming phase of the production and that attention to detail is evident throughout.

The actors themselves aren’t bad. While I’d not believe them as Greeks, the enthusiasm that comes across on the screen is infectious. No one phoned it in here and the dramatic portions are appropriately heartbreaking.

There isn’t much to dislike about 300. A small quibble is that the pacing makes it drags near the end. While the end battle is appropriately melodramatic and wrought with tension, it was a little too drawn out. As Elvis once recommended, a little less conversation would have been nice.

We’re action buffs and 300 definitely satisfied that need. Besides, the many quotable scenes such as “This is Sparta!” more than make up for the dragging of feet at the conclusion. 300 has earned its rank among great comic adaptations and action movies alike.

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.

Casting: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Like the comics?: 10/10
Overall rating: 8.6