Friday, May 01, 2009

Fireworks (Marvel/20th Century Fox)
X-Men When: July 2000
Why: Bryan Singer, David Hayter, Tom DeSanto How: Hugh Jackman, Tyler Mane, James Marsden, Famke Janssen

The Story So Far...
For visionary progressives such as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, the development of unique genetic mutations in individual humans inspires philosophy of social conscience. As humanity seeks to contain any threat an emerging sub-species might present, the ideals of these two powerful mutants diverge exponentially. For Xavier, the only future can be one of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, but in passionate disagreement stands Lehnsherr, whose childhood as a prisoner of WWII Nazi concentration camps leads him to defy a humanity he fears will repeat the past. To each cause are recruited other mutants, forming the X-Men and Brotherhood, respectively.

Standing between the two factions is Wolverine - a wandering loner whose act of kindness toward a hitchhiking girl, Rogue, drags him in to the secret war between the X-Men and Magneto's Brotherhood. Despite his sceptecism for the odds of their success, Wolverine joins the X-Men in their battle against Magneto and his zealous followers, including the mutant linked to his lost past, Sabretooth.

When Rogue is kidnapped by the Brotherhood; Wolverine and the X-Men pursue the villains to Liberty Island, where Magneto intends to use a radiation-based weapon to mutate the gathered leaders of the world on nearby Ellis Island. The X-Men find their counterparts well prepared for their arrival, forcing them into a pitched battle that leaves the X-Men in bondage and brings Wolverine into a long awaited rematch with Sabretooth high atop the Statue of Liberty.

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Sabretooth 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Draw 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wolverine 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

- Born a mutant late in the 19th century, James Howlett's life would be a long and arduous one. Baptised by death, he would discover his latent mutant abilities during the traumatic murder of his parents during his adolescence.

As a subject of Weapon X, Howlett's mutant healing factor made him the perfect subject for a delicate procedure to brace his skeleton with the unbreakable metal called adamantium. The metal was even added to Howlett's retractable mutant claws, located in his wrists, making them far more effective offensive weapons than their previous bone state. Wolverine first became involved with Weapon X - a project with origins dating back to the 1940s creation of Captain America -

Code-named Wolverine, James "Logan" Howlett would eventually find more permanent station with an invitation into the paramilitary group, the X-Men.
Wolverine's keen tracking abilities, healing powers, fighting skills, and dedicated grit would make him one of the most active heroes in the superhero community, seen in his more recent admission into the Avengers.

- For the feral mutant known as Sabretooth, much of his past and present proves intertwined with that of his arch-nemesis, Wolverine.
Like his opponent; Victor Creed's history has been shrouded in mystery, partly by his own design, but also by the mind-altering interventions of the experimental military project, Weapon X. It was his role as a member of the CIA black ops operation, Team X, that brought both he and Wolverine into the tenth instalment of Weapon Plus, which began experimenting on mutant subjects.

Over the years Sabretooth has struggled far less successfully with his animalistic bloodlust than Wolverine. His penchant for murder and skills as a fighter, tracker, and mutant with healing powers and talons, earned him a long career as a hired mercenary. In later years, Creed flirted with heroic service again, at times joining incarnations of X-Factor and even the X-Men. Bitter tensions with Wolverine and his own dark desires, however, undermined each attempt, eventually culminating with his death by the Muramasa sword, at Wolverine's hand.

Additional: Despite being one of the most popular rivalries in modern superhero comics, the many confrontations between Wolverine and Sabretooth have gone largely unrepresented on the Infinite Wars.

The only previous encounter recorded, thus far, came from Wolverine #50 (2007), the beginning part of a final battle between the two.
The fight; which takes place after Wolverine pointedly storms the X-Mansion where Sabretooth was holding residence; culminated in Sabretooth's decapitation death via the mystic "Muramasa blade" which is supposedly one of the few weapons in the world capable of killing these near unstoppable rapid-healers. To-date, the death has remained intact, despite the much maligned tale.

History: Wolverine (1-0-0)
Math: Draw Ranking: Wolverine (#6)

What Went Down...
After a brief encounter with Magneto himself, the X-Men find themselves bound to the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty, their predicament exacerbated by their strategic positioning to endanger each other in any attempt to escape.
The master of magnetism leaves his grunt, Sabretooth, to stand guard over their foes, returning to the torch to further his sinister scheme.

Terrified by her role as Magneto's surrogate in the machine that could kill him; Rogue's desperate cries echo into the chamber below. Heroically, Wolverine defies the the agony of Magneto's trap, unsheathing his claws directly into his own body in an effort to free himself of his manipulated copper shackles.

Successful, Wolverine falls limp, only to heal rapidly by way of his mutant power. When Sabretooth investigates, he finds not the helpless corpse of his feral foe, but rather the kiss of adamantium plunged into his gut!

Possessing remarkable healing abilities of his own, Sabretooth tosses the smaller mutant through a hole in the Statue's head. The move leaves Wolverine clinging precariously to one of the spikes of the Statue's crown, high above the Hudson.
Sabretooth joins him, clumsily clutching at his ankle to toss him across the top of the statue. Wolverine rolls with it, able to regain a vertical stance.

Wolverine lunges at his enemy, his wild claw swipe a poor leading attack against the intuitive retort of even the seemingly deminished Sabretooth. Despite his silent stupor, the larger of the two fends off rapid close quarters strikes with ease, breaking the deadlock with an uppercut that turns Wolvie inside out!

Growing increasingly angry, Wolverine leaps back at his opponent, again unleashing a series of strikes that are deflected and matched. A break in the exchange offers him a chance to reclaim his stolen dogtags, but the distraction grants Sabretooth a chance to utilize his superior strength. With Wolverine by the throat, Sabretooth launches him toward the edge of the Statue's head!

Hurtling toward certain doom, Logan tosses his arm outstretched toward the Statue's crown for a second time, this time catching the edge with his razor sharp adamantium-laced claws. Their bite on the copper and steel allow him to defy gravity, swinging in an unlikely circular revolution to twist his body back on top of the structure, at the cost of the crown's tip.

This one's for anyone unendingly bothered by the physics of this most bizarre moment. Happy Googling!Perched atop the thorn, Wolverine points his six metallic claws in the direction of Sabretooth and uses the station to propel himself like a human torpedo!

Despite successfully ramming his claws into Sabretooth's upper chest, the blow fails to slow the beastly mutant. When Rogue; in the process of absorbing Magneto's powers and becoming part of his nefarios machine, lets out a scream; Wolverine is distracted enough to be swatted aside!

He slows his descent buy driving his claws into the head of the Statue, narrowly missing the still bound X-Men inside, Cyclops and Jean Grey.

When Sabretooth peers cautiously over the edge where Logan fell, he assumes the absence of his opponent signals his defeat. Little does he realise, Wolverine has slid down to the ear, hidden beneath the crest of the Statue's crown. Logan claws his way back to the top, while Sabretooth returns to his post to harass a helpless Storm in a reprisal of a previous encounter.

Just as Magneto's machine shatters the Statue's torch and begins to draw from the magnetic energy absorbed by Rogue; Wolverine drops into the internal cavity to challenge Sabretooth anew. This time he has a plan, possessing the visor stolen from Cyclops to prevent him controlling his optic energy blasts.

Using her powers of telekinesis, Jean returns the visor to Cyclops, allowing the beams of his opening eyes to be channeled in the direction of Sabretooth!

The blast sends Sabretooth hurtling through the copper of the Statue's head, toward a hundred foot fall into the Brotherhood's boat, below. The victory allows the X-Men to turn their attentions toward the drastically weakened Magneto, and their endangered teammate trapped in his mutation machine!

The Hammer...
Jean Grey provides the vital assist to Wolverine's plan to allow Cyclops the winning shot in a shared victory for the X-Men!

As you might have guessed based on the date of this post [made a month later]; this week's review is a direct reference to the cinematic release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman reprises the titular role he made famous in the X-Men trilogy of films, joined this time around by a host of guest characters, including most prominently; Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth, Taylor Kitsch as Gambit, and Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. As the name suggests, the film delves into Wolverine's mysterious past, casting light on the Weapon X project, and his early life in the 19th century via scenes inspired by the Bill Jemas instigated series, Origin.
[Which was ironically written after the first X-Men movie in order to prevent film stealing or failing this vital moment in comics history].

While the newest X-film does well to draw upon key references from the popular character's comics history, it ultimately falters under similar stresses placed upon the previous instalment in the franchise (X-Men 3: The Last Stand), and bold deviations associated with negative filmic adaptations.

To the latter concern is Deadpool, whose character remains barely intact as a drastically altered variation of the popular anti-hero by the film's close.
Clumsy attempts to reference details familiar to the character -- such as his well known comic book design -- served only to highlight problems fundamental to a series that once pioneered the possibility of comics on film, but has since fallen drastically behind as standards continue to rise.

Mutant Top 25 Playlist
(Site Rank with Debut)
#1 Wolverine (1974)
#2 Sub-Mariner (1939)
#3 Storm (1975)
#4 Beast (1963)
#5 Rogue (1981)
#6 Archangel (1963)
#7 Kitty Pryde (1980)
#8 Cable (1990)
#9 Phoenix (1963)
#10 Cyclops (1963)
#11 Ice Man (1963)
#12 Boomer (1985)
#13 Mimic (2001)
#14 Magik (1975)
#15 Nocturne (2000)
#16 Forge (1984)
#17 Sunspot (1982)
#18 Banshee (1967)
#19 F. Richards (1968)
#20 Apocalypse (1986)
#21 Sunfire (1979)
#22 Morph (1992)
#23 Colossus (1975)
#24 Gambit (1990)
#25 Wondra (1989)
Going back to the X-Men films has been a lot of fun!
Despite the surprise success of sleeper hit, Blade (1998); it was this first X-Men film that earned credit for beginning the wave of superheroes on film that has since come to dominate the modern box office. Deservedly so, too.

Though the first couple of Batman and Superman films had earned massive critical and financial acclaim, the prospect of superheroes on film was hardly a proven formula. In fact, by the time X-Men was slated for filming, the industry had already suffered the indignity of the much maligned 1997 disaster, Batman & Robin. Prior to that was also the bizarre mini-reneissance of The Shadow (1994) and The Phantom (1996), neither of which was successful enough to elevate the niche above smaller ventures, ie; Steel (1997).

It's difficult not to look back upon this period of time without seeing the long shadow cast by The Matrix (1999).

As much as Blade and X-Men were defining moments in the modern cinematic movement of comic films, it's impossible to deny the vital role Matrix played in procuring the goodwill of audiences and distributors of this time.

While Matrix earned acclaim for it's overt references to Hong Kong action films, Japanese animation, and science-fiction philosophy; it was still in effect a post-modern superhero origin film, utilizing large contemporary ideas to tell the tale of the birth of a modern superhero.
It's hyper-stylized action sequences and technological feats all spoke a similar language to superheroes, suddenly embuing previously optioned comcis licenses with an increased value, by the broad genre association, and the increasing accessibility of film techniques and technologies to make it all possible.

While it in no way was a pioneer of the design sense, the Matrix built upon the trend of the nineties that had reaffirmed black's status as 'the new black.'
Above the technical difficulties posed by superhuman abilities, was X-Men's most obvious Hollywood hurdle -- adapting the yellow spandex of the time, to film.

Details like costumes were where the parabola of the first X-Men arguably began to dip. To establish the pseudo-realism of superheroes in cinema, one does find it difficult to imagine anything more viable than the black pleather catsuits worn by the X-Men in the eventual film.
Spider-man in 2002; like Superman before him; proved to be the globally iconic exception to the rule, bursting boldly on to the screen in vibrant primary colours as a crucial moment in the on-screen discussion of costume design in superhero films. The beloved hero's undeniable look confused the issue for some who followed. The cast of Daredevil comes to mind, their looks straddling an awkward line between X-Men scale deviation, and Spider-man inspired iconography.

These facts go the long way round to accept and acknowledge the predicament the X-Men film was put in, and how important it was on an evolutionary scale of superhero films. Of course, 2000 is ancient history in a decade that's been busily advancing under the guidance of some exceptionally talented film makers!

Wolverine lumbered into cinemas like an antiquated machine from a bygone era, buckling under the dated notions of gratuitous cameos, a generic visual style, and a fear of intelligence sensical storytelling. The fate of films like this was sealed with last year's blockbuster classics, Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Iron Man marched boldly into the cinematic arena to join Spider-man in proving just how high a standard comic book designs can be achieved to, in live-action. It also had it's say on the matter of intelligent and mature storytelling techniques, undercut however by the remarkable follow-up to Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman Begins, which built on the tone of good and evil in ways that have changed the way superhero movies are observed forever.

Even Singer's own work, it should be said, far surpassed what he achieved with X-Men. The 2003 sequel felt like the film the first wished it was, showcasing the merry mutants in a way that felt much more comfortable and natural. X2 stripped away the dead weight of peripheral villains (Sabretooth, Toad) and enfused the threat of evil with an even greater plausible modus of motivation and tactic.

Ultimately, the films have an opportunity to draw upon the very best seventy years of comics have to offer. The X-Men franchise has been heavily weighted by decades of sub-par storytelling, but the rolling dice of the comics industry offers an ethic to their cinematic cousins of doing as we say, but not always as we do.
Considering the possibility of more stylized, unique, and grounded stories offered by the Wolverine catalogue, anything else becomes difficult to accept.

With it's bloated cast of rejects from the previous X-Men films, utter fear of walking a deliberate conceptual path, and non-commitment to the characters it sourced; X-Men Origins: Wolverine feels like a film that has come from a franchise that helped define the role of superheroes in movies, but has been far surpassed by the projects it opened the door to.

The prospect of seeing Jackman's Wolverine bring to life the samurai monologue of Wolverine's operatic past remains delicious, but tainted by the expectation of an uninspired exercise in familiarity. With these spin-off films, much like good comics themselves, it would be nice to see a more individual tact taken.

Today we looked back at X-Men.
While I don't doubt the significance of the movie to the era, I find it hard to believe that anyone would argue that it hasn't been made obselete by the evolution of more advanced films. It is a product of it's time, but of that time it should remain.

The Fight: 3 The Film: 4

If somehow you haven't seen X-Men, then it's still well worth the investigation, if only for a little cinematic history. X-Men is available on Blu-Ray and standard DVD, as are all the films in the X-Men Trilogy. By using purchase links provided on the Infinite Wars, you help sponsor future entries, while also taking advantage of the price and convenience of Amazon Online. You'll find more films and comics like these in the Infinite Wars Gift Shoppe!

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