COLUMN NINETY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2003
(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)
X2: X-Men United (2003)
(Copyright © 2003 Joe Viglione)
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THE MATRIX RELOADED, TERMINATOR 3, X-2
X-2 is one of, if not the, best comic book put to film. Perhaps that's why a Joyce Kulhawik might not understand the relevance. For years and years and years serious fans of Marvel and DC comics have had to put up with alterations to successful stories and captivating artwork, Hollywood often forgetting the importance of the ideal: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Adam West and Burt Ward made a great Batman and Robin, and Caesar Romero WAS The Joker. Take that Jack Nicholson! Where the TV show went wrong was that it turned one of the darker characters of comic books---something Alfred Hitchcock could relate to---and made it a comedy. It was desecration on the level of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Boris Karloff's brilliant performances in Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein spoofed by a Hollywood that thought nothing of turning Lon Chaney Jr. or Bela Lugosi into Frankenstein's monster. Let's have Madonna sing some Dixie Chick Tunes.
X-2 rises above all our fears about sacred territory not allowed to translate to the big screen. Patrick Stewart IS Professor X. It was always the hope of the true fan that the dude who was too stiff to play a Starship Captain would be allowed to play the role he was born to bring to life. Ian
McKellen is a superb
Magneto (you say Magneeto, I say Magnet-Oh) - the one flaw in the film--- and to this writer it is a big one---is the plastic Magneto hat. Please! It should be
metal, sturdy, like a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica in its flow and glow. But the acting is grade A.
Academy Awards won't be handed out, though they should be. Stewart and McKellen have that symbiotic
love/hate thing going on, and are wonderful. But having the likes of Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman settling INTO the role as opposed to Jack Nicholson in the aforementioned other Batman overtaking the role, now that takes guts and humility.
These are actors who know how to act, for they jump into their roles
with relish and become the part, rather than force-feeding the audience a George Clooney, a Jim
Morrison wannabe and the always dreadful Michael Keaton, all three in their attempts to play Batman as
awkward as Lugosi in the role of Frankenstein's monster. Adam West would have been the guy to put
some demonic sparkle into Tim Burton's original Batman, and Caesar Romero did (like Frank Gorshin, Eartha Kitt, Julie
Newmar, Burgess Meredith and the gang) what Berry, Jackman, Stewart, McKellen, Marsden and crew do here---they bring a comic book to life.
Spiderman may have been the biggest film of last year in terms of sales, but the costumes, the acting, the condensed plot, it was not satisfying to someone who grew up on the hero. Tobey Maguire is a great Peter Parker, but by not taking the hint from George Lucas and having someone else be Spiderman, the film lost much. Darth Vader was David Prowse (he himself a
Frankenstein in a Hammer film) as much as he was the voice of James Earl Jones. Christopher Reeves as Superman came close, it held the crown until this X-2 burst on the scene. A 12:30 AM showing with a 3/4 or more house is pretty telling, fans were in the lobby of the Woburn Showcase cinema chatting after the film ended, so this franchise is doing what Star Wars did.
Professor X is a better version of Captain Picard, and these X Men are like his second generation Star Trek the Next Generation. Is Wolverine not Whorf? Jean Grey just Dianna Troy? James Marsden a much better (and cuter) #1. Which brings us to the Queer As Folk aspect of the film. The blatant homosexual aspect of the movie does not take away from its power, it adds
to it. Mutants in the closet, nature or nurture, all the sound bites hit so very close to home, and the
chemstry between Marsden and Jackman as they both seek the affections of Famke Janssen - Jean Grey doesn't need to be a mind reader to see the jealousy between the two blokes is sexual tension between the two male stars...ok, ok, I'm getting carried away here, but that's the beauty of this film, it has stunning visuals and allows the imagination to take flight.
The humor in this movie is right out of the pages of Marvel Comics. Where Tobey Maguire failed to deliver the cocky Spiderman lines with the angst/arrogance/dry humor of the webslinger, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen are given the lines and they deliver with perfect timing. Yes, it is the Pierce Brosnan/Roger Moore James Bond one-liners, but they are offered with a subtle anger, all these heroes pretty much with an axe to grind: misunderstood, powerful, and told when and where they can express themselves. The scriptwriters and director utilize that lack of freedom admirably.
Also a plus are the beautiful sets straight out of STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, arguably the best of the latter generation Trek films. The kind of stuff you expect to see in Star Wars, all derived from Metropolis, of course, a good science fiction film needs to have those generators, that underground dungeon/science-gone-wrong lab, all the bells and whistles. X-2 has all those bells and whistles and more. Great acting, good script like a comic book episode, it stays focused, and it is easy on the eyes. X-MEN are characters much like Spiderman and The
Fantastic Four, really special heroes which deserve really special treatment. Comic book fans finally get their due here, and if "critics" and the masses don't get it, that's ok, because the fans deserve this one. For the fans, it is simply great. ##
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Patrick Stewart Hugh Jackman
Famke Janssen Halle Berry
Brian Cox James Marsden
Ian McKellen Alan Cumming
Anna Paquin Aaron Stanford
Tyler Mane Bruce Davison
Kelly Hu Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
Shawn Ashmore Peter Wingfield
Katie Stuart Daniel Cudmore
Glen Curtis Greg Rikaart
Kea Wong Shauna Kain
Director: Bryan Singer
Producer: Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenwriter: Zak Penn
Composer: Michael Kamen
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