Monday, May 5, 2003

Looking To The Stars: X-2 Much?

I’ve never been a big X-Men fan and I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, having considered the first one very x-tremely dull. That said, I think this is easily the most accurate Marvel movie adaptation ever. However, that is a half-handed complement as the movie has all of the flaws that I feel the book often has. The action scenes are first rate and the characterization is memorable but often times, the writers of the X-Men books try to fit too much into a story to the point of excluding certain things or giving other parts short shrift.

With a few exceptions, all the actors do their characters justice. Hugh Jackman in particular puts more soul into Wolverine than most of Logan’s writers have ever given him. Mystique is given more dialogue and characterization than in the first movie, showing Rebecca Romijn as being more than just a pretty face. Alan Cumming does the impossible and brings Nightcrawler to life, which I never would have thought possible except through complete CGI. And Sir Ian manages to covey all the power and menace of Magneto, even when locked in a prison cell reading a book.

The only problem is that there are so many characters to keep track of and many of them are not given much to do. Many do shine with what little time they get (Iceman, Rogue and Pyro, in particular) but others do little to stand out. Cyclops, for example, is taken out early, doesn’t return until nearly the end and even then does little but whine like Luke Skywalker. And I know I’ll be far from the first or last person to say this, but it must be said again…

Halle Berry should NOT be in this movie. I heard her say in an interview years ago that it was an insult to her as an African-American actress that the best role she had been offered was that of a character in a superhero movie. I thought then that she just wasn’t taking the part seriously and it showed. And the “just don’t care” attitude of Mrs. “first African-American woman to win an Oscar, even though I’m really half Caucasian” shows even more here. Storm, as portrayed by Berry, has none of the personality of the comic character. Actually, she has no personality whatsoever and only two expressions; dull surprise and stoic.

The plot is your typical X-Men story: anti-Mutant human in a position of power tries to destroy all Mutants. Prosaic stuff, but as in the books the deep characters and the subplots between them give life to what could otherwise be a very dull story. And just like in the books, there are far too many characters to keep track of. Many X-Men favorites are given nothing more than cameos where they are not even named. (Colossus, Syrin, Kitty Pride for example). And even the ones who are named and camera time are not given much time to truly develop. Lady Deathstrike, for example, suffers the worst conversion. A former love-interest of Logan in the past who willingly became a monster to hunt him, she is turned into an impersonal, mind-controlled assassin here.

Perhaps the biggest problem is one that returned from the first movie: that is there are some things that will be confusing as heck to someone who has never read an X-Men book before. I can’t discuss the major offender in this area because it relates to a point that is leading into what will likely be the center plot of X3. Suffice to say, at the end of the movie I found myself having to explain certain a lot more details to my less-comic literate friends than I did after Spider-Man or even Blade.

Still, the movie does get more right than wrong and all within my group of friends agreed that it was a fun time. Even those who needed an explanation for why Cyclops needed to keep his visor on or why Nightcrawler made blue smoke when he teleported.

Tune in next week. Same Matt Time. Same Matt Website.

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