“I thought you said supernova was bad?”

Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer

These two particular films came out in 2005 and 2007, right when superhero movies were starting to take off.  They re-did Fantastic Four in 2015 and appears they are trying again in 2024…I don’t know why they think they need re-done that often; these weren’t too bad.  Not mind-blowing, but not bad.  These particular films star Ioan Gruffudd (again, I adore him in Amazing Grace and my brother knows him from the miniseries Horatio Hornblower based on the novel series; he also briefly appeared in Titanic, was Lancelot in the King Arthur movie with Keira Knightley, and star of the short run Forever show on ABC) as Reed Richards, Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, Chris Evans (we’ll be seeing him in the MCU as Captain America soon) as Johnny Storm, Michael Chiklis (this guy reminds me of Mike Holmes from HGTV) as Ben Grimm, and Julian McMahon (I know him best as Cole Turner in Charmed [the early 2000’s version, not the remake that CW has decided to do…seriously, has TV run out of completely new ideas?) as Victor Von Doom.

The film opens with Reed and Ben going to Von Doom Industries to secure funding for a project Reed has in mind.  Victor agrees, mainly because he wants the satisfaction of Reed Richards begging for his help after making him feel inferior in M.I.T., and to show off that Reed’s old girlfriend, Sue Storm, works for Victor now.  And there is a history between Ben and Sue’s brother, Johnny, going back to NASA.  Doom also wants the research from Reed’s trip because it will boost his own company.  And Reed of course, has to utter “what’s the worst that can happen?” when talking to Ben about the trip.  Well, the worst that can happen is that the cloud accelerates and they have to get Ben inside before it hits.  Sue leaves Victor in the middle of his proposal so she can help.

The team returns to Von Doom’s medical facility on Earth.  Everything seems fine at first (and Reed gets a small scene to showcase that he remembers special things about his former girlfriend, when he instructs a nurse to move the orchids away since she’s allergic and instead, put the sunflowers closer to her since they’re her favorite…and Sue hears him, but doesn’t let on).  Johnny heads out with a nurse to go skiing and discovers that he can light himself on fire.  Sue manages to turn invisible during a conversation with Reed and he quickly discovers his new ability to stretch himself.  They run to check on Ben, who got hit with more of a direct blast, but he’s run off to check on his wife.  His wife is now terrified of him because his skin has turned rocklike.  (The way the cloud hit them teases what kind of powers they received, which is cool).  So he sits on a bridge to think about his life and tries to save a suicide jumper, only to cause a traffic jam for his trouble.  But when a fire engine starts to fall off the bridge, the team leaps into action.  Johnny protects a little girl from an explosion, Ben pulls the truck back on to the bridge, Reed stretches to save a falling firefighter, and Sue can project an energy shield which holds back the fire.  The crowd applauds their actions and the four are deemed superheroes.

Reed suggests everyone stays at his apartment in the Baxter Building while he theorizes what happened, mainly, the cloud fundamentally altered their DNA.”  [And cameo by Stan Lee; I think I watched this film before I ever watched X-Men, since I like Ioan Gruffudd, so this was the first time I saw him in a superhero film.]  Victor was not unaffected by the cloud, but hides his symptoms, like controlling electricity.  He orders Reed to figure out what went on, but is also secretly plotting.  He’s not pleased that the investors drop out of his company and is desperate to get his wealth and good name back.  And win Sue back; only to get back at Reed, as he admits to his assistant.  Victor is also turning into metal and kills his doctor when it’s suggested they inform the CDC.  That begins his power trip; he next targets the head of the board.

Reed vows to Ben that he will fix his friend.  Along the way, Ben meets a blind woman who is not scared of him (played by Kerry Washington).  Johnny’s had enough of being cooped up, so he enters into an extreme motorcycle competition, which leads to a public argument between the four.  Victor, who has cameras in Reed’s apartment, learns that Reed is working on a cure, by re-creating the cloud in a hope to reverse the wave.  And Victor knows he needs to take Ben out first, as the strongest and most loyal to Reed.  He points out to Ben that Reed and Sue are getting cozy again and that is delaying the cure.  Which leads to Ben and Reed fighting.  And then Reed tests the machine on himself because he’s willing to risk his life to make sure the machine is perfect for his friend.  And they think it works for a minute, until Reed melts.  Victor brings Ben back to the Baxter Building and uses his power to increase the output from the machine so Ben becomes human again.  Which leaves Ben vulnerable and gives Victor more power.  He then electrocutes Reed and drags him back to Von Doom Industries, hooked up to freezing spray.  Victor uses a heat-seeking missile to try to take out Johnny, who luckily learns to fly at that point divert the missile.

Sue sneaks in invisibly to rescue Reed and tries to take on Victor, who asks his ex-girlfriend: “do you really think fate turns us into gods so we could refuse these gifts?”  Not the first time Victor thought he was a god, according to Sue.  Ben also realizes he needs his new powers in order to save his friends, and uses the machine again, clobbering Victor to save Sue and Reed.  The battle ends up outside and Reed uses science to take down Doom, now masked in a metal mask from his home country of Latveria (like Doom was doing to Reed).  Reed has Johnny superheat Doom, then has Ben spray a fire hydrant on the guy: “what happens when you rapidly cool hot metal?”  The heroes are victorious and Victor is now due to be shipped back to Latveria.  There’s a cheerful party at the end, Ben now dating the blind Angela and happier with his lot in life.  And Reed finally proposes to Sue (using a gasket from the space station because he’s a dork).  Everyone is happy for the couple and Jonny lights a flaming “4” in the sky to celebrate, and to escape Ben.

Rise of the Silver Surfer picks up with the team a few years later, with Reed and Sue attempting to get married; but apparently the ceremony keeps getting postponed.  However, there is a strange shooting star flying over the earth (which wakes up Von Doom in Latveria) and the military wants Reed to help track it.  He initially turns them down because he wants to be a good husband-to-be and focus on his upcoming wedding.  But of course, he actually does work on the tracking system and Ben drags him away an hour before the ceremony.  Sue is a little nervous about getting married since she wants a normal life and family and that’s impossible as a superhero.  Their wedding begins beautifully, until an alarm goes off on Reed’s PDA, then a cosmic entity descends on NYC and disrupts the ceremony.  Johnny flies after the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne; Morpheus from The Matrix), then gets choked and dropped.  Now, when he touches one of his teammates, they switch powers.  Johnny also overhears Reed promise Sue that, after this mission, they can quit the team and have a quiet, normal life.

The team figures out that the next crater will appear in London, so they try to stop him.  But Johnny flies into Reed and switches powers, which almost puts the mission at risk.  At the same time, Victor is back and has spoken to the Surfer, but tells the military that he wants to help.  The key is that the Surfer’s power comes from his board, so they need to enlist Reed again to figure out how to get the two apart.  But Victor secretly works on his own plan.  Reed manages to stand up to the general, highlighting that he is one of the greatest minds in the twentieth century and it’s the general who came to him, asking for help.

Sue meets the Surfer and tries to have a conversation, until the military takes over and fires a missile.  The Surfer protects Sue, but they still have to use Reed’s device to get the board so they can talk to the Surfer, which the military takes over.  Doom shows his true colors when he takes the board and uses his enhanced powers to kill the general.  Sue sneaks in to speak to the Surfer, who admits that he is acting as a beacon to Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, in order to save his own world.  The Fantastic Four break the Surfer out in order to take on Galactus, after they get the board off of Doom.  They use Reed’s new jet, which can also split apart, to track down Doom.  But it’s too late, the Devourer has arrived.  Sue protects the Surfer from a spear that Doom throws, getting impaled in the process.  Johnny offers to take on all four powers to take on Victor and Ben even follows him.  The Surfer gives Sue some of his life force, when it appears she’s died, Reed cradling her body.  With his board back, he flies up into Galactus, with a bit of a push from Johnny.  A bright light explodes and the cloud disperses.

Hugs all around at the end, Sue is not dead, and now Johnny has his own powers back and no switching.  Reed and Sue decide to keep the team together because that’s the best way to save the world.  They have one more wedding and both agree to cut it short when they get another alert.  Sue tosses the bouquet, but Johnny burns it when it looks like his new girlfriend might catch it.  They hop back in their new jet and make another “4” in the sky.

As I already commented, these are not the most epic of superhero movies, but they’re a pleasant watch.  Victor von Doom doesn’t really have much of a reason to be a villain aside from the general “I want power,” spiel.  It’s fun to watch the four interact and know that there is already a backstory to them; it’s not just a new team.  Yes, I agree that Chris Evans makes a better Captain America than Human Torch, because he’s just immature and a jerk part of the time.  (And apparently, Michael B. Jordan was the Human Torch in the 2015 remake, before getting cast as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther; so there’s a joke that those who are Human Torches get better roles in the MCU).  So, overall, the films are OK.  I’ll still probably watch them because I like a few of the actors, but they’re not favorites. I never got into them as much as I got into the newer X-Men or as much as the MCU.

Up Next: For me, taking a break to work on some plotting and worldbuilding, but come the new year, I’ll hop back in with the MCU, starting with Iron Man.

“Those with the greatest power…protect those without.”

X-Men: Apocalypse

The final X-Men movie I will cover (and really the last one I’ve watched; I’m aware Dark Phoenix came out afterwards and continues the story, but it definitely looks like it is not a fun story, and there are several other Logan/Wolverine movies that also look depressing…superhero movies should have a good dose of fun).  Sophie Turner (equally famous for her portrayal of Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, and is now married to Joe Jonas) joins the cast as Jean Grey, and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Prince John in Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood) is the lead antagonist, En Sabah Nur.

Charles’ voice opens the film, saying that mutants are still searching for guidance.  Their gifts can be a curse and when they are given “the greatest gift of all, powers beyond imagination, they may think they are meant to rule the world.”  We go way back in history, to 3600 BCE and the Nile valley.  There is a ceremony going on in ancient Egypt, the crowd chanting “En Sabah Nur.”  There is to be a transference between an ancient mutant and another mutant.  But the guards betray En Sabah Nur and collapse the pyramid, though a few mutants remain loyal and protect their leader or god.  Now, we’re in 1983 and a high school class in Ohio is learning about mutants being “discovered” at the 1973 Paris Peace Accords.  One of the students is Scott Summers, who discovers his powers that day.

At the same time, in East Berlin, there are cage fights between mutants, with Angel as the reigning champion, now to face Nightcrawler.  Raven is in the audience and knocks out a guard in order to overload the electric fencing, so the mutants can escape.  She takes Nightcrawler and is going to get him set up with a new identity.  Meanwhile, Erik is living fairly peacefully in Poland, with a wife and young daughter.  Nina shows an affinity with animals (and is rather adorable).  Note: he has to live like a human in order to survive, but it’s good to see him happy.

Alex picks his brother up and brings him to Xavier’s school (Charles is already teaching The Once and Future King, like we see in a later/earlier movie…boy, that’s confusing).  They meet a young Jean Grey and Hank is still at the school.  Scott unfortunately destroys Charles’ favorite tree, but the professor is excited to help him nonetheless.  Across the globe, Moira McTaggert is investigating in Egypt and discovers a group chanting “En Sabah Nur” again.  Sunlight touches the capstone of the pyramid and makes its way into the Earth, awakening the ancient mutant.  This causes an earthquake across the world.  In Poland, Erik saves a coworker at the factory, then hopes he wasn’t spotted.  In the mansion, the earthquake is just the precursor to Jean’s terrifying nightmares that Charles attempts to comfort her.  When he puts on Cerebro later, he comes across Moira and the next day, has Alex take him to the CIA to see her.

The group was part of a cult that views mutants as a sign of god and actually believe that the first mutant lived thousands of years prior, in contrast to the popular held belief that mutants only evolved in the twentieth century.  Wherever this god that was raised went, destruction followed, and he always had four key supporters; like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The way this god lived so long, before being buried, was by transferring his consciousness from body to body and thus, gaining more powers.  And now this god is out and about in Egypt.  He discovers a young mutant thief, we know to be Storm by her powers.  She leads him back to her hiding spot, where there is a poster of Mystique, her hero.  En Sabah Nur touches her television screen and begins to soak up the world news.  He sees the clip of Magneto at the White House and calls the nuclear weapons and state of the world false gods and idols.  When finished, he declares to young Storm his intent to take over and rule the world as he did in days of old.  He calls it “saving” the world, but really means “cleansing.”  He makes Storm his first follower and her hair turns its’ signature white.

Back in Poland, Erik’s actions were noted and reported to the police; men he viewed as friends.  Erik is trying to run, but has to collect his daughter from the woods, where the police are holding her.  They point-blank ask if he’s Magneto.  All Erik wants is for them to release his daughter; he even offers to come quietly.  But when they’re traded, Nina reaches for her father, like young Erik did decades ago, pleading that she will not let the men take her father away, like his parents were taken.  The animals react to her distress and scare the policemen.  One accidentally released his drawn arrow, instantly killing Nina and her mother.  Erik cradles his babies, then uses Nina’s locket to eliminate the guards.  “Is this what I am!” he shouts to the sky. 

News quickly spreads.  Raven discovers it from her informant and has Nightcrawler/ Kurt Wagner take her back to the mansion.  Charles is still out, so she talks to Hank, while Kurt befriends Scott, Jean, and their friend Jubilee.  The teens escape to visit a mall and see a movie [Return of the Jedi and they have a humorous discussion about movie trilogies].  Hank tries to persuade Raven to stay; start the X-Men like they talked about years ago.  Charles is still hopeful for the world, but Hank is a little more realistic; they should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.  Raven just wants to find Erik.  En Sabah Nur and Storm recruit more mutants, gathering Angel, with new wings, and a woman with a laser sword.  Then they come upon Erik at the factory, ready to make the men who betrayed him pay (to which Erik asks the intruders, “who the fuck are you?”  He gets the swear word this film).  En Sabah Nur easily takes care of that, then takes Erik back to Auschwitz to teach him to pull metal directly from the earth.  (Note that he picks mutants who are angry with the world.)

Charles is pleased to see Raven, though disappointed she’s only there to find Erik and to argue the point that Charles should be teaching his students to fight.  Mutants in the outside world still live in fear; they’re not accepted, people just have to be polite to them now.  Charles reaches out with Cerebro to speak to Erik, which En Sabah Nur senses.  He then turns that conversation on Charles and takes him over; “thank you for letting me in.”  He uses Charles to release all the nuclear weapons straight up, and destroy them.  “No more weapons!  No more systems!  No more superpowers!”  [If the music sounds familiar, it is Beethoven’s Allegretto.]  Charles gets ahold of himself long enough to ask Alex to destroy Cerebro; “wreak havoc,” is his order.  Alex does so, but once they have the professor safe, En Sabah Nur and his followers arrive at the mansion.  Alex is still enough of a hot head, he charges the god while Erik pulls Charles to him by his wheelchair; Alex lets loose a blast, but the horsemen escape and the blast creates a chain reaction.

Peter Maximoff has seen the news on Erik and plans to track him down, so he goes the mansion.  Just in time to rescue everyone from the blast (rather hilariously too).  Well, almost everyone.  Scott instantly notes when he arrives, that Alex is missing.  He was closest to the blast and already gone before Peter arrived.  Scott, Jean, and Kurt separate off from the rest of the group, Scott grieving for his brother, when the military arrives.  They blast the mutants unconscious, and Stryker collects Raven, Moira, Hank, and Peter.  The other three follow, intent on rescuing their leaders.  Stryker wants Charles, but no one knows where he is at.  There are barriers in place to prevent the teens from entering, and Peter reveals to Raven that he is Erik’s son.

En Sabah Nur brings his horsemen and Charles to Egypt.  His plan is to wipe the face of the earth and rebuild it as he remembers, ruling as god.  And now, with Charles, he can control every mind on earth.  Charles, of course, tries to reason with Erik, but his old friend is still too hurt, too angry.  En Sabah Nur’s message that Charles passes along is to warn the world of his plan.  That the strongest among you, those with the greatest power, the earth will be yours.  Charles also manages to send a secret message to Jean, letting her know where they are.  And Charles changes the message at the last second, telling those with the greatest power…protect those without.  That is Charles’ message.  And that has always been and will always be Charles Xavier’s message to the world.  (And we love him for it).  En Sabah Nur’s not happy with the change, but his plan is not over yet.

The trio find Wolverine (because that apparently needed rehashed again), who goes on a rampage.  Jean manages to set him free and gives him “Logan.”  And no Scott, that is not the last you’ll see of him.  But they manage to free Hank, Raven, Peter, and Moira.  And find a plane to take to Egypt.  Raven speaks to the teens, telling them about her first mission and tells them that Havok was brave.  Raven doesn’t feel like a hero because she couldn’t save everyone.  But the teens still view her as a hero, so she will lead them.  Their objective is to rescue Charles.  Raven and Peter will try to get Erik.

En Sabah Nur’s final plan is to transfer into Charles; then he gains Charles’ power, but not his morality.  The transference is how Charles loses his hair.  The teens take on the horsemen, and Kurt manages to get inside the pyramid and get Charles out.  But their plane is caught before they can escape, so he has to get everyone out at once.  They hide, Scott and Hank taking on the other horsemen.  Raven tells Erik she’s going to go save her family and gives him the choice (and he recalls moments from First Class).  Peter uses his speed to punch the ancient mutant, until his leg is caught and broken.  Then Raven disguises herself as one of his horsemen to get close and uses the blade to slice him.  But he chokes her.  Storm watches as mutants fight mutants and the god she is following attempts to kill her hero.  Yet, En Sabah Nur and Charles are still connected.  Charles wants to save his sister and uses that connection to distract En Sabah Nur.  In his mind, he gets a few good punches in, until En Sabah Nur grows and beats Charles up.  Erik puts a metal X between En Sabah Nur and his friends.  He will no longer betray them.  Hank and Scott rescue Peter and Raven, then Scott uses his powers in conjunction with Erik’s to take on their opponent.  Charles asks for Jean’s help, telling her to let go.  Unleash her power without fear.  She walks into mid-air and flames erupt, in the shape of a phoenix.  Her powers pull back the ancient mutant’s armor, giving the men an opening.  But he tries to get away.  Until Storm electrocutes him.

Everyone is safe.  Charles gives Moira her memories back; she later has Stryker arrested for kidnapping her.  Peter and Storm decide to stay at the rebuilt mansion, courtesy of Erik and Jean working together.  And Raven has decided to stay to train the new batch of X-Men.  Erik and Charles have a conversation outside the simulation room, Charles now looking like his older counterpart with the bald head.  Charles was right about Erik and he was right about Raven.  There is still hope for the world.  But Erik cautions him, “doesn’t it ever wake you up in the middle of the night?  The feeling that one day they’ll come for you and your children?”  Charles responds: “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble.”  [I love that this is a call back to the last scene of the first X-Men movie!]

Overall, I prefer the prequel trilogy of the X-men franchise to the original trilogy, but the stories get a little wonky.  Honestly, the time jumps between the three newer films almost get in the way of the characters.  Sure, the ones who were introduced in First Class are still around twenty years later, but realistically, they shouldn’t be the same actors, as much as we love them.  If the studio wants to keep the same actors, great, just don’t show the same person looking the same twenty years later.  Also, while I love that Raven is Charles’ sister and that dynamic, this doesn’t work fully in retrospect: our Mystique could have never poisoned Charles like Mystique did in the first X-Men movie.  I’m sure the executives would explain that with the time travel, the future that was the original X-men films changed…ultimately boiling down to alternate universes in combination with wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.

Up Next: The two Fantastic Four films with Chris Evans; then I’ll be taking a bit of a break to work on some other writing, mainly the fantasy epic I have intentions of writing.  I figure this is a good place to pause, before jumping into the twenty-or-so Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

“All those years wasted, fighting each other, Charles, to have a precious few of them back.”

X-Men: Days of Future Past

This unites the older cast with the newer cast, with Bryan Singer back at the helm.  Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, Eitri the Dwarf in Avengers: Infinity War, Trumpkin the Dwarf in Prince Caspian, and the lead in the recent Cyrano movie) joins as Dr. Bolivar Trask, Evan Peters is Peter/ Quicksilver (yes, he appeared in WandaVision and SPOILER [in case you’re even later than me watching the show]: he plays the other version of Pietro…I just laughed when I saw in on the show and really wish more had been done because, he’s Peter, just the other one).  Booboo Stewart (he’s Seth in the Twilight movies and Jay in the Disney Descendants movies [haven’t seen those]) is another mutant, named Warpath.

We open in a dark future, ruled by Sentinels, machines that hunt down and kill mutants and any humans who try to help.  But there is a ray of hope left, for what’s left of the X-men are making for a hideout to meet with a few fighters, including familiar faces Bobby and Kitty.  Professor Xavier (yep, he’s alive, not sure how, but it’s X-men, we’re not really going to ask) has a crazy idea, have Kitty send him back in time to 1973 to prevent Raven/Mystique from killing Trask and thus causing the Sentinels to be built.  (Another quick question, how does Kitty have time travel abilities?  She phases through walls.)  Unfortunately, Xavier would not physically be able to withstand a trip that far.  So Logan volunteers and has to meet a very different Charles and Erik, and convince them to work together when they couldn’t be further apart.

The time travel works and Logan tracks down the Professor, only to find the mansion run down, with only Hank McCoy as a companion.  Oh, and he can walk.  But, the tradeoff is he doesn’t have his powers.  And wants nothing to do with Logan or his hope for the future; he’s a broken man, leave him alone.  However…he relents and will do it for Raven.  He still cares for her and will save her if he can.  Except they’re going to need some more help, particularly to get Erik out of…wherever he’s being kept.  Logan happens to know a mutant who is a teenager in the seventies: Peter Maximoff.  He gets to break in and get Erik out of prison in the Pentagon; Erik was arrested for killing JFK.  Peter is in fact very helpful, rescuing the men for a rain of bullets (Charles does get to hit Erik, then insist on no killing).

We see a brief glimpse of Havok in Vietnam, though Mystique impersonates a Colonel to rescue the mutants before they’re shipped off to Trask Industries under a young Stryker.  She’s taken Erik’s lesson on one-track mind to heart.  She later sneaks into Trask’s office and finds the reports on the dead mutants Trask has experimented on.  And gets the clue to head to Paris, for the Peace Accords.  There, she seduces a Vietnamese general and impersonates him to get into the meeting.

It’s a very tense plane ride for Charles, Hank, Erik, and Logan.  Charles and Erik finally confront each other; it’s a wonderful scene and hints at the mental headspace that Charles was in following First Class.  “You took her away and you abandoned me!” Charles shouts at Erik.  Erik’s comeback is that Charles abandoned all the other mutants; “we were supposed to protect them.”  Charles storms away and Erik levels the plane.  Logan points out that Erik has always been an arse.

Erik later offers a game of chess to Charles as a peace offering.  They discuss Raven, a woman they both love, in different ways.  Charles remains concerned for her.  Erik also admits he didn’t kill JFK, the bullet curved because he was trying to save him, because he was a mutant.  The friendship starts to mend, but it has a long way to go, so Charles starts the game.

Action comes to a head at the Trask meeting, who is trying to convince foreign governments now of his machines since the American government shut him down (some members didn’t like the idea of targeting Americans who are living peacefully).  Raven reveals herself and is briefly taken down by Stryker, but our heroes arrive.  Logan glimpses Stryker and loses control for a moment, not remembering any timeline.  Charles hilariously tries to pass it off as a bad acid trip, until Logan comes back.  Raven is genuinely happy to see her brother, until Erik picks up the gun and is willing to kill her to prevent Trask from getting his hands on her and her DNA and thus wiping out all mutants.  Raven tries to escape, but is nicked in the leg.  Erik pursues her, and Beast jumps after him.  Mind you, all of this is caught on camera when they land outside and use their powers.  Trask escapes, but manages to get his hands on a small blood sample.  Trask next meets with President Nixon himself and offers his machines once again as a response to the “mutant problem.”  (And that’s apparently what the deleted recording was about.)

Raven is patched up, then catches up with Erik and demands answers.  Erik attempts to persuade her to work with him to strike while they have the upper hand.  But Raven draws a line.  She’ll kill Trask because of what he’s done to her friends.  But this won’t become genocide.  Meanwhile, Logan convinces Charles to stop taking the serum, so that his powers will come back.  They need Cerebro in order to find Raven and prevent the murder she is still planning.  But Cerebro overloads since Charles is rusty.  So Logan has young Charles read his mind into the future and talk to older Charles (another brilliant scene).  Older Charles counsels his younger self that the pain Charles feels and fears will make his stronger if he embraces it.  His greatest gift is to bear their pain without breaking.  And that is born of hope.  Charles needs to get his hope back; only then will the future change.  Energized, Charles uses his powers to talk to Raven through others at the airport.  She’s still set on her path and dislikes that Charles is trying to make a decision for her.

Everyone manages to meet up again in D.C., where the President is making an announcement with Trask to showcase the Sentinels that will protect Americans.  Erik breaks into the Pentagon to retrieve his helmet to keep Charles out.  He’s also put metal inside the Sentinels so he has control, which he has go off on the crowd at the White House.  At the same time, the Sentinels of the future have found the hidden X-men.  Young Erik wraps metal into Logan and sends him off to drown, then uses the cameras to speak to hidden mutants, calling for them to unite and fight for their rights.  Raven duplicates the President as an offer to Erik, then shoots him.  Charles, pinned under a structure, uses his powers to convince Raven to choose a different path.  She can show the world that not all mutants need to be feared.  She puts the gun down (which erases the future, one where everyone was on the brink of being destroyed), and Trask lives.  But his program is scrapped and Stryker gives information to the President that Trask was selling secrets to foreign governments.  Raven takes the helmet off Erik so that Charles can use him to free himself.  He lets Erik fly off and lets Raven walk away.  Though she appears to impersonate Stryker to rescue Logan.

And Logan is in the new future now.  The mansion is full of students, Bobby and Rogue make a brief appearance.  Hank McCoy is teaching, and even Scott and Jean are back.  Logan needs a bit of help from the Professor, clearing up with the new history is after 1973.

Where we started with Patrick Stewart’s Charles asking if we’re destined to destroy ourselves, or can we change our fate.  Is the future truly set?  We end with James McAvoy’s Charles giving us hope that the past is “a world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes.  Countless choices define our fate: each choice, each moment, a moment in the ripple of time.  Enough ripple, and you change the tide” and answering that “the future is never truly set.”

I adore that they brought familiar faces back and it’s wonderful to see on the same screen the differences between their younger and older selves.  The greatest scene is watching James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart play the same character at two different points in life in the same shot.  Patrick Stewart always gives us hope for humanity.  I continue to enjoy the sibling relationship that they developed between Raven and Charles.  They still care for each other, but Raven has grown.  She wants to please her brother deep down, but now she’s own person.  And she realized that Erik wasn’t going to lead her where she wanted, so she struck out on her own.  And becomes the badass woman we love.  Charles ultimately lets go and has faith, but he’ll pull himself out of a hole in order to save her.  Work alongside the man who let him down in order to save her.  And of course, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are adorable alongside each other; there’s a funny blooper where Ian spouts some BS line and Patrick looks at him with “what did you just say?” on his face.

Really wish Erik would stop trying to rule the world!  You’ve gotten your revenge, leave it alone.  There are better ways to fight for mutant rights than reverting to killing all humans.  Also, we want you to settle down with Charles…hey, older versions of them are friends again, we want to see them come around.  Again, I encourage you to read Rumor Has It on either fanfiction.net or AO3.

Overall, this movie tends to give me a bit of a headache trying to keep timelines straight and I get that this re-writes a lot of what happened in the original trilogy and I like the happy ending, but it’s not always one I want to re-watch.

Up Next: X-Men Apocalypse

Mutant. And Proud

X-Men: First Class

The start of the prequel-ish series and brings in James McAvoy (I adore him in Becoming Jane and he’s Tumnus the Faun in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) to play Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender (he’s the reason I went to watch the Jane Eyre movie that came out around the same time and led me to actually reading the book [that sometimes works]) to play Erik Lensherr.  Oliver Platt (Porthos in the 90’s Three Musketeers) is simply “Man in Black Suit,” though Kevin Bacon (star of Footloose) brings dimension to Sebastian Shaw.  Jennifer Lawrence (this came out a year before the first Hunger Games film, where her fame skyrocketed.  She has since won a Golden Globe for American Hustle and an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook [no, I have not watched those, but I love her in this role]) is Raven, while Nicholas Hoult (now you see him all the time for ads for The Great, and he’s remarkable in Tolkien) is Hank McCoy, and Lucas Till (the new MacGyver) is Alex Summers.  A few older adults are familiar; Rade Serbedzija (Prince Kragin in the first Downton Abbey movie and Gregorvitch in Deathly Hallows, and Emile de Becque in the TV movie of South Pacific with Glenn Close) is the Russian general, Glenn Morshower (he shows up in a bunch of TV shows, usually as someone in charge) is General Hendry, and the senior William Stryker is played by Don Creech (yep, that’s Mr. Sweeney from Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide).

The film begins the same as the first X-Men film, in Poland in 1944.  But this time, we see someone watching young Erik Lensherr pull down the gates.  This man is known as Klaus Schmidt and he’s very interested in discovering Erik’s abilities.  The Nazis are only partially correct in their idea of genes unlocking a new age, but Schmidt is focused on latent abilities.  He offers Erik chocolate to move a metal coin.  When that fails, he brings in Erik’s mother and threatens to shoot her after the count of three, unless Erik can move the coin.  Sadly, the teenager cannot move the coin, and Schmidt shoots Mrs. Lensherr.  Erik goes on a rampage, destroying everything else metal in the room, to Schmidt’s great delight.  As a “reward,” he gives Erik the coin at the end, noting that he can unlock the boy’s gift with rage and pain (that does not bode well).  At the same time, in Westchester, New York, a young Charles Xavier discovers a young Raven in his kitchen.  At first, she morphs into Mrs. Xavier, but Charles quickly realizes she’s a fake since his mother has never stepped foot in the kitchen and has never offered to make him hot chocolate.  But when Charles realizes it’s another mutant, he’s excited, as is Raven.

Eighteen years later, in Geneva, Switzerland, Erik tracks down a former Nazi banker to make him give up the location of Klaus Schmidt.  He’s sent to Argentina, where he notices a photo of Schmidt aboard a ship based out of Miami.  Erik kills the men, after remarking that he is Frankenstein’s monster, and he’s looking for his creator [this sequence highlights Michael Fassbender’s talent with languages].  At the same time, Charles is finishing his degree at Oxford University and hitting on girls in pubs, while his “sister” Raven watches on.  While Charles praises pretty girls for their “mutations,” such as two-colored eyes and brown hair, Raven has to hide her true form in order to fit in.  She mocks a girl for saying “mutant and proud,” but the relationship between Charles and Raven is very sweet: Charles is very much a brother by saying that the overall concept of his sister dating is that “any man would be lucky to have you,” while the actual thought is, “you’re my sister, I don’t think of you that way.”  And he genuinely fears Raven slipping up and what the consequences would be.  [And excellent editing, playing Charles’ thesis over the scene where Erik walks into the bank, stating “the mutated human species meant the extinction of its less-evolved kin.”]

In the States, CIA agent Moira McTaggert is investigating the Hellfire Club in Las Vegas, discovering several officials and important people are all meeting, including General Hendry, so she sneaks in.  And overhears Shaw pressuring the general to put nuclear missiles in Turkey, extremely close to Russia and almost certainly a declaration of war.  But some of his mutant companions help sway the general.  When her report is not believed, she sets out to find an expert in genetic mutation.  Which leads her to Charles, who initially tries to flirt with her, until he discovers that there is something more interesting going on.  So, Charles and Raven accompany Moira back to the CIA headquarters, where Charles gives his presentation, but isn’t taken seriously, until he uses his abilities.  Of course, they think he’s a spy, until Raven transforms into Styrker.  They’re still not trusted, so the man in the back ground [Oliver Platt] offers to house them in his facility, since it’s secure and off-premises.  Then a lead comes in about Shaw’s whereabouts, and Charles persuades Moira to take him.

Erik has caught up to Shaw (who is in fact Klaus Schmidt) after Shaw has killed Hendry by demonstrating his mutant power: he absorbs energy and can redistribute it, which also keeps him young.  Erik is knocked off the boat by Shaw’s associates, then uses the anchor to begin tearing the ship apart.  Emma Frost and Shaw escape into their submarine, which Erik attempts to stop using his powers.  But the U.S. Coast Guard is also on the scene, with Charles on board.  Charles senses Erik in the water, after mentally running into Emma, who is also a telepath.  Charles urges Erik to stop and let the sub go; he’ll drown.  When the man doesn’t listen to him, Charles jumps into the water himself and calms the man down.  “You’re not alone.”

Charles brings Erik back to the “Covert CIA Research Base,” where they investigate the application of paranormal powers in a military setting.  Or as Charles jokingly calls them, the “mutant division.”  They meet young Hank McCoy, who on top of being extremely intelligent, has abnormal feet.  Charles accidentally outed Hank, but Raven is pleased to meet the young man.  It’s someone else who has a physical mutation.  Hank has developed a supersonic plane [looks an awful lot like the SR-71 Blackbird], (which appears in the other X-Men films).  When the two teens talk afterwards, Hank wants some of Raven’s blood in order to develop a serum that will mask their physical mutations, but not their actual powers.  Erik walks by in time to stop a kiss, but also points out they shouldn’t have to hide.  Erik is still bent on revenge, but Charles stops him before he leaves.  Charles wants to help Erik, and stresses that Erik has a chance to be a part of something bigger.  Erik in fact, stays, but they find out that the missiles have been placed in Turkey and Shaw is on his way to Russia.  He also has a helmet that blocks a telepath’s ability to read his mind.

It’s time for Charles and Erik to gather mutants of their own.  Hank developed a transmitter, he calls Cerebro, that can amplify Charles’ brainwaves and abilities, so Charles can locate other mutants.  Hank suggests shaving Charles so the helmet would fit closer, to which Charles definitively says “don’t touch my hair.”  They first find a club dancer whose tattoos are actually wings; then there’s a cab driver, then Alex Summers who is in solitary confinement.  Next, there’s a teenaged boy on a date, but he can drive fish away.  They find Wolverine in a bar, but all he says is “go fuck yourself,” and they leave.  The teens get to know one another and show off their powers and decide on nicknames.  The club dancer is Angel, the cab driver is Darwin, because he adapts to survive.  Raven becomes Mystique and the red-headed boy is Sean and he goes by Banshee because of his sonic blast.  Alex becomes Havok due to his laser blasts.  Erik and Charles are trying to plan their next step and are disappointed to find the kids having a party and goofing off (and destroying part of the building).  Raven does manage to tell them their nicknames; Charles is Professor X and Erik is Magneto.  The adults head off for Russia to hopefully head Shaw off, but he doesn’t show, Emma is leading the meeting with the Russian general.  Erik is determined to take her instead, so Charles chases after him.  Erik wraps Emma in metal hard enough to crack her diamond form, which allows Charles to read her mind for Shaw’s plan: place U.S. missiles in Turkey, place Russian missiles in Cuba and then make a nuclear war happen.  “Radiation gave birth to mutants; what will kill the humans will only make us stronger,” and Shaw can take over the world.

Shaw, in the meantime, has discovered that Erik and Charles are recruiting, so he heads for Virginia to find them.  His minions accompany him and start ripping the agents apart.  The agents attempt to protect the kids, even though some of them were teasing them not too long ago.  Until the last guy is very eager to hand the mutant teenagers over to the psychopath.  Shaw only wants to make an offer to the kids, saying that the humans will eventually rise against the mutants and they need to pick their sides now: either wait to be enslaved, or rise up to rule.  Angel willingly goes with Shaw.  Darwin starts to go with Shaw, then signals for Alex to let loose a laser, hoping to take out the bad guy.  Unfortunately, they did not realize that Shaw would absorb the power, then feed it to Darwin.  Shaw, Angel, and his minions leave.  When Erik and Charles return, Charles initially wants to send the kids home, but they point out it’s too late for that.  Erik convinces Charles to train the teenagers.  And Charles knows where.

At the mansion, Charles teaches each teenager that they need to control their powers, not let their powers control them (we see this lesson repeated in the previous trilogy).  Seeing Sean learn to fly is humorous, just the way he falls into the bush, and then Erik simply pushing him when Charles tries to let him out of trying.  It’s Erik who points out to Raven that she is splitting half of her attention in order to look normal.  She wants society to accept her, but she won’t accept herself.  And Charles and Erik work together, Charles showing Erik that he doesn’t need to use anger to fuel his power; that true focus lies between rage and serenity.  Charles feels the good in Erik.  Hank finishes the serum and shows Raven, but she’s realized the truth in Erik’s words and it doesn’t help that Hank calls the serum a cure.  She’s finally mutant and proud.  When Hank tries the serum, it initially works, but then goes the wrong way.  Meanwhile, Erik and Charles are playing chess and discussing the mutant issue, fundamentally on opposing sides, but for the moment acting like gentlemen.  Raven sneaks into Erik’s room to wait for him and even tries her older form, but he doesn’t say “perfection,” until she’s in her natural blue form.  She confronts Charles afterwards and he struggles to see her point.

The team heads out to try to put an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis, using the plane that Hank developed.  He’s now blue and furry, thanks to his serum, but he’s now become Beast.  When they reach the embargo line, Charles makes the Russians fire on their own ship, so the Americans won’t have to fire and then start the war.  They figure Shaw is nearby, perhaps underwater, so they use Sean as sonar (and he stays away from Erik, so he won’t get pushed out).  Shaw is indeed on site and plans to become the weapon, draining the nuclear reactor of his sub.  But Erik manages to lift the sub out of the water and crash it on the beach.  The plan crashes shortly after.  Erik heads for the sub, and Beast, Havok, and Banshee take on Angel, Riptide, and Azazel.  Erik realizes that smashing the mirrored walls of the reactor will allow Charles telepathy to work, so he can freeze Shaw.  Shaw attempts to win Erik over to his side, and Erik admits that Shaw made him into a weapon.  Then Erik puts on the helmet so Charles can’t stop him from using the coin to pierce Shaw’s head in final retaliation for killing his mother.  [Excellent editing, following the path of the coin and overlaying Charles’ face occasionally, indicating that he feels what Erik is doing.]

Stryker is causing problems and orders both sides to hit the mutants on the beach.  This just adds fuel to Erik’s argument that the humans are against the mutants and they all need to band together.  Charles still holds hope that there are some good humans out there.  Erik manages to stop the missiles and turns them back to the ships, but Charles tackles him, breaking his concentration so the missiles start exploding in midair.  The two men wrestle, then Moira starts shooting at Erik.  He deflects the bullets, but one lands in Charles’ back.  Erik retaliates by cradling his friend and strangling Moira.  Charles points out this was Erik’s doing.  He releases Moira, but pleads with Charles that he needs the man by his side; they’re brothers, they want the same thing.  No, my friend, we do not (and we’re hit by James/Charles’ piercing blue eyes).  Erik leaves Charles, makes one last plead to gain allies.  Raven steps towards him, though she detours to her brother, who gives her permission.  “Mutant and proud,” are her parting words.  The rest of the team swarm their leader and Charles can only say he can’t feel his legs.

They’re back at the mansion, formalizing plans to make it a school.  And Charles has to protect the anonymity of his students, so with a kiss, he wipes Moira’s memory.  Erik breaks Emma Frost out of prison, now wearing the repainted helmet and a cape and going by Magneto.

This has become my favorite X-Men film, because it’s a story that can really stand on its own.  They make it fit well into the Cuban Missile Crisis, so we wonder, could this really have happened?  There’s also more energy to the movie.  It’s nice to see older Charles and Erik get along on occasion, but it’s even better to see how they started.  Yes, some continuity snarls show up, but since none of the movies were exactly planned out years in advance to fit together, it still works.  And I probably allow much more leeway since I have never read the comics.  It’s also not as dark as many of the previous movies were.  Several mistakes were made by characters in complete innocence.  The soundtrack also heightens the energy of the film, with the electric guitar and steady pace.

And yes, I totally subscribe to the theory that Charles and Erik are a couple. And utterly adore the new fact that Charles and Raven are siblings. These people need more hugs!

Fanfiction Recommendations:

I love blueink3’s Rumor Has It, which picks up where this film left off and adds an unknown child of Charles’ to the mix.

Up Next: Days of Future Past

“Okay. People are dead now.”

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A prequel to the trilogy with a lot of familiar faces.  Danny Huston (we just saw him as Ludendorff in Wonder Woman and briefly as King Richard the Lionheart in Robin Hood) is Stryker and say hello to Dominic Monaghan (he will always be Merry) as Chris Bradley.  And there’s Kevin Durand (Little John in the same Robin Hood movie) as Fred Dukes.  Liev Schreiber (he was in Kate and Leopold with Hugh Jackman in 2001) is Victor Creed and Ryan Reynolds (he’s been opposite Sandra Bullock in The Proposal and is famous as Deadpool now…and that’s a confusing bit I will attempt to explain later) is Wade Wilson.

Wolverine’s origins actually begin in the mid 1800’s in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  James is an adolescent with a friend/half-brother Victor.  There is an altercation downstairs between James’ mother and another man, with James’ father investigating and getting killed.  It is quickly revealed that the other man is James’ actual father and Victor’s father as well and since they share the same mother, they’re full-blooded brothers.  James also has bone claws that extend from his hands, revealed when he attacks the other man for killing his “father.”  He and Victor run away and brief scenes show that they fight together in wars throughout the next century, including the American Civil War, both World Wars, and ending up in Vietnam.  Victor takes things too far and James (going by his surname of Logan by this time) jumps in to protect his brother; for their actions, they face a firing squad, but bullets do not harm the brothers.  That’s when Stryker shows up and offers the men the chance to join a special team, that enjoys “special privileges.”

The special team is a black ops team that touches down in Africa to confront a businessman (played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who has voiced Krogan in Race to the Edge, as well as has appeared in the rebooted MacGyver series, NCIS: Los Angeles, Black Sails, Jomo in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon Mines [the second film] and Jocard in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) about a meteorite fragment he has on his desk.  Logan is displeased at Stryker’s willingness to kill an entire village to gain the location, and leaves.  Victor stays, once again enjoying killing.

Six years later, Logan is enjoying the simple life in the Canadian Rockies with his girlfriend.  Kayla Silverfox [who looks like Jennifer Lawrence a bit] is a schoolteacher and Logan is a lumberjack.  We cut briefly to a fair in Springfield, Ohio, where Bradley is working.  Until he is visited and killed by Victor.  Afterwards, Stryker pays a visit to Logan, asking for his help.  “Your country needs you!”  Logan points out, “I’m Canadian.”  That evening, Kayla tells Logan a Trickster story about the moon’s lover, Kuekuatshue (which means “the wolverine”). 

Of course, the next day, Victor tracks down Kayla.  Logan senses it and runs to the woods, finding Kayla’s bloody body.  He hunts down Victor, but takes a lot of hits in his rage.  Stryker finds Logan at the hospital and promises him revenge, but first, he must endure pain in order to become indestructible.  Logan agrees, warning Stryker that afterward, he will be out for blood and no code of conduct nor law will stop him.  The procedure (at a familiar looking facility) involves the metal they found in Africa; adamantium [which is harder than vibranium, but not harder than Captain America’s shield according to the comics], which will be grafted to his skeleton.  Logan wants new dog tags that say Wolverine since he plans to become to animal in order to get his revenge.  There are visiting generals observing the creation of Weapon X; as in the Roman numeral for ten.  There is a moment where the procedure appears to have killed Logan, but the heart monitor starts up again.  Then Stryker tells one of his agents to erase Logan’s memories, which Logan hears.  He emerges from the pool furious and escapes, butt naked.  Stryker now tells his agent to cut off Logan’s head.

Logan manages to find a kind elderly couple to stay with for an evening.  But he’s found and they’re kill.  He rides their motorcycle out and takes down armored trucks and a helicopter (the fireballs are rather impressive).  Stryker is still trying to play both sides; give Logan his revenge, but keep him as a weapon.  Logan isn’t having that anymore.  Stryker is informed that the only thing that can kill Logan now is an adamantium bullet to the skull.  Logan goes to some of his old teammates to get information on what exactly Stryker is planning.  He finds out that Stryker was having the team hunt down mutants and he’s still doing that with Victor, and we see Victor go after Scott Summers at school.  Turns out, Stryker is collecting mutant powers in order to combine them into the perfect weapon.  They’re held on an island that only one mutant ever escaped from, Remy LeBeau, known as Gambit.  So Logan heads to New Orleans to find him.  But there is a miscommunication between Remy and Logan and Remy throws him out of the casino, then interrupts Logan and Victor’s fight

Back at the island, the general shuts down Stryker’s project, citing a conflict of interests in regard to Stryker’s son being a mutant.  Stryker kills the general and proceeds with creating Weapon XI.  Turns out, said island is actually Three Mile Island, the nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania…where better to operate in secrecy?  Remy drops Logan off and Logan confronts Stryker only to find out that Kayla is actually alive, and a mutant and planted in order to keep an idea on him.  She is able to influence people by touching them (she did that by deescalating a fight between Logan and another man earlier).  Logan is furious and walks out.  Victor goes to Stryker, because he wanted a fight.  So Victor goes after Kayla; her scream calls Logan back and he dukes it out with Victor.  He knocks his brother out, but doesn’t kill them, instead rescuing the trapped mutant children with Kayla, including her younger sister who has diamond skin.  Kayla sends the kids on their own, staying to watch Logan take on Weapon XI, who is Wade with a lot of new powers, and a sewn-shut mouth (because that man would not shut up, not while he was awake and Stryker had commented earlier that he’d be the perfect soldier if he didn’t have that mouth).  Victor joins in on the fun and fights back-to-back with his brother again; “nobody kills you but me.”  Logan manages to decapitate Wade, but still walks away from his brother.

Logan finds Kayla wounded and they try to leave, but Stryker arrives with a gun with adamantium bullets.  He downs Logan and puts two bullets in his skull; which doesn’t kill him, but does erase his memories.  Kayla keeps from being shot by grasping Stryker’s leg and ordering him to turn and walk away.  Remy has come back and after seeing Xavier take the children, discovers Logan, with no memory (at least he’s smart enough to realize that two bullets to the skull of someone who is indestructible is not good and yeah, probably causes memory problems).  Logan discovers Kayla, but has no recollection of who she is, then tells Remy he will find his own way.  Which brings us to how the first X-Men movie started; how Logan had no memory of how he became the Wolverine.

Oh, and Wade survived.  Which brings us to the conundrum of Deadpool’s place in Marvel.  I will be honest; I’ve only watched the first Deadpool movie once and not really my cup of team, but I believe that a few X-Men do show up and I recall Deadpool calling out Wolverine (or that was Ryan Reynolds calling out Hugh Jackman).  The Deadpool character is part of the Marvel universe (but not the huge cinematic universe that Disney owns now) and I read somewhere that technically, Deadpool does exist in some way in the whole wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey timeline that Days of the Future Past created.  However, it does appear that Ryan Reynolds enjoys playing Deadpool.

In a similar vein of honesty, this used to be my favorite X-Men movie and why I began liking Hugh Jackman as an actor.  And it fits fairly well with the previous trilogy of films, though we do have a question now about Sabertooth, because Victor Creed is supposed to be Sabertooth, but in the first film, he does not have any brotherly tendencies towards Logan.  Bit confusing if you stop and think about it.  But things do get out of whack with the prequel films; however, I like those movies a little more in general; I think the stories are more nuanced, but we’ll get into that with the next batch of films.  Overall, this is a straight-up action film, which we expect from Wolverine.  He is caring, but doesn’t focus on the warm and fuzzy notions.  And from the bits I’ve seen of later Logan-centric films, this doesn’t wallow in angst, which is appreciated.

Next Time: X-Men First Class

The Professor’s Lessons Continue

X-Men: The Last Stand

The third in the original trilogy of X-Men films.  There are a few new faces in the crowd, including Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy and Ellen/Elliot Page as Kitty Pryde.  But the film starts with a flashback to twenty years prior, where Erik and Charles meet the Greys, proving that the two men were indeed friends and began searching for mutants together, though their outlooks already differ.  Charles comments on his feeling of the misuse of power to Erik and they try to present a united front for Mr. and Mrs. Grey.  They ask to speak to Jean privately and Charles warns her that she has more power than she can imagine, but she should control it lest it controls her.  Jump to the “not too distant future” and Ororo and Logan are teamed up with some of the older teenagers, fighting against giant robots.  It’s only a simulation to get them to work as a team, which Logan is not keen on.  But he’s only a sub, because Scott hasn’t been the same since Jean’s death.  So when Scott starts hearing her voice again, he heads out alone to Alkali Lake to investigate.

Meanwhile, there is a meeting with the Department of Mutant Affairs, a relatively new department put in place by a sympathetic president, headed by Dr. McCoy.  They hope they are a step closer to re-capturing Magneto because they have managed to capture Mystique/ Raven Darkholme.  Dr. McCoy theorizes that yes, Magneto will come for her.  But there is more troubling news; a “cure” for mutants has been discovered.  It is an antibody, naturally produced by a mutant boy that permanently suppresses the X gene.  When McCoy visits the boy, his blue fur fades away, revealing a human hand.  News spreads and some mutants are for the cure, like Rogue, and many are against.  Magneto speaks to a group, warmongering that the government will force the cure upon mutants.  He recruits more mutants to his Brotherhood, claiming that the other option is genocide.

With his new crew, Magneto is able to find Mystique, along with a few more newcomers.  The Juggernaut is played by Vinnie Jones (he has been in episodes of NCIS: LA and MacGyver and was Labarge in The Musketeers and Gareth in Galavant), and they gain a man who can duplicate himself.  But when they try to get away, one of the guards was not completely unconscious and fires off a shot of the cure towards Magneto.  Mystique stands in the way and turns human.  Then Erik leaves her because she is “not one of us anymore.”

At Alkali Lake, Jean is still alive, though she doesn’t know how.  And she can control Scott’s laser eyes; she wants to see them.  They kiss, but something is wrong.  Back in New York, Charles senses something and sends Ororo and Logan to investigate.  When they arrive at the lake, stones are floating, as are Scott’s glasses.  Logan finds Jean, still alive, but no sign of Scott.  Back at the mansion, Charles reveals to Logan that because of Jean’s immense power, Charles put in physic barriers to help her control her power, meaning she developed dual personalities: Jean and Phoenix.  Now, with what happened at the lake, Phoenix may be getting free.  Logan now distrusts Charles, so when Jean awakes, he makes out with her, though he too sense something is off.  This is not the Jean he knows.  She becomes confused when Logan asks “where’s Scott?”  She pleads “kill me before I kill someone else,” but Logan doesn’t. 

She returns to her old home, where Charles and Erik meet up again.  Erik is determined to recruit Jean to his side and points out that Charles never let her fully be herself and tried to control her.  Charles insists he is helping her.  Jean’s powers flair and while the two mutant groups face off against each other, Charles turns to dust.  Erik is horrified and tries to tell Jean to stop, but he is comfortable with taking Jean with him at the end.  Logan and Ororo are left to mourn.  Bobby comforts Kitty after the funeral [because that’s what this movie really needed was a teenage love triangle] and Rogue decides to leave.  Logan lets her, though cautioning her that she should go because it’s her decision, not because of some boy.  But Rogue has always wanted to be able to touch people again after her mutation developed.

In the Brotherhood camp, the other members don’t trust Jean, and former student Johnny spouts he would have gladly killed the Professor, if given the chance.  Erik retorts “Charles Xavier did more for mutant than you’ll ever know.  My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.”

Events only escalate.  Magneto sends Pyro to torch a cure facility, bumping into Bobby looking for Rogue.  Magento also issues a threat to humanity, so in retaliation the Army is deployed, making sure to use no metal.  McCoy returns to the school, that Ororo keeps open.  Logan begins to hear Jean and goes looking for her, overhearing Magneto’s rallying cry to the Brotherhood.  Their plan is to go to Alcatraz Island, where the boy forming the cure is kept and burn it to the ground.  With information from Mystique, the President hopes to entrap Magneto, but when the raid goes down, all the mutants they saw turn out to be just the replicating man.  The X-Men form up and go to Alcatraz to face off against the Brotherhood.  Magneto is fine with letting the meaningless hoards of his troops go first and be shot with the cure by the Army.  He holds his more powerful allies in reserve, sending a few of the newcomers to take care of the kid.  Kitty heads in to save the kid, distracting the Juggernaut.  Pyro and Bobby get the rematch they’ve been waiting for, with Bobby ultimately freezing Johnny.  Logan works with the team and distracts Magneto while Hank comes from behind and jabs Magneto with the cure.

When we think that the X-Men have won, reinforcements arrive and Jean’s powers obliterate them.  Erik murmurs “what have I done?” as he escapes.  The rest of the X-Men get the remaining people off the island and Logan faces off against Jean.  His healing ability gives him the time to get close, though it is painful.  His claws are out and Phoenix growls “you would die for them?”  “No, for you,” Logan admits.  Jean comes through for a moment, pleading again “save me.”  “I love you,” Logan declares as he runs Phoenix through.

The world attempts to return to normal, rebuilding the Golden Gate Bridge that Magneto destroyed.  Xavier’s school re-opens, with headstones for Jean, Scott, and the Professor.  Hank McCoy is the new representative for the whole United States to the United Nations.  In the theatrical version, Rogue did take the cure so she can touch people (I prefer the alternative scene where she didn’t take it, because she realizes it is important to be a mutant, whether she can kiss her boyfriend or not).  At the end, Erik is disguised as an old man in a park, attempting to move chess pieces like he used there.  There is also a scene amidst the credits where the coma man that was part of an ethics question earlier wakes up with Charles’ voice.

We’ll notice more once we get to the prequel trilogy that some of the backstories no longer line up.  But Erik’s comment about Charles is the nicest thing he’s said in this trilogy and you want to see a glimmer of humanity in Erik.  Then we recall he didn’t do that much to keep Jean from destroying Charles and his friend’s death does leave an opening for his own agenda to make traction.  And his decision to let Phoenix free comes back to bite him in the butt later, so maybe Charles wasn’t in the wrong.

The romantic relationships still fall flat to me.  [Though the thought did pop into my head during the scene between Logan and Jean/Phoenix in the mansion: “it’s the return of Onatopp”].  And I do want to know, did Jean really kill Scott, or if Charles can come back, can Scott?  Is the cure a permanent thing, considering that Erik must feel something to think he can try to move the chess pieces.  And how is he not in custody?  Many questions, with no answers, the least of which, the actual ethical question of Charles taking over a coma patient.

My final thoughts?  I love the gravitas that Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bring to Magneto and Charles Xavier; they’re wonderful together.  The story itself was lacking, I feel.  I’m looking forward to diving into the prequel-ish trilogy, but first:

Up Next: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

“Logan, my tolerance for your smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here and you’ll spend the rest of your days under the belief that you’re a six-year-old girl.”

X2: X-Men United

The leads from the first film are back and joined by Brian Cox (Agamemnon in Troy, Argyle Wallace in Braveheart, and Killearn in Rob Roy) as Colonel William Stryker and Alan Cumming (Boris in Goldeneye) as Kurt Wagner.  And once again the film opens with an introduction about mutation and the comment from Professor Xavier that “sharing the world has never been humanity’s defining attribute” [and who else thinks this is something Captain Picard would tell another being?]  After that, the action kicks off with a mutant who can pop around in a cloud of blue smoke attacks the president, but once he’s shot, he leaves behind a knife with a banner reading “Mutant Freedom Now” on it.  Logan has made it to Alkali Lake in Canada, but it’s deserted.  He does spy a white wolf, which can hold various symbolism, including a search for truth I believe.

Back in civilization, Jean, Storm, and Scott are leading a field trip and a trio of teenagers, John, Bobby, and Rogue, get in a bit of trouble.  Jean is also experiencing some problems with her powers; they’ve been off in a way since Liberty Island.  Her dreams have been worse and she feels something terrible is going to happen.  Professor Xavier has to freeze the food court and reprimand John for showing off in front of humans.  But then the news story comes in about the attack on the President, so they quickly leave.  Colonel Stryker visits the President to request authorization for a special operation, namely to “investigate” Xavier’s school for children.  He has access to Eric Lensherr, which Senator Kelly is very interested in (reminder, that is Mystique in disguise).  The President agrees that Stryker may “enter, detain, and question,” but he doesn’t want to see a dead mutant kid on the news.  Kelly warns Stryker about turning this into some kind of war.  (We can tell there is something suspicious going on.)

Logan returns to the mansion and gets left to watch the children while Jean and Storm track down the mutant who attacked the President [there is an error in editing; Jean comments to Logan they’re going to Boston before Xavier uses Cerebro to find the mutant.]  Scott and the Professor are going to visit Eric.  Charles realizes that Stryker has been using Eric against his will for information against Charles; gas is pumped in and the two older mutants collapse.  Stryker’s assistant takes care of Scott.  Jean and Storm are able to find the mutant, a teleporter named Kurt Wagner, known in the Munich circus as the Incredible Nightcrawler.  He remembers the attack, but like he was watching himself and couldn’t stop it.  The back of his neck is scarred (like Magneto’s).  Mystique shifts into Stryker’s assistant in order to find out information on the prison where Eric is kept; she also discovers plans for a second Cerebro at a classified location. 

Meanwhile, Rogue is very happy to see Logan back at the school and introduces him to Bobby, her boyfriend (and isn’t that a whole load of awkward).  Logan wakes in the middle of the night, at the same time that black ops men break into the school and shoot stun darts at the children.  Some are able to get away, led by a kid that can cover himself in metal.  John and Bobby go back for Rogue while Logan takes out the men.  Logan instructs the big kid to watch after the other children.  Rogue convinces Bobby to go back for Logan, who is now distracted by Stryker; he remembers this man for some reason and Stryker seems to know things about him.  Bobby erects an ice wall between Logan and Stryker.  Logan tells Rogue, “Go I’ll be fine.”  “But we won’t,” she responds.  So Logan takes the three teens.  They head to Boston, where he knows Jean will be.  Bobby suggests they go to his parents’ house for clothes and he has to reveal that he’s actually a mutant.  His younger brother is upset and his mother asks him to try to “not be a mutant” [cringe].

Stryker has kidnapped Charles and Scott and is using his own mutant son to control Charles, having him send illusions into Charles’ head.  Charles protests Stryker’s use of his son, but Stryker also won’t admit that the young man is his son whom he’s holding prisoner.  His true son died; this is simply mutant number 143.  He will admit that mutants serve a purpose, as long as they can be controlled.  Charles also realizes that it was Stryker who arranged the attack on the President.  Create a situation where his expertise will be required and manipulate the situation to get what he wants.  He needed a reason to attack the school and get the specifications of Cerebro.  After the attack, the President gave him permission.  And breed enough fear against mutants, his method of controlling them will be desired.  Mystique charms a man and drugs him in order to gain access to Eric’s prison; by injecting him with lead that Magneto pulls out of him and creates pellets to free himself.

Jean is able to contact Logan, but Bobby’s brother called the cops.  Logan tries to calmly talk his way out, but with his claws out, he’s shot for his trouble.  John, who controls fire, shoots fireballs at the cops, until Rogue uses her power to stop him and put the fires out.  Jean and Storm pick up the teens and Logan.  Then two other jets come up on the mutants’ jet and Storm has to distract them.  They take a hit and Rogue is sucked out of the plane, though Kurt rescues her.  Magneto helps land the plane and both groups have to work together to free Charles.  Stryker’s son, James, is putting the illusion in Charles’ head that he has to use Cerebro to locate all the mutants.  But the danger is, if Charles concentrates on all the mutants too long, he can kill them.  Which is what Stryker wants.  Jean is able to read Kurt’s mind to discover that the secret base is underneath Alkali Lake.

They send Mystique in as Wolverine since Stryker is less likely to kill him on sight, but Mystique will be able to man the control center.  She gets in, but Stryker recognizes that she is not the true Wolverine, thought she is still able to complete her part of the mission.  She lets the others in.  Storm and Kurt will free the other children the men captured, while Jean goes with Magneto and Mystique for Charles.  Wolverine sneaks out to go after Stryker.  Jean runs into Scott, who is being mind-controlled, so Magneto and Mystique go on to Cerebro on their own.  Wolverine finds the lab from his nightmares and faces off against Stryker’s assistant, who is also a mutant with adamantium nails and a healing ability like Wolverine’s.  He manages to win by injecting her with more adamantium.  Then he goes after Stryker and is ready to kill him, despite Stryker’s insistence that he will tell Logan everything.  Except he finds out that the dam is going to flood their escape route and goes back in to save his new friends.

A blast from Scott knocks both him and Jean out and when he wakes, he’s back to normal and Jean’s injured her leg.  Kurt and Storm manage to get the children and Mystique and Magneto do find Cerebro.  “From here it doesn’t look like they’re playing by your rules.  Maybe it’s time to play by theirs.”  Instead of simply pulling Charles out, Magneto has James tell Charles there is a change of plans.  Kill all the humans now.  Storm has Kurt teleport her inside since Magneto and Mystique have left.  She freezes the inside so James has to stop his control.  Kurt gets Storm and Charles out and they are all almost to the spillway when Logan closes the door, right in time to keep them from being flooded.  He leads them out, but Stryker’s helicopter is gone, courtesy of Magneto and Mystique.  They’ve also gained a follower in John, who goes by Pyro.  Magneto told him on the way in that his power makes him a god among insects.  Stryker is still alive and once again tries to convince Logan he’s only an animal and who else can give him the truth?  Well, Logan will take his chances with the mutants.  Stryker shouts after him “one day someone will finish what I’ve started!”

Rogue and Bobby have brought the jet around to rescue everyone, but it won’t start again.  Jean senses that the dam is about to give, so she limps out of the plane.  She starts it and gets it in the air and won’t let the ramp back down for Scott to come after her.  She also manages to keep the water away from the jet and uses the Professor to say good-bye to Scott.  Then the jet is in the air and she drowns in the water.  All Logan can say is “she’s gone,” and Scott finally breaks down.  But they’re not finished yet.  The Professor freezes a press conference in the Oval Office and points out the truth of Stryker to the President and urges him to work together for a better future rather than repeating the mistakes of the past.  Back at the mansion, Charles tries to comfort Logan and Scott, but they don’t seem terribly convinced.  He then goes on to start a lesson with the students on T.H. White’s Once and Future King, which Eric was reading earlier in jail.

The pairings and relationships in this movie…to start, it seems like Rogue may view Logan more as a surrogate father-type figure, since she’s dating Bobby and Bobby seems like a nice guy.  He’s not trying to push Rogue, but he would enjoy a kiss once in a while.  And it evens works for a second, until it lasts too long.  And Logan probably views Rogue in a protective sense, but he doesn’t grill Bobby.  As for Logan and Jean; that is a ship that never should have set sail.  While Logan’s reaction to her death tugs at the heartstrings, I definitely side with the notion that she should be with Scott; she has a history with him and an understanding.  And yes, the two men are united for a moment in their grief for the loss of Jean, but even with Logan telling Scott that Jean chose Scott, I don’t see these two becoming friends.  Then there’s Mystique obvious interest in Wolverine which could be interesting in one respect, though creepy how she switched through the various ladies (one of whom may have been Rogue and yeah, definite creepy factor there).

There are hints of Jean’s growing power throughout the film and that is an epic display at the end, lifting the jet and holding back the dam at the same time.  And we are left with the notion at the end that all may not be what it seems.  But Magneto may be right, that there is a war coming and these are the warning shots.

Up Next: X-Men: The Last Stand

The First Step Into a Larger World

X-Men

The first of a whole series of films made, including a prequel set.  It has a stellar cast, helmed by Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc Picard of Star Trek: Next Generation, John Gaunt in Hollow Crown, he voiced the Pharoah in Prince of Egypt, he appeared as King Richard at the end of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and an overall acting career that dates back to the sixties) as Professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen (Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies [the director, Bryan Singer, even adjusted the filming schedule so Ian could travel to New Zealand], Cogsworth in the live action Beauty and the Beast, Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, and a career as long-spanning as Stewart) as Eric Lensherr/Magneto [the two actors are friends in real life and it’s adorable].  This was Hugh Jackman’s first major role (he had done a recorded stage production of Oklahoma before this and was known elsewhere for his singing, but most American audiences knew him from X-Men first) as Wolverine (he goes on to star in Australia, Kate and Leopold, Van Helsing, The Greatest Showman, and Les Misérables, and is now on Broadway in The Music Man).  Halle Berry (Jinx Johnson opposite Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day, the titular Catwoman in the 2004 film, and she won the Oscar in Monster’s Ball) is Storm, James Marsden (Prince Edward in Enchanted, he appears in Hairspray and 27 Dresses as well) is Cyclops, while Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye, so that’s two Bond women in this movie) is Jean Grey.  You kind of can’t tell, but that’s Rebecca Romijn (Eve Baird in the Librarians series) as Mystique and Ray Park (you can’t recognize him in his other role either, but he’s Darth Maul in Phantom Menace) as Toad.

The film opens with narration on mutation and evolution, explaining that in this universe, mutants are the evolution of humans.  Then we’re in 1944 Poland, at a concentration camp as evidenced by the yellow stars the prisoners are wearing.  A family is torn apart and the mother cries for her son; he reaches out to her, despite guards holding on to him and pulls the metal gate back before he’s knocked out.  Time jump to the “not too distant future” in Mississippi.  A teenage couple is discussing the girl’s desire to go on an adventure.  When she kisses the boy, he becomes paralyzed and non-responsive.  She screams at her parents “don’t touch me.”  Meanwhile, there is a Senate hearing going on about a mutant registration act, headed by a Senator Kelly, who views all mutants as dangerous while Dr. Jean Grey is trying to explain that they are still people and often their mutations are brought on at puberty by heightened emotions.  After the hearing, two older gentlemen have their own conversation.  Charles is in favor of hope, while Eric views humans as lesser beings; “we are the future,” he tells Charles and warns him not to get in his way.

The teen girl has made her way to Canada where she enters a bar with a cage fight going on and meets “the Wolverine,” a champion fighter.  She warns him afterwards of a man threatening him, but Wolverine has claws that extend from his hands, so he’s got it covered.  Later, Wolverine, whose real name is Logan, discovers the girl as a stowaway and his heart is kind enough to not simply leave her on the side of the road.  Her name is Marie, but she goes by “Rogue” now.  They get in an accident and Logan is thrown from the truck.  He faces off with another mutant, while Marie is stuck in the truck, about to go up in flames (thanks to Logan’s cigar).  They are saved by two other mutants, one who controls the snow storm and one with laser eyes.

When Logan wakes up, his first instinct is to escape, though there is a voice following him and leading him to…Professor Charles Xavier.  And his school for the gifted, a cover for mutants.  His primary instructors are Storm, Cyclops (real name is Scott), and Jean Grey.  Marie is attending classes and hopes to fit in with the other wayward students.  Charles explains about their counterparts, led by Magneto, who foresees a war involving mutants.  Magneto was an old friend of Charles’, when he went by the name Eric Lensherr.  Charles also knows that Logan has lost his memory of his life before the incident that gave him an adamantium skeleton.  He makes a deal with Logan; give Charles forty-eight hours to discover Magneto’s plan and then Charles will use his skill at mind reading to help Logan discover his past.

In the meantime, Magneto has Mystique kidnap Senator Kelly and he uses a machine to expose the Senator to radiation.  Kelly ends up a mutant (whose body can now squeeze through bars), just like the Brotherhood of Mutants.  Afterall, humans fear what they don’t understand, so Magento is changing their minds about mutants.  Back at the school, Marie visits Logan when he has nightmares [why, not explained, and someone really ought to be asking that question]; he’s startled awake and accidentally stabs Marie.  Before she collapses, she touches Logan and heals herself, but knocks Logan out.  Charles explains once Logan wakes, that Rogue’s gift drains the life force of someone, and in the case of mutants, borrows their powers for a time.  Outside, Rogue’s new friend Bobby tells her to leave.  Except it’s not really Bobby; the yellow eyes give her away as Mystique.  Charles introduces Logan to Cerebro, the machine he uses to find other mutants, since their brainwaves are different.  He sends Cyclops and Storm after Marie, but Logan also goes.  Then Mystique gains access to Cerebro and plugs in a poison.

Logan is the one to track Marie to the train and comforts her.  He suggests she gives the school another chance because the Professor is one of the few people who understand what is going on and may be able to help her.  Logan also promises to take care of her, managing to give her a hug without skin contact.  But Magneto and his goons find them, Sabretooth and Toad taking on Cyclops and Storm while Magneto tears apart the train and throws Logan back so he can take Marie.

Logan intends to go back out to find Rogue, while Storm urges him to fight with her and Scott.  That’s when Senator Kelly shows up at the school, begging for help.  Charles reads his mind and finally realizes what Eric’s plan is.  To use his machine to turn the world leaders gathering at a U.N. Summit on Ellis Island into mutants so that the mutant cause becomes their cause.  And since the machine weakens him, he’ll use Marie’s power to transfer his power through her to power the machine.  However, a side effect of the machine causes Kelly to dissolve into water.  Charles attempts to use Cerebro, but is poisoned.  So the four adults have to work together to take on Magneto and his Brotherhood and rescue Marie.  Logan makes a crack about their suits and Cyclops comes back with a joke about wearing yellow spandex (apparently what they wore in the comics).

It’s an interesting fight since Mystique can transform into anyone on the team, so at one point we have two Wolverines fighting each other.  Storm eventually electrocutes Toad, Scott saves Jean, and when Logan returns, Scott knows it’s the real him because he calls him a name.  But Magneto pins the team and raises the machine.  Logan eventually stabs himself with his claws to get free, then takes on Sabretooth.  He helps the others get free and has them raise him up to Marie.  Cyclops gets a shot at Magneto, distracting him enough for Logan to slice the controls.  Marie now has a white streak in her hair and isn’t breathing at first.  Logan takes off his glove and attempts to siphon his power.  There’s a delayed reaction and Marie starts breathing, but Logan’s wounds begin bleeding.

Charles recovers and gives Logan a clue that there is an abandoned facility at Alkali Lake in Canada that may hold some answers.  Mystique survived and is posing as Senator Kelly so now he’s changing his view on the mutant registration law.  And Charles visits Eric in a plastic prison to play chess.  Eric asks his old friend if he stays awake at night, worried that someone may come for his children?  Charles responds: “I feel a great swell of pit for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.”  They’re still on opposite sides of the war, but they’re still old friends.

I have to admit, after watching the later X-Men and other superhero movies, this one feels a bit slow.  I understand that it sets up a lot of what takes place in later movies, but I had trouble getting back into the film after several years.  Of course, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are excellent.  I think Hugh Jackman’s performance gets better over time in the movies.  Jean is a bit flat and Cyclops and Storm are almost relegated to sidekicks.  As for the “love triangle” between Logan, Jean, and Scott; there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them and the only reason Logan is at all interested in Jean is because she’s pretty.  They have no interaction before he’s interested.  I do appreciate how they all work together at the fight at the Statue of Liberty at the end.  Also, looking back at the relationship between Rogue and Wolverine, it doesn’t sit quite right.  You can clearly tell that Rogue has a crush on Wolverine, but due to the age difference and the fact that they had only just met, it’s a bit awkward.  Now, it is sweet that Wolverine is concerned about Rogue and even persuades her to return to the school and promises to take care of her.

Up Next: X2: X-Men United

“They fly now?!” “They fly now.”

The Rise of Skywalker

Richard Grant (he’s been in Downton Abbey and Doctor Who) joins in as General Pryde.  Billy Dee Williams is back as Lando Calrissian!  Yes, that is Dominic Monaghan (Charlie in LOST and Merry in Lord of the Rings [I forgot he was in this and looked and told the screen “Hi Merry!”]) as Beaumont.  Denis Lawson makes an appearance as Wedge Antilles once again and even John Williams, the composer, cameos in the festival.  And yes, Ian McDiarmid is back as Emperor Palpatine.

We open finding out there are mysterious broadcasts of the Emperor making their way into the galaxy.  Leia sends Poe and Finn to gather intelligence.  Kylo Ren also searches for the Emperor, determined to destroy any threat to his power.  We find him slaughtering a group in order to obtain a Sith wayfinder (I thought it was a Holocron because I know those exist).  It leads him to a Sith Temple and Palpatine.  Kylo voices his vow to kill the former Emperor [while the young man is determined to follow in Darth Vader’s path, he still has several reasons to be rid of Darth Sidious; I’m sure some part of him recalls stories his parents and uncle told him that boil down to “this man should not be allowed to live.”].  But Palpatine explains that he is the mastermind behind everything.  He created Snoke; he’s been every voice inside Kylo’s head.  (So just like Anakin, Palpatine brought about the turning of a Skywalker.)  He reiterates: “The Dark Side of the Forces is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”  Like, creepy cloning.  The Sith Lord promises to give everything to Kylo; they’ll make a new Empire (which is the last thing we want to hear).  He raises a massive fleet of ships that have been worked on in secret and the Imperial March plays again.  But first, Kylo must “kill the girl,” and end the Jedi.  Only then will he become what Vader could not and rule as the new Emperor (and no one believes that.  He promised that to Vader…again, Sidious has a habit of breaking his promises once someone new comes along).  And the big question of the hour, who is Rey?

Poe and Finn discover that there is a spy within the First Order, who passes information through a middle man.  Have to say, it’s nice to see Finn, Poe, and Chewie working as a team on the Millennium Falcon.  Poe’s even got crazy moves to pull, like lightspeed skipping.  Meanwhile, Leia is training Rey.  Rey’s attempting to contact previous Jedi, whispering “be with me.”  They don’t answer.  And the connection between Rey and Kylo still exists and may be influencing Rey.  She has visions during her training run and doesn’t possess the quiet calm of a true master.  But she vows to Leia, “I will earn your brother’s saber, one day.”  For now, she banters with Poe about the Falcon being on fire (this bit is fun).  Poe argues that they need Rey out fighting, not training.  But he does confirm that Palpatine is alive and is coming for the rest of the galaxy.  They need to find Exogol, the hidden world of the Sith.

Rey recalls that Luke had been attempting that before he went into hiding.  He left notes, including about a Sith wayfinder.  Finn and Poe insist on going with Rey.  There is a touching farewell between Leia and Rey; hugging and Leia whispering to Rey “never be afraid of who you are.”  [Leia was achieved in this film with unused footage from Force Awakens and her role had to be downsized due to the passing of Carrie Fisher.]  Our heroes land on another desert planet and run into an old friend; Lando.  He rescues them when the First Order gets on their trail.  They’re tracking an old Jedi hunter and Rey vaguely recognizes the ship.  A serious of mishaps lead them to a Sith dagger, inscribed with the location of the wayfinder.  3PO can read the dagger, but it’s against his programming to speak the language of the Sith.  Chewie is sadly captured and Rey faces off against Kylo, who is still speaking to Rey, asking her to turn to the Dark Side.  Palpatine wants to kill her.  They fight over the transport carrying Chewie and Kylo pushes Rey.  She inadvertently uses lighting and blows up the carrier.  Poe, Finn, and Rey do manage to escape and Rey begins to fear where her path is leading.  She admits to Finn she had a vision of herself and Kylo both on the throne of the Sith.

Lucky for us, there was another transport and Chewbacca is alive!  Unfortunately, he’s now a prisoner aboard Pryde’s ship and they have possession of the Falcon.  Our trio of heroes take 3PO to bypass his memory so they can get the directions (and Poe’s backstory gets changed).  The downside is, it would cause a complete memory wipe, so 3PO takes one last look at his friends.  They get their information and yep, 3PO is back to introducing himself.  And Rey senses Chewie is alive!  So they mount a rescue mission.  Rey goes after the dagger and finds it in Kylo’s quarters.  There is a face off between them (through the Force since Kylo is on the planet).  Finn and Poe manage to free Chewie, then they’re captured.  They are in turn freed by the First Order spy, General Hux.  He’s not in it for the Resistance; he just doesn’t want Kylo to win.  Hux doesn’t last long after that; Pryde figures it out and shoots him.  But the Falcon manages to escape, Rey jumping aboard at the last second, still resisting Kylo.  He has managed to pass along useful information; Palpatine wants Rey dead because she is a threat to his power.  She has his power; she is his granddaughter.  Between Rey and Kylo, they make a dyad in the Force.  Kylo figures together they could kill Palpatine and rule the galaxy.  Rey is disinclined to acquiesce to his request.

The path to Exogol starts in the Endor system, with the crash site of the second Death Star.  Rey’s very determined to destroy Palpatine and plows ahead alone.  Finn discovers there are other stormtrooper defectors and they all rush after Rey.  [I do wonder what it would have been like if Luke had discovered the wreckage, considering all that had happened.]  She manages to find the second wayfinder, but receives a vision of herself as a Sith, with a double-edged lightsaber.  That leads her to Kylo.  He points out how the Dark Side is calling to her; neither of them can return to Leia now.  He crushes the wayfinder, so the only way to Exogol is with him.  They duel; it’s an angry duel, with little of the finesse the prequels or original trilogy carried.  This is about stunts and new moves.  Rey is tired, which Leia must sense, so she reaches out to her son, causing a moment of distraction for him.  Rey capitalizes on it and stabs Kylo.  And instantly regrets it.  This is not the way of the Jedi; she’s giving in to her anger and hate, like a Sith.  She heals him (which uses a bit of her own life…just like magic, these deeds have a price).  Afterward, she can sense that Leia has passed.  Rey admits that she wanted to take his hand, but as Ben.  Instead, she takes his ship.

Finn, Poe, and Chewie return to their base and are informed that Leia has passed.  Gosh, you want to cry alongside Chewie with his howl of grief.  Back on the destroyed Death Star, Han appears to Kylo.  “Hey kid.”  Father and son have another conversation, Han telling him to come home.  While Leia may be gone, what she fought for is not gone.  Ben repeats “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”  A mirror of their last encounter, Han reaches out for his son and Ben holds out his lightsaber.  “Dad,” he pleads.  Then tosses the lightsaber away.  When he turns back around, Han is gone.

Poe struggles to accept the position that Leia left for him.  He doesn’t know how to do what she did.  He’s not ready.  Lando comforts him; none of them were ready.  All they had were each other and that’s how they won.  Rey’s taken Kylo’s ship to Luke’s island to burn.  She throws Luke’s lightsaber, but Luke’s Force ghost catches it.  He was wrong to hide away and it is wrong for Rey to hide now.  They’re just running for their fears.  Rey is afraid of herself.  But Leia always sensed who Rey truly was; she saw past the name of Palpatine and saw Rey’s spirit and heart.  [Leia had her own struggle accepting herself as Vader’s daughter, detailed in Tatooine Ghost.]  There are some things stronger than blood and confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.  Luke guides Rey to Leia’s lightsaber, hidden away when she sensed Ben’s fall.  Rey pulls out the wayfinder, but she still needs a ship.  Luke raises his X-Wing from the water (to the same music as Empire).

Rey sends her course to the Resistance so they can follow to Exogol.  (Oh, and R2 restores 3PO’s memories.  Yay, cause that was sad when he didn’t remember.)  Poe and Finn are now generals; they’ll lead the Resistance fleet.  Their plan is to knock out the navigation tower.  Chewie and Lando will take the Falcon and raise hope (and reinforcements).  Poe rallies the fighters:

“Good people will fight if we lead them.  Leia never gave up.  And neither have we.  We’re going to show them we’re not afraid.  What our mothers and fathers fought for, we will not let die.  Not today.  Today, we make our last stand.  For the galaxy.  For Leia.  For everyone we’ve lost.” 

They will take the war to the First Order (cue triumphant theme!)

Rey arrives on Exogol, the Resistance behind her.  They begin their ground assault on the command ship (a bit odd), aided by the other former stormtroopers (turns out, they were children stolen from their homes; one First Order officer referred to it as “harvesting the young.”)  The fleet will fire on the cruisers while they’re stuck in atmosphere for a few minutes.  And these new ships all have the power to blow up a planet, making it even more important to wipe them out.  Rey discovers the Sith throne, and life-supported Palpatine.  He didn’t want to kill Rey, he wanted her to join him.  “Strike me down,” and his spirit will pass into Rey, along with all the spirits of the Sith.  She will be the new Empress.  Rey refuses; she won’t hate.  Palpatine warns that he is her only family and turning will be the only way to save her friends.

Ben arrives (in an old TIE fighter) and faces off against the Knights of Ren.  At first, armed only with a blaster (yeah, that’s Han Solo’s kid).  But when it looks like Rey will strike down the Emperor, she instead passes Luke’s lightsaber (they managed to fix it at some point) to Ben.  Now it’s an even match between him and the Knights.  Rey then pulls out Leia’s saber and takes on the Red Guards.  Ben makes his way to Rey’s side and they face the Emperor.  “Stand together, die together,” he declares and sucks the life out of them, rejuvenating himself since they are more powerful as a dyad.

Just when Poe begins to lose hope that they are outnumbered, Lando arrives with an entire host of ships (apparently, the Ghost from Rebels is in that crowd, as is Tantive IV from the opening of New Hope).  Even Wedge Antilles is back.  But Palpatine is winning against the young couple.  He throws Kylo into a pit, “so falls the last Skywalker” (and getting revenge for Anakin’s final act against him), then shoots electricity into the Resistance, causing their ships to fall.  Rey murmurs “be with me.”  She hears the voices of Jedi past [reprised by their original actors]; Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ashoka, Kanan Jarrus, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi (both as Ewan McGreggor and Sir Alec Guiness), urging her to rise.  “These are your final steps, Rey,” Obi-Wan starts.  Anakin tells her to bring balance, like he did.  Mace and Yoda both assure her she’s never been alone.  “Every Jedi who has ever lived, lives in you,” Qui-Gon tells her.  Kanan encourages “in the heart of a Jedi, lies their strength.” And Luke gives her the last words of wisdom: “the Force will be with you, always,” like Obi-Wan told him before blowing the Death Star.  [This is the most epic part of the entire movie.]  Rey rises up against Palpatine and calls the first saber to her hand.  She stands against his onslaught of lightning, bringing the second saber to her hand as well.  Palpatine declares “I am all the Sith!”  Rey retorts, “and I am all the Jedi.”  Palpatine disintegrates in his own lightning.  The Resistance can fly again and they hit the fleet hard.  Finn and his buddies knock out the command ship.  Poe goes after them to rescue Finn, but Lando is faster in the Falcon.

Palpatine’s destruction also brings about the destruction of the Sith temple.  Rey collapses and Finn can sense it (it’s been confirmed that Finn is Force-sensitive and that’s what he wanted to tell Rey before they were swallowed in the desert.)  But Ben climbs up and crawls over to Rey.  He takes her in his arms; she’s limp and her eyes are unseeing.  He calms himself and Rey eventually rises again.  She’s surprised and touches his face, calling him Ben.  They share a kiss and Ben even smiles (he looks better when he smiles).  But then Ben falls back.  His body disappears, as does Leia’s back at the base [point of reference, not all Jedi do that.  Qui-Gon didn’t, Dooku didn’t, Vader didn’t.  Probably got something to do with their power in the Force.]  Rey flies away and we once again see celebrations on Endor (complete with Wicket), Coruscant, and Jakku.

Back at the base, everyone is hugging.  Chewie finally gets a medal.  And it is so good to see Rey land Luke’s X-Wing.  The trio share an emotional hug (and it’s wonderful.)  Rey has one last errand; the Falcon flies over Tatooine again.  She finds the old Lars homestead (back where it all started…so heartwarming), wraps up Leia’s and Luke’s sabers and buries them in the sand.  She has a new saber made from her old staff, with a yellow blade.  An old woman passes by and asks Rey “who are you?”  “Rey,” she simply replies.  “Rey who?”  Luke and Leia’s Force ghosts look on as Rey chooses to name herself “Rey Skywalker.”  She’s found her family.  The theme plays and we once again look at twin sunsets.  (And a magnificent finale theme on the soundtrack; you want to cheer when you hear the original theme play again.  I’ll admit The March of the Resistance has grown on me.)  And I certainly hope that Rey is not staying on Tatooine long; she needs to get back to her new family with Finn, Poe, and Chewie.

I liked that Finn and Poe got more main action in this film; they felt like side characters in the last one.  Yes, Rey is the main character, but it would be bland if she’s the only one who does anything.  They all had their own mission in this film and important ones.  Poe and Finn work well together and while they’d prefer to have Rey nearby, they can survive without her.  In regards to shipping…I know there are wars going on amongst fans; I’m fairly open minded.  I did not mind the kiss between Ben and Rey because it was Ben, not Kylo.  Totally appropriate considering he just saved her life.  And if it was Ben, I could see a relationship between Rey and Ben.  It would have been a fun story to see those two grow up together.  I’m also okay with Rey paired with Finn or Poe (or both, or Finn and Poe together because they totally give off those vibes.  And Finn revealing he senses the Force is a much better reveal than him being in love with Rey because that’s a bit too cliched).  The movies are written well enough that there are a lot of options.

My thoughts on Palpatine being the ultimate big bad…it does bring all nine episodes into one arc; he was the big bad of I through VI and with VII, VIII, and IX being a direct continuation of those, it makes some sense.  On the other hand, it feels like a bit of a cop out.  Though I guess it makes more sense than figuring out a whole new villain, since Snoke was killed in Last Jedi.  But it does make one scratch their head because how did he survive the second Death Star?  He got thrown down a reactor (or something) and then the thing blew up.  Is this one a clone?  Was that one a clone?  And the whole cloning thing; the universe already proved that stable clones could be produced, so why are Palpatine’s all messed up?  Is it the Dark Side of the Force?

On the revelation that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter; first, ew.  On so many levels.  Technically, it makes it a compelling story when Rey won’t turn and instead defeats Palpatine.  However, I’d much rather go with the fan theory that she was Obi-Wan’s granddaughter; it would explain her strength in the Force.  And give her a connection to the Skywalker clan considering Obi-Wan’s presences in Anakin and Luke’s lives.  There was also the theory that she was Leia and Han’s second child, which has some basis in the Extended Legends universe.  That would make the kiss at the end of the movie very awkward, but they’ve already gone there once.  But, Kylo would know his own sister.  Then there was the theory that she was Luke’s daughter (and in the Extended Legends universe, Luke married Mara Jade and had a son, so again, weaving in those elements fan were already familiar with).  There is a strong connection between Luke and Rey and she is incredibly strong in the Force; but Kylo’s knowledge is again a sticking point.  Some fans would argue that it would make a more compelling story for her parents to be completely unrelated to any of the main characters; there are more Force-sensitive beings out there than just the Skywalker clan.  But Anakin did have an incredibly high midi-cholrian count and was destined to bring balance to the Force.

I would have to say this is my favorite of the sequel trilogy.  It has the most compelling story and I love all the bits and pieces they brought in from the original trilogy (though someone give Chewie a hug).  Gotta smile when Luke raises his X-Wing like Yoda did.

Up Next: I start the Superhero section.  I’ll begin with DC, since there is a lot to unpack with Marvel.  X-Men will get thrown in the middle.  To start, let’s dive into Batman, with the animated series Batman Beyond.

“You were always scum.” “Rebel scum.”

The Last Jedi

The main cast returns, with Mark Hamill and Andy Serkis having more screen time than the last movie.  Billie Lourd (Carrie Fisher’s daughter) has a role as Lieutenant Connix as well.  Laura Dern (Marmee March in the 2019 Little Women amongst dozens of other movies) is Vice Admiral Holdo.  And if the captain of the First Order ship at the beginning looks familiar, that is Mark Lewis Jones, who has appeared in Merlin, Game of Thrones, Master and Commander, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Robin Hood.

We are informed that the First Order has taken military control of the galaxy and plans to wipe out the Resistance.  Leia is still certain that Luke will return and bring hope to the galaxy.  The Resistance is fleeing their last base when a Dreadnought ship appears.  A single light fighter [like in the original film] goes against the massive ship, piloted by Poe.  He’s able to take out the canons since he is too small and too close for their other weapons to hit, and still has time to joke with Hux.  This is supposed to pave the way for the rest of his squad to come in and bomb the Dreadnought.  His disobeys Leia’s orders and loses all of his bombers.  The last one manages to drop their payload, but falls into the resulting explosion.  They did manage to destroy the Dreadnought, but it came at a great cost. 

Nevertheless, Snoke is disappointed with Hux.  Snoke is also disappointed with Kylo Ren; he has too much of his father’s heart in him.  He keeps Hux around because he can be manipulated into a sharp tool.  But Kylo; Snoke sensed the raw, untamed power within him, in combination with the potential of his bloodline.  He could have been a new Vader.  Snoke fears he is mistaken.  “You’re no Vader.  You’re just a child in a mask.”  Kylo destroys the mask.  His new task is to snuff out hope in the galaxy, alive because the seed of the Jedi lives.

The Resistance thinks they have gotten away.  Finn wakes up and finds Poe, but he’s more concerned with “where is Rey?”  Leia slaps Poe and demotes him.  He needs to learn that “you can’t solve everything by hoping in an X-Wing and blowing something up.”  Then they receive word that the First Order has found them.  Poe immediately asks “permission to jump in an X-Wing and blow something up?”  Permission granted.  Poe doesn’t make it into the hanger before Kylo Ren blows it up.  Kylo senses Leia and does not fire.  His troops do not hesitate to blow the bridge.  Leia floats into space, but she uses the Force to bring herself back on board.  She is unconscious and needs time to heal.

Meanwhile, Rey attempts to get Luke to train her.  Well, her first argument is that the Resistance needs him.  That’s after Luke accepts his lightsaber from Rey and throws it over his shoulder.  His X-Wing is underwater.  [Fun note, the Pogs were created because puffins are prevalent on Skellig Michael and to digitally remove them from every scene would be impossible.  Thus, we get cute Pogs!]  Rey eventually has Chewie break in Luke’s door in demand of seeing him.  Luke is initially happy to see his old friend and hear that the Falcon is nearby.  Then he asks “where’s Han?” [there is a deleted scene that should have been kept of Luke mourning his brother-in-law.]  Luke tells Rey to go away.  She won’t leave without him.  So she gets to watch his daily routine (including a weird milking scene that could have been deleted instead).

But Rey begins to hear something.  She wanders the island and finds old books – the original Jedi texts.  Luke finally asks “who are you?”  Rey feels she knows the place from her dreams.  Luke now wonders why Leia sent Rey specifically to him.  Rey wants to learn, but Luke refuses to teach. “It’s time for the Jedi to die.”  That is, until Luke visits the Falcon alone and finds R2.  R2 tries to convince him.  Luke retorts “nothing can make me change my mind.”  Then R2 shows him Leia’s message from all those years ago: “help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”  Low blow, but it works.

I’ll admit, the bit with Luke and the palm branch “do you feel it?  Oh, you must be very strong!” while training Rey was funny.  When Luke tells her to reach out, she needs to reach out with her feelings.  The Force is not just something to lift rocks and control people.  It is balance and energy between everything and inside of you.  And it does not just belong to the Jedi.  He’s a bit impressed with Rey’s training with the lightsaber, until she cuts a rock in two.  However, when Rey senses a dark pit on the island, she doesn’t heed Luke’s warning to stay away.  She dives right in, attempting to discover what it is it wants to tell her.  Luke is troubled; he sensed that same power in Ben Solo.  Rey realizes that Luke has cut himself off from the Force.  He tells her that when you strip away the mythology of the Jedi, their legacy is failure.  At the height of their power, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise and destroy them, and create the Empire.  It was Sidious who was responsible for Darth Vader.  Rey argues that a Jedi, Luke, brought Vader back.

Luke recalls that yes, there was balance for a time after the defeat of Vader.  Luke became a legend in the galaxy.  And he feels he became arrogant.  He thought he could teach the next generation of Jedi.  He thought he could teach his nephew.  But Ben ultimately betrayed him and slaughtered his school.  Luke blames himself.  Like the Jedi of the Old Republic, he failed.  Rey argues that Luke was not the one who failed; Ben failed him.  She vows not to fail Luke.

She also discovers a connection to Kylo Ren.  They can see each other, but not their surroundings.  Kylo attempts at the beginning to force her to tell him where Luke is, but realizes it won’t work.  It is Kylo who wonders why there is a connection.  He even agrees with Rey when she calls him a monster.  During one of their conversations, he’s shirtless, which unsettles Rey a bit.  She asks him “why did you hate your father?”  Kylo admits he didn’t hate him, but won’t answer why he killed him.  Instead, he muses on how Rey is constantly searching for parents.  And she finds those figures first in Han and now in Luke.  But did Luke tell her the truth?  Kylo tells her that Luke sensed his power and feared it.  He tried to murder his nephew.  Kylo tells Rey “let the past die, kill it if you have it.  It is the only way to become who you were meant to be.”  In return, Rey admits to Kylo what she saw in the cave (a very weird mirror universe) and she tried to see her parents, but it didn’t work.  She comforts Kylo that they are not alone.  It’s not too late for Kylo.  Their hands reach out for each other.  Their fingers touch.  And Luke walks in.

Luke and Rey fight.  Rey pulls out the lightsaber and demands an answer.  Did Luke try to murder Ben?  Luke elaborates; he had sensed that Snoke had turned Ben’s heart.  He saw Ben’s future, saw him destroy everything Luke had fought for, and for a brief moment, Luke was tempted to end the threat.  That moment passed and he was left with shame and the consequences.  The last Luke saw of Ben was the eyes of a frightened boy.  That is why Ben saw Luke raise his lightsaber.  Then Ben reacted and everything went to pot.  Luke warns Rey when she wants to go to Ben and attempt to save him “this is not going to go how you think.” Rey leaves on the Falcon.

The ghost of Yoda appears when Luke attempts to burn the sacred tree and texts.  But Luke can’t bring himself to do it.  So Yoda calls down lightning and ignites the tree.  Luke even tries to save the texts, but Yoda laughs.  So Yoda must agree, it is time for the Jedi Order to end.  No, it’s time for Luke to look past a pile of books.  It has always been the way of things for the students to grow beyond the master.  Luke must pass on what he knows, Yoda instructs.  “Greatest teacher, failure is.”

Back with the Resistance, Vice Admiral Holdo takes command.  Finn doesn’t intend to stick around long enough to find out what her plan is; his plan is to leave and find Rey and keep her safe.  But a young woman named Rose stops him.  Together, they realized that the First Order managed to track them through lightspeed, which should be impossible.  But they could only be using the lead ship.  There’s a way to disable the tracker.  They tell Poe the plan and he contacts Maz for help.  She sends Finn and Rose after a master code breaker.  They check out an upscale casino, then managed to get arrested.  They meet another criminal hacker and during their escape, free some animals and destroy the casino, giving the poor locals hope.  When Finn and Rose are delayed, Poe confronts Holdo about her lack of plan, then takes command in order to buy his friends more time.  Leia wakes up in time to take the bridge back from Poe and stun him.  In actuality, she and Holdo like Poe.  Holdo’s plan all along was to get the last of the Resistance to a hidden Rebel base.  The First Order wouldn’t track the small cruisers.  She’s staying aboard the larger carrier to keep up the decoy.

Many of the characters all end up on Snoke’s ship.  Finn, Rose, and BB-8 are aboard to turn off the tracker.  They are instead caught by Captain Phasma, finding out that their criminal “friend” double-crossed them and they are almost executed.  That’s going on while Rey attempts to turn Ben.  “You don’t have to do this.  I feel the conflict within you.”  (Reusing dialogue from Return of the Jedi).  She’s seen the future where Ben does not bow to Snoke.  Ben has seen a different future, where Rey is the one who will turn.  They appear before Snoke, who calls Ben his good and faithful apprentice.  Snoke sensed that as Kylo grew stronger in the Dark Side, he equal would grow in the Light.  So Snoke bridged their minds and planted bait.  And Rey was not wise enough to resists it.

Similar to Return of the Jedi, Rey witnesses the destruction of the Resistance fleet and calls Kylo’s lightsaber to her.  Snoke senses that Rey holds the spirit of a true Jedi.  And that is why she must be destroyed.  He calls upon Kylo, the heir apparent to Vader, to kill her.  Rey still holds hope.  Snoke disabuses her of that notion; he cannot be betrayed or beaten.  He can see Kylo’s every thought and even now, he turns his lightsaber to kill his true enemy.  And Kylo did that.  He turned Luke’s lightsaber next to Snoke and cuts him in two.  Ben and Rey fight the guards off together (also catching the room on fire); Rey even tosses her lightsaber to Ben when he’s disarmed.  She begs Ben to come with her when they’re finished.  Ben in turns asks Rey to stay; together, they can rule and create a new order.  Let the past, all of it; Sith, Jedi, Skywalker, Snoke, die.  He knows that Rey’s parents were nobodies.  That would make Rey a nobody.  But not to him.  “Join me.”  Rey won’t.  They Force-fight for Luke’s lightsaber and it ultimately breaks in two, knocking them out.

When Snoke’s ship starts firing on the transports, Holdo turns the cruiser and jumps to lightspeed through the ship.  Finn gets a showdown with Captain Phasma, who then falls to her death.  Finn and Rose manage to escape with BB-8 (who has managed to get ahold of an AT-ST!)  The transport with Leia and Poe manages to make it to the base, where Finn and Rose crash land.  (Yes, Poe is happy to see them, but he wants his droid back.)  They put a call out for help.  In the meantime, there is a battering ram cannon that will eventually make it through their door.  A final stand then.  The Resistance is bolstered when the Millennium Falcon comes to their aid (Rey is safely aboard with Chewie, and a few Pogs).  Hux has saved Kylo, though not willingly.  Kylo declares himself the new Supreme Leader and leads Hux’s army.  Kylo now demands “blow that piece of junk out of the sky!” (meaning the Falcon).  Finn informs his friends that the New Order hates the Falcon.

The Resistance fighters are picked off.  Poe orders them to retreat, but Finn insists he has to take out the cannon; the New Order cannot win.  He continues with his suicide run until Rose knocks him out of the way.  She tells him that they will win by saving what they love, not be fighting what they hate.  She gives him a gentle kiss and passes out.  The cannon did its work and Kylo orders Hux to advance.  No quarter will be given and no prisoners taken (Kylo knows his mother is in there; he does not hesitate now).  The Resistance fears that no help is coming; the galaxy has lost hope, the spark has gone out.  Then a cloaked figure enters and kneels before Leia.  It’s Luke.  He apologizes to his sister, but that is not necessary; she’s glad he’s here at the end [and that is so poignant given that Carrie Fisher passed away before this movie was released].  Luke tells her that he is here to face Kylo, but he can’t save him.  She knows her son is gone.

Everyone watches Luke walk out.  Kylo orders every gun fire on that man, even shouting “more!”  Hux calls it off.  But Luke is still standing.  Kylo steps down to face him, and Luke admits that he is not here to save Kylo’s soul.  They duel, though notice that Luke dodges Kylo’s lightsaber strikes.  Meanwhile, Poe realizes that Luke is serving as a distraction; he’s stalling so they can escape.  They follow the crystal foxes for a way out.  When they get there, rocks are blocking their way.  But the Falcon is there and Rey lifts the rocks and rushes people onboard.  Luke cautions Kylo that if he strikes him down in anger, he will always be with him, just like his father.  Luke is not the last of the Jedi.  Kylo runs Luke through.  And finds out that Luke is a Force projection.  Luke is meditating on his island and collapses.  When he gets back up, he opens himself up to the Force, one last time.  He disappears and his cloak falls.  Kylo is not pleased to find the base deserted when he finally walks in.  He “sees” Rey one last time, before she shuts the door on the Falcon.  (Oh, she’s also hidden the Jedi texts on there.)  She has a conversation with Leia; they both sensed that Luke is gone, but he was at peace.  They will rebuild the rebellion.

Overall, not terribly interested in the side quest, because honestly, it wasn’t needed.  It was just some action for the characters to do when we weren’t focused on Rey, Kylo, and Luke.  And technically, if you think about it, if Finn and Rose hadn’t met that criminal, he couldn’t have double crossed them, thus allowing the First Order to target the small cruisers taking the Resistance to their base.  The story felt disjointed; yes, everything came together at the end, but it was clearly three separate stories going on.  This is repeating elements of Empire Strikes Back, with Rey training with Luke, and Han and Leia facing off with Vader.  But Vader was using Han and Leia as bait for Luke.

And we have to wonder where did Snoke fall in the whole timeline of Sidious turning Anakin and the rise of the Empire and eventual fall?  There is a very famous “Rule of Two” amongst the Sith, that there is only ever a master and an apprentice.  (Hence why Dooku became the apprentice after Maul was killed and Dooku had to die in order for Anakin to become Sidious’s apprentice.  Though in the Legends universe, there were other Force-sensitive students of Palpatine, but maybe they were not considered true apprentices?)

What I do like is the examination of the Jedi and the dichotomy between Rey and Ben/Kylo (he’s Ben when he’s good, Kylo when he’s bad).  They’re both fighting for a place to belong.  Again, we want Rey to succeed in turning Ben back to the Light.  And it almost works for a minute!  Then Kylo has to be stupid and vote for power.  That last scene between Rey and Kylo, when Rey shuts the door, I thought “she has the life you would have.”

Up Next: The Rise of Skywalker