Monday, August 31, 2015

Star Trek: Renegades

I’m no stranger to the world of fan films. Way back in 2002 I wrote and directed the first part of a trilogy of Star Wars fan films – Star Wars: Pathways. This was when everyone and their mother were making these types of shorts to declare their love of the source material. There were so many to choose from in the early-mid 2000s, but aside from Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, Star Trek: Intrepid and Star Trek Continues-Phase II-New Voyages there was a distinct lack of Gene Roddenberry’s thoughtful science fiction available in this form. 

That’s not really the case anymore. After the prequel hype train died down in the late 2000s the boom of the Star Trek fan film came to the forefront due to the reboot film series. In the late 2000s and early 2010s some even began to feature cast members of the actual shows/films they were based on such as Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, which starred Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, Chase Masterson, Cirroq Lofton, Garrett Wang, Ethan Phillips, J.G. Herzler, Alan Ruck, Gary Graham and was directed by Star Trek: Voyager alum Tim Russ. Pretty impressive for a fan made production! Unfortunately it was a slow and meandering affair that was more about the fact that the producers were able to assemble this cast than making a whole movie. But it held the promise that if there were to be another project made by these people that they would create the fan production to end all fan productions. 
Star Trek: Renegades is the newest project from Tim Russ and his crew, funded completely through Kickstarter and Indiegogo a couple of years back and starring a virtual who’s who of Star Trek alumni and has beens from outside the franchise and promised to be a stunnng meld of classic Trek and Firefly. It is also one of the worst excuses for a Trek film since The Final Frontier.

When the revenge driven alien Borrada (Bruce A. Young) begins destroying worlds that produce dilithium crystals, Admiral Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Tuvok (Tim Russ) enlist a crew of pirates, led by the enigmatic Lexxa Singh (Adrienne Wilkinson), to take him out before he can target the Earth.
Over the past year or so I had seen the hype building for this film on Facebook and YouTube. The snippets of footage shown were kind of cool; filled with some rad CGI effects and cool new ship designs. With Tim Russ back at the helm (pun fully intended) he managed to convince Walter Koenig (TOS), Manu Intiraymi (Voyager), Gary Graham (Enterprise), Robert Picardo (Voyager) and Richard Herd (Voyager) to participate, as well as Sean Young (Blade Runner), Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Corin Nemec (Stargate SG-1), Grant Imahara (Mythbusters) and Vic Mignogna (Star Trek Continues) to participate as well. Everything about it looked like it would be an epic win for Trek fans across the globe.

Nope. Nooope. Nope². All the nope. Nope ∞.
For starters the script is absolutely terrible. Ethan H. Calk, Sky Douglas Conway and Jack Treviño are more concerned with spectacle and moving the limp story forward as fast as possible rather than developing the characters in any manner as their relationships to one another are unclear and their motivations are vague. It’s as if the writers had all this backstory they wanted to get across, but it was either cut out for time or was not a concern. I was missing key info and that is a crime. The plot is nonsensical in the extreme with events and Deus ex machina bullshit popping up whenever they have written themselves into a corner. The doomsday device that Borrada uses is never really explained and serves as nothing more than a cool special effect when utilized. They also throw in useless subplots that add nothing to the story except to give certain legacy cast members more to do, such as the inclusion of Chekov’s great great granddaughter (oh, that bomb scene… so freaking awful). Plus they left the ending open with the hopes that this will somehow become a television series. After watching this abomination I don’t ever want to see these flat, one-dimensional characters again.

The acting is even worse. Lead actress Adrienne Wilkinson (Xena: Warrior Princess) as Lexxa Singh is embarrassing to watch. She overdoes the whole “tough chick” attitude from scene one and since not one iota of her character is developed I found it extremely hard to give a shit about her or her plight. I assume that her last name is a reference to Khan, as if she’s a descendant of his, but since no info is provided I have to make assumptions so I cannot confirm nor deny this (like I said, backstory would have been nice). Since most of the film rests on her character’s shoulders it’s no surprise that it falls flat on its face. Walter Koenig looks to be trying his hardest to make sense of everything going on in this mess, but he fails and gets lost amidst the myriad of plot holes and convenient happenings. Sean Young looks bored and disinterested, Gary Graham looks confused, Edward Furlong looks high and mumbles all his insipid lines of dialogue, Corin Nemec should have his SAG card revoked and Grant Imahara, while doing a decent job of playing Sulu on Star Trek Continues, is so fucking bad here his performance borders on comedy. Bruce A. Young is in scenery chewing mode as the hokey villain with no motivation to want to kill everyone on Earth (at least not in any way that makes sense), and his shitty make-up does nothing to help sell his role. The only bright spots are Vic Mignogna, who plays Kirk on Star Trek Continues, as he seems to be giving his all as the put upon Cardassian Garis. Manu Intiraymi, reprising his role as the ex-Borg Icheb, is a fun character with a couple of cool new developments that needed to be explored a lot more to be considered truly rad. And Robert Picardo is his usual charming self reprising his role of Dr. Zimmerman from Star Trek: Voyager.
And then there’s Tim Russ who serves as director and co-starring as Tuvok. He has no idea what the hell it takes to tell a story properly as his narrative is broken up so much that it makes zero sense. Either he went completely crazy in the editing room or he just was completely out of his element while shooting this drivel. He cannot get decent performances out of his cast, cannot stage or film action scenes (everything is shot in such extreme close-up that I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on most of the time) and lacks the very basic fundamentals of visual storytelling. Uwe Boll’s films make more sense than this crap. While he does manage to show off some cool outer space dogfight action, I give the props to the effects artists wholeheartedly. They at least seemed to want people to be able to make sense of what they were seeing whenever a starship went to warp or fired a volley of photon torpedoes. And even though he wants this production to look like a million bucks, his lighting, sets and shot selections serve to do the exact opposite. Renegades is the very definition of a "fan film" in that it looks cheap, feels unfinished and reeks of amateur hour.

Star Trek: Renegades was a frustrating movie to watch. I really did want to enjoy it, but when a project is as misguided and haphazardly thrown together as this was I find it hard to find anything positive to say about it. And being a huge Trek fan, knowing that a lot of these people worked within the original franchise and managed to fuck it up so completely, felt like having my heart ripped out through my ass. I am not a happy Trek fan after viewing this abortion. I don’t foresee the planned television series coming to fruition, and for good reason. This is trash and a disgrace to Star Trek.
And people have issues with the reboot film series... Go fuck yourselves.

0.5 out of 5

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hitman: Agent 47

I’ve stated many times on this blog that I’m a huge video game fan. So much so that I make a real effort to see every film based on a game in the theater… even the ones that look like absolute ass (Bloodrayne, I’m looking at you). The trailers for the newest film in the Hitman franchise looked promising. The action looked fun and crazy while I liked some of the casting decisions as well. So of course I made plans to see it opening weekend.

Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), a genetically engineered assassin, attempts to protect a young woman (Hannah Ware) with a mysterious past from a killer (Zachary Quinto) who works for a malevolent corporation that wants to use her missing father (Ciarán Hinds) to create an army of cloned agents.
I saw the original Hitman film on opening night back in 2007 and couldn’t stand it. I had only a passing interest in the game it was based on, but on it’s own merits I found it to be wholly terrible and barely watchable. I had high hopes that this film would be the one to get it right now that I am more familiar with the source material. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be.

The main issue I have with Hitman: Agent 47, which is more of a full on reboot than a direct sequel, is that it feels incredibly generic. Everything about it is as cliché as you can possibly get. I don’t expect every movie to break new ground, especially one based on a video game, but I at least wanted it to attempt to put a new spin on the formula. Nope. Everything plays out exactly how you’d expect it to. In fact, if you’ve seen The Terminator you’ve seen Hitman: Agent 47. Essentially it’s a remake of that film beat for beat and follows the template laid down by that classic almost verbatim in some cases. The action scenes, which looked cool in the trailers, are lackluster in the extreme and do absolutely nothing to get the blood pumping. The only moment I can remember being somewhat rad was a car chase in a parking garage. A villain on a motorcycle has a head on collision with a car and he flies through the air smashing his head through the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Visually it looked painful so that was a plus. Everything else not so much.
The cast is terrible. Rupert Friend (Homeland) is bland as the lead character. Agent 47 is supposed to be emotionless, but that doesn’t mean he has to be boring. Schwarzenegger pulls it off as the Terminator time and time again so there is no excuse. Hannah Ware (Shame) started off likable, but as the film dragged on she grated on my nerves something fierce due to her character’s inane whininess. Zachary Quinto (Star Trek: Into Darkness) absolutely kills it as Spock on the regular, but here he looks embarrassed to be playing this goofy character who has one of the worst death scenes in the history of film. Even the usually reliable Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong) looks like he’d rather be playing golf than playing the main heavy for the millionth time.

First time director Aleksander Bach shows zero style and next to no knowledge of how to get his cast to emote let alone look like they give a shit about the movie they are being paid to act in. He also forgot to add a sense of fun that is sorely missing. The trite script by Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard) and Michael Finch (Predators) could have been at least something watchable in another’s hands, but Bach wasn’t the one to make it so. He couldn’t even get the sound department to give the aural experience any impact. Action scenes are just as boring to the ears as they are to the eyes. The score is shit too. And for an R rated film this is the driest action film I’ve seen in a long while. All the violence is performed off screen through cutaways and smash edits. Lame as fuck. The games this film is attempting to emulate are way more ballsy than this limp piece of dreck. Even the pathetic attempt to set up a cliffhanger for a potential sequel falls flat on its face. I don’t foresee Bach’s career going anywhere soon or fast. I predict his Hollywood days are over before they really began.
The only pluses I can address are the fact that Ciarán Hinds (Miami Vice) really tries to class up the picture by giving the only performance I gave a shit about. He is classically trained so it’s to be expected. I also enjoyed the bits that mimicked the video games, such as the disguises 47 employs to travel unnoticed throughout the film. Some of his attacks, like the use of the piano wire, are taken from the game as well. And that’s it.

While Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t nearly as horrible as it’s predecessor I honestly can’t say that I’d ever watch it again. Filled with missed opportunities, a director clearly out of his element, a crap script and actors that were completely miscast/disinterested, this film is a massive dud in my eyes. There are decent movies based on video games out there. I fully enjoyed Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Sadly I feel that the Hitman games just aren’t meant to be among that short list. It’s been tried twice. I sincerely hope there isn’t a third.

1.5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Damn, the Mission: Impossible film franchise has been around for nearly 20 years! It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat in that gigantic movie theater outside Golf Mill Mall to watch the original. Time flies. But I’m here to talk about the fifth film in this very uneven series, not reminisce about days gone by at the multiplex.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is forced to go on the run when his theories about a “Syndicate” of anti-IMF agents rub his superiors the wrong way, and together with a few trusted fellow agents attempts to piece together the clues that could lead him to his target.
I absolutely loved the last film in the series, Ghost Protocol, due to its fast pace, fun action scenes and great cast of characters. It really made a splash at the box office, and reignited Cruise’s career, so a follow-up was greenlit almost immediately. Rogue Nation certainly is a worthy addition to the franchise, but I still felt it paled in comparison to its predecessor.

Writer/Director Christopher McQuarrie, who previously directed Cruise in Jack Reacher, shows off a deft hand at the spy thriller genre with some creative visual touches (loved the unbroken underwater shots), an emphasis on allowing the plot to unfold slowly and making sure the characters are never pushed off to the side in favor of mindless action. In fact, there isn’t much action in this installment aside from a couple of short shootouts and a car/motorcycle chase. This film has a lot in common with the original film from 1996 in that it is focused on espionage over explosions. I’m totally down with that as I still enjoy the first Mission: Impossible a great deal.
The returning cast is all in fine form once again. Simon Pegg’s Benjie gets yet another upgrade among the cast to a full on field agent. Ving Rhames makes his triumphant return as Luther, a character I still feel should get more screentime. I was sad that Jeremy Renner’s Brandt didn’t have much to do except talk on the phone for most of the runtime (probably because he was shooting Avengers: Age of Ultron at the same time) since I felt his addition to the cast in the previous film added a great counterpoint for Hunt. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules) is a sexy enigma whose arc is just as interesting as the main plot. She’s great at fight scenes too (love that flipping leg lock move). Sean Harris (Prometheus) makes for a credible and somewhat creepy villain as the mysterious Solomon Lane. And as expected Cruise excels in his signature role of Ethan Hunt. He could play this part in his sleep at this point and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so for many sequels more. He’s come a long way from the obnoxiously smiling pretty boy I saw in Risky Business to convincing me that he’s always a few steps ahead of the villains in these films. And he has a set of balls the size of Minnesota with that insane airplane stunt in the opening stinger.

While I did enjoy the movie a great deal I do have to say that the energy level was turned way down. Where Ghost Protocol was constantly surging forward, Rogue Nation takes its time putting all it’s pawns in place before letting them check the king. It’s not a bad thing per se, but I was bored on more then one occasion. Especially during the midpoint. But things pick up considerably once the impressive water filtration station infiltration (say that five times fast) scene goes down. That was one of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve seen in a film all summer! It’s expertly conceived and executed. The same goes for the opera scene.
Another issue I had, and this is something I tend to nitpick due to my love of the craft, is that the musical score by Joe Kraemer is lackluster in the extreme. It’s unimpressive on multiple levels and just feels… well, wimpy. It has absolutely no oomph! Even the Mission: Impossible theme sounds like it was composed for a direct to television movie from the 90s. Seeing that Kraemer’s resume consists of mostly direct to video trash this doesn’t surprise me. Disappointing.

And Alec Baldwin feels a little out of place in the film. It’s almost like he’s apologizing for abandoning the role of Jack Ryan way back in the early 90s by playing a more surly and bureaucratic version of the character. And his dueling hairstyle war with Jeremy Renner was more than a little distracting.
But each of these films is it’s own thing. Each director brings his own sensibilities to the table which is why I feel that this franchise has endured for as long as it has. Brian DePalma gave Mission: Impossible an old school European vibe. John Woo did to Mission: Impossible II what John Woo usually does - fill the screen with cheesy off-the-wall action scenes and flocks of doves. J.J. Abrams made Mission: Impossible III a feature film adaptation of his hit television spy series Alias. Brad Bird brought a sense of fun to the party and shook things up by threatening to relieve Cruise of his top billing in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. And Christopher McQuarrie took a step back and scaled events down to bring the series closer to its spy series roots in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. 

Rogue Nation is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. I recommend it wholeheartedly. But it did leave me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Following up Ghost Protocol left a mighty big pair of shoes to fill, and while Rogue Nation definitely tries to step up to the plate it never quite reaches the finish line. Maybe in the next sequel we will finally get a film that really takes advantage of the team aspect that has been missing from the series since the beginning and was the core of the television series its based on.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)

On August 6th Josh Trank, director of the new reboot of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, tweeted something that I think speaks volumes about the finished film…
The reviews are all trashing the film furiously. Some of the ones I read are spitting such venom that it’s as if the film killed these critic's first born children. It’s a little out of hand and is bordering on the ridiculous. Sadly they are all right. This film has problems. Lots of them. But I cannot fully blame Josh Trank for this. Why? Because the film I saw reeks of studio meddling. You could smell it from space. Through a space suit. In a vacuum.

The story is a somewhat more interesting retelling of the origin story of the first family of Marvel. We get to watch a young Reed Richards befriend Ben Grimm as they experiment with teleportation, see Reed’s ideas get noticed by those at the Baxter Institute where he works alongside Sue and Johnny Storm as well as Victor von Doom. And ultimately they are mutated when a freak accident during a trip to Planet Zero grants them all superpowers.

Then things get sketchy. Real sketchy.
But first, let’s talk about what is good about the film. The casting is pretty spot on. Sure the actors are in their mid/late 20s and are playing 18-year olds, but they are a likable bunch. I loved the interplay between Reed Richards, played by Miles Teller (Divergent, Whiplash), and Ben Grimm, played by Jamie Bell (The Adventures of Tintin, King Kong). You feel just how proud Ben is of Reed getting accepted to study at the Baxter Institute which will allow him to further develop his teleportation technology. I also liked the awkward beginnings of a possible romance between Reed and Sue Storm, played by Kate Mara (Shooter, House of Cards). I really enjoyed the sibling rivalry between Sue and Johnny, played by Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed). The cast gelled well and Trank really took his time developing all the characters, including Toby Kebbell’s (Wrath of the Titans, Alexander) Victor von Doom who fits right into the core group seamlessly.

And damn is Reg E. Cathey (The Mask, House of Cards) awesome! He’s a poor man’s Morgan Freeman in that he gives mundane dialogue some much needed gravitas with little effort. He’s the heart of the film and for good reason.
The set-up is, dare I say, fantastic! Trank paces the build up in such a way that you really get a good feel for the characters so that when the big moment happens you actually care about them. And he pulled it off! The scene where the accident happens is absolutely horrifying and made me audibly gasp. And he keeps the events grounded in reality as much as he can, so that the abilities these people are blessed/cursed with look painful when in use (seeing Ben/Thing attempting to rip himself out of a sheet of rock while screaming “Help me, Reed!” is more than a little disturbing) and not as glorified as most films make superpowers out to be. It’s comparable to a David Cronenberg body horror film. That, in my humble opinion, put this flick into a whole other category due to it being a superhero movie set in the real world. Awesome.

And Trank isn’t afraid to show the dark side of these powers. Some of Doom’s abilities (which are vague… I’ll talk about it later) are right out of Scanners. Right. Out. Of. Scanners. And its kind of rad to see such carnage in a PG-13 “family” film.
But once the main characters receive these powers everything goes downhill fast. Once “One Year Later” appears superimposed on the screen we find out that Ben is now participating in black ops for the government with Johnny eager to join him. Sue is honing her powers as if she plans on doing some shady wetworks, but she’s opposed to it completely. It’s confusing as to why she’s constantly demonstrating to the suits what she can do when she wants no part in what they would like to use her for. And Reed is off in Mexico using his powers to change his face so he can buy junk for some unknown reason without getting noticed. It’s a jarring tonal shift that skips over the most interesting part of the origin story – these people learning to adjust to their new powers and growing together as a family. Instead we see them doing stupid shit that the characters we had gotten to know in the first hour would never do in a million years.

And then Victor von Doom shows up out of nowhere and makes things even worse. He’s shoehorned into the story just so there is a threat for the main characters to fight. While his look is cool and he has weird telekinetic powers that aren’t explained at all, his motivations are unclear (he has roundabout 10 lines of dialogue total) and he seems to want to destroy the Earth just because he’s expected to. Julian McMahon’s lame ass Doctor Doom from the double dosage of dookie Fantastic 4/Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer is better than this joke of a villain. The finale is a rushed mess that makes zero sense, and while showcasing some rad CGI is completely devoid of any fun or the heart from the first half of the flick. It’s almost as if it was made up on the spot.

Probably because it was.
So what I’ve read is that Josh Trank was promised many things to make the movie his own, and mere days before principal photography was to begin it was all taken away from him. He had massive action scenes ready to shoot and the budget to make it happen, but those plans were unceremoniously cancelled and studio mandated changes were made to the script without his input. When he did turn in his rough cut of the movie to the studio it wasn’t liked by the suits. They wanted an FX filled action fest and he gave them a character piece that just so happened to have some action scenes to keep things lively. Isn’t that what they wanted?! So 20th Century Fox took the movie away from him, ordered some reshoots and sliced up the movie in the editing room to not only cut the runtime down, but to get to the action scenes sooner. It was a big mistake. You can instantly tell when the reshot scenes begin due to the aforementioned tonal shift and also by Kate Mara’s horrible wig. It doesn’t even look like its attached to her head. And when I say “rushed mess” of a finale I mean that once Doom reappears in the story the big finale ends 10 minutes later. It feels so tacked on and half assed that I’m surprised it was left in. And it’s confusing as all hell to boot. And then the movie just ends. Major characters have died and no one seems to care or notice, but damn skippy if that finale wasn’t as flashy as can be. WTF.

There are a number of scenes in the trailer that aren’t in the finished film. Most notably when The Thing drops from a stealth bomber onto a Humvee. Unimaginably hokey dialogue pops up, like the gem “There is no Victor, only Doom!” that’s ripped right out of Ghostbusters. And I almost went into a violent fit of laughter once I realized that The Thing walks around naked for the entire film but has no manhood and a ginormous ass crack. Whose bright idea was it to not give him pants?!
I’ll tell you who - the penny pushers who think that because they run a studio they know what makes a movie worth watching. I’m sorry, but when will these people learn that they aren’t filmmakers? That’s why you hire a filmmaker in the first place! Every time a movie is taken from the director’s hands in this manner the outcome is always a schizophrenic mess. Let the filmmakers do what they do, and if the film fails it will fall squarely on their shoulders. That’s the risk you take in this business. Thankfully Trank addressed this up front. If this film bombs I’m pretty sure it will affect his career somewhat (dropping out of that Star Wars spin-off was a bad idea), but I hope it doesn’t kill it completely. I really liked his previous film, Chronicle, which was a found footage superhero movie that was all the things Fantastic Four should have been.

This had the potential to be a great take on these classic characters. The form we received goes on to prove that maybe these characters aren’t as film friendly as some would like them to be. I have yet to see a completely watchable version of the Fantastic Four on the big screen. I’d say that the uber cheap and unreleased Roger Corman version was better than this misfire that suffers from having too many cooks in the kitchen. This is half of a good movie and half of one made by a committee.

2 out of 5

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut)

When X-Men: Days of Future Past was released in the summer of 2014 I ended up seeing it three times with three different sets of people. It was unanimously liked by everyone, including myself (obviously). Not only did it successfully combine both the classic and First Class casts, but it did so in a big, fun way. But there was always something about it that never seemed to add up to me. The character of Rogue, played by Anna Paquin, is in the film for a grand total of about 3 seconds at the end, yet she received billing over actors that are featured for the majority of the film in the end credits. That didn’t make sense to me at all, but I just figured she’d received a popularity boost from True Blood and was given priority due to her history with the series. Whatever.

But word began to spread that there was a massive sub-plot that was completely excised from the film involving Rogue that was overlong and slowed the pace too much. As it turns out this was true, and soon after the film’s premiere on home video 20th Century Fox announced they would release a double dip featuring “The Rogue Cut” alongside the theatrical version the following summer.
Now that “The Rogue Cut” is available to the general public I bet you’re wondering… just what is different about the film? The plot is unchanged. It still starts from Point A and ends at Point B, but not in the way you might remember.

There are smaller character moments added in for flavor, especially in the case of the new mutants introduced in the opening scenes – Blink, Warpath, Bishop and Sunspot. We get to know them a little better than in the theatrical cut which is a nice touch since the only info given originally was through the usage of their powers. At least now we know their names instead of “Teleporter Girl” or “Human Torch Ripoff”. Seeing that Sunspot is covered in burn scars is a cool detail passed over for the sake of the runtime.
There is also a scene toward the end where, after being shot by Magneto, Mystique returns to the Xavier mansion looking for help with her wound, has an intimate encounter with Beast and finally trashes Cerebro so that Charles can no longer track her movements or attempt to interfere with her mission via telepathy.

But the main reason this cut of the film exists is in the subtitle – Rogue. This is the most significant change because it alters the finale a little bit. So, Wolverine has his little freak out after seeing Stryker in the past and slashes Kitty open in the future. Bleeding to death and unable to hold a continuous link between Wolverine’s mind in both timelines, Iceman suggests that they bring in Rogue to steal Kitty’s powers so that she can take over the mind linking while Kitty gets medical attention. Sad thing is that Rogue has been presumed dead for a long while. We discover that she is alive and is being experimented on in the one place Xavier cannot find her – the Cerebro chamber in his old mansion. So Xavier, Magneto and Iceman plan a daring rescue which succeeds at the cost of Iceman’s life (it’s a suitably disturbing scene when it goes down). Now with Rogue able to take over for Kitty, Wolverine is able to complete his mission in the past.
Out of all the changes made to the film, this was the most interesting and welcome. Personally, I love the character of Rogue. Especially in the first film. Her arc basically covers the whole “outcast” experience and coming to terms with being different and accepting that and all that comes with it. Her gift keeps her isolated from others and she was a tragic figure in these films; unable to touch anyone for fear of possibly killing them. Good stuff. I do feel that she was mishandled in the subsequent films, relegated to the role of the damsel in distress who does nothing but screech at the top of her lungs a lot and gets all emo when her boyfriend begins to fall for Kitty (Worst. Subplot. Ever.). In this cut of the film we see that she has honed her powers and knows just how long to touch someone without hurting them and is supremely confident in her abilities once she escapes from the testing facility. We also see that she’s matured quite a bit in regards to Iceman leaving her for Kitty and that she’s all for assisting the team regardless of the fact that it’s the woman that stole her boyfriend back in the day that needs her help the most. There’s a moment they share with a single look that sells it completely. Good stuff.

What surprised me the most is that it’s Rogue who is still linking Wolverine to the past during the finale where the Sentinels burst in and begin killing everyone. Through some creative editing and a little CGI trickery they covered up the fact that Rogue was sitting at Wolverine’s side for the whole scene. I never noticed at any time in the original cut that it was not Kitty, and I went back to watch the finale of the theatrical version to verify that. Impressive.
But the question remains… does it really make a difference? Not really. None of the additional scenes add anything of note to an already well made and paced film. Sure it’s great to see Anna Paquin as Rogue once again or to see why Xavier never attempted to stop Mystique with Cerebro a second time. The only moment that did anything to advance the characters was to see that Mystique and Beast are still attracted to each other even after her betrayal. Rogue’s new scenes only seem to give greater weight to the coda of the film where we see her back together with Iceman. Sorry, but its true.

Do these scenes improve the film in any way? Even though “The Rogue Cut” is a little over 15 minutes longer than the theatrical cut I feel the same about both versions. They are both fast, fun and entertaining in the extreme, one just has 98% more Rogue and a pseudo sex scene between Mystique and Beast added into the mix. The pacing doesn’t feel off to me even with all these new scenes, so I could logically say that I wouldn’t watch any version over the other. They’re both solid and the plot is unchanged. It just takes a slight detour before getting to Point B.

4 out of 5