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After the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, fans have been pretty on the fence about whether to bother with The Wolverine or not. However, as more and more news has unravelled about Logan’s next venture The Wolverine had my curiosity but now, with the release of the first international trailer, it has my attention.

The Wolverine takes place after the events of The Last Stand: Jean Grey, Cyclops and Professor X are dead and the X-Men are disbanded. Wolverine is coming to terms with the fact that he is always going to outlive everyone he ever cares about and comes close to, he will be forever grieving. He is in a state of hopelessness, without identity now more than ever. Who is The Wolverine?

Despite being the lead character in the original X-Men films and obviously in Origins, a lot of time was given to other mutants – to the point in Origins that there were perhaps TOO many mutants for anyone to really be bothered about. However, what we have here is a true solo Wolverine film. Based on one of the greatest story arcs of all time by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, Wolverine travels to Japan and meets a mysterious figure from his past.

Hugh Jackman is a man who clearly loves his art. This will be the sixth time that Jackman has took on the role of Wolverine and will be playing the part again next year as well. It is hard to think of any other actor who clearly cares for his character so much. Despite the poor outings in his last two features Jackman is still portraying the clawed animal, determined to give fans the true incarnation of Wolverine that they want. And now it looks as though all of his waiting is about to pay off.

Thankfully, there are a lack of mutants in The Wolverine, with most of the conflict coming from assassin’s guilds. However, the other mutants who do appear are set to offer something new to the franchise. There is a wealth of characters that FOX haven’t even come close to alluding to in the X-Men universe so it is good to see some fresh faces here. In particular there is Silver Samurai, played by Will Yun Lee, who has access to an electrified suit of samurai armour and is the son of Shingen Yashida, the figure from Logan’s past. But there is also Viper; in the comics she is a skilled martial artist and tactician with an enhanced life span and teleportation abilities, but it is unclear how much of this will be used in the film adaptation of the character, but she is played by the beautiful Russian actress Svetlana Khodchenkova.

The preview images have been impressive. Fans have longed to see Wolverine in his suit and now they get to see him, finally in… well, a suit. Nobody really knew what the stakes were going to be for Wolverine in Japan but now we know; will he really lose his ability to heal himself? Is that truly what he wants?

Director James Mangold (of 3:10 to Yuma fame) previously listed a series of films that had influenced his take on this iconic character. Among them were Chungking Express, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The French Connection and 13 Assassins which are all fantastic films and it will be very interesting to see the impact that these films have on The Wolverine.

We’re shown flashbacks in the trailer of World War 2 presumably. There’s a little glimpse of Famke Janssen, is that The Last Stand footage or a new cameo that she preciously teased? One thing we know for certain, or that I am willing to speculate anyway, is that this will be the Batman Begins of Wolverine’s story. I predict that The Wolverine will be the surprise package of 2013!

The Wolverine hits cinemas worldwide on July 26th.

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The X-Men series has come under a lot of criticism in it’s time despite the critical success that X-Men, X2 and X-Men: First Class has enjoyed. So if three of the five films have gone down well then why do fans of the X-Men continue to be critical of the series?  A lot of the criticism comes from the messed up continuity of the franchise and if you look hard enough you will find plenty of issues with the continuity throughout all five films; X-Men: The Last Stand came under fire for ruining a lot of hard work that Bryan Singer had set up in the first two instalments and X-Men Origins: Wolverine upset fans by just not being very good and ruining Gambit, a character that fans had wanted to see on screen for far too long for him to just be dismissed like he is.

So when The Wolverine was announced to be yet another film focussing on the escapades of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the news was met with less than positive response on internet forums. Yet this week, finally, The Wolverine is connecting with fans and getting people actually hyped up due to one little quote that director James Mangold made to Empire magazine. Mangold won fans over by saying “Where this film sits in the universe of the films is after them all, Jean Grey is gone, most of the X-Men are disbanded or gone, so there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for him”. Everybody was assuming The Wolverine would be another prequel because it is set in Japan (the storyline from the comics in Japan happened before Wolverine met the X-Men) and now it appears that everything we thought about this film was untrue.

Everyone wanted a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and it seems as though The Wolverine could be the closest thing that we see to this. With this being a sequel it also gives the opportunity for former characters to return to the franchise. Returning characters was hinted at with the other prequel titled Days of Future Past but it seems that maybe fans were misled and Patrick Stewart’s and Famke Janssen’s comments about returning to the franchise could have been meant about The Wolverine rather than Days of Future Past. I, for one, would love to see some of the old characters return and it might be able to give an explanation to what happened to Cyclops, explain Professor X’s return and feature more of Angel perhaps. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this will happen though because the film will be set in Japan.

One of the main things that has been hinted at is that Wolverine would set up the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters and whilst this would be a very touching moment for the character and could set up some more stories for future X-Men you can’t help but feel this SHOULD have been done before the prequels of First Class came into existence. It seems as though The Wolverine will be a stand alone film and you have to hope it will be because right now there are too many strands of the same franchise going on:

X-Men prequels – First Class, Days of Future Past

Wolverine Prequels – Origins

Original X-Men timeline – X-Men, X2, The Last Stand

Wolverine sequels – The Wolverine

That is four different strands of the same franchise and you can see why so much confusion and continuity errors will be made! However, James Mangold says that he wanted to set the film in the timeline so you imagine he will try to stay true to events that have already happened. Mangold has been hit (3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) and miss (Knight & Day) in his career so far but hopefully The Wolverine will be a hit! Regrettably, hopefully The Wolverine will be the last we see of Hugh Jackman too and the X-Men franchise is finally brought together and made simple once again.

Last year FOX released X-Men: First Class and up until release nobody really knew whether it was a reboot or a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy. After it’s release and the cameo appearances from Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn still nobody knew whether it was a reboot or prequel and that continues to be a mystery as anticipation for the sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past grows with speculation that characters from the original X-Men trilogy could be in line to make a surprise return to the franchise, something which the Days of Future Past storyline from the comics would allow.

In Marvel’s comics the Days of Future Past storyline became one of the most successful X-Men titles of all time and, along with the Age of Apocalypse and House of M, is a storyline that all X-Men fans have wanted to see on the big screen. The story switches from present day to a future where the X-Men failed to stop Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from killing Senator Kelly; in the future mutants are a dying breed as the United States are ruled by Sentinels with the mutants placed in internment camps. The present day (or past) X-Men are forewarned about this by the future version of Kitty Pryde whose mind travels back in time into the body of her younger self.

Obviously there are a few characters missing if this was to take place; both Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers both had large parts to play in Days of Future Past in the comic books yet neither appeared in First Class and Rachel Summers hasn’t even been hinted at at all throughout the history of X-Men films. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem as the 90s cartoon version of X-Men portrayed this storyline with Bishop taking on the Kitty Pryde role, although Bishop is another character yet to make it to the big screen. However, Patrick Stewart has hinted recently that he could reprise his role of Charles Xavier and so perhaps there is a chance there to make Professor X the centre piece with Stewart’s older character finding a way to contact his younger self played by James McAvoy.

Famke Janssen has also hinted that her character could return to the X-Men continuity (which is already a mess if you want to get into the nitty gritty details, FOX really haven’t even tried to make it all add up to the correct answers) and this shouldn’t be a surprise because, yes she may have been killed by Wolverine in the awful X-Men: The Last Stand but she also ‘died’ in X2 and has died countless times in the comic books but she just keeps on coming back! I have to be honest and say that I would have really liked an X-Men 4 done properly after the travesty of The Last Stand, seeing what took place afterwards with Beast and Angel staying on at the mansion, the return of Professor X, what happened to Cyclops? It may have been poor in comparison to the previous two films but The Last Stand left ideas there for another sequel and I would like to see Cyclops, Storm and Wolverine all back on the big screen (that would also save us any more individual Jackman fuelled Wolverine efforts). But would it be right?

Obviously the storyline makes it possible for the older characters to return and continuity shouldn’t bother FOX as it never has done before but perhaps with the appointment of Mark Millar now as consultant on FOX’s Marvel properties he may manage to reign them in a little. Matthew Vaughn (director of First Class and producer of Days of Future Past) has previously stated that he only wanted to introduce one main character in the sequel and although he said that a very long time ago it would make this possibility of returning X-Men seem less likely, but would you really count the return of the original X-Men as an ‘introduction’ per say?

I would have liked to have seen an X-Men 4 and maybe a Days of Future Past film would be a good way to sort of make it happen and tie up loose ends for fans that want answers but if FOX have any sense I think they should stay away from this idea. The continuity has been tampered with too much and I think now is their chance to make First Class the real start of a reboot and cut all ties with the original trilogy. There are still plenty of characters they could introduce to still make the Days of Future Past storyline anything like the comics by introducing Bishop for example. The X-Men roster is always growing so there are countless ways to take this story.

What do you think?

Back in 2008, I don’t think anybody ever expected Taken to be as big as it became. I would say that Taken is probably one of the most popular films that has been made for years. It is very very rare that you find someone who hasn’t actually seen the first film and it is even rarer that you find someone that has seen it and disliked it. So it then becomes clear to those in charge that it makes very good business sense to make a sequel to the best action film of the century, no matter how much of a disappointment it is going to be.

The first problem that arises is the fact that there is absolutely NO need for a sequel whatsoever. When Taken first came out nobody at all was hoping for a sequel because Taken is a stand alone film; it has a beginning, a middle and an end (a ridiculous end in which the need for Holly Valance to reappear was thought up by some idiot behind a desk somewhere and it was very awful). The end ties up all stories nicely for Bryan Mills and his daughter and wife and everything is back to normal. So how do we come up with an idea for the second film?

Easy. Let’s just do the same thing again. However, this time it comes with a twist because it is not Maggie Grace’s character that gets taken, this time it is Liam Neeson himself: a man who single handedly brought down a whole gang of human traffickers manages to get himself and his wife taken and that would NEVER happen to the Bryan Mills of the first film. Anyway, that means (as Liam Neeson said in this interview) “a sack’s been put over my [Neeson’s] head and I’m in the middle of a fucking dungeon!”. And this is where the real problem starts.

Neeson’s speech in Taken became one of the most famous in movie history.

What is the joy of watching Taken? I will answer that question for you right now: the joy of watching Taken is seeing Liam Neeson beat up a load of bad guys. It’s that simple. All we want to see when we watch Taken is Liam Neeson fighting, kicking and punching his way through the city to save his daughter. Nobody really is bothered about the characters, I bet hardly anybody would be able to name the bad guy in Taken, or Neeson’s wife or daughter, and not everyone even knows who Neeson’s character is! The point is that none of this matters because we all just want to watch Liam Neeson kick ass! This isn’t going to happen if he’s sat in the middle of a dungeon, we don’t want him to tell his daughter how to save him and his wife, we want to see HIM save people!

Taken 2 currently has an 8.4 (and dropping) rating on IMDB although this is obviously down to fans of the first film giving it a high rating just because “it’s Taken, it’s bound to be good” even though it’s not even out yet anywhere but Hong Kong (where it only opened two days ago!). On Rotten Tomatoes Taken 2 has a 7% approval rating and I think this would be more akin to the kind of film it is.

As a stand alone film Taken 2 may be good (this is of course all speculation as I am yet to watch Taken 2 and no matter if I think it is going to be good or bad I will be going to watch it because I, like so many other people, enjoyed Taken a lot) but as a sequel to one of the hottest action films to come out of the 21st Century, I have my doubts.

UK Release Date: 5th October 2012.

In 2008, Taken was a surprise hit and remains a very popular action film today; it saw Liam Neeson return to be among the most badass men on film and quite rightly so. However, what we have here in Taken 2 is a nominee for the most pointless sequel ever.

This time around the retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) is on holiday with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace). But both of these are kidnapped by the father of one of the thugs Liam Neeson killed in the original film.

The trailer for Taken 2 does what it needs to do; make it look exactly like the first film. Taken was a brilliant film so they just need to do the same thing again and they will have another hit on their hands and it looks like that is the route they have decided to go down. We are introduced to the story from both sides with a scene featuring the villains at the start and then Bryan Mills and his family arriving in Istanbul. It all goes wrong and his family are taken: cue Liam Neeson beating up loads of people.

I am pretty surprised that with the success of Taken this wasn’t released in summer as it does have the potential to have been a very good summer blockbuster. With the danger in making a sequel to a popular film though and the release of The Avengers, The Dark Knight, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man perhaps the studio just didn’t want to compete with guaranteed money spinners.

If Taken 2 turns out to be anywhere near as good as the first film then it will be well worth a watch but please God do not let them make a Taken 3.