Tuesday, May 30, 2006

X-Men: the Last Stand

X-Men: the Last Stand blew the Da Vinci Code which is as it should be. Regardless of freedom of speech, it is still rude to make a blockbuster movie with the premise that one of the world's biggest religions was all a lie and that the world's oldest religious organization (the Catholic Church) has been covering this up for 17 centuries.

But I was talking about the X-Men.

Several reviewers felt the new director, Brett Ratner, ruined the franchise. I don't agree. Although good, Bryan Singer's had flaws of their own. The original movie spent so much time with Rogue and Wolverine that the other characters are glossed over. X2 didn't need to spent time introducing the characters but had a confusing plot. The invasion of Xavier's school, while dramatic, had nothing to do with the eventual plot which was to get a mind-controlled Professor X to kill all mutants (then Magneto switched things so that all humans would die instead). The plot about Wolverine's background was sort of tacked on. It just happened that the person who created him decided that mutants should die and used the same headquarters. Nightcrawler's attempted assassination of the President had little to do with the plot except to get it started.

X3 is more tightly written and easier to follow (my wife commented on this). It is also closer to reality although many reviewers missed this aspect.

At the heart of X3 is a vaccine that will "cure" mutants. Ian McKellen saw this as cure for homosexuality and played it accordingly. Chances are fairly good that there will be some sort of cure or genetic test for homosexual behaviour within the next generation so these questions are relevant. Even more relevant are the current issues about cochlear implants and "deaf culture" with some deaf activists insisting that being deaf is not a disability, it is a culture that will be destroyed by widespread use of implants to cure deafness.

Questions about the cure are raised within the movie. To mutants like Storm who can pass for human, there is nothing to cure. The Beast who is blue and furry is not so sure. Rogue who can kill with a touch sees her powers as a curse. Although it doesn't come up, Cyclops felt the same way in the original comics written by Stan Lee and would have jumped at a cure.

This issue is posed in a different way with the resurrection of Jean Grey as Phoenix. Her powers are very strong and uncontrolled. This raises the moral issue - was the Professor right to block Jean's access to the greater portion of her powers when she couldn't control them?

A few other issues are raises. One is if it is ethical to use the vaccine as a weapon. Another is how mutants should treat one of their own who was forcibly given the vaccine.

In the end, Magneto maintains ethical high ground on the vaccine. He refuses to use it.

The movie has a few problems. The final battle has some personal match-offs (Storm vs Callisto, Iceman vs Rusty, and Kitty vs the Juggernaut!) but it also has a lot of Wolverine tearing through faceless mutants with his claws.

I am not pleased with the way that Phoenix is shown. rather than a fiery being of great power and mood swings, she gets quiet and her veins show.

A bigger problem is Storm. Halle Berry demanded more screen time but she doesn't use it to establish Storm as an interesting character.  The comic book character was worshiped as an African god before coming to America and was written with a combination of regalness and cultural naivety. Berry plays her as Halle Berry in a white wig. Worse, in order to make room for Storm, Cyclops is barely in the movie.

Even with these drawbacks, it is still a good movie, certainly better than last Summer's Fantastic Four.

Now we will see what Singer did with Superman.

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