X-Men: Apocalypse

So, during all of the hoopla over how the billboard of Apocalypse choking Mystique was sexist, nobody was talking about what a terrible and boring movie X-Men Apocalypse was. All of the innumerable continuity snarls could have been forgiven if Singer had given us a movie worth watching, but this fell into the trap of so many failed B and C tier superhero movies, spending far too much time ‘building the team’ instead of showing the team doing anything. In this case, it’s worse, because both sides have to build their teams on screen and there’s neither character development nor action. And frankly, I’m surprised that there was not more outrage over the decision to make Storm an Arab street urchin instead of a Sub-Saharan tribal living-goddess.

I went into this expecting some awesome fights, cuz, c’mon! It’s Apocalypse! The main things I remember about him from when I was a kid was that he was 10 feet tall, could change size & shape, and pretty much wrecked the shit of anyone who tried to fight him. Instead of cool fights, we got endless ‘building the team’, leading up to one fight that, by the time it happened, I couldn’t bring myself to care about cuz I was so damned bored. It should not have been hard to make an awesome and exciting Apocalypse movie: Apocalypse wakes up with his 4 riders – he destroys a city, and the X-Men try to stop him and get stomped. The X-Men have to devise some way they can actually hurt him. Heck, maybe they could develop a version of “the cure” that can be administered by using Quicksilver as a human railgun. Xavier could be all “Oh, I don’t think this is a good idea, what if it falls into the wrong hands!”, Magneto all “Who are we to deprive anyone of their gifts, especially a god?” and Mystique all “Screw that noise, we really need to stop this guy at all costs”.

But nope, in the end, Apocalypse gets beaten by a fairly mundane, plan-free “by our powers combined” flash that teased at what will most assuredly and lamentably be a sequel featuring po-faced Jean Grey in another Dark Phoenix saga.

I think that X-Men Apocalypse is a tacit admission that all of the best X-Men stories happened 30ish years ago and the semi-historical grounding of the X-Men they were given following their 1975 relaunch that was once an asset is now a liability.

Don’t be fooled by the jive about X-Men’s relevance to historical struggles; during Civil Rights, X-Men was just another supers comic—that didn’t get added until much later. Just like how Magneto didn’t start out as a Holocaust Survivor; he was given that backstory to give him nuance and some justification for his horrible actions in the 80s.

A lot of X-Men’s cultural relevance was that which it took upon itself during the 70s and 80s, and it coasted on that during the 90s. But now that it’s reaching the mid 10s, stories about that group of oppressed mutant individuals (who were not oppressed during their run through the 60s) struggling with Civil Rights and the moral quandary of a troubled individual who survived the Holocaust and whose strawman may have a point can’t be told in the present day. The ancient and withered husks of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart fighting at the end of the world in Days of Future Past may have truly been the Last Hurrah of the X-Men of my childhood. Either the X-Men will be all old as dirt, immortal like Wolverine, or they will have to be completely new X-men, because retreading the same three decade patch of culture over and over again with the same characters just isn’t going to work anymore. And having the most recent X-Men movie, which can no longer be considered a prequel, as Days of Future Past obliterated the old continuity, take place in the 80s concedes that.

 

X-Men Apocalypse is a good sign that it is not only time to stop making X-Men movies for a while but that the entire X-Men franchise needs to be significantly rethought if it can’t be uncoupled from the time-period of its 70s relaunch through its 80s comic and 90s cartoon heydays. X-Men will have to undergo some very serious, soul-searching changes, rebooting their continuity, abandoning the false ties to 60s Civil Rights movement, and, perhaps most shocking of all, have a Magneto who doesn’t cling to the Holocaust as a justification for his evil deeds because he can’t; it’ll reach the point where he’ll either have to be a hundred years old or he wasn’t there.  X-Men is finally being crippled by the identity politics that had been its strength over the years since its relaunch – right before our eyes, we’re watching a franchise transition from speculative fiction to period fiction.

As a DC Fan, I hadn’t really paid much attention

but while DC fans are writhing in disgust and disappointment with Dan Didio’s oversexed reign of terrible, apparently Marvel fans are dealing with their own woes.  This is an interesting article on how Marvel has been actively torpedoing X-Men and X-Men fans because of the licensing debacle created by their 90s bankruptcy era dealings with Fox and Sony.  

Sometimes it’s nice to know that the grass is not really greener on the other side. (waves to Marvel fans).

I’ve consumed a lot of media over the weekend, some of it good, some of it bad.

The good: I finished reading the original Hainish cycle and am half-way through one of the new ones. It’s been fascinating to see it morph from what could’ve been a highly entertaining, but rote, sword and planet series into something completely different. And again I’m reminded of how strange it seems that LeGuin’s materials are rarely adapted for film and how awful the results have been when they were.

The bad: I watched the first season of X-Men Evolution with my girlfriend. First run, I’d completely avoided this show because X-Men High just sounded like an awful and dumb idea. And turns out I was completely right. There was no fate of the world or even fate of the neighborhood stuff going on here. Just Prof X and Magneto playing Gotta Catch ’em All* with mutant teens, whose problems range from dealing with being colossal dorks (this show makes being in the ButterCream Gang seem more hardcore than being an X-Man) to dealing with petty bullies. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants has always been kind of a mediocre villain force (they always seemed like less of a brotherhood than a collection of thugs with low self esteem that could be easily bullied by Magneto), but putting them in Highschool and doing some ultra low stakes villainy makes this iteration one of the least compelling rogues galleries I’ve ever seen. At least in Static Shock, they took the petty-ass villain-bs that you’d expect from highschool kids given superpowers and had some fun with it (like the fat kid who flew around ripping off hot-dog carts).

Anyway, I’ve had a bit of a revelation on the next project I want to try (one that I actually plan on making publicly consumable), though it’ll take some time. I’ve got an idea for a CYOA book. It will be a Cirsova book. It will take place in the distant past, pre-empire, and center on a city far to the north of Polaris during the decadent hey-day of Northern Kingdom. I’ve got a few of the choices mapped out, but after I start writing, who knows where it will go. If I can get it to hyperlink correctly, I’ll release it as a PDF but I also want to put out a paperback.

*:Magneto and Mystique are like Team Rocket only less effective or entertaining.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – That Review I Said I Was Going To Do

X-Men: Days of Future Past was quite the spectacle, and was a rather enjoyable foray into sci-fi escapism that easily washes away how boring X2 was and how awful Last Stand was.

The fight scenes were enjoyable, well paced, and, unlike Man of Steel, did not seem as though they existed to pad out an incredibly sparse script.

It was an interesting choice to set Days of Future Past into the First Class continuity. It allowed them to retcon the abysmally awful Last Stand, whose only real redeeming quality was that Cyclops died. It also gave them an out so they didn’t have to have super old Patrick Stewart and super old Ian McKellen in young makeup and slugging it out like men 40 years younger in an action flick (though grizzled old Magneto fighting Sentinels was probably one of the best parts of the movie; I totally wanted Ian McKellen to say “You shall not pass!”). One of the reasons why the choice to set it in the past is interesting, however, is that originally the storyline took place in the X-men’s present. The horrid dystopian future they were trying to prevent was in 2013. So, for the film, the dystopian future is either our future or an alternative present (given everyone’s age, might make as much sense as anything, given the events of the original Xmen trilogy and Kitty Pride’s age) and the past is not the past of Last Stand, nor even our own present, but the past of First class.

There were a few problems with putting it in the first class timeline. Of course, there’s the issue that Kitty Pride would not be old enough to go back in time to the First Class period, though she would have been old enough to if the present/past had been immediately after X3. Or they could’ve just sent Kitty back in time using a different, more plausible method (yeah, I know, it was kind of a mutant power thing in the comic, but there was no reason that an adult Shadow Cat couldn’t get sent back in time). All told, I’m glad they didn’t, and I’ll explain why in a minute. The big problem for me was what happened to the First Class X-Men. All killed in a line of dialogue. That’s even worse that the Araki style getting punched so hard that you get flash-backed into your origin story just before you die. Not that I really liked any of the First Class X-Men that much, but still. Damn.

There are a lot of purists who argue about the choice to send Wolverine back in time. I never read the comic, though, so my familiarity with the Days of Future Past came from the Cartoon, in which Bishop came back in time to save the future. And it made perfect sense, because so far as I could tell, Bishop’s mutant power was being a black dude who travelled through time to save the future. Since he used a gun and didn’t really do anything else but travel back in time to save the future, how was I supposed to know that wasn’t his power? So why am I glad that they didn’t send Shadow Cat back in time? I have never really seen any Ellen Page movies (I’m not counting X3), and after what little dialogue she had, I can say that I don’t think I could’ve watched an entire movie where she was talking all the time. I mean, if someone else was playing Shadow Cat and didn’t have a crackly kind of voice that sounds like she’s about to start crying all the time (like Claire Danes, for instance), I’d be all about having her go back in time by whatever means to save the day. Just because Ellen Page was in X3 didn’t mean she had to be in other movies. But, she was and she, unarguably, has name recognition and star power.

Which brings me to my next observation. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that had so many big name female actors who were, by and large, marginalized. Sure, we get a lot of Jennifer Lawrence, who is the current in an incredibly long line of holders of that short lived title “America’s Sweetheart”, but consider for a moment that this movie also has the Oscar Winning Halle Berry (apparently marginalized by her pregnancy, something no male actor would every have to worry about; really, though, her cache has fallen significantly since the early 00s, due in no small part to the dismal failure of Catwoman; finally, of note, Storm’s character was the only X-Men who Wolverine mentioned that Xavier should look for who he did not call by real name), Oscar winning Anna Paquin (who was all but cut from the movie; while I’m not a fan of Paquin, somewhat unfairly because I hated how Rogue was written, not her fault at all, I was happy to see that at least at the end of things, Rogue is still a mutant and hasn’t martyred herself for physical intimacy), and All Sorts of Crap winning Ellen Page (who again, I’m kind of glad wasn’t actually in more of the film) who are all very much pushed into the background while Magneto and Prof-X, with a little help from Wolverine and Beast, fight for the heart and mind of a confused and angry woman.

All that said, Days of Future Past is wildly entertaining, and probably one of the best movies in the franchise. The choreography and visual acting of the future mutants, especially Bishop and Blink, are all phenomenal. Fan Bingbing (or at least the effects used to bring her mutant powers as Blink to life on the screen) steals every scene she’s in, and Omar Sy’s intensity as Bishop makes me cross my fingers that he’ll be a key player in the next film in which Apocalypse finally arrives. Oops, did I spoil something?

More X-Men thoughts

I thought I’d go ahead and link the original article from the Mary Sue.  http://www.themarysue.com/x-men-days-of-future-past-movie-kitty-pryde/

For a property as diverse as X-Men, female characters really did take a back seat or were strangely regressive versions of their comic book selves.  Most of my X-men knowledge came from the old 90s series that many of us grew up with, and those characterizations are a large part of what always left me scratching my head about the X-Men movies.

Clearly Movie Rogue was actually Jubilee.  She was not the assertive, tough, no-nonsense, indestructible lady I knew to be Rogue.  And ultimately, her character arc in the films is one of a female seeking disempowerment for the benefit of men.  Literally.  To make matters worse, it was framed as a “pro-choice” argument.  Even disregarding the awful 3rd movie, Movie Rogue was not a very good character.

Movie Storm felt like a place-holder.  She’s an iconic member of the X-Men, so she kind of had to be there, but that doesn’t mean they had to do anything with her, right?  She was undeniably one of the most powerful of the 90s lineup, even if sometimes you might think that she was crazy and thought that she was a wizard and not a mutant given her penchant for incantations, but hey, why not?  She was second in command, which basically made her the real leader of the X-men, because no one likes Cyclops, because he’s a wiener with no charisma.

I’ve never really been a fan of Jean Grey, because I don’t really like psychic mutants that much.   Their powers are usually ill-defined nonsense cooked up to suit whatever situation they need a deus-ex-machina for.  So much of Jean’s character, both in the old show and in the movies, is defined by the X-men fighting over her.  Even from back when she was the Smurfette, and Angel and Cyclops were rivals for her affection, she exists as something for the male X-men (in the movie’s case, Wolverine and Cyclops) to project their feelings onto and fight over.

So, yeah, I can totally get why nixing Kitty Pride’s role in Days of Future Past in favor of more Wolverine, who is basically a super-powered Tom of Finnland character, has some people a bit grumbly.

Addendum:
For those interested, Kevin is doing an Issue by Issue review of every Uncanny X-Men issue ever.  He’s up to #30, so you should follow him now, and catch up before you’re so far behind that you won’t even try.  He’s doing the Lord’s work.

http://kevinreviewsuncannyxmen.wordpress.com/

X – X-Men

X-Men does not make sense in a unified Marvel Universe. X-Men is a big broken aesop about how it’s wrong to discriminate, and mutant civil rights are conflated with minority civil rights (or, even worse, gay civil rights) as part of a big meta-narrative argument for why it’s wrong to fear people who are different. There are two major ways in which this falls apart. You can’t equate mutants with blacks or hispanics or whatever, because most blacks and hispanics don’t have the inborn ability melt a city block with the snap of their fingers. People aren’t scared of mutants because they’re different, they’re scared of mutants because they go flying zapping things with energy beams. People of different colors are more or less the same, y’know, we think, we feel, we have families, we do not have super powers.

Secondly, what is with people being okay with people who mutated after they were born to get super powers? It’s this second point that makes the unified Marvel Universe kind of stupid. Mutants are born with super powers. Sometimes these powers are dangerous, sometimes they’re lame. Regardless of their powers, everyone is all “Oh, noes, the mutants! I’m scared that my suburban living will be disrupted by their existence!” Never mind the fact that it usually is. (“Well, if there weren’t mutants running around, maybe mutants wouldn’t have blown up the _______!” The strawmen have a point.) But enter the Fantastic Four or Spiderman or some other guy who got his powers in a radioactive accident (hey, don’t those cause mutations?), everyone is all “Oh, they’re so great! They’re wonderful! Scientists, philanthrophists, blah blah blah!” Never mind that they’re for all intents and purposes exactly the same as people who are born with their powers.

So, yeah, it makes no sense to have a world where everyone hates people with super powers, except if they were not born with them.