Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father’s Day and the X-Men

Well yes, I was feted today by Erin:  movie and dinner. First round was a visit to Barnes and Noble. Not there to buy, and held true to that. Spent a lot of time looking at books on PHP, HTML5 and such like. Perfunctory visit to the poetry section. I would say 3/4 of the selection are classic. The rest is pure random. Some memo went out saying, We support Mary Oliver, or some other maven of the Post-Interesting Poetry (original typo: Posetry) Era. And the patron think: This is what I’m supposed to get. To enter the spirit of the upcoming movie, I scanned the comix available. These items gleam as compared to the comix renderings back when I littered the floor with my reading. Still doing the same stuff, really.

So then to the nearby theatre. The upcoming treats look less savory than the last bunch that I saw. Harry Pothead looks overly exploded, dire and franchisey. I’ve seen at least 2 of the movies complete, bits of others, and am sated. I have not read the books except three sentences of the first which, along with the illustrations, suggested that I was not the target audience. The look of the movies satisfies, at least.

Something I am not ready for is a Hugh Jackman vehicle, basically Rocky meets Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. Kid you not. The Jackman is a post prime prize fighter who trains a boxing robot. Well really, that’s what the plot is. I did not like the sympathy being encouraged even in the snippets for the down and out robot. Just not up for that. I remember as a kid feeling like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots were the most fantastically wonderful of toys, tho I nor any friend had them. In sooth, I cannot imagine any kid playing with them for more than 10 minutes without figuring out an interesting way to break them. But any, no thanks.

Our alternate movie choice was Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds. Guess who stars in a movie with what’s his name Bateman? The premise entails polar opposite friends switching bodies. This premise was in the top right drawer marked Worked Well the Previous Times. I sighed but honestly, there appeared some winning chemistry between the stars.

Least but last, an entertainment concerning a chimpanzee given smart drug. I initially thought this was Flowers for Algernon, ape division, but finally we discover that it is Planet of the Apes, the prequel’s prequel. Looked lame, at least if a sack of shit is lame.

Now the X-Men. They were one of my more favourite Marvels, back in the day. I hazard to say I’m talking the original X-Men, but I do not know my comics history well enough to be sure there were no versions previous. I know there was an overhaul in which the costumes changed and maybe personnel as well.

The movie starts gruesomely at a Nazi concentration camp. The gruesomeness engages in the meeting of real historical horror with Stan Lee’s candygrams. The self-centered puerilities of comics look disgraceful situated near the actualities of human lives. I do not want Magneto’s pain equated with the victims of Auschwitz.  Same with Captain America versus the Nazis.

Anyway [stepping from the pulpit], a boy is separated from his parents on entering a camp. In the separation, he reveals astonishing magnetic power. This is observed by someone in the camp. The boy is brought to this person, who proves to be Kevin Bacon and a further expansion of Bacon’s 6 degrees. He wants the boy to reveal his power. The boy tries but cannot replicate the power. To inspire the boy, his mother is brought in, and Bacon aims a gun at her. The boy still cannot work his magnetism, and Bacon shoots her. The boy erupts in magnetic horror, causing the helmets of the guards to crumple most head-breakingly. Tra la, change of scene.

In a Westchester mansion, a boy (still 1944) arises in the night and discovers his mom in the kitchen. Only he knows, thru psychic power, that it aint her. This chameleon reveals her true shape, a blue, scaly female the boy’s age. They confirm simpatico in their mutual mutantness. Elle s’appelle Raven.

Years pass, and the boy becomes a somewhat poncy English professor. I mean he’s Oxfordy, but his field is human mutation. His sister mutant maintains a blonde normalcy, hottie division.

Since plot is something they add at the end of filming—why make sense when you don’t need to?—we then meet a female CIA operative who is keeping tabs on some bad international action. Guess what, the plot centers on the Cuban missile crisis! In the course of her investigation, she witnesses some mutant action. She immediately seeks out Charles Xavier, the aforementioned poncy English guy and mutant expert. Xavier was played by James McAvoy, and was one of the few memorable people in the film. I thought he might’ve been one of the children in Chronicles of Narnia but in fact, he played Tunmus.

Here’s the deal: Kevin Bacon and other bad mutants are working to overthrow the world, and the good mutants, in concert with the friendly folks of the CIA, are out to thwart.

The bad mutants include Azazel, a devilish red character with instant speed and savage violence, a well-dressed bartender-looking guy who controls whirlwind, and a blonde telepath who can turn into diamond… or something… None of this is developed, it just hangs there.

To thwart, Charles X gathers some mutants of his own. The initial boy, who on his lonesome adult quest hunted out some Nazi miscreants, to effect death knell. Kevin Bacon was one of the target miscreants, hence his (Magneto’s) joining X. X’s so-called sister, and a brainy fellow with chimp feet, fill out the roster. Using Scientific Instruments, X implausibly scours the world for more mutants. He finds a handful, including, I think, Wolverine, who tells them to fuck off. Ha ha.

This boring bunch of kids are trained by X and Magneto.The kids remind me of the Substitute Justice League of America, or however it was called. This was one plot I remember from youth. I should be able to tell you the issue number but alas. Applicants whose super powers failed to meet the high standards of the JLA decided to form their own group of crimefighters. I still remember the list. Polar Boy emitted a freeze ray that froze things. As powers go, this didn’t seem bad. Might’ve been a similar one with fire. Chlorophyll Kid could make plants grow extremely fast. Night Girl had Superboy type powers, but only at, um, night. My favourite was Stone Boy. He could turn to stone. In the exciting climax, the Substitutes parachute in to rescue the JLA. Polar Boy barks out orders. To Stone Boy he says, Stone Boy, turn to stone! You can almost feel the exclamation point, can’t you?

Back to movie. This mutant bunch is a load of so what. Angel, who in the original vision was a guy, had silly pixie wings and could puke fireballs. Shrug. Another had some sort of violent power. Another had a scream like that ridiculous yell in the movie Dune. Of course there was the chameleon power’s of X’s ersatz sister. An all too boring selection of cinematic stars.

Bacon wastes no time attacking these kids. Azazel was especially slaughterous. He could move instantly. He would grab people, fly high, then drop, plus he wielded long knives. Unusually vicious violence, you ask me. Oh, I neglected to mention the mutant Darwin, among the good mutants, who could sprout gills and protective scales. The movie played the beat of mutants as second class citizens. Bacon gave a speech on those lines, trying to recruit the kids.  Angel shifts sides, as does Darwin. Darwin’s just fakin’. The good mutants attack Bacon while Darwin shields Angel. Bacon calmly absorbs the attack. He then kills Darwin. Sorry, no franchise for you.

Further stuff definitely happens. It culminates in the US and Russia sending fleets to disagree about missiles in Cuba. X does his psychic thing, which means pressing fingers to temple to read the minds of others. Except for Bacon and McAvoy, the actors are so wanly forgetable, I do not see how a franchise can survive. The translation of these preposterous powers, initially extravagant strokes of pencil on paper, to real life results in real strain. Angel’s pixie wings, dragonfly, really, do not suggest speed. And the fireball barf is a leftfield extravagance. The sonic guy flies according to some physical law that hasn’t approached me. It’s a tricky balance to maintain a reality. How does he survive being dropped from a fighter jet (that seems to be an anachronistic cross between a stealth fighter and that jet with the vacuum cleaner underneath to allow it to hover) into the sea? I think it is part of the human condition to think a little bit, one cannot help it. What I say is, suspension of belief has limits.

Furthermore, and again, the insinuation of this video game minded historical element is so Sarah Palinish as to be repulsive. Gradient up, my friends. Something really did happen back then, however absurd it seems now. Morose self-centric “mutants” in schoolyard mode have nothing to do with actual human processes involving social interactions and grave mishap. I am serious. This is Sarah Palin’s Hallmark card understanding of Paul Revere. The surface is thin but adamant, it would seem.

Little in the movie suggests that anyone ever heard of 1962. Okay, news clips of Jack Kennedy saying Cuber, but miniskirts and anything but an evocation of an era. It seems like the basic homework to account for these things. It also seems like the mindset one should have with a movie such as this is: I’m pretty ignorant, I should like this movie. Yep, and adulate the keen mindset of Palin. And stupid out.

Which is not to say this was not a great day for me, with Erin, who performed several popcorn-“buttered” forehead smacks during the movie. Comix and movies, both, make or break on the surface. Depth is never more than an underling. Reasonableness founders as depth is attempted. We had Thai food at the nearby mall, then wandered thru the cathedral of commerce. Envy is a chunk of merchandise from Apple, sensitive communication pressed thru the official orifices of big business. Such is the current legerdemain. All this opinion is flop sweat compared to the time together. Thank you to my son and friend, Erin, for a great day!