May 28, 2006

X-cited!

I grew up on books and comic books. For the longest time, I could remember my brothers and me waiting for each to finish so that we could swap issues. And, for the longest time, I could remember being very selective about the comic books I read; I was never a big fan of Superman—he was bland, shallow and too good to be true—and besides, he’s not even from earth. I was a bigger fan of Batman—now, that’s a superhero—who continues to do battle not only against crime but also against his own self and often straddling the line between giving in to his twisted side and letting his dark side win. For a young kid, that was something that caught my imagination.

One other title that caught me early was The X-Men. And I’m referring to the original team of Professor X (as he was then known), Scott Summers aka Cyclops (the team leader), his girlfriend then Jean Grey, Henry “Hank”McCoy aka The Beast (the team’s brains apart from Xavier), Warren Worthington III aka Angel and Bobby Drake aka Iceman. At that time, the word “mutant” was not too frequently used and they were just known as a group of youngsters under Xavier’s tutelage. Magneto was already around, together with his children, Wanda aka Scarlet Witch (who would team with The Avengers) and Pietro aka Quicksilver (who would start out as a villain and later join up with The Avengers and later become an X-man). It would also be during this period that villains like Juggernaut (aka Cain Marko, Xavier’s half-brother) would be introduced.

Years passed and the comic book needed to be revitalized and, thus, The Uncanny X-men came along with new members coming in and old members leaving. The very first issue saw Angel, Beast and Jean Grey leaving and Cyclops and Iceman remaining; for the first time, we saw people like Ororo Munroe aka Storm and Logan aka Wolverine (who had previously debuted in The Incredible Hulk as a villain) and Pyotr “Peter” Rasputin aka Colossus; much much later, we would get Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat, Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler, Rogue, Forge, Cable, Gambit, Longshot, Dazzler and many, many others. The word “mutant” would be used more and more often and The X-men (and many other related X-titles or mutant titles such as X-Factor, Excalibur, New Mutants and Alpha Flight) would blaze the trail for issues and topics hardly ever discussed in comic books; even before the world spoke of Aids, the X-men were already grappling with the Extermination agenda, a virus so lethal that it could wipe out mutants; it was already grappling with hate, bigotry on top of the daily angst that teenagers thrust into superhero work went through. It helped that the comic book was written by many good writers, among the best of whom was Chris Claremont, and that it was drawn by many good artists.

Imagine my excitement when X-men finally hit the big screen. Although, I knew not to expect the heroes of my childhood to be portrayed in the same way, it was still so cool to see on live action something that I, as a kid, only imagined growing up. So while Wolverine was this 6 foot plus lean Australian hunk instead of a short, squat and swarthy Canadian and Scott Summers, whose mutant power aside from laser blasts for eyes was his leadership, was portrayed as a wimp, I suspended my disbelief and just simply enjoyed myself.

I recently watched X-Men III (aka The Last Stand) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There is hardly any dialogue (except one, which I will talk about later) that matters as it is the action that moves the film and move the film, it does. Brett Ratner knows where he is strong and he capitalizes on that in this third installment of the X series. From start to finish, it is action-packed and X-afficionadoes are treated to many, many more mutants not revealed from X-Men and X2.

Worthy of mention is a delightful Kelsey Grammer (aka Frasier) as Hank McCoy; he is great in the role. Not so notable is Ben Foster as Angel, who is hardly given anything to do (compared to hism comic book treatment as one of the original X-men and who later turns to evil after being taken and changed by Apocalypse into Archangel. . . but that is several X movies down the line, I think).

The Rogue-Bobby Drake-Kitty Pryde tri-angle is well-made and quite realistic; Rogue’s angst about not being able to touch Bobby (because of her mutant power to absorb the life essence of anyone she touches with her bare skin) is quite moving and is one of the real reasons why the “cure” spoken of in the film becomes relevant. Her decision and her dialogue with Logan (who enjoys a paternal bond with her, as shown in the previous films) is quite compelling; Ana Paquin may not have done much with her powers in this film, but she does quite well as the tortured Rogue.

The actress who plays Kitty Pryde is well-cast. She calls to mind the playful child in the comic book who can phase through walls. Colossus is . . .well. . . big and metallic. I did have a hoot though with the “fastball express” (comic book readers will know what this is) between Logan and Peter and this happens twice—at the start and at the end—and enjoyed seeing this scene, done in so many comic books (and even filched by Peter Jackson in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; see the part where Gimli tells Aragorn to throw him), come to life on the big screen.

My main complaint is Phoenix and the way they explained her. It’s lame. The entire Phoenix saga is one of the X-Men’s highest points and to have it reduced to Jean Grey having a multiple personality is a big let-down. Famke Jannsen is appropriately menacing as Phoenix and while she doesn’t really say much, the characterization of Phoenix as the mutant everyone (including Xavier and Magneto) is afraid of is quite good.

The part where I went “Oh man” is near the end when Logan, as the only one impervious to Phoenix’s power because of his mutant healing factor, manages to draw himself close enough to Phoenix to kiss—or kill—her is asked, “would you die for them?” Predictably enough (and even before this scene, I was cringing already waiting for some sappy ending between Logan and Phoenix), the response from Logan was sappy, “no, I’d die for you.” At least, it wasn’t the sappy ending I was dreading—Phoenix backs down because Logan affirms his love for her and yada yada yada yada and all that bunk; but it was bad enough.

Still and all, X-Men III manages entertain those not familiar with the series; it manages, as well, to placate a grizzled X-fan like me into really enjoying the film. Can’t wait for the next one; if not an X-movie, possibly a Wolverine movie.

(deleted for being a spoiler; sorry, didn't realize it when I first posted it.)

Oh, and by the way also, wait for the credits to end before leaving the movie house.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, sir. I am a former student of yours and I thought I would just add some comments of mine:

It was a fun movie, but I felt as though they were trying to cram too many story lines into it. It left you with too much loose ends and undeveloped story lines.

I also hated how they explained the Pheonix force in this movie. The way they explained it in comics made one understand why all the other mutants feared the Pheonix force. It reminded me of how the Force was explained in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom menace.

The movie actually involved a lot of story lines from the more recent X-Men comics series', namely New-Xmen (by Grant Morrison) and Astonishing X-Men (by Joss Wheadon). For instance the Cure bit comes from Astonishing X-Men.

Actually sir, if you are interested in reading X-Men comics again, the two titles I mentioned earlier are two of the better written current titles. Trade paperbacks of these series' could usually be found in Fully Booked.