Monday, May 29, 2006

They Wish to Cure Us

Even if you haven't seen X3, you've likely heard that line in the promos. I love how Ian McKellen delivers that phrase. I think it has more resonance with me than with most people because growing up my brothers and I would use the word "cure" as a euphemism for "kill". It originiated from a radical mis-hearing of the Band's "Up on Cripple Creek" (radical because neither the word "cure" or "kill" is actually in the song). An example of its use: "If you don't give me the remote I'm going to cure you."

For the awesome use of the word "cure" alone, I'd give this movie five stars. But even without that line, I give it five stars. It got pretty mixed reviews, but I think that's because film critics don't give honest reviews. They try to figure out how a movie is going to be received and then do their best to write a review that won't make them look stupid. I have to qualify this opinion by stating that I don't know what makes a good movie. I've watched fewer movies then about 99% of people my age, and a hugely disproportionate chunk of those have been superhero movies.

Still, I think my unique vantage point as a film consumer allows me to see trends in crticial reception. I finally watched "Blade" a few weeks ago in preparation for the upcoming Spike TV series. That movie got pretty good reviews, but I found it to be pretty terrible (though I did read a good academic paper about it called "Vampire Cyborgs & Scientific Imperialism: A Reading of the science-mysticism Polemic in Blade"). I think it benefitted from being in the early wave of the comic book genre resurgance. I think Daredevil was the first movie to suffer critically from a backlash against the genre, which I think is still existent. I think the Fantastic Four movie last summer would have been absolutley lauded had it come out ten years ago, but it suffered because it didn't give anything new to the genre.

X3 suffered critically because it was the third movie of a franchise, which is traditionally a huge drop off in quality (Superman and the Godfather come to mind, not that I've seen any of the latter). Critical darling Bryan Singer had left as director to pursue Superman and critical whipping boy Brett Ratner took over. There was quite a bit of negative buzz surrounding the project (which was a bit rushed in production to beat Superman to the box office). I think critics read all the tea leaves and decided the fim would flop and wrote their reviews accordingly.

Whoops. Here's a word of advise to critics--never underestimate the power of Stan Lee's Marvel. Here's another piece of advice-- the Internet zeitgeist doesn't necessarily reflect the larger cultural zeitgeist.

So what did I like about the movie? I loved the number of characters. Critics complained that some of them were undeveloped, but if they were all developed critics would have just complained that the movie was too long with too many unnecessary plotlines. There were a core of very well-developed characters and a great group of supporting characters.

I also loved the ethical dilemnas that characters faced throughout the movie. I was especially intrigued that a left-wing franchise seemingly took a turn for the right in this film. Here is a copy of some of my commentary from the X-Men bulletin board (spoilers follow):

I found it interesting that the notion of the cure was ultimately sanctioned as an individual decision. While you could argue that the doctrine of individualism is a leftist cause, I'd argue that it often gets trumped in leftist circles by a demand for oppressed individuals to join together.

I found it interesting how sympathetic Warren Worthington II ended up being. He was portrayed as being misguided, certainly, but I think other directors would have played him more as an evil individual. He really thought he was helping others, and he wasn't made to die for his sins, which again I would expect to be the standard Hollywood portrayal of such a character. I would also expect that alternate scripts would have had him trying to profit from the cure instead of giving it to the government to be administered voluntarily.

The idea that Jean had to be killed struck me as a hard line, conservative reaction to the situation. Storm's exhortation that Wolverine needed to do "what needed to be done" stood out in this vein. It was the type of "Billy Budd" scenario we see played out in many good stories. Does an essentailly good but flawed character have to die for the good of others? The typical leftist approach would be to save the individual, the conservative line would be to make the hard decision for the sake of society. I also think that the difference between Jean's self-sacrifice in X2 and Wolverine's actions in X3 speak to a difference in ideology.

The president was very interesting. Sympathetic to mutant cause, but an ends justify the means guy. He made some hard line, almost Bush-like decisions, and in the end came out smelling like a rose.

Unlike X2, the U.S. military was quite heroic in this film.

Other hard-line ethical decisions were rewarded. Charles's decision to basically tamper with Jean's mind, despite Logan's vehement anger, was proved to be the right thing. Charles's decision to inhabit another body is also played for cheers. Kelsey Grammar's Beast seemed to espouse some of the conservative ideas that the actor is known for.

I don't want to give the impression that I thought this was total right-wing propaganda. On the contrary, I think the film accurately portrayed the ways that people on both sides of a political divide use rhetoric to advance their causes, it showed how much fate and contingency can influence political outcomes, and showed the agony that individuals encounter when caught in a political vortex. All that and great action sequences.


Blogger Heidi said...

i stopped reading after you wrote 'spoilers to follow' but that's all right. i think all movie series suck. you have to have low expectations, so when they do a little better than what you expect, then they're great, you know?

10:18 AM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

heidi, i'll exuse your ignorance because you're too young to have the proper appreciation for slyvester stallone's legendary serieses/characters Rocky and Rambo. The late great Ronald Reagan actually brought up Rambo in speeches. Me is looking forward to Rocky VI and Rambo IV. And don't forget the Major League series. Actually, heidi you ain't knowed what you're talking about. The Karate Kid trilogy (not including the next karate kid) is gooder than the star wars overrated trilogy.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Fangirl Kitten said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:41 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:00 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

i was with you right up untill karate kid. those movies will forever suck. rocky, on the other hand, is the pinacle of the series movie.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

bull roar, who can deny the greatness of Mr. Miyagi? He always rescued danielson and taught danielson to focus. His wisdom is legendary. Also if you're ever in a brawl remember to sweep the leg.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sequels always suck, except for X2 which was way superior to X1. Mainly because Canadian Shawn Ashmore (Iceman)had a bigger part. The Jurassic park movies get worse as they go along. The newest Harry Potter movie was just heinous. What else...Indiana Jones is another exception. The second one was just stupid, but the third one was the best. All the Star Wars movies rock except for Attack of the Clones which was amazingly stupid.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous september said...

can someone tell nwo to take some talking lessons? There are way too many grammar mistakes that are too heinous to speak of or they might give me a headache.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I cannot remember anytime I ever withheld the remote from you. You must be talking about Mikey.

I watch even fewer movies than you. The last three I've seen in theatres were "Batman Begins" "Grizzley Man" and "Shaun of the Dead." That last one was two years ago. I just have to go by what the Cigarette Smoking Man says.

Critics are larely irrelevant. Why else would Scary Movie 4 be the biggest movie in America?

And it's san not "son."

8:22 AM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life! said...

Grizzly man was one of the top 3 films of 05' along with murderball and deuce bigalow: european gigolo.

3:54 PM  

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