Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hollywood Lacks New Ideas (Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington!)

Hooray for the Memorial Day blockbuster. O big, flashy, cost-80-million-to-make-but-probably-pulls-in-100-million number... where would the country be without you? And as I was viewing my choice of Memorial Day blockbusters, I realized that there's nothing original going on here. We're not just talking about recycling plotlines (a new one of which we've not seen since Shakespeare, and even the Bard himself ganked a lot from Aeschylus and his ilk)... we're talking straight-up repitition of concept. Almost all new movies you see today are 1) remakes of existing movies; 2) movie adaptations of existing plays, comics, video games, or books; 3) sequels to existing movies; or 4) film adaptations of true stories.

Think about it. Big movies of right now: X3. Mission Impossible III. The DaVinci Code. All fit into the above categories (and in fact X3 is both a movie adaptation of an existing comic and a sequel to an existing movie). Movies that have been nominated for or won Oscars in the recent past: Return of the King. Ray. Munich. Capote. Brokeback Mountain. King Kong. The Aviator. I could go on, but the point is made. I'm not saying they're bad movies or anything... just, dare I say, unoriginal?

So how about that X3?

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

In the sequel-happy state of affairs in which we find ourselves, The X-Men series is perhaps the only one for which I have seen all of the movies. The thing is, this isn't so much out of some huge love for the X-Men concept. It was out of being in the right place at the right time... as in "I've got X-Men on DVD. Want to watch it?" Then, "On second thought, I don't really feel like watching The Matrix Reloaded. Let's see X-2 instead." And most recently, "Hey Matt, what are you doing today? We're watching X3."

The thing about the X-Men movies is they're not too bad at all. Never having been a huge fan of the superhero concept, and recently becoming bored with action movies, I'd expect this series to be something that I pretty much shrug off as mindless entertainment. And it is mindless entertainment, but at least it's actually entertaining mindless entertainment. One piece of high praise I have for these movies, and for X3 in particular, is that I was actually impressed by the special effects. Where certain other movies lauded for their special effects didn't impress me to say the least (eg King Kong), the effects in X3 were quite good. Like Magneto lifting the Golden Gate Bridge. Absolutely amazing. Between that and Jean Grey's atomokinesis (and heck, Jean Grey herself), this movie is visually impressive.

Even without being a superhero buff, it's pretty obvious that one concept that differentiates X-Men from other superhero settings is the moral discussion of difference from mainstream society. Where most superhero settings are focused on one or a handful of protagonists, in X-Men, there's an entire subculture of "mutants," giving rise to intellectual debates about integration, toleration, etc. This is especially evident in the third movie, where one of the two main plotlines involves a so-called "cure" for being a mutant. Ethical dilemmas abound! While this is hardly Crime and Punishment, you've gotta give some credit to this movie for wanting to make us think, if only secondarily to watching stuff blow up.

The other primary plotline shows the apotheosis of Jean Grey, who doesn't hesitate to go from loyal friend of Xavier to evil servant of Magneto to "Ah, screw it, I'm just going to disintegrate everything." Her transformation gives rise to yet another debate, this one discussing the proper use of restraints; self-identity weighed against "this psycho is going to blow up all of California if we don't stop her." Not that that would necessarily be a huge loss.

As usual with the X-Men movies, the acting was merely solid at worst and quite good at best. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart? It's like a geek actor dream movie. (Given the movie's events, it's questionable whether Stewart will be reprising his role as Charles Xavier in a hypothetical sequel, which would be a huge loss.) Some moments were especially cheesy. The whole Rogue-Iceman subplot... I don't care. At all. Magneto wondering "what have I done" after doing plenty of mean and downright evil things--like going as far as to tell Mystique (who saved him earlier in the movie) that she wasn't one of them anymore? Ridiculous.

Of course, "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" was brilliant. There's a flash dubbing of an old X-Men cartoon somewhere on the Internet (I don't have the link; if you've got it, let me know) that features that exact line... and seeing it in the actual movie was amazing. All in all, a highly entertaining movie... not award-caliber, not inspiring, and not revolutionary... but so what?

And no, the point of that review was not so that I could use the word "apotheosis" in a sentence and make a pretentious literary reference while doing it. Really. I promise. (But a dozen points if you can name the reference, without Googling it.)

Currently listening: Comfort Eagle, Cake


Chetsi said...

You have time to watch movies and tv? I'm jealous, but it's not like I want to watch any of the movies these days anyway. Thanks for the email...I had forgotten your blog for awhile.

-- Zach said...

That was actually a great review. The juggernaut scene was, what I thought, possibly the best and definitely the most hilarious part of the movie. Oh and here's the link to the X-men dubbing:

Teddy said...

I think you got apotheosis from Norton and his "quizzes." (I prefer to call them "levels of hell for the AP Lit kids.")

Gina said...

I just came back from seeing the movie, and as all/most movies are these days, it was very very mindless but also very very entertaining.

[three hours later]

Hahaha... I left this open before I left the house and now I can't remember what I was going to say. Figures. LOL sorry

Matt Pavlovich said...

That's pretty close, Teddy. I got it from an activity from AP Lit, but the real question is where did it ultimately come from?

Thanks for the link, Zach!