Late Night Mutant Party

I’ve always dug the seismic-shift storyline–if executed properly (and it rarely is), the “everything you knew is wrong!” trick can make you completely reexamine how you look at literature as a whole. The comic series Preacher did it, making you think that it was a character’s 66-issue search to bring God to justice when it turned out to be a search for the salvation of a friend’s soul. It’ll never happen, but I think it’d be cool if Lost turns out to be the story not of a plane crash on a remote island, but of a love that endures beyond all reason between Desmond and Penny. And there’s a rumor going around that the current Battlestar Galactica series has a seismic shift in the works–that in the humans-Cylons battle, the humans (whom we’ve been following for two seasons) are actually the bad guys.

I was reminded of these ideas tonight while watching X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Briefly stated–kick-ass film from the perspective of seeing favorite comic characters onscreen; missed opportunity from a literary perspective. Here’s the spoiler-free version–there’s a plan afoot to “cure” mutants (those born with powers, abilities, or physical structure different from ordinary humans). The cure is pharmaceutical in nature–inject somebody with a specific antidote, and presto–no more mutant. Magneto (bad guy, controls magnetism) and his band of merry mutants want to destroy the means of producing this cure. The good-guy X-Men, naturally enough, try to stop him.

Here’s the thing, though–Magneto’s in the right here.

Think about it–if mutation is a symbol for differing race, gender, sexual orientation, whatever–as is the avowed intent of most X-Men storylines–then why would a plan to cure mutation be any more acceptable than one of those goofball programs to “cure” homosexuality? Heck, one of the X-Men–Storm, played by the ever-lovely Halle Berry–even says this early in the movie, but then goes on to battle to defend the lab. Yes, Magneto’s methods are a bit extreme–although the scene pulling the Golden Gate Bridge from its moorings is unbelievably cool–but I have a tough time arguing with his motives.

Now, the idea that the X-Men could be the bad guys here–and yes, going along to get along can be bad too–is a fascinating one, but it’s obviously too heavy for a summer film. We get the big action shots, we get the triumphant conclusion–but we’re left with a nagging feeling that something was wrong with how this played out. (And it’s not just because the film cribs its ending from Fantastic Four, either.)

There’s also the matter of the Phoenix. Without going too deep into detail here, there’s a mutant–Jean Grey–who has the powers of telekinesis and telepathy (she can move stuff with her mind, and can read yours to boot). Thought dead at the end of the last movie, she survived–but now is the power-mad Phoenix. There were worlds of possibilities here that were left largely unexplored in favor of a neat-and-tidy–if surprisingly violent–solution.

So, did I like it? Yeah, I did–Hugh Jackman has defined Wolverine, and seeing the powers of everyone from Kitty Pryde to Colossus to Angel play out on the big screen is just a total geekgasm. I would have loved to see more Sentinels–giant robots–the eyebeam-headlights in the darkness are just perfectly creepy. Kelsey Grammer did a fine job as Beast–though the appearance of his shorter, skinnier little brother–perhaps sporting a natty turquoise shade of fur–would have made the picture complete.

Bottom line–not nearly the best comic book movie out there (that’s probably Spider-Man 2, with Batman Begins not far behind). Matter of fact, it’s probably the “worst” of the three X-flicks. But it’s true to the characters, it allows change to occur throughout the series, and it blows all kinds of stuff up real good. Go see it.

Jay

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