Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (a second opinion)

Sigh...

I'll be honest, after I left the theater, I wanted to give the movie but after telling my friend about the movie I had to admit that there were some cool parts.

I don't know what to say about this movie. This wasn't Brett Ratner's fault. He did a competent job. There were some scenes that were better than anything in the first two X-Men movies. The Phoenix scenes were handled particularly well.

Whoever decided that this movie should only be 107 minutes not only ruined this movie but ruined this franchise.

It was clear that the writers of the movie had been given a list of things to address:

  • Jean/Phoenix
  • The cure storyline
  • Give Storm a bigger role
  • Solve the Cyclops-doesn't-really-do-anything problem
  • Iceman vs. Pyro
  • Introduce a bunch of new mutants (Angel, Beast, Callisto, Madrox)
  • Give Colossus something to do
  • Iceman/Rogue/Kitty Pryde love triangle
  • Jean/Cyclops/Logan love triangle
And they were told to do all this in 107 minutes or less because even with the short running time, there managed to be filler.

There was a lot of potential. The cure story could have been cool. The Phoenix story could have been cool. The use of the next generation of X-Men stepping up could have been cool. But instead of there being a main plot and some subplots, there were ONLY subplots, some being resolved, some being forgotten and some rushed to an unsatisfying conclusion. And because of that, I felt detached from the whole movie.

It's sad. Given an extra 45-60 minutes and a better writer, this could have been the best of the X-Men movies.

Click here for more spoiler-filled comments.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

The X-Men 3 Review To End All Reviews

It is no secret to anyone on this site or OKP that I am a fan of the X-Men. I have followed them for some time, and when I first heard about an X-Men movie, I was stoked. I remember seeing the first movie and really enjoying it. Yea, I wanted to see more characters, and Sabretooth was done really, really bad, but I respected it for what it was. It was enough to have me panting for a sequel.

Then came X2. This is by far the greatest comic movie of all time, hands down. You want to argue? Fine, but you better have a good argument lined up and on tap. Unfortunately, this movie also made the first movie look not so good comparatively. The scene where Wolverine unleashes and Colossus metals up still gives me goosebumps to this day when I watch. The story was fantastic, Stryker was a great villain (although I find Brian Cox to be a
bit annoying), and the intro to Nightcrawler was great. This movie did promise bigger roles for the other X-Men characters besides Wolverine, but they didn't really go into Jean, Cyclops, and Storm especially. This film simply had me waiting for the next movie to drop immediately. I was very hyped for the next one, and when I finally heard about it and saw pix and trailers, I was pumped.

May 26th. Me and some friends go down at about 11:00 or so, tickets in hand, to get good seats and what not. The movie was set to start at 12:01, in five theatres, all of which were sold out. It was already pretty crowded, and they were filling up theatres as people came in. We saw our share of Wolverines, Rogues, Nightcrawlers (although I don't know why), one Jedi (the saddest motherfucer you would of ever seen... this guy had a blue lightsaber in Jedi garb, running around pretending he was a badass... it was like watching a sequel to that Triumph at the Star Wars premiere), and Batman(apparently, no one told him that he was a year or 2 late). We waited and waited, past 12:01, until someone came in to finally announce that the movie would be starting. Guess what time it was? 12:45. Yea, it sucked big time, but I was still excited nonetheless.

Before I go into the movie, I thought that Ghost Rider looked pretty cool. But of course, Marvel did make Daredevil.

X-Men 3 falls somewhere in the paradox land of movies to me. I liked it. Better than 2? That is the paradox.

The opening scene were just like the other movies, and it seemed like it began very soon after the 2nd movie ended. The Angel scene at the beginning was disturbing, but it worked. Unfortunately, Angel didn't. For all the complaints I have heard about underused characters, Angel should not of been in the movie for what he was there for. One scene, which was one of the only scenes that his father was in, even though he was the basis for the large plot of the movie. That, I did not understand. Beast on the other hand was handled very well. I have not seen a Beast that I have liked since he stopped being the ape-like version until seeing this movie. Kelsey Grammer fit this part great, fitting the size and the intellect it would take for the character. It was strange to see him working so close in the government though. The idea of the cure was good, at least to begin with.



Mystique was criminally underused, especially since she was the most badass she has been in any of the three movies, with the exception being the fight with Wolverine in 1. I like seeing Multiple Man, and the forest scene was pretty clever, if predictable. Juggernaut, visually, was great. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they pulled him off, because I don't think anyone thought that someone that big could work with someone playing him. The voice did not work for me at first, but I got used to it. 'I'm the Juggernaut, BITCH!' and the fight with Wolverine put him on the good side of the fence though. Pyro became the Mystique of this installment, and Callisto and the remaining members worked decently well as glorified cameos. The stars of the show were of course Magneto and Jean/Phoenix. This can be expected from Ian. He was ice cold towards Mystique, and the death of Xavier did not seem to phase him as much as you would of thought. I felt that Phoenix was a little too powerful though.

The X-Men, well, I could go both ways on. Wolverine was great, and so was Beast, even Kitty was done well, and the scene with Iceman icing up was pure fanboy enjoyment. The problem was the idea that Marvel seemed to forget that Cyclops was even in the movie until the very end, when someone probably said 'Hey, do you guys know what happened to Scott?' I don't think they did. I though Storm was the best in this movie, and I didn't have a huge problem with her. Rogue got shafted as well, but the big suprise was how they also seemed to leave Colossus out as well. Yea we got to see the 'Fastball Special' and him fight a little bit, but I was expecting a lot more from his character.

The effects were where this movie shined. This fight scenes in the Grey neighborhood and Alcatraz were awesome, were easily the best fights of any of the three movies. Juggernaut chasing Kitty, Beast and Wolverine cutting loose, finally getting a glimpse of the Danger Room and a tease of a Sentinel, and Jean going crazy, for lack of a better word, were all visually stunning, but the best scene goes to Magneto, when he popped Mystique out of prison on the highway. The only dissapoint was the bridge scene, which was way to long and drawn out for its own good.

The character underdevelopment was the weak point. First off, how the fuck are they going to kill off 3 of the major X-Men characters? I was expecting Jean, and I heard Cyclops was going to take a dirt nap as well. I actually thought that killing Professor X was fresh and quite shocking. Also, the underusement of other characters, like Mystique and Rogue was just wrong. I know why they always seem to focus on Wolverine, but the movie is called X-Men, not Wolverine.

The final scene with Magneto in the park was cool too (even if we all knew that he would still have his powers). The hidden scene at the end of the credits was cool, because I remember them talking about that earlier in the movie. There will probably be another one, and I will not complain if there is. Let's just hope that the Sentinels (true to form) and Gambit can make appearances.

All in all I felt that this was a pretty damn enjoyable movie. I liked the action sequences, loved the fights, and the fanboy moments were plentiful and cool. Was it better than X2? Action wise, yes. Story and all together, no. Both of the sequels were better than the original (and I did like the first one), so I am not dissapointed at all. If the 1st movie was good (B) and the 2nd was close to perfect (A-A+), this movie falls in between them. To the people who didn't like the movie, you really were not entertained? Yea, I thought so.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Blog Crossover Event

A Blog Crossover Event That Will Split the Internet Into A Time-Warner Style Conglomerate That Not Even Carl Icahn Can Fix-- Even With The Help Of Braniac 13!

Just a heads up that Mr. Daniel Clowes is a guest on this weeks Sound of Young America. Support this show, this is not the first comic icon to guest on the show and hopefully not the last.

And it's all Fanboy Bullshit-Free.

http://tsoya.blogspot.com/2006/05/podcast-career-killers.html

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Damn!

Damn! I just remembered that I forgot yesterday was Free Comic Book Day!

Call me sentimental, but I like to check this event out (even though I usually end up with nothing but Archies and stuff)

Did anybody go to the LCS?

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So-ooo… The Civil War is officially kicking, and I’m gonna tell it to you guys the way Ralph told Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike: You got to count me out.

When I came back to comics last year after a decade in the wilderness, one of the key terms and conditions of my return was:

“Under no circumstances will the Undersigned purchase, read, or otherwise fuck with any comics that can be characterized as (i) Crossovers, (ii) ‘Events,’ or (iii) Multipart Saga Extending Across Several Titles and Promising to Shake the Comics Universe to Its Core With Shocking and Permanent Changes (Which the Contractor Reserves the Right to Reverse Within the course of Six Months).”

Now granted, in a few moments of weakness I might have slipped off the wagon and found myself indulging in that sordid business we call Infinite Crisis, but that long, lost weekend is over and no mas. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m ready to straighten up and fly right, so if you guys call yourselves my friends you’ll not act as enablers.

Don’t talk to me about the latest 279-part crossover event. Don’t tell me to check out Annihilation. Don’t keep me up to date on the progress of Son of M. If you come to me talking about “Civil War,” the earth-shattering conclusion to your saga for damn sure better go something like this:

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All that being said, though: New Avengers Special: The Illuminati was a pretty intriguing book, wasn’t it? I wanted to review it when it first dropped but it sold out at my store and I didn’t get to read it for a few weeks. By this point, I’m pretty sure you all know what it’s about so I’ll spare you the synopsis and get straight to what is so damn intriguing about it.

well… Maleev and Bendis, obviously. Especially Maleev showing that straight superhero work might not be beyond the realm of his ken and getting me even more excited about the upcoming Spider-Woman series. And Bendis ain’t nothing to sleep on here either; he does the thing that Bendis does best.

By the way, just in case you were wondering what it is “that Bendis does best,” it is not his much-vaunted dialogue, which I’ve decided is actually pretty bad, despite being enjoyable to read for its naturalistic rhythms. But just read Bendis’s Daredevil back-to-back with Brubaker’s and it becomes clear how flashy but ultimately ineffective the periphrastic rambling really is.

What Bendis excels at, the one true gift he has brought to the comics world is the phenomenon of “ground-level” superhero storytelling (Was he the one who originated that? Powers was the first time I took notice of the approach and it’s since spread throughout the industry). Bendis more specifically calls his style "Behind the Music" storytelling, and was often the case with that VH1 guilty pleasure, we all too often learn that behind the masks, our heroes are mostly dicks.

Even more intriguing than that is the manner in which Bendis deals with the Hulk Problem.

What exactly is the Hulk Problem, you ask? Well, basically the problem with the Hulk is that he’s a really stupid character who I’ve never liked. Sure, at the best of times ol’Greenskin’s been a pretty cool modern take on the whole Jeckyl & Hyde thing, but even when I was seven years old I found something incredible infantile about a superhero whose main power was that he got mad and wrecked everything in sight as he grunted monosyllabically.

I mean, it’s interesting the first couple of times, but eventually it just becomes monoto—

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A MESSAGE FROM AFKAP’S MOM

Hello there, boys!

(What’s that you say? There’s a girl or three amongst you? My apologies, ladies! I didn’t realize how much things had changed since the days when I would interrupt young Affy’s little comic coffee klatsches to bring him and his friends some milk and cookies! Back then? Total sausage party!)

Anyway, I don’t want to take up too much of your time except to poke my head in and inform you that my son is a god-natured boy, but he’s really a big liar.

Sure, he’ll want you to believe that he’s into really “smart” comics and is above the primal exhilaration of watching a man throw a tantrum, throw green and lay waste to a city. Oh, but if you could only see him throwing a tantrum and holding his breath till he turned blue in a supermarket checkout line one night many, many years ago when I refused to buy him the magazine pictured below.

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I was a bit hesitant at first (the “Lesbian senator” story seemed a bit racy for a boy his age) but in the end I relented and bought my son his first “adult” magazine.

I’m aware that he also peacocks around on that www.Okayplayer.com site acting like a serious music snob who was collecting Blue Note originals when he was 5. I bet he never told you that the first record he ever owned was this one. (Or, for that matter that on the same day he wanted to get this one.)

Even when he was in high school and college, I recall him buying issues of The Incredible Hulk and speaking enthusiastically about his fondness for “PAD” (which was, I admit, a tad disturbing; his comics habit made some of his peers view him as less than macho, and I hoped that he hadn’t actually been driven to buying feminine hygiene products!)

So take everything he says with a grain of salt, will you?

Okay, I’ll be leaving now. Have fun! I hope you all call your mothers more than my son does. You really should. Or better yet, get up, go upstairs right this minute and go say hi to her. Believe me, she will appreciate it!


Okay, so maybe I haven’t always hated the Hulk.

In fact, I don’t even really hate the Hulk right now. At the heart of things I think he’s a brilliant character; a logical progression of the ideas of duality explored in the mythos of the first superhero of the modern era, Superman. But like Superman, he’s a character who works best in his own continuity – or at least relatively insulated from other superheroes – and probably as a fable. Once you introduce them into a shared universe full of metahumans of all stripes… Well, they become a little problematic.

The big problem with the Hulk is that I’ve never been completely sure of why he’s considered a “good guy.” Unlike other Marvel Age characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil and Dr. Strange, his heroic career is not based the decision to use his power for good. This is a guy – a monster, actually – who’s got the ability to level a city block with his bare hands, the communication and comprehension skills of a three year-old and the rage of Barry Gibb.

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Why isn’t he considered a villain in the Marvel Universe? Sure, he’s kinda got a good heart, but hey, I’ve heard that Super-Skrull devotes a lot of his free time to rescuing homeless kittens… Does that make him okay, too?

Not only do they not deal with Hulk as the menace to society he occasionally is, but at various points they have made him an Avenger. AN AVENGER, for Chrissakes! Banner has got to have that HOT weed connection, because otherwise I cannot think of why they keep him around.

I think what has always subconsciously bothered me about the Hulk and made his exploits so unsatisfying for me is the fact that while the Marvel Universe that was supposedly built around the idea of portraying the real-world consequences of super-powered beings in the real world, a lot of effort was expended on avoiding showing what the Hulk’s tantrums really mean. This panel from the classic Incredible Hulk #332 (1986) is an example of how writers have traditionally skirted this issue.

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Yeah, thank goodness the people all got out in time!

For my money, the best and most logical rendition of the Hulk has been Mark Millar’s, in The Ultimates. If his Banner is an extreme portrait of male spinelessness, his Hulk is an over-the-top parody of macho excess: he grunts and smashes shit, he drinks beer, he’s hornier than a two-peckered billy goat, he smells bad, and he’s terrified of being thought of as a “sissy boy.” And when he goes on a rampage through Manhattan, it’s presented as an analogue for 9/11, complete with massive losses in human life.

Bendis follows this track in Illuminati: The Hulk goes wild in Las Vegas and kills twenty-six people “this time.” This time. Meaning that he’s killed more people over the years. (Meaning that the Avengers have been palling around with and protecting a murderer all this time.) And it’s decided that finally, something has to be done with him.

Of course, in the recent She-Hulk #4, Shulkie states that she’s sure that the Hulk has NEVER killed anybody, and that her cousin Bruce would surely have killed himself if his Hulk rampages had ever lead to anybody getting seriously hurt.

This discrepancy can probably be (and kinda has been) explained away by saying that Jen just didn’t know that the Hulk has killed (but come on… How could she not know that?) More than likely, this confusion is a result of the shoddy editorial work that has marred the Quesada regime and the seeming carte blanche awarded to Bendis to rewrite Marvel history at will.

I wish it were less mundane, though: Wouldn’t it be so much cooler if this were the beginnings of a true philosophical schism brewing within Marvel? Not just Dan Slott vs. Bendis, but what their individual approaches to superheroes represent: A relatively innocent Marvel Universe where we recognize the heroes because they are the ones who are, at the end of the day, fundamentally good… Or a darker, morally complicated world in which the heroes except for Spider-Man are essentially assholes with better press agents?

See… Now that is a civil war that I’d pay to watch play out…

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