Tuesday, May 30, 2006

X-Men 3, Post 1

My plans fell through a little bit, but I still had a full weekend. I bought a hat; went to a wild party and danced on my sprained ankle; learned to clumsily curtsy with a hurt ankle; got to judge a male beauty contest based on knees (Sadly, I didn't get pictures or mooned this year); I heard a version of the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" based on the old folktale Tamlin; filled my new camera's internal memory with pictures of the backs of kilts (I'd share, but it's still in my friend's car); got my picture taken with a cute actor, an Owl and a Hawk; and I still made it back in time to see the movie I'd wanted.

X-Men: The Last Stand Spoilers

Spoilers Here
I'd never considered myself a Cyclops fan. He was always just there. Scott Summers, default leader. By being there, he was the guy in charge. He occasionally got to angst externally, very rarely about himself, but Scott was so beautifully repressed that he was perfect for the background solid, strong, silent character. It always took another character to bounce his emotions off of, and he was used to highlight their plot. He was a foil for one of the other characters. when he angsted, it was because of a plot involving Jean, or his brother Alex, or Wolverine. The emotional plot would be carried by someone else, Scott was there to enhance it by adding tension or understanding as the situation demanded. Scott was always the take-charge type. I could take or leave Scott. He never seemed extraneous when he was there, he never seem needed when he wasn't. I was neutral to the character.

Until I saw this movie.

This movie effortlessly showed me just how much I loved the uptight, restrained, perpetual-stick-up-his-butt, macho holding back his feelings, cowboy wannabe Scott Summers.

I am, now and forever, a Scott Summers rabid fan. I love him, and always will.

And you should all be impressed with this movie's ability to show how necessary and unique the underappreciated leader of the X-Men is. We should all be rabid Scott-fans come the end of this movie, because the way in which they chose to foster the Scott-love was clever and unique.

They chose to foster Scott-love by virtue of his absence.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time in Fourteen years of X-posure to the cartoon, the movies, and the comic book, I saw a plot where Scott Summers should be present, but wasn't.

As a kid, I always felt bad for poor Hera, the goddess of marriage, trapped in that farce of a union with Zeus. She needed a divorce and a new man, but as that wasn't possible, and it wasn't possible to control Zeus' behavior (she tried once), she tried the best possible course of action -- making an affair with Zeus more trouble than it was worth. For that, she was always demonized and vilified and just plain trashed. Women like Athena and Artemis, who could never imagine themselves in that situation, and even some of Zeus's affairs (like Hermes' mother Maia), regularly looked down on her and did their best to help out the criminal in the relationship, the out of control and unfaithful husband. People shook their heads at her and told "Shrewish wife" jokes about her. Rather than be the symbol of united love she shopuld have been, Hera is remembered as uncontrolled jealousy (Even though she showed no jealousy towards the earlier two wives -- Themis and Metis -- or towards her own sister Demeter who had a daughter with Zeus) and a symbol of the supposed prison of marriage (which is still present when you see people making "Are you sure you wanna suffer like the rest of us?" jokes about it to gay right's advocates). And people say Zeus is the one who was cursed! Ha!

When I was a little older, I got into Arthurian romance. I never liked Guinevere and Lancelot. Here was a love triangle, and there was the non-marriage being touted as the purer emotion. The better love! The "if only things were different" matter. And so, for breaking promises, jeopardizing the kingdom, giving into their own desires rather than loyalty to society, the two are glorified as the ideal example of courtly love. Admittedly, I did feel sorry for Guinevere, before I actually read the story and saw her kick Morgan's lover out of court for the same damned thing. Hypocritical and worthless. Guinevere embodied the worst stereotypes of femininity, and was surrounded by considerably more positive female characters (including Arthur's unfairly villified sisters), and yet she remains the most notable female in the Cycle. Why? Because she was bartered for beauty, deified for it, and she attracts the attention of a particularly good bruiser. And she's still generally portrayed as a positive character! Which again, makes a mockery of marriage.

At least, though, with Lance and Gwen we had a small bit of redemptive guilt, unlike with Tristan and Isolde, who both needed to die. Badly. They were outright shameless and didn't feel the least bit bad about it. Bastards.

But to the side was X-Men. I was always fond of the Jean-Scott-Logan triangle. Why? Because there, in an idealized modern setting without all of the societal quantifiers that can make a marriage unequal or a trap, the right couple got married. Yes, there was an animal attraction to Logan, but it was always properly resisted, and for the right reasons. Not for a sense of duty or a need to keep a contract together. No, Jean resisted her attraction to Logan because she actually loved Scott Summers, and he loved him. The two belonged together. They were paired since Uncanny X-Men #1. It's part of why I didn't mind Emma Frost macking around Scott when Morrison was writing New X-Men. Because it was assured that the stronger relationship was between Scott and Jean and once Scott got his head clear enough, he'd be back to Jean's side, just as she always was when she split off with Logan. In Age of Apocalypse the two were so drawn to each other that even though Scott was on the villain's side and Jean was with Logan, they ended up making a break for it together. It didn't matter that Jean was dead/absent and Scott had tried to replace her, or that Scott was dead/absent and Jean tried to replace him, or that they were in a wacky alternate timeline, the bond always won out in the end. These two people were meant for each other, and neither Logan's animal magnetism nor Emma's mental meddling could ever seriously mess that up.

So, why, in this travesty of a movie, did Scott Summers die by his wife's hands to be replaced by Logan as the one who talks her back from the brink of destroying the world?

That's quite a slap in the face. X-Men goes from a clever idealized parallel to an actual Arthurian story. Lancelot wins again, the loyal knights who respect marriage, women's choices, and don't sleep in other people's tents (when they're occupied) are beaten into the ground, Arthur is shown as an ineffective king prone to rages of jealousy and easy manipulation, Guinevere the damnable is glorified for weakness while Morgan the Wise is vilified for strength.

Meanwhile, on the other side, they try to replace Scott as Leader with Storm -- only to have him actually be replaced, once again, with Wolverine who ends up making all the command decisions while Storm looks lovely in her silvery cape and new haircut. (If the rumor that Scott got cut because Halle Berry demanded to be the central character is true, then she got totally snowed in that deal.)

And even though Scott's only face value is in reference to the Great Wolverine as a sparring partner, they can't even leave him with that dignity. Instead, they manufacture tension between Wolverine and Beast, and resolve it with little of the emotional involvement or joyful banter they had during the first flick.

Hugh Jackman is a beautiful-looking man, but dammit, I'm sick of seeing Wolverine carry the X-Men franchise to the detriment of the many rich and varied personalities and relationships found in the comic books.

And that's just the Beginning of the Problems with this Movie.

(Oh, and while I hate having to say this, I'm just going to jump the gun here because you never know -- if someone links to this post in a misguided attempt to support an anti-gay marriage argument, they are a moron, as this is about fidelity and trust and not politics. Thank you.)

(And the same goes for trying to support anti-divorce or "Feminists killed marriage" or any other idiotic arguments. I mean it, marriage is a sacred bond and not to be twisted into legal slavery by puritans who put their noses into other people's business.)

18 comments:

  1. From the first X-Men movie, I have been a HUGE Scott Summers fan. It was the first time they actually showed how confident the character was and, despite it all, that this was the job he was born to do.

    Hugh Jackman is a beautiful-looking man, but dammit, I'm sick of seeing Wolverine carry the X-Men franchise to the detriment of the many rich and varied personalities and relationships found in the comic books.

    YES! Did you know they're shopping around a new cartoon for the networks called 'Wolverine and the X-Men'?

    Telling.

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  2. When I rule the world and am granted the EIC job at Marvel because the masses fear my mighty wrath, I will commission a new project with the best writer, best artist, best letterer, best everything that all the world's money can hire. I will ensure that the entire project is completed before a single issue is solicited, so that there will be no lateness. I will promote it judiciously without permitting spoilers (anyone found to be releasing spoilers will be fed to my pet piranhas while I stroke a fluffy kitten and laugh maniacally).

    The title of the project?

    Two words: Wolverine: Seppuku.

    You know it makes sense.

    (In all seriousness: I like Wolverine, I really do, but God, just let him die already. In Marvelworld, that's the equivalent of taking a sabbatical, and doesn't he need one? More to the point, don't we?)

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  3. Thanks. You put rather well both how Scott works as a character and how this movie failure show it. Yours observation about the Scott-Jean-Logan love triangle are right on the money too. It's funny that these very Logan-biased films misses the point in such a huge way about the Logan/Jean relationship, that she's only a viable love interest for him as long as she is genuinely in love with Scott. If you take Scott out of the equation and made Jean truly available for Logan, she became as bland a love interest to him as any other random character they try to put with him.

    The Storm stuff actually highlights why since Marvel decide to make money out of the fact that there were too much mutants by having two X-teams, the Scott-lead team always come out like it's the main team and the Storm-led one as the B-team.

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  4. Eh, his death's offscreen and they never really, like, look for the guy. Take solace in Comic Book Death Rule Number 2: If You Don't See a Body, He/She Ain't Dead.

    (Rule Number 1? No One Ever Dies Ever Ever Ever.)

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  5. Cyclops' non-death had nothing to do with Wolverine and everything to do with the actor being in Bryan Singer's SUPERMAN RETURNS. (On one level it was an actual schedule conflict, and on another, it's backstage skullduggery relating to the film's pained development process.)

    I liked the movie overall, but there are flaws in it which seem to stem directly from the fact that Fox first dragged its feet getting the project together and then, when Singer said "screw this" and signed on to SUPERMAN, rushed to beat him to the screen to teach him a lesson or something. It could have been better, but considering what happened behind the scenes it's surprising that it's any good at all.

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  6. Dammit, Evan, you beat me to the punch.

    Allegedly, the original script had Scott being in the leader role, but when he jumped to Superman, they decided to spank his character for spite EVEN THOUGH SCOTT IS HALF OF THE CENTER OF THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA. As always, Hollywood is petty and dumber than a sack of hammers.

    Imagine the strength of the scene if Scott and Logan are there for the Prof's death instead of Storm and Logan.

    Or Scott saying "there's nothing wrong with you, Rogue" instead of Pretty Pretty Princess Sex Queen Weather Goddess.

    Or Scott getting his skin flayed off without healing as he walked up to Jean.

    Or any number of scenes that actually make sense with Scott in place of Storm.

    The movie felt bodged together. Sure, it was shiny and fun, but it wasn't a good X-Men movie by any stretch of the imagination. We can hope that Marvel learns from the DC model - one big, good movie a year instead of whoring out the labels as fast as you can.

    Somebody send some Doombots to chastise the execs who produced this thing right away instead of waiting for Singer to return. DOOM SHA-LACK-LACK DOOM!

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  7. Carla -- Ack! I can't be the only one getting sick of him. He's even in Avengers!

    Katherine -- That sounds like a beautiful thing. When you are EIC, can I rewrite this movie as two movies and we can rerelease it?

    Filipe -- *nod* Makes sense. I'm realizing I like Scott mainly for his romantic relationships, which is strange for me because I never realized I read romance before.

    Jon -- My fingers are crossed, but the problem is he should ahve been alive for this story.

    Evan and Toby -- Behind the scenes explanation for why it was a poor movie, then. But they didn't need to replace him with Logan, really. I was talking with my sister (who was defending the movie) and she said soemthing that made me scream. She remember the original comic book, and was under the impression that Storm originally talked her down before the Shi-ar came in. Why couldn't they have gone that way? Or had the Professor telepathically come in, as they hadn't really killed him anyway. Or just had her finally take control of herself? (I need to track down that trade and read it myself. I remember this storyline from the cartoon, but not the comics, and I'd always avoided it because I didn't think I was a fan of these two characters until I saw this movie).

    The main problem with the film, as I saw it, was that we had one movie that had the potential to be good, and one truly bad movie and they were spliced together. The Dark Phoenix Saga was the truly bad movie. They should have just cut it and went with one plot, and had the after-credits scene be Scott at the Lake hearing Jean's voice -- because the after scene proves that they didn't really intend to stop the franchise. They could have kept Scott out of the cure storyline by saying he took time off for grief.

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  8. I ... wow. Of all the things that bothered me about X-3 (and there were plenty, which saddens me because there were also some great bits), I didn't recognize Scott's absence as being one of them. And yet, it explains a lot of the general dissatisfaction I feel, which I haven't been able to attribute to other factors.

    The Dark Phoenix storyline was mangled in many ways, but one of the primary ones was that it wasn't epically (sure, that's a word) heroic enough. Having Scott and Jean together as the archetypal True Lovers would have helped remedy this. One of my favorite scenes in the comic version is when they're on the moon and they have one last moment together before going out to fight the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. That was a moment of Heroes - their frail humanity and also their selflessness. Instead, we get Logan and Jean expressing lust for a few minutes. I love Logan, but he wasn't the character for that final scene.

    Toby, your point is well taken. Scott's leadership and loyalty and, yeah, even his stick-up-the-ass personality, would have really strengthened some scenes in the movie.

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  9. I think the problem with poor Scott is that his entire role in X-Men has been reduced to one single purpose: Scott is the X-Men's Brainy Smurf.

    Brainy Smurf is not there to be liked, in fact it is better if you don't even like him. Brainy Smurf only exists to be defied and ridiculed by other characters, who in turn end up looking better for doing so. In Scott's case, it is mostly Wolverine. Take the first X-Men movie, or most comics with Scott and Wolverine in them, and replace the X-Men with the Smurfs, Professor X with Papa Smurf and Scott with Brainy. It's basically the same dynamics. Brainclops tries to protect the sacred dogma of Professor Smurf's words, ideals and philosophy "But Papa X always says..." just to get a "Shut the hell up" as a reply from any X-murf passing by.

    And both of them wear glasses. Coincidence? Probably yes.

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  10. Totally agree that they should have left the Dark Phoenix story out of this movie.

    Unfortunately it seems that only Hollywood screenwriters/directors/producers don't get that you can't pull together several different, but related stories, treat the characters as if they interchangable, and skip any build-up and still make a story work.

    As best I could tell, there were elements of at least 3 separate Phoenix stories from the comic going on in this movie, maybe more. I saw stuff from the original Dark Phoenix storyline, the Rachel corruption bit (Wolvie stabbing her is straight out of #207), and some of the Morrison bits. Gee, no wonder it didn't make sense!

    Frankly, I thought this movie should have been Sentinels anyways, with the set-up for Dark Phoenix laid down for a possible 4th movie. But doing Whedon's Cure storyline would have been fine too. If they'd just done that.

    Instead we get more more more! More stories! More Villains! More characters! Basically, all the things that helped sink the Batman franchise (that and Joel Schumacher). Bah!

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  11. See, after the lab scene, I couldn't enjoy the movie, but I didn't realise why until later.

    It was when Logan said "I think she killed Scott." *I think*. He could have stressed it differently ("I think SHE killed Scott"), implied that they already knew he was dead, but no.

    The implication of this is that they thought there was a possibility that Scott was still alive, effectively blind because Logan had his glasses. Logan should have stayed behind to look for Scott - he wasn't necessary in flying the Blackbird, and he has all those heightened senses perfect for tracking - but no, it was more important that he tried to get it on with Scott's fiancee. Some guy they want us to root for.

    In other news, the only female character who didn't make me groan in frustration was Kitty Pryde.

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  12. Well, the thing is, the writers probably were going to feature an all-Cyclops movie but he was leaving the set right away to do Superman. So they wrote him out and went with the Grant Morrison Jean/Logan ending instead. It really has nothing to do with wasting Scott as a character - it was convenience.
    Anyway the Scott/Jean dynamic, at the end of the day, goes nowhere. That's why every writer who gets ahold of it goes for Emma Frost, or Wolverine, or Death, or driving Jean crazy, or Madelyne Pryor, etc. etc. It's boring. The whole idea of killing Jean and replacing her with Emma at the end of Morrison's run is that the story can't move forward [which was the point of his whole run - if you keep going back to Magneto and Phoenix and the Shi'ar, you'll never do anything better than Claremont/Byrne/Cockrum].

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  13. bravo!

    I'm glad someone else felt this way watching the movie. I've always disliked Cyclops but I felt so gyped with him removed from the plot of this story ><

    Replacing him with Wolvie for the love story here was the stupidist thing EVER. I love Wolverine and all, but this was not his story.

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  14. how interesting...totally not a scott summers fan but i can see the case you build...and i understand it.

    thank you for sharing this perspective.

    --RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

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  15. Fox studio's suck. The killed Scott off because the actor went and did Superman Returns.

    By killing Scott they ruined the movie for me. When Pro X died and it was Logan and Storm who fell to their knees and wept I really want to stand up and SCREAM that should be Scott and Storm NOT F'N Wolverine.

    The X Franchise should have been cared for rather than do a rush half assed job just to make big bucks.

    Sorry I am having a fan (person) attack.

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  16. Here's why I don't mind the way they dealt with Cyclops... these characters are not the characters from the comics. They are re-imaginings of similar concepts, like the Ultimate universe. This Wolverine is not the comic Wolverine. He doesn't have four decades of continuity and hundreds of other mutants around to handle things like character development.

    No, the cast of characters in the movie universe is relatively small compared to the plethora of mutants that exist in the comic universe, so the characters we see have to develop with more speed and intensity. Wolverine has to buy into the whole idea of the X-Men more openly and become more invested in the whole Prof X cult because of the constraints of the medium.

    And by virtue of having Wolvie be the focus, Scott is inevitably the foil. I would've liked for him to have been in it more. But remember, after Dark Phoenix in the comics, Scott more or less bails on the X-Men for a long while. I realized that movie Scott has always been like Scott from the X-Factor years, where he really didn't give a crap and it really took until X-Cutioner's Song to bring him back to fearless leader standing. In the movies, Scott isn't the leader so much. He's worthless in X2 as well. If Berry had brought a stronger performance as Storm the leader, Cyclops' absence would've been incidental as opposed to creating some gaping hole.

    The movie definitely tried to do too much, but none of my criticisms can be based upon how the movie stacks up with the comics, because no movie can capture the total mythos of the X-Men and most of the people who see the movies don't read comics.

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  17. It was extremely surprising to me that a) they would choose to kill Cyke so randomly like that and b) none of the other X-characters were in the least bit concerned with the fate of Cyke after finding Jean. It took them an entire trip back to the Institute AND some mucking around by Xavier in Jean's head, AND Jean waking up before anyone even remembered why they went to the damn lake in the first place.

    and yes, the jean/scott thing can be bland sometimes, but if you're going to do phoenix, and do the angst of having to have an x-character kill jean, you HAVE to have scott around. you just HAVE to.

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  18. Yes, it was bad that Scott wasn't involved in the Phoenix story, but that's not all that was wrong with it. Granted, the Shi'ar part may have made the movie too busy (a problem they ended up having ANYWAY), but where were Mastermind and the Hellfire Club? It was as if the writers didn't bother to research the original Phoenix Saga comics at all and just decided to rehash the Dark Willow storyline from "Buffy" - same makeup and special effects, same plotline, etc.. And yes, I KNOW that Whedon based Dark Willow on the original Phoenix Saga. The movie story just ended up looking more like the "Buffy" story warmed over than like a decent adaptation of the original Phoenix story.

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