Friday, August 3, 2012

Film Friday: X-Men: First Class (2011)

I’ve generally enjoyed the X-Men films. The third wasn’t nearly as good as the first two, but was still quite watchable. The first was rather good and I thought the second was even better. When I heard they were making X-Men: First Class about the origin of the X-Men in the 1960s, I was fairly enthusiastic. Now I’ve seen it. Meh. It’s ok. It’s also obnoxiously political.

** spoiler alert **

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and written by Bryan Singer, X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the other X-Men films. This film takes place in the 1960s when Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto) are in their twenties and just starting out. The whole film is set against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis, as villain Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) tries to get the Russians and the Americans to blow each other up because he believes the radiation resulting from a nuclear war would kill humanity while allowing mutants to thrive.
As films go, this one is entertaining enough to watch if you’re looking to blow a couple hours, but don’t expect to be impressed or to remember anything about it. Ultimately, this film proves little more than a series of scenes where the mutants show off their powers and then blow things up. There are several of the inevitable training scenes all these films require and a plethora of ironic moments where future bad guys start as good guys and then change sides. If you’re in love with these characters, those scenes may make you happy, but if you’re not in love with them, then these scenes are at best weak and feel pointless. Don’t expect much from the acting either. McAvoy is so sedate you often think he’s asleep. Michael Fassbender couldn’t control his accent and has no gravitas. January Jones and Rose Byrne were awful. Kevin Bacon was ok, only he didn’t really have much to do despite being the villain. In fact, the only truly charismatic character (and the film’s best moment) came when they went to recruit Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). His strong screen presence really contrasted sharply with the weakness of the others.

In any event, two things struck me about this film. First, the film does a very poor job of recreating the 1960s. Secondly, this film is incredibly heavy-handed with its pro-gay message.

Setting a film in the past can pay huge dividends when done right. Humans are interested in the past and want to see how we lived during certain eras. Thus, a film set in the past can give audiences the dual experience of seeing a good film and feeling like they’ve gotten a window into the past. Moreover, Hollywood has the benefit of not needing to be entirely historically accurate. Thus, it can create stylized versions of the past which are essentially the fantasy worlds that are so popular in science fiction, only these come with the stamp of being “real.”

X-Men: First Class tries the stylized approach, but it never really works. For one thing, despite the setting, everything is simply too modern. For example, the dialog has a modern feel. Indeed, the film kept using words and phrases that struck me as distinctly modern. The costuming didn’t feel genuine. And much of what they presented never felt realistic. For example, Sebastian Shaw is a mix of Hugh Hefner and Bruce Wayne, and the CIA had more of the feel of In Like Flint than any real government agency. The Pentagon also came across more like a knock-off of Dr. Strangelove than anything we know to be true. Ultimately, this film didn’t feel like it was set in the 1960s, it felt like it took pieces out of 1960s films, stylized them, and placed them in the present.
The actors didn’t help this either. It was nearly impossible to see James McAvoy as a young Patrick Stewart because he seemed to mistake depression for wisdom. Michael Fassbender was even harder to see as Magneto because he looks nothing like a young Ian McKellen and the entire second half of the film he kept slipping into an out-of-place Irish accent. The other actors didn’t help either as none of them acted at all according to the social norms of the 1960s.

The most annoying part of the film was actually the politics. I don’t personally care about gay issues one way or the other, and it doesn’t bother me if a film wants to include a pro-gay message. Whatever. But I am bothered by a lack of subtlety, and this thing wasn’t subtle. In scene after scene, the characters used gay slogans (e.g. “mutant and proud”) or made direct references to things gays consider discriminatory. For example, one character says, “you didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell.” Then they have a couple minute love-in where each of the characters tells this character how great he is and how he shouldn’t have to hide. This is obnoxious. It’s ham-fisted and obvious. Think of it this way. Flip the ideology around and imagine that every scene contained a character telling you, “You know, Jesus offers us salvation” or some similar slogan. How long would it take before this really got on your nerves? It’s the same thing here. If you are aware of the slogans and symbols the gay movement has used, you will see them used blatantly and repeatedly in this film.
Here’s the thing. If you’re going to inject a political message into a non-political film, then it needs to be subtle. It needs to make your point without huge flashing lights that scream at the audience, “MESSAGE COMING IN. . . MESSAGE”. When your characters spend their time repeating slogans that didn’t exist for another forty years and then each scene ends up an After School Special, where the characters hug and pledge solidarity to the cause, you’ve gone too far. And since this film offered little else by way of plot, this really stuck out.

So all in all, I can’t recommend this film either way. I enjoyed it enough that I didn’t regret watching it, but I won’t watch it again because it offers nothing that could interest me a second time. It’s competently done in all the technicals, but flat in the story and very weak in the writing. It’s annoying at time and just dull at others, but it’s also got just enough interest to it to keep me from turning it off. Make of that what you will.

122 comments:

Dan O. said...

This was a fun film that could have been terribly over-stuffed with too many characters and too many sub-plots that didn't mean anything. However, it's told straight-forwardly enough and with plenty of action to hold anybody over. Good review Andrew.

ScottDS said...

I saw the film despite not being that interested in doing so. I think there was one line (possibly a "Don't ask, don't tell" reference) which was, to put it mildly, way too on the nose... but other than that, I thought the movie was fine, though it didn't leave much of a lasting impression.

Having said that, many people would say the first two X-Men films were obnoxiously political, especially the second one, with the scene with the one kid "coming out" to his parents. (I, too, thought the second film was better than the first. I haven't seen the third one.)

While he doesn't exactly remind me of a young Ian McKellen, I thought Fassbender was quite good. But perhaps I'm biased after seeing him in Prometheus, in which he was the one constantly good element in an otherwise flawed film.

I also liked McAvoy but I think they made a mistake by putting him in the wheelchair this early. It's like Last Crusade where young Indiana Jones gets all his defining characteristics in the span of 10 minutes!

As for the retro look of the film, I can't be sure but I think they might've been intentionally trying to create a retro Hollywood look. (Any art researcher would've told them, "There never was a war room that looked like that!") I can't blame the creators for trying to have a little fun with that stuff.

Tennessee Jed said...

Never followed the X-Men series . . . . after my time, but I'm right with you on the political messaging. I am sick of them, particularly when Hollywood goes into overdrive to ram it down our throats (pun not entirely intended.)

Anthony said...

I thought the first was okay, loved the second, hated the third and thought First Class (the 4th) was tolerable.

None of the cast really stood out and as in 3, there was a scene so stupid it pulled me out of the whole movie (without going into spoilers, the key scene in the relationship between Sebastian Shaw and Magneto). I remember the fights as being good, though I can't recall any particular moment of the fights.

The politics didn't bother me, because that comes with the territory with the X-men.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Dan O. I would agree with that. This had a very straight forward plot and a lot of action which kept you interested. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse too.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm getting sick of the political messages too. But in this case, it wasn't even that they included a message which bothered me, it was the lack of subtlety. They just kept blatantly hitting you over the head with it. That gets annoying fast.

tryanmax said...

Knowing the genesis of the X-Men comics, I go into these expecting a proto-civil-rights theme. If I don't feel assaulted by it, I consider it acceptable. I wouldn't know how people in the 60s spoke, and I doubt majority of the intended demo would, either, so I can't really comment except to say they obviously had a pass on that.

I have a phobia of all things dental, so the scene where Magneto pulled out that guy's fillings made me more than a little squeamish. Safe to say, my adrenaline spiked early into the film and never came back up. Not the filmmaker's fault on that one, though.

I have to agree, none of the young mutants seemed a convincing match to their older versions. Xavier was the worst, if you ask me. I just can't picture the young version as an angling swinger--even if he did have use of his legs. Oh, and he totally shoulda tapped Mystique. C'mon!

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I thought the second was by far the best as well, and the third wasn't very good.

I don't think there was a particular scene which bothered me in this one, but there were a lot of moments that just didn't work for me. Some of the things which really didn't work for me were the attempts to remind you that this was the 1960s. They felt forced and often ridiculous, like when the CIA guy truly stupidly says "this is why the CIA is no place for women." That was largely a nonsense comment, it was forced, and struck me as the kind of cliche thing someone from the year 2010 invents to look down on the 1960s. The film was full of little moments like that, which felt like Singer was basing his knowledge of the 1960s on films and cliches rather than reality.

I agree about the cast. I can still remember lots of the characters/actors from the third quite clearly, even though the movie wasn't very good. In this one, it's hard to remember any of them.

The politics didn't bother me per se, it was the presentation which bothered me.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The first two were definitely political, but it was never so obvious that you had to notice. This one not only had the characters spouting off political slogans, but then they would stop and have a group hug afterwards. It was really obnoxious.

I'm sure they were going for a retro-1960s feel rather than a genuine one. But it ended up feeling like Austin Powers. There were just too many anachronisms.

I thought Fassbender was pretty horrible actually. He never had any of the traits that Magneto has and his accent kept throwing me off. Magneto isn't Irish.

I like McAvoy a good deal, I just couldn't see him turning into Patrick Stewart. I think the problem was that the whole time it felt like he was acting rather than being, i.e. like he was trying to present himself as "young Patrick Stewart" rather than being Charles Xavier.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - that's what I meant by "ramming it down our throats" but couldn't resist the semi-pun.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I couldn't see any of them growing into their later selves either. And it wasn't just that most of them physically didn't look right, it was that they just didn't seem to display the kinds of characters that would eventually get them from point A to point B. Xavier was a good example. He's basically a depressed swinger with the mentality of a 60 year old man, a strange naivety and a good deal of "quit" in him. It made for an odd character and doesn't strike me as capable of becoming the confident, brilliant man Xavier becomes.

On the politics, my issue is with the presentation. When they keep smacking you directly with political slogans, it gets tiring fast.

To me, the dialog and the way the characters interacted was so 2010 that it would have felt out of place even as early as the 1990s and it certainly wouldn't have fit the 1980s or 1970s, and absolutely doesn't fit anything I know of the 1960s. It's like they treated Austin Powers as an accurate presentation of the 1960s.

But even putting aside how they spoke, that wasn't the only anachronism. Every scene was crawling with them. One in particular that struck me early on was the coast guard teams that went after Sebastian's boat. These guys were dressed like modern SEALs and went in using equipment from the year 2010. As I watched, scene after scene was full of that.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, LOL! It was certain an apropos pun!

Tennessee Jed said...

BTW, speaking of being hit over the head with political messages, I see where NBC has made an early "buy" of a new drama described as "west wing at the U.N." I had to clean the "spew" off my computer screen before commenting. My motto is "if it's on NBC and isn't a major sporting event, the show will suck beyond all understanding." Maybe they could get Spike Lee to portray the Sect. General.

tryanmax said...

I think the tooth scene desensitized me to all of that. It basically switched my brain to animal mode, so everything after that was merely a corporeal experience for me.

tryanmax said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, TJ! Don't go giving NBC too much credit for their sports programming. They're managing to mangle the Olympics pretty good right now.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I feel the same way about NBC. So much of what they do now has leftist political overtones that I don't even bother with them anymore. Actually, I rarely bother with the networks anymore in any event, but NBC has easily passed CBS as the most obnoxious.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, So this movie was a dental nightmare for you?! LOL!

Interestingly, I've known a lot of people who will be hit by something early in a film which takes their mind out of it and they never recover.

I know someone who couldn't get over the fact the lawyer's name was Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects because he wasn't Japanese. From that point on, they said they hated the film.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, They always mangle the Olympics.

BIG MO said...

I stopped watching the X-Men franchise after the third movie. Not because I'm more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan, but because there was so much wasted opportunity in that movie. Too much talent, not enough script or gripping story.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I can see that. The third one definitely felt like a wasted opportunity and this one does too to an extent. I would say this one was entertaining but shallow. That said, I'm not sure what I would have done differently plot-wise to fix this one. Maybe focus on fewer characters and a more narrow story?

DUQ said...

I didn't hate it. I love the concept and the idea of them being set against the missile crisis. I thought the ending was well done too. Overall, the film didn't live up to it's potential at all, but I enjoyed it.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I thought the ending was really well done actually. I'm truly getting sick of seeing these 45 minute CGI videogames where we're supposed to be excited by a million pixels all blinking at once. This film didn't have that. The number of missiles fired at them was kind of stupid, but the rest of that scene was really well done. It focused on the characters, which is the key to any good ending.

I also like the idea of the Cuban Missile Crisis being the setting, I just wish it was more integral to the plot. The way the film was written, it was mainly a setting. I think the film would have been stronger if they had focused on causing/preventing that crisis rather than all the scenes of the mutants just showing off their powers.

Tennessee Jed said...

tryanmax - you are, of course, correct about NBC and sports. They don't do a particularly good job with sports, but the only time I even permit myself to click on the peacock network is when they have glommed on to something like the Superbowl, U.S. Open, or something similar.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, In terms of the Superbowl, I have to say that I prefer NBC to FOX. FOX's coverage is obnoxious. It's for people with ADD. Everything blinks and dances and 99% of what they say is a product placement. NBC at least still focuses on the game.

I actually watch football with the volume off when I watch a game on FOX.

ScyFyterry said...

Here is what I'm thinking about the stylized feel of this movie. I think they tried to cross X-Men with Mad Men. It really had that feel to me, especially early on when they're all swingers. Thoughts?

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, That's an interesting idea and you may very well be right. There is certainly a Mad Men feel to the early part of the film with Shaw in his Hugh Hefner robes and the sex club and then Xavier and Lensherr acting like hipster swingers. Maybe they did model this on Mad Men? I hadn't thought about that, but it seems likely actually.

ScyFyterry said...

Andrew, I hadn't thought about it until I read your article, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's true. The first part of this film felt like Mad Men.

ScyFyterry said...

One more thing, I don't hate the third one like everyone else. I thought it was a serviceable film with some memorable moments. Could it have been better? Sure. But it wasn't at all bad as comic book films go.

I didn't care for the Wolverine spin off, however. I can't say why, it just didn't feel right to me.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, I hadn't thought it before either, but I'm wishing I'd mentioned it in the article. I think it fits perfectly.

I don't hate the third one by any means. I enjoyed it and I thought it had some really excellent moments. All in all, it wasn't nearly as good as the others, but it was still better than something like Green Lantern.

Doc Whoa said...

Terry, I don't hate the third one either, I thought it was pretty good.

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, Excellent review as always. I agree about the politics, I don't care about the message, just be subtle about it. I agree too about the characters/actors. The actors somehow just weren't memorable to me. The best scene was easily the one with Wolverine too.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. The Wolverine scene was the one scene that truly made me laugh out loud when it happened. It was perfect. But, sadly, it also reminded me of how much more charisma he had compared to the other actors in this film.

As I said to Terry, I don't hate the third one by any means.

T-Rav said...

Isn't that kind of the knock against all of the X-Men films, though? That there's a political message obviously shoehorned in? I mean, X2 is the best of them, and you could see the social/political messaging a mile away.

I don't know. As superheroes go, the X-Men have usually been kind of "meh" with me. I enjoyed the first trilogy, more or less (the third kinda fell flat, though), but I didn't really get into the stuff.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think the difference is that you could watch the first three without ever feeling like they were preaching to you. Yes, there was politics there, but you could ignore it because it tied so closely to the characters being mutants that you didn't need to see it as political. In other words, it was more like an allegory than a direct message.

But this time, they went straight for slogan after slogan. That is like having someone stop the film every five or six minutes to read you a political statement. Also the "bad" guys were over-the-top strawmen this time, whereas in the first few films they at least had legitimate concerns. Here there was no counter argument given, which made it sound like anyone who disliked mutants was being irrational... despite the fact they were planning to blow up the world.

In terms of enjoyment, I liked the first three very much, though to differing degrees. But like you, they certainly didn't make me want to buy the comic books or learn more about them.

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, Jackman absolutely outshined all the others. I don't know if he's just a better actor or if his character was better, but he totally outshined them.

Doc Whoa said...

T-Rav and Andrew, That's an interesting point. I really liked the first three films, but they didn't get me interested in the characters outside of those films either. But then, when I think about it, few other films have either. Star Wars did. Raiders did. Even Singer's Usual Suspects did. Superman didn't. The Dark Knight films certainly didn't.

NightcrawlerER said...

I liked this a lot because I love the characters from the graphic novels. So for me, it was great to see an origin story on the screen, even if it was imperfect. I agree with your critism, but over all I liked this a lot, just as I liked the first three a lot. I agree the second was the best.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, Jackman has a really charismatic screen presence. I'm surprised he doesn't get more high profile roles at this point.

Thinking about it, there are quite a few films that make me want to know more about the characters and their lives. The X-Men films haven't really been like that, nor have the other superhero films, there are many films that are like that. Ronin is like that. I'd love to see a sequel/prequel to Ronin.

AndrewPrice said...

Nighcrawl, I don't read the comic books so I don't have any particular affinity for the characters. Hence, I judged this just as a movie. As such, I thought it was ok, but nothing more. Maybe it meant more to you as a fan?

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, Nightcrawler, feel free to disagree. We don't require that everyone agree here. :)

PikeBishop said...

Andrew, as for the hitting you over the head with the message, have you ever seen HBO's "True Blood." Never got in on that on the ground floor, and like TV's LOST, pretty much impossible to join mid-stream but I have seen a few eps.

My God, ABC Afterschool Specials are intricately subtle compared to this. I just wanted to scream at the tv...."OK Vampires = Gays! I get it for Christ's sake!"

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Actually, I haven't seen True Blood because the initial ads for it made it look like a teeny-soap like 90210 only with a lot of sex. So I never even turned it on. It's that bad huh?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tryanmax: May I suggest Dr. Giggles for your film viewing pleasure? :^)

Nice review Andrew!
I concur. When a cameo by Wolverine is the highlight of a film that's a sign there are glaring problems.

I recall that scene and the aforementioned (subtlety? We don't need no steenkin' subltelty.) political statements.

I really don't remember anything else other than Magneto having the strange accent.

I don't consider the film to be as bad as the third one, structurally or technically, but at least the third one had more Wolverine in it, which made it better by that fact alone.
Or at least more memorable scenes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

PikeBishop: Wait...what? Vampires are gay? I never have watched the True Blood series but that idea sounds remarkably ridiculous and absurd.

What's next? Gay Werewolves? Gay Mummys (I got two Mummy's!)? Gay Frankenstein (Frankenweenie has new connotations now)?

T-Rav said...

I wonder if the problem with the acting in this movie was the actors themselves or the writing. I don't think any of them have bad reputations when it comes to acting, except maybe January Jones, and why she keeps getting cast in stuff is beyond me. (Hm, maybe that has something to do with the perceived Mad Men tie-in.) But anyway, even good actors can be hampered by bad writing and direction, so I wonder if that wasn't the case here.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew, based on my limited exposure, God yes! "The Vampire Rights Organization" the slogans (not quite "we're here we're vampires" but just as vomit inducing) and lets just throw in the most hackneyed villain "the fundamentalist Christian whacko group" who form a militia to hunt and kill vampires.

And on that point, I really think they missed out on a very intriquing possilibity for, let's be honest, a show with a fascinating premise to begin with. It takes place in heavily Catholic Louisiana and I told a friend who watched the show, instead of having the trite "vampire bashers" strawman, I think the reactions of the world's major religions would be a great place to mine good stories. Especially the Catholic Church which would be at home with blood, flesh, spirits walking the earth etc. They could have done so much with this, but, typical Hollywood, they took the easy and knee jerk political path.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben!

I'm torn as to which one I like better -- this one or the third one. Probably this one, but not by much.

On the political stuff, like I said, subtlety is the key. I can accept almost any political statement if it can be made subtly. But this was just blatant and obvious.

I agree that a cameo should never be the highlight, but I have to admit this was a fantastic cameo. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Didn't you know that all monsters are gay? ;)

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: Sorry I didn't see your comment. Basically the show deals with vampires, who have been around for centuries, coming out of the coffin (ha ha)and living in the open, and how society would deal with that particular can of worms. Actually a great premise, but see my other comment....

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, January Jones (if ever there was a porno name) and Rose Byrne were horrid in this. I think that was bad acting. The rest, however, it could very well have been bad writing. I don't dislike any of the actors and they seem to have done well in other projects. So I think it must be the writing or the direction.

T-Rav said...

I have never watched an episode of True Blood all the way through--actually, I don't think I've watched more than a few minutes at a time--so I never picked up on the "Vampires=Gays" storyline, or anything else, until I read some of the recaps. From what I've read, forget all the political messaging, I don't know how anyone could make it through an episode without constant blushing.

T-Rav said...

Pike, I agree there's a lot of potential in the storyline, but they seem to have completely botched it up. The one thing I remember vividly from recent episodes (again, this is my reading the reviews) is that some Christian reverend who was part of an anti-vampire movement had himself turned into one because he was secretly hankering for "the life." I bet you can guess what that's supposed to symbolize, but just in case you missed the metaphor somehow, the show also had him come out as a homosexual. If you looked up the word "ham-fisted" in the dictionary....

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Doc: IRT Jackman, you are right on, he absolutely nails the role (in a non gay kind of way).

I was a fan of the Wolverine comics from their inception until about twenty years ago when I could no longer support the habit.
When I saw Jackman's performance there was no doubt to me that he was Wolverine.
He picked up on all the character's nuances and personality traits.

Not only does Jackman look the part, he's convincing in eververy other way I can think of;
facial expressions, voice intonation, posture, etc..

What's even more impressive is he had to research the character (like Downey with Iron Man), having no prior specific knowledge of it.
He must have an amazing work ethic to make all the key points of the character shine like he did and in such a natural way!

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I haven't seen it so I can't comment, but it's clear that vampires fascinate us. And I think you're right that a series about a nest/den of vampires in Louisiana could have been a really neat show -- especially with the crossroads of Catholicism and voodoo that already exists down there. But it sounds like they took the easy route.

PikeBishop said...

T Rav: Yeah that brick to the head subtlety is and earmark of the entire series.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That does sound like the definition of the word ham-fisted!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

AndrewPrice said...
T-Rav, That does sound like the definition of the word ham-fisted!"

Or glam-fisted. What? They ARE gay, right? Hmmm...I wonder how they decorate their coffins.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I saw the movie in pretty much the same way you did. For some reason I've been able to blot out the political messages and just enjoy the acting and fx. So this one disappointed me. McAvoy can be a very good actor. He was pitch-perfect in Last King of Scotland. And he has done some good acting in sci-fi, including his turn in the SyFy Channel version of Children of Dune. In this X-Men edition, I got the feeling he needed the money and was bored by the whole thing.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"One in particular that struck me early on was the coast guard teams that went after Sebastian's boat. These guys were dressed like modern SEALs and went in using equipment from the year 2010."

Aye, that got me to laughing. As Anthony mentioned, it's one of those scenes that take you completely out of the movie.

I was thinking: Are these guys serious? I guess a lot of teenagers would probably not notice but I doubt anyone else was fooled.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That's impressive that he didn't even know the character!

I didn't read the comic books, but I knew a little about them from friends and you're right that he fits the character 100% as I imagined him.

And even beyond that, he's one of those actors who has the it factor. He's just very charismatic on film.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav and PikeBishop, That is absolutely a brick to the face -- no subtlety whatsoever.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Glam-fisted! LOL! Nice.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Bored is a good way to describe his acting in this one. He really plays each scene like he would rather be somewhere else. Maybe he did just need the money?

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, That took me out of the film too because my first thought was "wait a minute, what year is this?" And then I started trying to figure out what a coast guard crew of that era would have looked like. By the time my mind got back into the film, the scene felt kind of wasted.

T-Rav said...

Actually, come to think of it, the one thing I remember in the reviews for this movie was that most critics had good things to say about the "chemistry" between McAvoy and Fassbender. Again, I haven't seen it, and it's possible the critics were all on crack. But it's just something I remember reading.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, There really wasn't any chemistry. They just stood about 3 feet apart in all scenes and read their lines to other characters. I don't recall them interacting much really.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew: Aye. Jackman has plenty of charisma. I watch Van Helsing whenever it's on because he's in it. The plot could've been a lot better, heck, the entire film could've been a lot better but Jackman makes it watchable.

If Van Helsing starred Sam Worthington or any of the other "up and coming" "action" stars I wouldn't have watched it more than once.

Jackman definitely deserves more roles.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

TiRav said: "Again, I haven't seen it, and it's possible the critics were all on crack."

Yes. They were and still are.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I'm the exact same way. Van Helsing sucks, but I watch it because Jackman makes you want to watch. If it was Worthlessington, I wouldn't have watched more than once.

I would very much like to see Jackman in a lot more roles.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Er...T-Rav, not TiRav his good twin.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben and T-Rav, Don't forget, the critics would never savage a movie with a pro-gay message. Politics matters a lot to them.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, I don't wanna give the impression this film is horrible. It's just not as great as the critics said it was, and it has some glaring faults that Andrew covered well.

But after watching it once I don't have a desire to see it again, except for the Wolverine scene, LOL.

Anthony said...

Andrew said:

Don't forget, the critics would never savage a movie with a pro-gay message. Politics matters a lot to them.
-----

I disagree. Critics gave Batman and Robin (the gayest superhero movie I've ever seen) the kicking it richly deserved.

Generally I don't think critics or audiences worry about the politics of movies that aren't overtly political. To stay on the subject of superheroes, the Incredibles and The Dark Knight were both conservative movies which got glowing reviews.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Anthony: those two films did get glowing reviews but the overtly leftwing critics saw those films (somehow) as liberal statements.

It's interesting how twisted their logic can be.
By "overtly leftwing" I mean the critics like Roger Ebert or any Rolling Stones critic.
They almost always view films through their leftist prism.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, It wasn't a horrible film at all, it just wasn't all that great. I enjoyed it, but I won't watch it again.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, The critics are all about politics. They routinely upgrade films with the right message and downgrade films with the wrong messages. For example, I've actually been looking at Ebert for the book I'm writing and his track record of panning conservative films and playing up liberal films is almost 100%.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Also, I can't imagine any critic who wanted to "maintain their credibility" was going to pan those films because they know 90% of the film-going public will like those films. I haven't seen Ebert's latest review, but I'll bet you he either sees it as leftist or he will describe the message as "confused," which he always does with conservative leaning films.

T-Rav said...

Anthony, I don't think Andrew meant that kind of gay. Anyway, critics didn't pan it for its message on homosexuality (it didn't have one), they panned it because it was stupid.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I suspect Anthony is joking. :)

Individualist said...

Subtle Message

Andrew

Were the political messages more or less subtle than this. jsut so I can get a comparison.

Supposedly Gays see the Xmen and Mutants in the Marvel universe as a metaphor for their struggle but I never saw it form the comic books.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, They were about that level of subtle.

I never read the comic books so I can't say if they were a metaphor for anything, but the films are clearly a metaphor for gays, especially this one.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, probably, but I just want to emphasize the point that Batman and Robin is, in fact, an awful movie.

I always heard that X-Men in general was supposed to be a metaphor for the civil rights movement. It got started later in the '60s than other Marvel Comics, so that makes sense. And of course that apparently means they have to support gay rights now.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think that's more likely actually. Gays weren't really a civil rights issue to the public until the last decade or so. So it would make more sense to see them as related to blacks.

But there is a point which makes them an ideal metaphor for gays rather than blacks, which is that being a mutant can happen to anyone and it can be kept secret from family, friends and society. You can't really hide the fact you're black. So it does fit gays better as a metaphor.

In terms of Batman and Robing, yeah, that's a horrid movie and no respectable critic could say otherwise. I'm talking more about movies that are "socially relevant" but which are crappola.

Koshcat said...

Thank you again for saving me from another bad movie.

I really liked the first two X-men movies but the third one, I felt, missed the mark. The Pheonix was an all powerful entity, a child of the universe, in a very powerful mutant. They showed it more as a personality disorder suppressed by Professor Xaviar. What? She didn't know it existed until she "died" saving her friends. Then for about 3 hours (the movie felt very long) she stands around looking pissed off and annoyed while mutants fight each other. The Pheonix nearly rips the fabric of the universe until Jean commits suicide. I think they really missed an awesome opportunity.

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome. Glad I could be of assistance! :)

The third one felt like a missed opportunity to me too. It had a lot of great things going for it, but it just didn't bring them together fully. This one is similar, only with fewer things going for it. It's not a horrible movie, it just doesn't really give you much to latch onto. Even now, I can't barely remember whole chunks of it and nothing really stands out except the one cameo and the beach scene at the ending.

Anthony said...

Andrew,

I though Ebert's DKR review was fair (text of the first and last paragraphs and link below though I warn you the middle of the review is a bit spoilery) and if he took any shots at its politics, I didn't see them.
-------

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120717/REVIEWS/120719981

"The Dark Knight Rises" leaves the fanciful early days of the superhero genre far behind, and moves into a doom-shrouded, apocalyptic future that seems uncomfortably close to today's headlines. As urban terrorism and class warfare envelop Gotham and its infrastructure is ripped apart, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) emerges reluctantly from years of seclusion in Wayne Manor and faces a soulless villain as powerful as he is. The film begins slowly with a murky plot and too many new characters, but builds to a sensational climax.

This is a dark and heavy film; it tests the weight a superhero movie can bear. That Nolan is able to combine civil anarchy, mass destruction and a Batcycle with exercise-ball tires is remarkable. That he does it without using 3D is admirable. That much of it was shot in the 70mm IMAX format allows it to make that giant screen its own. That it concludes the trilogy is inevitable; how much deeper can Nolan dig? It lacks the near-perfection of "The Dark Knight" (2008), it needs more clarity and a better villain, but it's an honorable finale.
------
Honestly, I had more issues with The Dark Knight Rises than Ebert or many critics. I liked the ending, but the middle felt drawn out and the ending didn't justify some of the drawing out.

I'm not saying the Dark Knight Rises isn't better than most superhero movies, but I wouldn't put it up there with The Avengers, The Dark Knight or The Incredibles.

Anthony said...

Koshcat,

I think the problem is the new director was more interested in the mutant cure storyline than the Phoenix story, but he was boxed in by the end of the second movie, so he cobbled the two plotlines together in a way that nobody found satisfying.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Like I said, I would be surprised if he attacked DKR because that's a freebie for critics -- praise the film because everyone will like it, and it's easy to be seen as the leader of the herd if you know where the herd will head and you point in that direction.

And what you quote here is not openly political on its face.

BUT let me make one observation to which I have become sensitive with Ebert. Notice the final sentence: "it needs more clarity and a better villain."

This is an innocuous sounding statement. But, here's the thing. Ebert specializes in describing conservative films as having "confused" messages. I've seen this time and again whenever he reviews a film with a conservative message -- he always mis-describes the message of the film and then accuses the film of being confused. And here, once again, he talks about a lack of "clarity". This is also something he never says about a liberal film, or at least I haven't seen it.

To me, that begins to form a pattern. In his word, conservative films = confused, liberal films don't.

Now it's possible this isn't intentional and that he is genuinely confused by conservatism. But it's more likely that he simply dislikes conservative themes and has decided to attack them as "confused" because he doesn't support them and in the hopes that people don't take any meaning from the film.

(As an aside, note that he also doesn't like the villain, who fits with the OWS ideology perfectly. I haven't seen the film, but it sounds like he's the perfect villain for the modern age. So why would Ebert not like him? And I am left to wonder, if he was doing this to get a tax cut for the rich, would Ebert like him then?)

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony and Koshcat, I assumed the third film was about the mutant cure storyline actually, as that seemed to be the driving storyline.

Anthony said...

Bane suffers in comparison to The Joker from the opening scene forward (it's much bigger budget than the bank robbery, but unlike that scene, has no surprises) but in fairness, most villians do.

Also, I think Ebert's complaint about the film being muddled was aimed at the structure, not the politics. We should reuse his after you've seen the film.

Anthony said...

I meant to say resume. I'm still mastering the fine art of tablet typing.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Like I said, I haven't seen the film yet so I'm just pointing out the pattern I've seen with Ebert, where he always misses the point when there is a conservative theme and then calls the film confused, but never does the same with liberal films. His criticism might be right this time, I don't know. But it does fit the pattern. And that makes me suspicious. But we'll see, I'll definitely talk about the film once I've seen it.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Don't worry about it, I got your point. And as for typos, don't worry about it. I seem to have been afflicted with a rare condition which causes typos lately. . . that or my brain is dying.

Patriot said...

I'm beginning to like Michael Fassbender more and more.....no matter what roles he takes on. Loved him in 300 "We are with you Sir"...... And Inglorious Basterds "...I'll die speaking the King's"

Prometheus looks like he's finally getting his chance to carry a film. Haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like he's done a credible job and is deserving of future lead roles. He has that same screen presence similar to Jackman.

Agree on the young mutant characters. The only one that remotely resembled the adult was "The Beast" Hard to believe that was Kelsey Grammar huh?

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, I didn't dislike him, though he couldn't control his accent for whatever reason... maybe it was intentional? I did like him in 300 a lot. It will be interesting to see how he does in future films. (Haven't seen Prometheus yet.)

The Beast looked pretty good later in the film (obviously), though he still reminded me a bit of Teen Wolf. The one who really didn't look right, IMO, was Mystique.

tryanmax said...

Belated responses:

I agree, NFL on FOX is obnoxious. I want to dismantle the football robot.

A lot of focus on "the third one." For the life of me, I can't think which one that was--they've become interchangable in my mind. I did, however, rather like the Wolverine spin-off.

Ben, Dr. Giggles? Not on your life! (Never heard of it, but I can guess.) The only reason I can even put up with Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors is that he's so ridiculous.

True Blood makes a real point of the fact that vampires will have sex with anything, so yeah, not too subtle about the LGBT, XYZ, LMNOP "metaphor."

While I think there are certainly a number of legitimate criticisms to make about The Dark Knight Rises, calling it confused simply doesn't fit. The story pulls no fast ones that I can cite, none of the recurring characters changes demeanor, nor do any of the new characters behave inconsistantly. Aesthetically, the final film is a little disjointed from the prior two, but not in a way that most would notice.

As to whether there could have been a better villian, there are a number of ways to take that none-too-specific remark. Bane certainly isn't the most prominent member of Gotham's Rogues Gallery. But then, he turns out to be working for someone else... It's not even clear from Ebert's review if he's even referring to Bane. If that could be determined, it would be quite telling.

ScottDS said...

Another belated comment...

In response to the criticism of NBC, what can I say? Their comedies are still pretty good... BUT The Office needs to end one of these days, 30 Rock is going into its last season, and the showrunner of Community was sacked, which doesn't bode well.

But there's still Parks and Recreation which features TVs coolest character: Libertarian Ron Swanson.

As for True Blood, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure and while the "vampires = gays" subtext is pretty obvious, I don't completely get it. After all, the vampires aren't exactly portrayed as saints! They're not the token minority (like the "magic Negro" trope). If the creators really wanted to stress some sort of equality message, wouldn't the vampires all be portrayed as victims?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, FOX drives me nuts. The only thing they don't try to show you is the game.

The third one was in San Francisco and had a LOT of mutants.

As I said above, I haven't seen Dark Knight Rises so I can't say for sure that Ebert is wrong, though your analysis suggests he is. To me, it just fits a pattern I saw dating as far back as the 1970s films, where he somehow always found conservative films to be confusing.

I assume Bain is working for Mitch Romnskey?

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, As an interesting aside, gays have never been portrayed as saints, i.e. "the magic gay negro." To the contrary, they have a history of being portrayed as psychotic killers. It's only been recently that their image has been sanitized, but it hasn't been done in the same way as other group, i.e. they become perfect, magic creatures. Instead, they are portrayed as sympathetic people with a high kinky factor and the "sanitization" is showing the kinky as endearing.

tryanmax said...

Darn, I was trying not to give a spoiler. But you caught it. Bane is on the payroll of the evil Mitch Romnskey who made his fortune kicking puppies and stealing candy from babies. Truly the maddest of all of Batman's foes.

AndrewPrice said...

A lot of evil people made their money kicking puppies when Reagan passed the "Puppy Kicking Profiteering Act of 1983." I think Oliver Stone even made a movie about it. ;)

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I laughed so hard at that one that I woke up my kids. Now you have to come over here and settle them back down.

On the lack of a "magic queer," while my opinion certainly goes deeper than this, it pretty clearly demonstrates that homosexuality is a behavior and not a trait. That is to say a black person can possess any of the full range of human characteristics. A gay person is inherently limited in the range of characteristics available, because certain characteristics would be at odds with his "gayness." e.g. you can't very well portray a chaste gay.

That's a rather convoluted way of stating a fairly simple idea. I hope you all can sort it out.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I've always hear that booze puts kids to sleep. ;)

I understand your point and I've made a similar point why I don't buy into gay rights, because it's a behavior rather than an identity. Hence, I don't think it deserves protection in the same league as being a particular race or gender and I think it's intellectually dishonest to lump those together. Plus, ultimately, the libertarian in me says the government should let people sort out their own relations, no matter how right/wrong they are.

tryanmax said...

No, Andrew, booze puts daddy to sleep.

AndrewPrice said...

Oh, is that how it works? LOL!

Then feed them LOTs of sugar, that's supposed to have a calming effect. :)

tryanmax said...

As far as getting the gov't out of the debate, that would certainly put the "consenting adults" argument to the test. Though, as I related to you the other day, that turns out to not be the real goal. Putting that aside, so long as protections for minors remain in place, I think that there are ample laws to protect anyone else even if you threw the doors wide on the issue. After all, the fact that a man cannot marry his goat does nothing about what a man can do with his goat in the privacy of his own barn.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, just never write a parenting book, okay?

AndrewPrice said...

This may surprise you, but I'm working on a parenting book right now! I'm tentatively calling it, "It Takes The Village People, Idiot" or "Spank for Your Life Charlie Brown." :)


Certainly, laws would need to remain in place to protect minors and animal cruelty laws. So I couldn't entirely advocate getting the government out of the barnyard, but between consenting adults I would think the government should let society make up its own mind.

PikeBishop said...

On Ebert: A total shocker, in one of his giant anthology movie guides I was leafing through in the 90s, he gave "Gettysburg" 2.5 out of 4 stars which kind of blew me away. While not totally familiar with the history, he said the story engaged him as did the characters. He praised Jeff Daniels' performance as Chamberlain as "suporting actor Oscar worthy" and lavished praise on the the three set piece battle scenes.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"If the creators really wanted to stress some sort of equality message, wouldn't the vampires all be portrayed as victims?"

Pretty difficult to portray a bunch of bloodsuckers as victims.
Not that they won't try. I'm just sayin'.

They're freakin' bloodsucking vampires!

Now, they could try to get the audience to like the vampire characters and have a bit of sympathy for them like they did with Tony Soprano and company.

Mix in the right balance of interesting, funny, not as bad as other vampires, etc., and folks will stay glued.

However, it's virtually impossible to portray gay vampires (or any vampires really) as collective victims approved by all the right groups such as NOW, GLAAD, PETA, and all the looney, PC leftist victim hustlers.

Unless...they portray the vampires as victims of Wallstreet fat cats! Because we all know the filthy rich are worse than bloodsucking vampires.
:^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

A lot of evil people made their money kicking puppies when Reagan passed the "Puppy Kicking Profiteering Act of 1983." I think Oliver Stone even made a movie about it. ;)"

If T-Rav could switch from hurting kittens (a loser in the financial world) to kicking puppies he would be filthy rich!
BTW, T-Rav, if you do decide to get rich I'm available as your economic consultant.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, I'm not surprised. Gettysburg was a rather fair film which showed the patriotism on both sides and made the point that the war wasn't just about slavery. To a simpleton liberal like Ebert, that must be heresy. So I'm not all surprised that he panned the film, even as he outlined all the parts he liked.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, No doubt Obama repealed the Puppy Kicking Act of 1983, so I wouldn't rely on it at this point.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: I was actually praising his review and his praise of "Gettysburg." 2.5 stars was a pretty good review for him back then. That is the source of my surprise.

Anthony said...

Andrew,

I haven't seen Gettysburg, but the current review on Ebert's website matches Pikebishop's description aside from the fact it's half a point higher and has little bad to say about the movie. Ebert notes it doesn't shoehorn in a romantic interest or three as many war movies tend to, which may turn off some people, but that the movie itself was moving and taught him a bit about the war.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Ah. 2.5 stars is not a good score for him today.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, If you're into war movies or historical dramas, Gettysburg is worth seeing. It really gives you a very accurate sense of what they guys went through.

On his review getting better, that doesn't surprise me either. He often raises his score on movies that have become classics.

Anthony said...

I've added Gettysburg to my list of movies to watch.

PikeBishop said...

See it Anthony. The 22 minute defense of Little Round Top is one of the greatest battle scenes, ever directed anywhere. The action can be followed, there is a smooth narrative, and (after having watched it about a hundred times) there is almost no "clunky expository dialogue" that is seen in so many other action films. YOu see the third Confederate regiment arrive and try to swing around the flank rather than have someone point and say, "Look, it looks like a new Confdederate Regiment has arrived and is swinging around the flank.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony and Pike, I highly recommend the film. Not only are the characters really interesting, but the battle recreations are stunning and the writing is really solid. It's well worth the time.

Outlaw13 said...

Something that bothered me about X Men 1st Class was them crediting the SR-71 design to mutants. The art department couldn't come up with a design of their own? They had to steal the genius of Kelly Johnson and the Skunk Works? A little nit picky I know, but it bugged me none the less.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Actually, that bothered me too. They could just as easily have come up with their own plane without stealing the credit for one of the coolest planes in history.

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