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The X-Men Work Best When Outside the Marvel Universe

CLH1.CA.0e.0414.X220.0.1Rumors are going around that Disney is going to buy 21st Century Fox, at least, it’s entertainment side of things. I normally don’t care to write about such things and, besides the fact that it’s scary to imagine Disney owning even more properties and franchises, this isn’t my field of expertise. However, like anything worth talking about, the X-Men are involved.

I’ve written about the X-Men and their movies time and time again. This entry will not be the last. They hold a special place in my heart with their characters and stories. The movies, especially, have been an important part of my life, never rebooting and telling a constant, although convoluted, story as I’ve grown up. And Disney owning the rights to make those movies could ruin everything.

I don’t mean that I’d hate to see the series start over. I liked X-Men: Apocalypse for a number of controversial reasons, but one of them was that it had a crew of big name X-characters; Storm, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Psylocke, ect. If the movies rebooted, we could see a team of first class (pardon the pun) mutants headlining a film that hasn’t really happened since X2: X-Men United. Heck, that’s partly why I wish Gifted was a real X-Men show, giving us a Rogue that gets into the mix of things. And a reboot could even have a better prepared timeline, though, I might argue, there’s charm and artistic viability in not letting past films completely dictate new stories.

No, the reboot isn’t what I’m worried about. It’s the mixing of the Marvel Universe with the X-Men. Disney/Marvel’s Cinematic Universe would benefit from having a Wolverine, sure, but the X-Men, at their core concept, would be diluted. And this has been a problem since the very beginning.

xmen-90s-bannerBack in the 60s, when there were very few mutants on the scene, the idea of people hating and fearing the X-Men made sense. The few they knew about were some teens who wore funny costumes and a madman who could topple every city with magnetic powers. Of course they were scared. Even with Iron Man and Captain America, there was something different about mutants. Not everyone was going to survive a gamma bomb or get hit by cosmic rays, but anyone, even your neighbor or, worse, your own children, could be a mutant.

But, as the Marvel Universe grew, the differences became less important. There were so many non-mutant superheroes on the scene, how could you even tell who to hate anymore? Except, in the comics, as the general populace grew more tolerant of heroes, they still retained their bigotry towards mutants and the X-Men. And it made less and less sense. The core concept, of mutants being a minority and treated with fear, became less plausible, which watered down the X-Men. They still tried to tell X-Men stories like they always did, but, you had to start asking why Captain America wasn’t getting involved in protecting mutant teens from Sentinel attacks or why Doctor Strange let mutant massacres happen.

120e6cf4001aed45eb4700a28e90a4a4-grant-morrison-xmenAnother problem is that, in a shared universe, the X-Men could never attain their ultimate progression. Mutants are supposed to be the next stage in human evolution. Part of the fear humans have towards them is based in the fact that they will be replaced by this next step. Unfortunately, you can’t tell that story with Spider-Man around. Mutants can’t take over the world, or even come close.

Grant Morrison tried to tell that story in the early 2000s. He fast forwarded a bit but his X-Men stories were about mutants becoming a dominate force in the world. And Marvel retconned it as fast as they could and yelled, “No more mutants” and sent that number to under two hundred. They claimed they were bringing the X-Men back to their core concept, of being a minority, but, more simply, they couldn’t let the status quo get out of hand.

LOGANThe X-Men movies are flawed, I get that. Even the second movie, as fantastic as it is, has issues. Fox has made great X-Men movies and bad ones too. And now, with Hugh Jackman gone and three separate trilogies wrapped up, the movies are in a weird state of flux and uncertainty. But, with Fox retaining the rights, they’ve kept the X-Men in their own separate universe and have been allowed to explore concepts that wouldn’t work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea of a cure wouldn’t matter if mutants could join the Avengers someday, the world building in Logan would never make sense with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner on hand and can you imagine Captain America letting X-Men: Days of Future Past happen? Like in the comics, the X-Men stories would be set to certain guidelines and limited in their scope.

Also, look at Inhumans and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How in the world would a company that makes those types of shows make something like Legion? Aren’t we at least a little better off in this world with a show like Legion on TV right now?

theres-an-end-credits-scene-after-x-men-days-of-future-past-heres-what-it-means-for-the-sequelIf Disney does buy up the whole world and owns the rights to make X-Men movies, I hope they would keep them separate from the Marvel films. Bring the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom over, but leave the X-Men alone. At the end of the day, however, I have to remember I’m not in control of this stuff, that whatever will be, will be. I’ll learn to live and let go of the X-Men movies I grew up on and hold my breath as a new wave comes to pass. There would be some great benefits. Disney and Marvel would be more likely to put the X-Men in their comic book costumes and have a fan favorite team that doesn’t just focus on Wolverine. And they’d get the love in the comics that they’ve been missing over the years and maybe a new video game! Also, new films under the House of Mouse wouldn’t negate and erase the movies I’ve loved for so many years. Heck, if it happened today, I’d still have nine X-Men movies (and Deadpool) and that’s something fantastic. I just believe, as the animated series and movies and even games have proven, that the X-Men work when they don’t have to fit in a world of super heroes and can just be themselves.

War for the Planet of the Apes – A Review

apesposterRise of the Planet of the Apes is one of my favorite movie going experiences of the last ten years. I wanted to see it, but in no way did I think it was going to be good. Even when the reviews dropped, I had no real idea what to expect. I was taken aback by the movie. The “NO!” moment of Rise made my jaw drop, it was so shocking and thrilling. It was, and still is, a fantastic film.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a stressful one, because everything you want to happen goes wrong. The conflict between the fading humans and “dawning” apes of the movie felt like it was tipping over for two hours and was intense with little relief. It’s an impressive sequel, and darker as well.

And with that we come to War for the Planet of the Apes. The first thing to mention is that this third film is bleaker than the last two. This isn’t a triumphant, crowd pleasing series topper. It’s dark, depressing and the light at the end of the tunnel feels dimmer than one might hope to see.

The movie opens with a battle between human military and an ape fort. The military is out to end the ape problem once and for all, hoping to kill the simian leader (and hero of the series) Caesar. When Caesar offers peace once more and things go wrong again, it’s time for treaties to end. Caesar gets selfish and, of course, things don’t work out and the rest of the movie is about Caesar trying to amend his mistakes.

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Did I mention the movie is bleak? It’s winter, so the movie is full of dead landscapes and gray skies. The world feels like it’s fading away. The people left alive aren’t the best humanity has to offer. Even the apes feel directionless, trapped between annihilation or all out war.

The movie also spends a lot of time in a military base that really brings the dark. Cages, work forces, fanatics with omega tattoos. Director Matt Reeves seems to be channeling his best Spielberg with this set, with more than one allusion to Schindler’s List. And that won’t be the last movie referenced either. The film is built off of the blueprints of The Ten Commandments, Apocalypse Now and True Grit. 

While Rise was a boiler and Dawn was an all out blockbuster, War is character piece. It’s a contemplative film, more focused on Caesar’s journey than an actual war. This might put some off, as there’s very little in the way of action set pieces, save for the opening and climax. Nothing on par with the apes escaping in Rise or the raid on the human settlement in Dawn. The moments of action we see are more harrowing than thrilling. While I liked the film, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed that the series ends on smaller notes. But it resonates at the end, in ways that Dawn didn’t.

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Woody Harrelson is a scary guy in the movie. He’s crazy, sure, but he’s focused. He’s in charge. His life is violence and he’s made tough choices, even if he wasn’t forced into them. He’s a bit like Patton, a bit of Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. He hates the newly intelligent apes, but needs them. Like Caesar, his mistakes might threaten his own people.

Of course, it’s Caesar who owns the screen. Ever since the first in this new reboot series, Caesar has carried these movies. Surrounded by character actors, Andy Serkis continues to be the most compelling actor on screen and makes Caesar a hero to root for. The work begun with Gollum has been refined to perfection. Caesar is now one of the great movie characters of all time.

ltxlrsiw1tvsuzmnv47lLike this year’s Logan, which left me depressed in all sorts of ways, War attaches itself to you and ruins your day. I don’t know how rewatchable a film like that is, as blockbusters don’t do that too often. The Hunger Games and it’s sequels had a stronghold for a while on depressing, big budget dystopias. The “fun” of Rise is gone in this third chapter and replaced with something that’s a bit more meaningful, but less enjoyable. It’s a movie that’s good for you, it tricks you into eating your vegetables with large scale storytelling and CGI apes. But you wouldn’t want to see this every weekend at the movies, it would be horrible for your good mood. A fun time? Not really. Recommended? Absolutely.

Logan

logan_1_origI’ve talked a lot about the X-Men and their movies on this blog that, even though I’m behind, I’d be remiss not to talk about Logan. And since it’s now out in stores, everyone can watch the movie. Including me. Forever.

Logan broke me. I’ve seen movies that made me sad, that got me emotional but few have hit me so hard that I had to bring it up in therapy. Yes, Logan is an action movie, full of blood and violence and adamantium claws doing what adamantium claws do. But, it’s also a powerful piece of legacy, aging, family and your place in the world, no matter how bloody.

And all of that is well done and can effect you alone. Normally, it would get me to that emotional level as well. But the reason Logan got me was something I’m not sure the movie should be blamed for. The end of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and the ultimate fate of the character in the movie felt like a long, heavy book closing on my life and I was not prepared to deal with those emotions.

The first X-Men movie came out in 2000 and I was 14 at the time. It changed my life in pop culture related ways, getting me into comics and making me a fan of the characters and the Marvel universe. But, as a weird, unpopular and messed up teenager, the X-Men gave me a place that I wanted to go and live, gave me characters that I wouldn’t to be friends with and take me in like a family. Not since Animorphs had I found a world and characters that felt so real that I could almost see the door.

And Hugh Jackman was there from the start and he’s stayed for seventeen years. As my life has gone on and changed, as I’ve dropped out of school and graduated college and got married and traveled around and said goodbye to friends and family, this has been a constant. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has been one thing, one of the very few things, that hasn’t changed, that I could expect on a regular basis. And while he’s always teased retiring from the role, it always seemed like something vague, something I wouldn’t really see.

And I didn’t think watching his last performance would be as emotional for me. I mean, it’s just a character. I can read Wolverine adventures in the comics, rewatch the movies, there’s plenty out there. But it dawned on me while watching Logan that the character, as played by Jackman, is one of the most consistent father figures I’ve ever had. The character has been something I could trust was going to be there. And yes, it’s also because I love the character and Jackman’s portrayal of him and I don’t want it to end.

But like Logan in the film, I had to face how much older I am than when this all started. I had to except that I may someday die very far from home, that the world won’t be the same as when I was younger. That family and loved ones leave. There was a lot I wasn’t expecting to come to the surface.

I’m not 14 anymore, free from the oppressive figures that had been in my life. I’m not the 17 I was when the second movie came out and I was a dropout with no direction. Nor am I the 21 that I was when the third movie came out and I was about to start college. It goes on and I’m not that age anymore.

I’m still not sure I’m explaining this well enough. I don’t want the character to end? Is that what I’m trying to say? This run is over and it’s been so integral in my life there’s an empty space now. It’s its bigger than I thought it would be. I know how this sounds, but it’s like I lost a friend, or family. Because Logan wasn’t just an end for Hugh Jackman’s role, but it has a sense of finality for the X-Men series as well.

And I wasn’t ready.

Super Hero Movies: Excitement Level Check 2017

Oh boy. 2017, am I right? It’s going to be busy for people like me, who go to the theater for every single superhero movie. We have seven of them coming out this year, if you count The Lego Batman Movie. And you should count it. Don’t be so cold.

The Lego Batman Movie (February 10)

Just like my rundown for 2016, I’m putting this list out too late to give my predictions for the first super hero movie of the year. Because The Lego Batman movie is already out, and I’ve already seen it! But if I had to guess, I’d say I’ll like it.

I say that because I did like it. As someone who didn’t love The Dark Knight Rises and just feels sorry for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was nice to feel excited for a Batman movie again It actually packed a few emotional punches I wasn’t ready to handle. While the film was never as funny as its first 15-20 minutes, it was enjoyable, beautifully and uniquely animated and still true to Batman as a character.

Excitement Level = Everything is Awesome

 

Logan (March 3)

While my love for the X-Men movies has always been strong, the Wolverine solo films are at 50% approval rating. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of the worst super hero films ever and killed a slew of planned X-Men solo films. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is one of my favorites, both as an X-Men and super hero film. It was thoughtful, true to the character and unique. And now the same creative team is putting out what might be the last show for Hugh Jackman’s iconic take of the world’s favorite mutant.

I’ll save the emotions I have about seeing the man who played one of my favorite heroes for the past 17 years for after I see the film. I’m both excited to see another unique and focused take on the character, but the R rating doesn’t thrill me like it does for some. I get it and it makes sense when a man’s powers are razor sharp claws that can cut through bone like paper. I just don’t need gore and f-bombs for the sake of being grown up. But then, I’m lame.

That hesitation aside, I’m excited for this. I like the western-vibe the trailers are providing, I like the inclusion of X-23 and I’m always happy to see Wolverine cut loose. If this is as good as the Wolverine, I think we’ll be very happy.

Excitement Level = X-Static

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5)

One of the best Marvel films is getting a sequel. The first movie did a better job with the characters than some of their comic outings and it was hilarious to boot. I’m having a hard time coming up with things to say about the first movie, just because it was as good as it was and most people saw it. I should watch it again.

The second outing looks like more of the same, but in this case, that should be a good thing. With the introduction of these characters out of the way, we can get straight to the fun and team interaction. I’m pumped to see Kurt Russell in this film and to see how they pull of Ego the Living Planet. What’s great about 2017 is that, even with this movie coming out, it’s not the Marvel movie I’m most excited for, but we’ll get to that.

Excitement Level = High

 

Wonder Woman (June 2)

It’s 2017. They’ve been making big budget super hero movies since 1978. If we’re talking about the time since the first X-Men movie, than comic book movies have been in the golden age for 17 years. So it’s either been almost two or four decades before they made a Wonder Woman film. That’s insane, considering Warner Bros. and DC comics have made a Steel, Jonah Hex, Constantine, Catwoman and Suicide Squad movie before one of the biggest characters on the planet. They should be embarrassed.

Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is coming at a time where I’m not at all excited for DC movies. They just don’t seem to making super hero movies I want to see. And it has nothing to do with being dark and/or gritty. I like plenty of dark and/or gritty films, super heroes are no exception. If I’m enjoying Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, I can handle a grown up take on characters I like. But stupid, that’s another thing entirely. And Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were stupid.

I want Wonder Woman to buck that trend. I want it to be great. And from the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like it could be something unique and exciting. While setting it in World War I might play a bit too close to Captain America: The First Avenger, I doubt it will be a problem. Here’s hoping that this is the first DC film since Man of Steel that values character over imagery, while still giving us the super heroics.

Excitement Level = Hopeful

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 5)

Boy, just writing the title has made me tired.

It’s not that I don’t like Spider-Man! I love the guy! He’s one of my favorites. The first Spider-Man movie (2002) felt like a defining moment in my life and the sequel (2004) is one of my favorite movies ever, definitely in my top five super hero films of all time. It’s just that after fifteen years, five movies in which the last three weren’t the best and the speed of the reboot has left me underwhelmed.

Tom Holland was fantastic in Captain America: Civil War and he won me over quickly. I guess what keeps me from getting excited about this new movie is that we know what to expect from a Spider-Man film, a Marvel film, a coming of age film, ect. While we’re close to the film I’m most excited for, this one is at the bottom of my priorities. I’m sure it will be great. It will be charming, action-packed and a fun time. But that assurance also comes with a lack of anticipation. I hope to change my tune soon.

Excitement Level = Less than Amazing

 

Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)

Now we’re talking. Now we’re firing on all cylinders. Now we’re discussing a film with a director I’m excited to see work his weird craft. Taika Waititi is such a strange choice to helm the movie but I’m glad to see him aboard. This is a case of me liking both character and director for different reasons and wanting to see what the two will produce.

The Thor films are in this weird, separate world from the other Marvel films and I’ve liked both offerings. The second is underwhelming until Loki is on the scene, but the first is almost a near perfect origin film, almost on par with Iron Man.

Now the third is going to be bringing the Hulk into the fray, along with Doctor Strange, making an almost complete Defenders team-up (not the Netflix version of the Defenders, the comic version, with Thor standing in for Silver Surfer and Namor, the Sub-Mariner). I have high expectations for this one and I hope those are met.

Excitement Level = The Highest

 

Justice League (November 17)

Zach Snyder made a divisive Superman movie, one that I hate. But that’s okay, he gets a second chance with the first Batman/Superman team-up film. And then it was stupid. Embarrassingly so. Well, that’s okay. He may have film a crappy version of two heroes, but now he’s done and will move on…oh, wait. He’s going to direct the Justice League now.

Great. Just great. That’s fantastic. When thinking of the Justice League, I always see them as dark, violent, image focused and stupid idiots who get tricked by dumb villain plans. This should work out just fine.

Or maybe my sarcasm will be for naught. Maybe we’ll get an iconic, inspiring and larger than life story with some of the greatest heroes ever created. Maybe it won’t be warehouse scenes and mother issues and fish hobos and super villains no one has heard about. Maybe they’ll be surprised and fantastic character moments. Maybe Maybe Maybe…

Excitement Level = Not Again, Lord. Please. Not again.