Tuesday, April 18, 2006

X-Men Discovered

Thanks to this post by Meljean Brook a few weeks ago, I was motivated to finally check out the X-Men movies. I'm a fan of the big-name superheroes - Superman, Spidey, Batman - but can't claim much excitement over what seems to me to be the secondary tier - Fantastic Four, X-Men, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Hellboy and their ilk. In other words, I'm not a true superhero geek. If you'll notice, the first three have had some pretty awesome, pretty successful movies made in their names, which for me helps tremendously. I can become a pretty devoted fan after just one good flick.

As a little aside here, if you click on any of the superhero links to Wikipedia, isn't it funny how much information you can find on comic superheroes? Does this prove the level of fanatical geekiness involved in the world of comic fandom? I'm just saying...*g*.

Anyway, because of Meljean's picture of Gambit, I decided maybe I could become a fan of the X-Men if I watched a really great movie about the crew. Sadly I noted that Gambit is not in any of the film adaptations, but since Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine, and I'd heard how hot he is in that role, I figured the trade-off was fair enough.

I did like the movie. I liked it well enough that I rented the second X-Men movie, X2. And as predicted by the critics, I actually liked the second film better than the first. I may even fork over the babysitter money to catch X-Men: The Last Stand when it hits theatres late May. I don't know that I'll hunt down all things X-Men, but they've really got something there, in a world created where everything and anything can be explained away by mutation. Talk about working within rubber walls.

But about the whole Hugh as Wolverine. I was hoping to love Wolverine. I did like the character - tortured, misunderstood, bad-boy with a heart of pure gold - because he's right up my alley as the perfect hero-type. I just could not get past his hair, though. Every time Hugh came on screen, I had flashbacks to Fonzie and the fifties, and I kept wondering if we were supposed to think that his hair just naturally grew that way or that he spent hours styling it every morning. Except he even woke up with that doo....Instead of finding Wolverine a terrifying force, I tended to giggle over his hair style. And after the flick, I had to go cruising the net to find images that reminded me that I do think Hugh is a very nice looking man, because I just wasn't seeing the hotness in Wolverine. Maybe it was the mutton-chop sideburns...

Too, the romance in the first two films comes in the form of a love triangle between Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Jean's husband, Scott aka Cyclops. The set-up is classic Romance Novel 101; Wolverine arrives in a near-death state, awakening to attack the first person he sees - Jean Grey, who has been taking care of him. He's all sorry and so forth for attacking her, she's all forgiving, and the attraction between the two is instantaneous. But Jean is already married and in love with Scott so what she feels for Wolverine and he for her must remain unconsummated. The tension between Wolverine and Scott as they vie for Jean's affections is thick, the two super-studs constantly bickering as they size each other up to see who has the biggest...ahem...superpowers.

Warning - SPOILERS ahead....

In movie two, Jean gives in to her urges and kisses Wolverine. But since she's a superheroine, she begs for mercy from him because she loves her husband and really, really doesn't want to stray, despite the overwhelming desire to do so. Wolverine, being that bad boy with the heart of pure gold that he is, gives poor Jean a break and backs off.

We viewers, however, get to enjoy the brief thrill of a possible Wolverine/Jean pairing when that tricky Mystique (aka, a very blue, very naked Rebecca Romjin) takes on Jean's form and tries to seduce Wolverine. He's a smart one, though, and figures it out before anyone gets naked.

But, since a happily ever after is always impossible for all parties involved in a love triangle and poor Jean will never be truly satisfied with either choice she could make, she decides to make the Big Sacrifice when it's needed for her to save the rest of her X-Men teammates. As you would expect, both Wolverine and Scott are devastated.

I'm a fan of a good love triangle, except for that aforementioned impossible to have a truly happy ending thing because someone is going to end up hurt or dead. I can't say that it worked for me so much in the X-Men movies, but I think this is more a function of lack of character development, thus lack of me really caring or seeing any true sparks and conflict in the situation. When you're making a movie about a bunch of mutant superheroes, including the Big Bad and backstory and action and governmental interference and the like, it's only a given that the romance will get short shrift.

I will say that Hugh and actor James Marsden, who played Scott, did a fine job in acting devastated after losing Jean. I didn't quite feel their pain, but I believed that they felt it.

So, I'm wishing big time that Gambit would show up in X-Men 3 and light up the screen with chemistry with Rogue, worthy of Meljean's shipper-ness. I'm in need of a good 'ship right now since I'm not getting anything anywhere else.

Gads, I'm turning into one of those comic superhero geeks. *G*


Anonymous said...

A few random thoughts...

X-men are cool.

Mutation was a handy Silver Age invention that allowed the writers to create a huge cast of heroes and villains with a variety of powers without having to waste time wracking your brains for unique origins for all of them.

Mutants are, in the Marvel Universe, a group of people who are different and who are persecuted for that difference (even though -- or perhaps because -- in the most prominent/visible cases, the difference is a positive one, something special that "normal" people don't have). It allows the team to represent all sorts of minorities, to connect with people on a fundamental level. Everyone feels persecuted/left out/different at some point...

Wolverine's hair looks like that because that's the way it's always been drawn. It's supposed to make him look more wild. Untamed. Animalistic. It works better in the comics. Try not to think about it too much.

Scott and Jean were married in the comics ages ago, but are you sure they're not just dating in the movie?

The problem with the first movie was that they tried to make it too realistic. Wolverine works a lot better when it's comic book violence...

Jean's death was handled poorly, IMO. It didn't really make much sense, and I had a lot of trouble believing it. Especially since I knew what that giant Phoenix effect meant.

Gambit is a "love him or hate him" type. It makes it hard to put him in the movie. You'll get some fans who'll flock to theaters just to see him (and then be upset if he has a minor role) and at least as many who'll seriously consider avoiding the movie entirely if they think he'll have a major role. Anyway, according to , Gambit isn't in X3. (Looks like we'll be seeing the Morlocks, though...)

If you're interested in the comics, I highly recommend Astonishing X-men. Written by Joss Wheadon (of "Buffy" fame), with stunningly beautiful art by John Cassidy. (Although I should warn you that Jean is dead again in the mainstream Marvel universe. She'll be back soon, of course. She's quite possibly the most frequently killed-off character in the comics. Happens once every 5-10 years, it seems...) Ultimate X-men is also pretty cool (it takes place in the Ultimate universe, Marvel's main alternate continuity).

The main thing I like about the first X-men movie is that it's the one where Marvel started to realize that you need an actual budget to make a good movie. Not counting Blade (those three awful but popular horror movies starring Wesley Snipes), it was Marvel's first movie that didn't look like something slapped together by a bunch of well-meaning amatuers. X-men made Spider-man possible...

Oh, and yes... comics are a geek/nerd thing, but it's okay, really. Geeks and nerds are becoming more and more accepted (even cool, perhaps) as the technology only they understand becomes more and more important and pervasive. We'd be happy and honored to welcome you to our ranks. :)

Paul (HatMan)

Paul said...

Okay, that was more than a few thoughts. And it seems I forgot to double-check the link's ending. Oops. Sorry about that. Wish I could edit, but... oh well.

Lynn M said...

Hey Hatman!! Nice to see you over at these here parts. :)

You do know I'm teasing about the comic book hero nerds/geek thing, right? I admit that I'm more of a movie-version fan of superhero since I have no familiarity at all with the comic books, but some of the best people I know are comic book experts.

Thanks for the education on X-Men. I won't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure that, at least in X2, Jean and Scott are married, but maybe not in the first movie.

And, hey, any film that paved the way for the Spider-Man flicks - which I've absolutely loved! - is a good thing. I'm looking forward to X3. Although I do admit that I like these movies better when there is some romantic entanglement/tension built within the story. Think Peter Parker/MJ Watson, Batman/various chicks and of course, Superman and Lois. I suppose that's why Meljean's presentation of Gambit appealed to me; his relationship with Rogue seems filled with a whole lot of angsty potential.

BTW, did you see that Hugh Jackman is to play Wolverine in a "Wolverine" movie to be released some time in 2007?

meljean brook said...

Yes! Welcome to the lovely world of geekdom! :D

I agree with everything Hatman said -- even Jean's death, I was expecting at the end of X2, so it didn't work perfectly for me...but I am looking forward to X3 coming out.

And Gambit -- it is too bad that they've not included him in the movie, but I'm also somewhat glad (for the fangirl reasons Hatman stated). I'm almost afraid they wouldn't get him right. Throwing explosive playing cards as a power probably wouldn't translate well to the screen -- and I'm not sure if the New Orleans charm would, either. It'd probably come off very hokey (although Dennis Quaid did a great job in The Big Easy, didn't he? *happy sigh*).

I second the recommendation for Whedon's Astonishing X-Men comic (especially as, at this point, there aren't a ton of back issues to work through). My favorite Gambit/Rogue issues are about a decade old now, but the X-Treme X-Men run by Chris Claremont (I think it is in trade paperback now) had some pretty good stuff (including the scene from my post.)

Ah. The 'shippy love.

Paul said...

Truth to tell, I've been around these parts before. Used to be a semi-regular reader, but then you stopped posting for a while or something, and I got out of the habit. Nice to be welcomed, in any case. :)

Teasing... yes, I recognized that (though there's probably some lingering grain of truth to it, all the same). I started out wanting to say that, yes, there is a link between Wiki people and comics people, and I guess I got carried away on an old, dusty, but carefully handmade virtual soapbox. Sorry about that.

Gambit and Rogue are an interesting pair, though they seem to be pushing Rogue and Iceman these days (in the movies and the Ultimate comics, anyway). Rogue by herself has a lot of angsty potential. Beautiful, sweet, strong, heroic... and untouchable.

Hopefully, they'll find room for some good romance in this one, anyway. I'm just not sure where. Scott and Jean, while a true and natural pair, aren't exactly Lois and Clark. Scott has what a friend of mine from school called "Bland Leadership Syndrome." His primary characteristic is that he is The Leader. You could swap him out for Optimus Prime, Leonardo (the turtle), Duke (GI Joe), or a dozen other cookie cutter characters, and no one would notice. Jean, in her own way, is the same. They don't have chemistry because they don't have personality. It's more like "I think we're supposed to be together." "Oh, okay, yeah. Seems about right." "So, you want to get married?" "Sure, why not?" The fill the necessary roles, giving the other characters more room to grow. Scott is interesting mostly for his impossibly convoluted family tree.

Angel has a thing with Psyloche, but she's not in this one (and their romance takes place after they've both had some real angst/trauma). No, wait... There she is. Listed under "rest of cast," but there, none the less. Cool.

Hmm. Maybe they'll give Shadowcat and Colossus some time? One can hope, anyway...

Have to say, though, that it's cool to see they've finally manaaged to work in the full original team. The X-men, way back in the beginning, started out with five team members: Cyclops, Jean, Iceman, Beast, and Angel.

A Wolverine movie? Hmm. No, I hadn't heard of that. Thanks for pointing it out. :) I shouldn't be surprised. He is the most popular X-man. I wonder if they'll get into his origin, now that it's been officially told.

Oh, hey... Hally Berry is back as Storm. Last I heard, she'd refused to be in the films anymore because she wasn't happy being in an ensemble cast (i.e. having to share the screentime). Wonder what changed her mind. Maybe the huge embarassing flop that was ...

Gambit on the screen... it could work. Like you said, he'd need to be played right, but they have the resources to find someone who can pull it off. As for his powers... they worked in the cartoon. If they can make Scott's optic blast work, they should be able to pull off explosive cards. (Both because the CGI for glowing purple cards wouldn't be much more of a challenge and because seeing one colored blast of ranged power helps the audience believe another.)

And... I guess that's enough rambly randomness for now...