Things blowed up real good: X-Men 3

The plot:

Imagine that people have invented a “cure” for mutants, which is housed in an isolated building, guarded by swarms of soldiers armed with guns that fire hypodermic needles loaded with the cure and bombs that send clouds of cure-shrapnel flying through the air.

Now imagine that you are the cunning mastermind of an army of mutants who want to destroy that cure. You personally have vast mental powers that let you move immense pieces of architecture around like they were legos. Your army has diverse powers: they can fly, they can teleport, they can move at lightning speed, they can camouflage themselves perfectly, etc. You also have under your control the MOST POWERFUL MUTANT IN THE UNIVERSE, who can make things disintegrate by giving them a peevish look. You want to destroy the cure. What do you do?

A) Put together a strike team with complementary super-powers that allow them to penetrate the building and take out the source of the cure.

B) Use brute force. Use your powers to pick up the Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, and drop it on the building. Everything goes squish, mission accomplished.

C) Use your powers to pick up the Golden Gate Bridge, and drop it a hundred yards short of the building. Tell your mutant army to run across it and go jump on the soldiers, who are armed and showering the killing ground with nasty sharp needles that turn them into normal humans…although it’s not as if they were using their mutant powers much in the assault anyway. After your army is annihilated, petulantly and belatedly start flinging flaming cars at your enemy, while letting them run up to you. Maybe later your disintegrator mutant will zap a few people…of course, they all seem to be the ones on your side.

Guess which strategy the movie used. If you need a hint, which choice would involve the most explosions and mutant rasslin’?

The characters:

This is a movie that trots out character after character, each given about 30 seconds to demonstrate some freakish CGI, and then poof, they’re done, until they get tossed into the meat-grinder climactic battle.

Purportedly, the central character conflict revolves around the resurrected Jean Grey, who now has mega-powers and a child-like, impulsive mind. This deep inner struggle, however, is portrayed by having her stand around a lot looking blank, and every once in a while slathering on some bluish-purple veiny makeup and having her look cross. Then she disintegrates people for a while, before going blank again. Then a fellow mutant does something dramatic, and poof, the conflict is resolved in about 30 seconds.*

Forget the characters. They could have saved money if they’d just posed some of the movie’s line of action figures on the set.

The “science”:

I was concerned going into this that there’d be a lot of painful pseudoscientific gobbledygook in an attempt to explain how all this stuff worked. There was one throw-away line about how all these different powers are produced by a single X gene, and they can be blocked with an antibody, at which I boggled and was ready to shake my fist at the screen and embarrass my kids…but then the movie threw all this super-powerful magical impossible stuff at me, and a proper sense of perspective was restored. It’s all BS. You gotta go with the flow.

Final grade for the movie: D. The writers were stupid, the director was a hack, the story was trivial, and the actors were little more than armatures for CGI. Things blowed up good, though.

Oh, and there was that final few seconds after the credits. I won’t say exactly what it is, but apparently the disintegration CGI didn’t necessarily always mean the victim was disintegrated. And unfortunately, there will be an X-Men 4.

*If you want to see this kind of story done well, watch season 6 of Buffy.


Gary Farber has a round-up of the reviews of X-Men: The Last Stand. My two boys and I are going to go see it tonight (yes, it’s true—we have a first-run movie on opening day here in the little town of Morris). Skatje is going to be working the refreshment stand at the theater, so it’s going to be a family event, sort of.

When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction, and I’m afraid there will be more of the same here. It’s a struggle, but these movies do have an entirely idiotic premise—mutations just don’t work that way—and I have to shut down most of my brain to be able to sit through them. This will only work if there are sufficient explosions and laser blasts and naked Romijns to keep me distracted.

I’ll put up my review tomorrow. We shall see if I can suspend disbelief for two hours of unbelievable mutants.

Who wants to argue with Gandalf?

The hype machine for that drecky novel and movie, The DaVinci Code, is rather appalling: I simply don’t see what the appeal is in a poorly written and unbelievable conspiracy theory about Jesus, and the protestations from Catholics are accomplishing nothing other than to fuel further interest in a very silly story. All I can imagine is that it’s feeding the same hunger for religious fables that drove the sales of those ghastly Left Behind books. Anyway, the only good thing I’ve seen emerge from the schlockfest yet is Ian McKellen and his comments on the Today show, written up in US magazine.

“I’ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer at the front saying ‘This is fiction.'” McKellen responded. “I mean walking on water? I mean, it takes an act of faith.”

That’s cutting to the heart of the issue. The Catholic church has no grounds for complaining about a badly written, ridiculously improbable, mass-market driven work of popular fiction…unless it’s because they see it as in competition with their similarly atrocious foundation document.

The comments over there are rather interesting, too. US magazine is a bit closer to the popular zeitgeist than something like Pharyngula, so the comments are a better peep into what the general public is thinking than comment threads here, and while there are a few people there who express dismay and act as if they’ve never imagined anyone could say something so shocking, they’re very much in the minority. Most of them are cheering Ian on!

I may have to change my mind about seeing this movie, as dreadful as the reviews are. Michael Medved thinks poor box office for this movie will demonstrate the depth of Christian sympathy in the US.

One of the things you see with this movie, Tucker, as I have been writing about this for 20 years literally, that Hollywood keeps attacking religion again and again and again. Films that have anti-religious themes and particularly anti-Catholic themes and they never make a dime. They tend to do very, very badly at the box office.

Now this film has a guaranteed box office return because of the tremendous success of the novel. But the idea that, by refusing to soften some of the anti-Christian, some of the–what people would consider to be heretical themes in the movie, that they could have, by softening it, I think ensured a much greater financial indication.

Rather, people who have no interest in the religious issues judge the book and movie on its merits, and aren’t inclined to waste time on it.

Simpsons joins the fray


News from The Panda’s Thumb: tonight, The Simpsons is all about the creationist pseudo-controversy, and Lisa gets arrested as an evilutionist. Let’s all tune in!

I was unimpressed. There were a few good barbs thrown at the creationists, but in the end the matter is settled by something trivial (Homer looks like an ape; yet again, the lazy Simpsons trope of the stupid Homer resolves the story), and of course they caved and pandered to the false dignity of the dominant tribal superstition. Eh.

Devonian Blues


Lots of people have sent me links to this—thanks, all!—and it’s the perfect thing to lift me out of the finals week blahs, and it’s also just in time for Mother’s Day on Sunday: The Devonian Blues.

Every single girl and every little boy
Was born from the clan of the wayward Dipnoi
Don’t let the preacher man spoil all the fun
Took a lot more than 6 days to get the job done
Amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and man
All belong to the fish tribe, doncha’ understand?

Your momma was a lobefinned fish
My momma was a lobefinned fish

Sing along, everyone!

Empower the meatless!

Watch this short film of Terry Bisson’s well-known short story, They are made out of meat. I like the idea, but it was a little off-putting that they used actors made out of meat to play the main characters.

There is no shortage of non-meat actors, you know, and there are some CGI functions that might want to protest the usurpation of roles that really ought to go to minorities. Here some excellent, juicy non-meat roles come up, and they hand them over to the meaty majority.

(via The Valve)

And a good time was had by all

Remember when you went to the high school dance, and all the social strata of the institution were exposed? You knew who the jocks and cheerleaders were, and the stoners and the college preppies, and of course, the geeks, the A/V nerds, the chess club crowd…the ones who didn’t show up very often, and when they did, everyone was wondering what they were doing there. Geek Prom wasn’t anything like that—it was kind of an anti-Heathers experience, where all the distinctions were thrown away. There were some beautiful people there, and everyone liked them, but they weren’t any more special than the four-eyed nerd with bad hair. This was an event where everyone was appreciated for being unique.

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