Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Last Stand: the last straw?

I envisioned writing a long treatise on how the X-Men franchise was driven into the ground in its first installment, flung toward greatness in X2, and left to plummet back to the Earth regardless of what happens in The Last Stand. But J.J.'s got a job, and no Internet at home, so there will be no point-by-point dissection of the the Great Franchise Flameout.

But I will say this: The X-Men saga cannot be contained in the medium of movies. This was a comic book enterprise through and through -- hundreds of characters and storylines that span millennia and galaxies. The first film buckled under its own weight, which was shocking, considering it was only, like, 88 unforgivable minutes long. I, an aggrieved 16-year-old in 2000, was close to tears after it. To wait so long for a cinematic visualization of my childhood and adolescent fixation, and then to have it shredded into processed multiplex fast-food dregs...

The shrieking disappointment of X-Men made X2 an extraordinary experience. Focusing solely on the mutant-vs.-human theme -- a potent and perpetual social allegory -- was the right choice. The franchise moved away from pastiche and toward some sort of cogent action film thesis. Introducing the Dark Phoenix factor at the climax was a bold move, and one that moved me to tears of gladness. The stakes were raised, and suddenly the next sequel seemed like it had to be ecstasy. How could it not be with X2 as a springboard? It's war, for chrissakes, with the soul of humanity at stake!

Reality checks in. Bryan Singer goes to work for Superman. Fox brings in the Dude and his dude baggage to direct. A rash of new mutants are introduced, further diluting the pool. Although Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Brian Cox and Hugh Jackman were perfect choices, the rest of the mutants have ill-fitting avatars (Paquin and Marsden in particular were catastrophic missteps) who have only gotten more awkward. It doesn't help when Storm (one of the richly rendered X-Men characters in the comics) says she's got nothing to do, or when people are more concerned about a Wolverine spinoff.

So I am nervous. Will The Last Stand be a spattered hodgepodge of criss-crossed intentions, or an exciting and eloquent close to a bipolar trilogy? Does it really matter? Is The Last Stand really the last one? Who knows. Whatever makes money keeps getting made, so I doubt it.

In a perfect world: I would've wanted a live-action TV series, not a movie franchise. Think about it. Sunday nights, one-hour drama, a devoted and intelligent writing staff, ample opportunity for dovetailing storylines and tantalizing guest stars (Dennis Haysbert as Bishop? Kristin Chenoweth as Emma Frost? Josh Holloway as Gambit? Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay [right] as Havok and Polaris [left]? David Hasselhoff as Mr. Sinister?). I think it really would've been something. It would've saved us from watching movie execs shoehorn the vast world of X-Men into 100-minute blocks every three years.

When I see the movie at 12:01 a.m. tonight, perhaps my fears will be allayed. But I will still be yearning for that fuller live-action treatment -- one that cinema can't accomplish.

10 comments:

is that so wrong? said...

I too was a feverish consumer of all things X-Men as a kid. I liked X2 more the the first installment as well, and agree that there were some calamitous casting choices (in particular Halle Berry, who seemed to be casted on star power alone). But, there's a part of me that quite likes the fact that the movie universe of X-Men is so different than that of the comic book in unexpected ways, kind of like a fresh take with a shift in tone (similarly how television shows make tonal shifts when they jump to the big screen). Let's see how X3 turns out....

May I submit for your approval Lucy Liu as Psylocke?

Alanna said...

JOSH HOLLOWAY AS ANYTHING AND I WILL SEE IT

J.J. said...

I'm theoretically casting Holloway based solely on his look, but if he couldn't do a Cajun accent, then he'd be out.

Yes, I'd accept Lucy Liu as Psylocke. Wikipedia (bless it) has just informed that the character makes an appearance in The Last Stand, played by Meiling Melancon. And I just thought of who should've played Rogue: Jennifer Esposito. It would've been a slam dunk. Curse those casting agents.

As for Halle Berry, it was a starpower move, yes. But I think she is a good actress and could've been better if the actual role had been substantive. That said, I would've slid, um, Flo Jo into the role if she was still alive.

J.J. said...

How silly of me. I'd cast myself as Gambit, my friend Lindsey as Storm, my friend Kayley as Jean Grey and my friend Erin as Rogue. That's how we did Halloween 2004, and that's how it should've been in the movies.

alanna said...

Ah yes, I like Josh's look too. What does a Cajun accent sound like? I thought only black Louisianans were Cajun. Josh is from the Blue Mountains of Georgia. and a big F YOU for not including me in X-Men.

J.J. said...

You didn't dress up with us! What were you, like, one of the Metro lines? COME ON, FRANCONIA.

alanna said...

I was the red line (shady grove to silver spring, bitches), but I would have been friggin nightcrawler if someone had asked!!!

J.J. said...

Oh come on. You were wedded to that Metro crowd before the X-Men idea even occurred to us. Don't be so shady (Grove).

dexter k. said...

I'll admit that I'm enjoying this Halloweenie bickering. But perhaps, J.J., you could be a bit more useful and tell us how the movie was?

Middento said...

Thinking about a kick-ass series featuring Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay is making me all warm inside.