Let it be known at the start that these trifling thoughts in no way constitute a full review of X-Men: The Last Stand, henceforth referred to as X3 for the sake of brevity and because it’s just less pretentious. I did the same thing after I saw Mission: Impossible III, mainly because I know enough about J.J. Abrams and I just wanted to throw some stuff out there. So if you want a big, regular review, look elsewhere.
• The film was visually pleasing, so that’s something. But the effects were perfunctory, not once jaw-dropping or engaging or arresting or anything you’d expect from a superhero film of this magnitude.
• X3 was so poorly structured as to be laughable. There was absolutely no drama, no tension, no build, no arc, no character dynamic. Not a thing. The film ended with a supposedly climactic battle at Alcatraz, but there was no sense that things had been building to this point, merely that the scenes had stumbled along with a minimum of grace and skill to get us to the final fight.
• Kitty Pryde is a great character, and Ellen Page is a talented actress who certainly looks the part. But it’s a shame she never had much to do with the film series up to this point. Page is the third actress to play Kitty, after Sumela Kay in X-Men and Katie Stuart in X2. In Ratner’s film, Kitty at least gets a few lines, though she doesn’t do a lot besides flirt with Iceman, which is annoying for several reasons, mainly (1) Ice Guy has been hung up on the slutty but untouchable Rogue for two movies now, and (2) Kitty is supposed to be with Colossus. Which is a good segue:
• In what could be the weirdest change from the first two films, the character of Colossus is now an American dude named Pete, not a Russian guy named Peter. Why this change was made escapes me. And also, seriously, Kitty should stop flirting with Iceman.
• No spoilers here, so don’t worry. But I will express my disgust that more than one major character was killed with the kind of cavalier manner that suggests both Ratner’s inability to tell a story with the remotest semblance of competence and his lack of understanding of how to effectively utilize characters. George Lucas once callously said that anyone could manipulate the audience just by showing a kitten onscreen and then having someone break its neck. But Ratner doesn’t understand that having a canonical, integral character mutter five lines before getting utterly disintegrated by a villain is just a boneheaded thing to do. Trust me, it’s possible to kill a briefly used character and make it an emotionally resonant moment for the audience. Not to mention that having one of the X-Men — not just a random mutant, or even a student at Xavier’s academy, but a full-on member of the team — choose to give up their powers by taking the scientifically developed “cure” for mutancy is stupid and weak and pathetic and pick your own adjective.
• Ratner seems to be pandering to the fanboys by introducing more and more classic characters. After all, who doesn’t want to see Beast onscreen? And I will concede that the casting of Kelsey Grammer for that role is beyond inspired; therefore, I’m obviously curious how much a role Ratner played in that decision. But more characters means less overall development, which is one of the main reasons there’s no tension or story. It’s all but impossible to do anything with a main cast of 13 mutants, surrounded by a host of others, in 1 hour and 45 minutes. And to the naysayers who would complain that I’m an idiot for asking for some kind of character development in a superhero movie, (1) shut up, and (2) it’s possible. Very possible.
• The real hell of it, the real kick in the nuts, is how great X3 could have been. The story line about a cure for mutancy has its roots in the surprisingly good cartoon from my childhood and Joss Whedon’s run of recent “Astonishing X-Men” stories. There’s a great possibility here to talk about rights, and prejudice, and government’s control over citizens it might deem different. There could have been a real nuance to the story, too: It’s not just mutants vs. humans, or good guys vs. bad. All the mutants want freedom, to be able to live without fear of discriminationor extermination, and it’s how far each one is willing to go to achieve that freedom that determines whether they’re “good” or “bad.” There’s not really a clear line between the two; they exist at either end of a continuum, a sliding scale ruled by your willingness to compromise yourself for the pursuit of your goals. But, well, Ratner doesn’t have the faintest glint of any of this. He has no idea just how close he came to telling a truly epic story. And that’s the biggest disappointment.
“Cowboys do it till you get rope burn.”
“Christians do it with an overpowering sense of guilt and shame.”
“BBQ cooks do it with spatulas.”
“Small-town residents do it with a dull-eyed stare of ennui as if they’ve realized the pointlessness of their existence.”
That pic’s mainly for my dad, who’s developed a near pathological crush on Evangeline Lilly, despite her early work. Anyway, there you go, Dad. It’s gonna be a long summer of reruns, so let the photo tide you over.
As for the rest of you, I know you probably weren’t even able to sleep or urinate or eat or do anything out of sheer anticipation of my knee-jerk, off-the-cuff reactions to last night’s second-season finale of “Lost.” Well, ask and it shall be given unto you.
• When Desmond, in a fit of drunken rage (the best kind), told Locke that there’s nothing left but the island, he referred to it as a “snowglobe,” which I couldn’t help think was a thinly veiled reference/jab to “St. Elsewhere,” the events of which were all inside some autistic kid’s head while he played with a snowglobe. I’d say it’s the writers telling us that such theories are bunk, and that the whole show isn’t happening inside Hurley’s head or something, which would be beyond stupid.
• Last night’s episode was merely the last one of the season, whereas the first year’s climax was a full-blown finale: The stakes were higher, they packed a lot more action and plot into two hours, and the parallelism of the cuts between the castaways boarding the plane before takeoff and watching them blow open the hatch were heartbreaking.
• The Dharma Initiative is shaping up to be this show’s version of Milo Rambaldi. For those who didn’t watch “Alias,” Rambaldi was a 15th-century inventor whose prophecies unfolded on the show and whose writings influenced the show’s overall direction, writing, story lines, etc. Depending on how the “Lost” showrunners handle it, Dharma could be very cool, like Rambaldi, or very bad, like Jenna Elfman.
• How depressed am I that I actually made that Elfman joke.
• Speaking of “Alias”: The shift “Lost” seemed to make last night, away from the castaways as subjects and toward the story of Dharma and the island, could in time be seen as the moment the show decided to reboot its main focus, and its future success will be judged on whether viewers are willing to accept that. In the middle of the second season of “Alias,” the good guys won, and I’m not talking a minor victory; I mean they beat the huge syndicate of villains, the Alliance, they’d been fighting all along. They took down SD-6, the local cell run by Arvin Sloane, as well as every SD outpost around the world. Halfway through the second year, the show abruptly changed from Sydney’s efforts to take down SD-6 while living a double life to her attempts as a CIA agent to pursue the now independently evil Sloane, and the rest of the series hinged upon whether this switch was pulled off efficiently (it was) and whether it was a good idea (not completely). By abandoning the show’s original conceit of double agents, double lives, and the pursuit of justice via vengeance, “Alias” lost most of the energy that had kept it going, so that by the end of its third season, it had run out of emotional and creative steam. Case in point: The fourth-season finale involved Russian zombies. So while it’s possible that “Lost” could survive such a creative realignment, if indeed that’s what happened last night, whether such a move would be wise won’t be made clear until next season. Offhand, though, I’d say it’s a bad idea.
• Eko was pretty stupid to think that dynamite would open the blast doors. They’re called blast doors for a reason, man. Crazy priest.
• First Locke, then Rousseau. Now Desmond Hume. I get it, okay, guys? I get it. You took Intro to Philosophy. I get it. But knock it off. There hasn’t been a forced mishmash of supposedly relevant philosophy this bad since the Matrix films, and we all know how those turned out.
• So the plane crashed because it was sucked down by the electromagnet? What’s the point of having all the characters know each other from before the crash if the accident was Dharma-related, i.e., didn’t involve them at all?
• There are now two shows trying to co-exist within the same space: The first involves Dharma and the hatches and Desmond and the electromagnetic clusterf**k that wrecked the plane, not to mention the multi-layered sociological experiments that were performed there. The second show wants to make use of the fact that the castaways all had tangential relationships before the crash, and that something pretty spooky and otherworldly is going on with the island, see for example the island’s ability to restore Locke’s ability to walk, Walt’s natural psychokinetic abilities launching off the charts, the fact that everyone seems to have pretty relevant dreams about ghosts and/or the future, the whispering voices in the woods, the duplicitous Others, the black sentient cloud of whatever that flies around and at one point had a stare-down with Eko, etc. I like the second show.
And just like last year, I’ll have a solid four months for my questions to be answered. ABC is supposed to air the first seven or so episodes this fall, then break, then air the rest. Here’s hoping they stick to that, since the uneven repeat schedule this year was annoying. And here’s hoping that J.J. Abrams gets back in the saddle to do some writing and directing. He should bring back David Fury, too. “Lost” promised to be a great show, and it was, and it could be great again. Just not the way things are going.
I walked down the hall to get a soda from the machine, which is right next to the men’s room, which I always thought was weird, since the last thing you want to smell as you stand there waiting on your Dr Pepper to drop is the foggy remnants of all those anonymous office dumps.
So I put in my 75 cents to get a DP (drinks are 65 cents, which is unholy, but whatever), and I reach down to the hepatitis-infected slot to grab my dime when my finger finds a whole little treasure trove of silver down there. I pulled out almost a dollar in change. Either (1) somebody/-bodies used a dollar each time to purchase two drinks and didn’t collect their change or (2) somebody stuck in a dollar, which the machine ate, and they walked away mad, at which point the machine, sensing victory, returned the dollar in coin form.
Either way, it was a windfall for me. Winning the vending machine lottery like this has been in the back of everyone’s mind since middle school, when we’d put in money and push two buttons at once and, on rare occasions, actually get two drinks for the price of one.
I don’t know who used the soda machine before I did, but I’ve got your change now, sucker. Good luck getting it back.
Two quick points, and, well, you know:
• It’s time once again for The Pajiba trade round-up. We spent all week putting that together for you people, so enjoy it.
• Maybe Desmond’s in that boat that started cruising toward the island right as Hurley was getting all weepy over the still-warm corpse of Libby (who would never sleep with you, dude, so this kind of separation was probably inevitable). At any rate, it’s kind of a relief to see the slope-eyed and definitely testicularly enhanced Michelle Rodriguez gone from the show. And I’m glad Sayid is still smart. But man oh man, tonight’s finale has nowhere near the interest going in as last year’s, which had the hatch and pirate ships and kidnapped babies and dynamite and all manner of goodness. I’ll still watch tonight, though. I must obey the inscutable exhortations of my soul, for those who know what I mean. I just have to watch.
Coworker #1: Sports-related question?
Me: Sufficiently sports-related answer using detail cribbed from Bill Simmons.
Coworker #1: General approval of response.
Coworker #2: Arcane and rapid-fire question about baseball?
Coworker #1: Equally obscure statement of agreement, displaying casual use of facts I do not know.
Me: Joking attempt to steer conversation back toward basketball game currently being televised!
Coworker #1: [Blank stare.] Grudging acceptance of same.
Coworker #2: Another baseball question?
Me: [Silent wish for Coworker #2 to trip and fall and break something and die.] Extremely vague baseball statement, demonstrating a solid grasp of the basic rules but nothing more. Attempt at casual mention of DH. Woeful misstep.
Coworker #2: [Glance at Coworker #1.] Coworker #1: Derisive comment about my sexual orientation and/or ability to physically satisfy a woman.
Me: Laughing acceptance of same.
As I watched this the other night, I knew right away that the voice-over from NBC Sports had been lifted from an old Sam Seaborn speech. And sure enough, Jon Stewart tore into the guy.
1. Don’t steal huge chunks of prose from other writers.
2. Don’t steal from popular TV shows.
3. Don’t steal from popular TV shows on your own network, you tard.
“Ride me, cowboy.”
“Let’s go do it in the tent.”
“My backside’s all sore from the constant gay sex.”
“We should use our jobs as ranch hands as a cover to fool our wives and escape to the mountains for illicit gay sexual escapades every few months.”
“Blowdown at the OK Corral.”
“Let’s go to the rodeo … the ass rodeo.”
“I wonder if the boss will fire us if he finds out we’re doing it.”
“That’s one gay mustache.”
A note to Adelphia Cable Co., the faceless entity upon whom I rely for TV and Internet service and which has proven itself to be on occasion pretty stupid:
Perusing the cable listings on Friday afternoon, I saw that Crash was airing on one of the dozen or so HBOs I get (which is awesome). I highlighted the program to read the little info box you guys work up for movies, mainly out of curiosity/indignation/resignation that whoever writes these little blurbs gave the film a four-star rating. So I hit “Enter” on my remote to tune in, hoping I was just in time for that totally awesome scene. You know, the one where that guy figures out he’s kind of a racist. That one.
Anyway, to my surprise, I was greeted not with the image of Sandra Bullock crying and hugging her maid (right), but by shirtless and scar-chested Elias Koteas, who was working himself into a sexual frenzy photographing an accident scene while James Spader drove them slowly by a pile of wreckage.
So, I guess what I’m saying to the programmers at Adelphia is this:
Crash and Crash are two very different films. Try not to mix them up.
Also, while we’re at it, you keep mixing up The Rookie and The Rookie. English is a fairly limited language, and from time to time you’re bound to find multiple films with the same title. Don’t get confused, fellas. This is turning into scheduling anarchy.
P.S. Try to keep the Internet service from messing up. It’s really annoying. Thanks. -DC