The Force Awakens… or something does

Disclaimer: this isn’t a review. I haven’t even seen the movie yet.

I’m about to, though. I’m sitting in the theater, in fact, with about 20 minutes before it starts. So I’m not going to have much to say about the film. Obviously. But I thought I might write about what led me to sit in this ridiculously comfy theater chair at 10 pm on a very cold Saturday night.

Because let’s be clear about one thing. I don’t go out on Saturday nights. Or Friday nights. Ever. Or really any other night.

Like pretty much every other person on the planet, I’ve been keeping up somewhat with Star Wars news. But I hadn’t really made up my mind when–or even if–I wanted to cough up the $15 and 2+ hours of my life to come check it out. Not so much because of my suspicious nature regarding Hollywood tent poles and big-budget franchises. Rather, I just wasn’t sure I wanted to step out and risk running into other humans. (If you can call Star Wars fanboys human.)

As much as my situation has changed, as improved as things are right now, I still grapple with social environments. I’m still pretty much a solitary creature. It took an aggressive talking-to (thanks, Mom) to get me here. As it turns out,too, there aren’t that many people here. And I’m sort of enjoying the experience so far. We’ll see how it all shakes out, I guess.

Speaking of, looks like the curtain’s about to drop. See y’all on the other side.

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perfection revisited

WARNING: spoilers for X-Men:Days of Future Past and Iron Man 3 will be marked in red when I get to them. So… just scroll past the red if you want to avoid the spoilers. Also, this post is going to be super long.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of film podcasts lately. (The Golden Briefcase, Filmspotting, The /Filmcast, Slate’s Spoiler Specials, How Did This Get Made?) I don’t go to movies much anymore, not since I left my job at the movie theater, but I’m always interested in knowing about good and bad movies, and why they’re good or bad. The podcasters often discuss movies they loved (or thought were good) while at the same time highlighting the issues they had with the movie. Some films have a vast range of problems. And lately it’s made me wonder. How do these people–how does anyone, really–love a movie if it has so many issues? How can those movies be good movies? Continuity, character development, plot points, logic problems… aren’t these all signs of a bad movie? Okay, so I guess I’m facing two different questions, really, between loving a movie and thinking it’s a good/great movie. So I’ll tackle them both.

And yes, I will talk about the new X-Men movie in some detail later on, because my experience with that movie yesterday inspired me to write this post.

Loving a good movie. Alright. I think I talked about this before. It’s okay to love a bad movie. I love plenty of them. Hell, I loved Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher. I even enjoyed Knight and Day. That’s right. I loved Transformers, too–but only the first one. (The second and third ones can suck it.) I enjoy bad television: The 100Once Upon a Time (sort of), 2 Broke Girls. (If it makes anyone feel better, I also love some very good television like Downton Abbey and Longmire. If you’re interested, check out my previous posts for more favorite shows and movies.) So I can understand why these podcasters can say they love films like the new X-MenGodzilla, and even The Amazing Spider-man 2. I’ve only seen X-Men. I was planning on checking out the latter two, but Rotten Tomatoes and word of mouth has discouraged me from spending my money. Alas, I’m not always willing to admit those bad ones are actually bad. But I will recognize that critics and the general public probably think so. And I understand that movies and television make for a very subjective experience. One man’s Hamlet is another man’s Phantom Menace and vice-versa.

I watched Iron Man 3 when it came out. Opening night, too, so I saw it with an energetic crowd. I. Hated. It. Why? Well… okay. Nerd rant with spoilers incoming–though I’m not really a comic book nerd.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

The buddy-buddy thing going on between Tony Stark and James Rhodes didn’t work for me, and I think that’s a big part of the film, part of its draw. I didn’t enjoy their banter. I found it tiring, and it tried too hard to be buddy-buddy.

The Iron Man suit itself–everybody was putting it on. I mean Pepper wore it. The President wore it. Hell, the bad guy wore it. You know who didn’t wear it that much? Tony Stark. Way to go, keeping Iron Man out of the Iron Man suit. You’ve turned a superhero into an overgrown child with a remote control.

And then the battle at the end, where bad guys and Iron Man suits were dropping like flies. How many suits did Tony go through to finally put down Killian? Oh, and Pepper has the extremis? No, wait, Tony figured out how to remove it in about five minutes. Never mind. And he destroys the suits? Why? I don’t know. He’s obviously going to need to have at least one for The Avengers 2.

Oh yeah… and if he could remotely summon them to do their own thing in that last battle, why didn’t it occur to him to summon them during the Air Force One attack? Sure would’ve made it a lot safer and smarter to have more than one suit rescuing people.

And I’m not the foremost expert on Iron Man mythology, but I’m pretty confident that Mandarin is his greatest enemy. The Joker to his Batman. Then you go and turn Mandarin into a fraud? An actor with questionable gastrointestinal issues?

And why, exactly, did we need Rebecca Hall in this movie? And having a history with Iron Man? She contributed nothing but one more death.

Don’t get me started on the little boy.

I think the movie started out with such promise, too. The return of Yinsen was awesome nostalgia. And then it went downhill from there. I want to be clear. I love the Iron Man character. I was a huge fan of the first film. The second film was… eh. This one. Let me put it this way. At no point during Iron Man 3 did I get excited. About anything. Zero nerdgasms. At least with Iron Man 2 I got excited when he put on the suitcase suit at the race track. Anyway. Rant over.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

This leads to the second question. Believing a movie is good/great even when it’s bludgeoned with plot holes. My distaste for Iron Man 3 is directly tied into the problems I had with the film. At what point do the plot/character problems make it a nonsensical hot mess? Again, I suppose it’s subjective. I loved Inception and truly believe it was a fantastic movie. But yeah, it had some problems. I think the problems with that movie, though, are part of its genius. The Matrix Revolutions, however, not a good movie–mostly because of its plot and character problems. I think it has been a really long time since I saw a movie at the theater that was good. I’ve seen a few DVDs that I thought were pretty good, I guess. The Wolf of Wall Street was good. Not great, but good. I liked Ender’s Game, though I’ll admit it wasn’t very good. At least it was entertaining. Frozen–a great movie. I have a few more DVDs I’m hoping to try out tonight and tomorrow, like Veronica Mars the movie and Homeland. I hope they’re good. Well, I guess Homeland will be good, whether I like it or not.

Obviously, the issue crosses over into books as well. Ender’s Game is a great book. I had a lot of trouble actually liking it, though. The first Guardians of Ga’Hoole book was cute and kinda fun. Not very good. The World of Warcraft novel Vol’jin was absolute crap, and I hated it despite being a huge WoW nerd. Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall were also pretty bad. The Percy Jackson series. Fun, but not that good, clearly a direct derivative of Harry Potter and not nearly as good. I’m currently working on The Black Company and I’m not getting into it. Though most critics and readers will agree that it’s a fantastic fantasy series. I guess, but I’m not feeling it.

My point is, our preferences are highly subjective. Even standards are somewhat fluid, depending on the genre or reviewer. Not every top critic was in love with Godzilla. Most critics hated The Amazing Spider-man 2, but that didn’t stop it from earning a ton of money. I didn’t see that one, either, so I can’t comment on it. So I’ll point back to Iron Man 3 as a truly excellent example of a really sloppy movie coasting on goodwill and past successes. I once stated that the movie could’ve been Tony Stark picking his nose for two hours and it still would’ve earned a billion dollars. Which is too bad, really. I think RDJ is a great actor and Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter. (I loved Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.)

So this leads into my experience with X-Men. And now we head back into spoilers.

 

… SPOILERS START …

 

Again, it started off well enough. A battle against the Sentinels that ends in multiple X-Men deaths, some of them fan favorites. I was even okay with it rewinding the clock. Unfortunately, seeing this plot device at work in the beginning completely took away the jeopardy and pathos I felt in the final battle (in the future) at the end of the movie. With all but two X-Men dying, I just didn’t care because I knew time would be reset again. In fact, the more X-Men that died, the more sure I became of a positive outcome. So did it matter to me when Storm died? Or Magneto? Not really, no. Hell, I laughed when the Sentinels pulled Colossus apart. (Admit it, though, that was just silly-looking.)

And yes, I understand that a new X-Men movie obliges us to see brand new mutants with interesting new powers. Fine. But only one of them mattered to the plot. It’s really unfortunate that Quicksilver was the most entertaining character of the film and he was in and out of the movie within fifteen minutes. Also, Wolverine’s knowledge of him came out of nowhere. At no point during any of the previous X-Men movies was Quicksilver mentioned, not even in the movie I was watching. So yeah, that came out of nowhere.

Also, I am a huge, huge James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender fan. Atonement and 12 Years a Slave are among my favorite films ever, and in no small part to those actors’ performances. Those guys are phenomenal actors, and their portrayals of Xavier and Magneto is great to watch. But the characters went nowhere. Though we get the feeling that Magneto is about to turn a new leaf, we discover he’s still the same old megalomaniac pro-mutant Magneto. Though I suppose we could argue that young Xavier gets his groove back by the end of the film, but I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. Characters are meant grow.

Speaking of. I really hope Ellen Page got paid a lot of money. She spent 99% of her screen time on her knees, holding her hands over Hugh Jackman’s head. A really stupid use of an arguably pretty-talented actress. (Addendum: how the hell does Anna Paquin get higher billing over Ellen Page for a three second, non-speaking cameo? Someone explain that to me–without referring to the supposed deleted scenes of hers that’ll be added in the DVD.)

Beast–superfluous. He wasn’t even a foil for anyone.

Havoc? Toad? The other ones and the entire Vietnam sequence? Pointless.

Mystique became little more of a MacGuffin than anything else, with only one real moment to shine at the very end of the movie.

And Wolverine, the biggest badass of them all, does the least amount of fighting in the film. One quick fight when he first transports into his young body against some mafioso-like thugs and very briefly in the final fight at the end of the movie. He spent the rest of the movie playing the unlikeliest cheerleader in the world to young Xavier. (Side note, if Wolverine doesn’t age–as Kitty Pryde pointed out–why does his older self actually look older?)

Then there’s the final outcome of the movie. So… Magneto attempts to kill the President but is stopped by Mystique. If things had ended there, I could easily understand how the future turns out better. But then Mystique turns around and prepares to kill (ostensibly) Trask, though the officials clearly believed the President was also in danger. Why this still results in a better future for mutants is what I don’t get. Seems like Nixon would still think the mutants are a threat when a gun is waved at him by a sexy blue chick. But eh, whatever.

The action was pretty hit or miss, too. The future battles are all entertaining, but as I said, the second one lost its emotional power after watching Kitty Pryde’s power at work in the first one. Prison breaking Magneto from the Pentagon was great, but this was all Quicksilver. He was hilarious, and watching him slow-mo sabotage a wave of guards was priceless. The fight in Paris was not that interesting, mostly because it was mired by frequent cuts of Wolverine having a mental breakdown. (Why did we need William Stryker in this? The movie had nothing to do with Wolverine or his past/future at all, and it ultimately went nowhere.) The final fight started off okay with the Sentinels falling under Magneto’s control, but then the fight loses focus as we just sit back and watch him Independence Day a baseball stadium across Washington DC except at a snail’s pace. It was impressive for about five seconds, then it was just meh.

Lastly, I want to touch on the stinger. First of all, if you’re going to throw just one stinger in there, don’t save it for the end of the scrolling credits. My god, who wants to stick around for all that when almost every stinger is at the end of the splash credits? I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn’t already Wiki’d the movie before going. But all that aside, again, I would probably not have guessed we were seeing Apocalypse. It was vague. It came out of left field. It was set in the past and literally had nothing to do with the movie at all. Why did we have to go thousands of years back in time? I don’t know, except Bryan Singer really wanted to shoehorn in a reference to the sequel. Fine. Then at least make Apocalypse, I don’t know, look like Apocalypse! He looked like Powder, except prettier. I knew what I was watching, and I still didn’t recognize him. Way to go.

 

… SPOILERS END …

 

I was really looking forward to this movie. Its Rotten Tomatoes score of 91% with a 98% top critics score only cemented my opinion that the movie was going to be awesome. But it was not awesome, at least not to me, and I tried really hard to get into it. Too many problems, though, and I mentioned them all above in the spoilers if you want to read them. The Metacritic score of 74 is much more appropriate, in my opinion. I didn’t hate the movie. I think it was good. I think… I’m not really sure. The only thing I can say for sure is I thought it was okay, and that it wasn’t a terrible movie. So I began to wonder if I had lost my ability to appreciate a good film, despite its many issues. I don’t know.

All I know is it’s been a long time since I walked out of the theater a satisfied customer.