X-Men: First Class [Review]

I watched the first two X-Men films on a television screen in preparation for seeing the third in the theater. I remember choice moments from the series, although if you asked me to organize them, I wouldn’t be able to figure out which bit belonged in which film. I remember, for instance, the talented Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto; I remember lovely Anna Paquin playing some character with a white streak in her hair and not being able to kiss anyone; I remember the fascinating Mystique, her character a silent, blank, dimension-less shadow; I remember Xavier’s infuriating calm and how angry I was that he pronounced his name Exavier instead of Zavier.

The newest addition to the X-Men saga is a prequel that follows the origins of the mutant movement. The film was fun, gripping and action-packed but managed to move through a coherent and interesting plot as well. No small feat for a film based on a comic series that includes so much information that it could never hope to all be transferred to the screen. I enjoyed seeing Xavier’s arrogance as a young man, his high-and-mighty nobility that really stems from a need to be accepted and adored. I found the friendship between him and Magneto to be a beautiful thing, but very much like that of Sebastian and Charles in Brideshead Revisited or else Dumbledore and Grindlewald in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – that is, beautiful, but with a clear lack of balance and sticking-power. It was, I suppose, to good to be true, and so of course they must part. This isn’t a spoiler, mind you, because anyone who’s seen the X-Men series so far will remember that Xavier and Magneto are sworn enemies who speak very nicely to each other and allude to a former friendship.

And yet, sadly, there was much to complain of. Mystique’s character was annoyingly vague – fine, she appeared in Xavier’s kitchen one day, they became staunch friends… and? Where did she come from? What makes her trust him? Why does it take her so many years to realize that she has feelings for him? And those feelings, once displayed, disappear so quickly that I wonder if they were even there at all! She’s very confusing, which isn’t helped by the fact that the actress seemed, to me, to be having a tough time stringing more than a couple of words together at a time. The script, too, failed me towards the end, when I began to predict every line the characters uttered because they were a string of clichés that explained, very quickly, several facts that are supposed to make the audience go “ooooh!”

Finally, I remained unconvinced that the film was taking place in the early sixties. Everyone’s clothes seemed exactly like those we wear now. Maybe the X-Men all have another mutation that allows them to predict the fashion sense of the future? Maybe I’ll find the scene explaining that one in the deleted scenes on the DVD.

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Action-Figure?

It’s a very boring life, being an action-figure. I mean, it’s fun at first – there’s your birth, which, unlike humans, we remember of course. We’re born in a factory, when all our parts are suddenly together for the first time. Then we get packaged, in nice cozy plastic that really fits snug all around. I don’t know if most people realize this, but you know how action-figures all have joints that move just this way or that way? Yeah, well, our joints hurt, it hurts when we’re moved to much, so being set into a perfectly me-sized bed made of plastic was probably the most physically therapeutic thing I’ve experienced.

‘Course, that doesn’t last. After we get put in boxes – and usually they’re kind enough to let us have clear plastic around us, too, so we get to see outside – we get put in other kinds of boxes, big cardboard ones that get sent off places. When I was just a newborn, I didn’t know much about what was happening to me – I learned all this later in life. So we get sent somewhere, and then we get unpacked. Some of us, like me, get put up in shelves in dusty rooms that are where they keep the extras. But soon enough they came and got me from that room too, and put me smack on the “Action-Figure!” shelf, Batman on one side and Spiderman on the other. We had a nice chat before a kid with a runny nose tore Batman off the shelf. The next one wasn’t as nice as the first Batman, but he was alright. Spiderman stayed there a long time, just like me, so we got to know each other pretty well, and he told me some of this stuff I just told you.

But then, of course, it happened, just like Spiderman told me it would. A girl, Lisa, a really tiny thing, tried to reach up to my shelf and knocked me down face-first. She picked my box up, though, so I guess even if she wasn’t aiming to get at me, she liked me enough to start yelling at the top of her voice for her mommy to buy me. I got to take a trip around the entire store while her mommy tried to get her interested in Barbie dolls and Dora the Explorer puzzles, but that Lisa, she took to me and wouldn’t let me go. At least I got a tour of the store, though!

Well, I suppose you could say the rest is history. But that isn’t really the point – I mean, yeah, it’s obvious, Lisa took me home, took me out of my box and started playing with me, which is supposed to be a good thing, but man my joints hurt, she was really boisterous that kid… But then one of my arms broke – no wonder, with that kid pulling me every which way – and then I got put up on a shelf, and that’s it.

Now, I’m not trying to make you pity me, because it’s not like I’m one of those dudes from Toy Story. Yeah, I know about that, we all know about that. Lisa has the movie and she watches it over and over. Lucky me – not – my shelf’s facing the TV so I get to hear Woody and Andy and Buzz-what’s-his-face three times a week. But see, they make it look so fun. They can move on their own. Man, the truth isn’t like that at all. Sure, we can think, we can talk if there’s no one in the room, but move? As if.

So that about sums it up. It’s a boring life being a so-called ‘action’-figure. I don’t even know what the ending is for my kind – but hey, maybe Lisa will leave me on this shelf for many more years and I’ll get to watch some more interesting movies than that false-hope Toy Story. A figure can hope, right?

Tamer and Tamed

Lara let the snake coil around her neck, slithering over her shoulders and looping itself once, twice, until its head was comfortably level with her eyes. The effect was ominous, and it seemed to Barriana that Lara could see out of the snake’s eyes as well as her own. She couldn’t hope to stare the both of them down, and shook her head.

“No. Can’t do it, love. Sorry.”

Lara’s eyes flashed and the snake hissed, moving so its scales flashed in the poor lighting, showing off its poisonous green color. The Tamer stood perfectly still, lips pursed. She couldn’t believe her ears. Having brought Barriana  this far, and to hear her say this? That she couldn’t? Lara couldn’t think of a worse insult.

“Don’t you ever call me that again. You’re finished, you hear me? You’ll never be a Tamer, and what’s worse is you won’t be under my protection anymore. I’ll have my friends chase you to the end of the earth if you ever try to come near me again. You hear me? Do you hear me?!” Lara realized her voice was rising in pitch, getting out of control. She couldn’t have that. She stopped, took a breath, and stroked the snake softly on the head with one long, brown finger. “Out,” she commanded coolly.

Barriana took one last agonizing look at her, at the magnificent, iridescent and beautifully dangerous Lara. She turned deliberately, completely, and wondered if the snake would attack her. The nape of her neck prickled with Lara’s furious gaze – it almost burned with its intensity. But there were no fangs sunken in her flesh, no claws flashing out, no weight bearing her to the ground. So she walked. She took one step, then another, and another. She didn’t allow herself to look back, because she knew that if she did, she’d return to the Tamer and to the Tamer’s life. She couldn’t do that. It had gone too far.

When she got far enough down the tunnel that led out of Lara’s cavern, she started to run. Not knowing how much time she had, nor where she could flee to, she knew this much – Lara wasn’t the kind to forgive and forget. She’d ruin Barriana’s life if she could – and if not for the betrayal she could have done so at any moment out of sheer meanness or spite. That was Lara, alright. Barriana ran on, emerging into air as humid as the tunnel had been, and not much cooler. She took a moment to steady her breath, and then used one of the talents she’d learned from Lara – climbing up a tree, she began to swing from branch to branch, jumping and landing as lightly as she could where she couldn’t get a good grip with her hands. It would take her hours to traverse the humid jungle Lara called home, but every inch away was a bit of her soul that she got to keep to herself.

Barriana fled, using every bit of willpower and strength to keep going. But secretly, a nasty little part of brain wanted to get caught.

Good

What does it mean to be good? Does it mean being kind? If so, is the kindness restricted to actions, or must it extend to your thoughts as well?

What does it mean to be good? Is it something inbred, a trait that you’re born with? Is it something you learn? Is it something that seeps into you from your environment? Is it something that you can seek out and acquire?

What does it mean to be good? Does it mean being what others expect goodness to be, or striving for your own sense of it? Is it being good for goodness’ sake, or being good for a cause?

What does it mean to be good? Do some of us just have it while others lack it completely? Are there degrees to it? Can someone be a little bit good or almost no good at all or full of goodness that shines out of them like a beacon?

What does it mean to be good?

Maybe, more importantly, are the reasons for being good. The reasons for wanting to be good. As to those, I guess they’re just as individual as goodness itself is.

Routine Dullness

TA-DUM-ta-ta-dum-ta-ta-ta-TA-TA-DUM-ta-ta-ta-ta-dum-TA-DUM!

Every soundtrack of every action film ever made is the exact same thing. Same rhythm. Same tones. Same beat. It’s amazing that we still enjoy action movies at all. And yet we do – we all still shiver in our seats when that music blares out of the movie-theater speakers. Some of us just develop this mechanism not to recognize the dull fact that we’re seeing the same things over and over, doing the same things again and again.

Another example of this are those people who forget jokes. You can tell them the same ole’ knock-knock jokes five times in a month and they’ll still burst out laughing every time and say that “That was a good one! I’ve never heard it before!” It’s rather incredible if you think about it.

I suppose it’s lucky though, because if we didn’t have that as human beings then we’d realize how amazingly boring our routines can be. We’d need to go out and complete more and more insane stunts to keep ourselves interested. Actually, come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea – there are too many people on the planet anyway.