June 5th, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

Sunday afternoon, we went to see the first super-hero movie of the summer, "X-Man: The Last Stand," AKA "X-Men III". This most recent installment of the X-Men franchise is a rather more sombre and thought-provoking outing than the others. The story begins with a couple of flashbacks: twenty years ago, with Xavier and Lensherr (Magneto) contacting the young Jean Grey, and ten years ago, with the father of Warren (Angel) Worthington discovering his son is beginning to grow wings. As the story picks up modern day, Hank "Beast" McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) is the United States cabinet Secretary for Mutant Affairs, discovering that Worthington is about to release a drug that supresses mutantcy (both powers and, rather illogically, appearances). Scott Summers is troubled by voices in his head that herald the resurrection of Jean Grey, and Mystique has been captured by the Department of Homeland Security.

The mutant "cure" touches off major controversy, with about as many of the mutants wanting it as being repelled by it. Rogue, who cannot touch anyone normally, wants to go for the cure. The other X-Men want to hang onto their powers. Magneto correctly divines the drug's potential as an anti-mutant weapon, and begins to rally his terrorist mutant brotherhood to destroy the drug and its source--an innocent mutant boy.

Magneto, who was rather a Robin Hood figure in the second film, reveals the extent of his monomania as he callously abandons or sacrifices fallen followers. On the other hand, he has never been more powerful, even in the comic books. Xavier, we find is far from infallible, as his early inexpert tampering with Jean's mind "for her own good" comes back to haunt him in a terrible retribution.

The "cure" raises some significant questions. In the movie, Rogue is the only mutant we see much of who wants the cure because of the bad effect her powers have on her life. In the movie world, most of the mutants can "pass" in that they look human most of the time. This is different from the Marvel comics, where it is more common for mutants to have obvious stigmata. The cure debate raises the question of "class" among mutants, which, in typical Marvel fashion, is not given an answer.

Of course, there is the question of whether or not the "cure" will in some way become mandatory, for public health or public safety reasons, but another issue, tyranny of opinion is raised by Ian McKellen's public remarks--that if there were a "cure" for homosexuality, people would want to cure him. With the ongoing battle of homosexuals and transgenders for acceptance based on the idea that they are naturally occuring human variations, to say there was a cure or "normalization" available, anyone who did not accept it would be further marginalized. "You must LIKE being a (fill in the blank)!" "We knew all along that you were a willful (pervert) (alien) (other)".

And then there's a further question of choice: how many parents, on finding that their child had "the Mutant X gene," would not opt to have them given "the cure," a choice similar to that made by parents of intersexed children so that they have a "normal" life--often with tragic results?

Generally well acted by the familar crew, supported by the numerous newcomers on both the good side and the bad. Some excellent effects, and a couple of howling continuity errors, one of which must remain behind the cut along with other spoilers. The one that doesn't is, that in the "danger room" sequence, they combat what ends up being a giant robot that is obviously based on the comic Sentinels, which don't exist in the movie world yet. As for other issues, they are in the Spoiler section that follows. However: STAY TO THE END OF THE CREDITS! Also fun: trying to match the new mutants in Magneto's band to the not-necessarily comic-accurate character names they are given--.

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