I Wish X-Men Was More Popular

I Hope They Remember You

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS FOR ALL MOVIES IN THE FOX X-MEN FRANCHISE, most recently including DARK PHOENIX. If you prefer not to read, turn away now.

Remember when comic book movies were God awful? Shall I remind us of Daredevil (2003), Catwoman (2004), or Fantastic Four (2005)? Shall I take it a step further and remind us of Elektra (2005), Ghostrider (2007), and my personal pick for the undisputed worst one I have ever witnessed in my lifetime…Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003)? Despite the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in the 2010’s, we can’t deny that the medium as a whole has suffered its “dark ages”. However, even in that range, there were gems that critics, fans, and audiences paid good money to see multiple times. I’m talking about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), and when we have the conversation of early-mid 2000s comic book movies that paved the road, we absolutely have to include Fox’s X-Men Franchise.

It began in the year 2000. Y2K was proven wrong, America dealt with a controversial General Election which was eventually ruled in favor of the GOP (some things never change, huh?), Tiger Woods was still a relevant athlete, Eminem released “The Marshall Mathers LP” (which many listened to via Napster), Friends was still on the air…and Bryan Singer (big oof in 2019, I know) just directed X-Men.

The X-Men are known for being an ensemble, but they are typically led by Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen respectively. Audiences were also introduced to Halle Berry’s Storm, Anna Paquin’s Rogue, and Hugh Jackman’s iconic Wolverine. The first movie received generally positive reviews, was followed by the critically acclaimed X2 (2003), and the infamously bad X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Seeing as how the movies were indeed making money, and since Fox had the rights to the characters (a simpler time), going beyond the trilogy seemed to make the most sense. Unfortunately, this led to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), a “laughably bad movie” river that critics on the internet ran dry within weeks of its release. I actually also got a chance to review the movie and pitch my idea for it on The Doctor Script Podcast, which you can find here.

I would definitely not be surprised if you read that last paragraph and forgot about the existence of half of those movies. This is mostly because the “modern” X-Men franchise took off after the original trilogy and Wolverine spin-off, when Matthew Vaughn directed the phenomenal X-Men: First Class (2011). The younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, masterfully portrayed by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively, kicked off more movies that eventually brought us to where we are today, the end of an era with Dark Phoenix absolutely bombing at the box office. As a fan of the franchise I saw the movie myself, and while I can’t say it was good, I don’t think it was unwatchable or terrible. I honestly just think the general audience forgot about or got bored of the X-Men. It’s pretty plain to see that the franchise wasn’t meticulously planned out like an MCU situation, and while there’s some semblance of a canon, audiences often find themselves having to overlook things and watch some of the later movies in a vacuum especially after the wildly successful branching-off of Logan and Deadpool.

Despite all of this, there was one part of Dark Phoenix that I noticed and actually wanted to explore, and that is what inspired this post. In a world where humanity was originally frightened and hostile towards mutants, Professor X has created a team that has become popular with the general public through acts of service, he even has a direct line to the White House that the President uses for emergencies. Raven, however, comments that a lot of this relationship for the mutants is giving and not getting anything in return, except for Xavier’s countless awards and accolades. Xavier retorts that this is the only way mutants will be accepted into society, and that messing with this relationship even once will result in mutants becoming public enemy number one again. Meanwhile, Magneto is far away in a government-approved shelter providing a home for lost mutants who would rather live isolationist lives.

In 2019’s political climate, where the treatment of minorities seems to be a constant talking point for elected officials, this aspect of the X-Men is absolutely perfect to explore. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Marvel Comics architect Stan Lee used his medium of comic books to try and make a difference. He created the world of Wakanda, which almost everyone is familiar with today. “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said in this video published by Marvel in 2017. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.” It is entirely true that the world of the X-Men was created to serve as a subtle nod to the struggles of minorities and to explain those struggles in the comic book medium (subtle in the sense that they replaced “minorities” with “mutants”).

We are unfortunately living in somewhat of a resurgence for outwardly bigoted behavior towards minorities. This includes unfair over-incarceration, outright murder by law enforcement, family separation laws, and attempts at banning entire countries from entering a nation that was built by immigrants (many of whom didn’t even come here by choice)…so literally everything Prince N’Jobu and Erik Killmonger were furious with in Black Panther. Make no mistake, my personal favorite and arguably most interesting part of any X-Men story is exploring this dynamic: The Government’s fear-mongering of mutants for political agendas, the mutant community’s inner-conflict on how to deal with their oppression, and the different methodology on how to achieve the same goal demonstrated by Professor X and Magneto.

Rumors are constantly spread about how Professor X was based on Martin Luther King Jr, making Magneto based on Malcolm X. While this has never been outright confirmed, the basic concept rings true. Professor X wants to work with humans and show that mutants have a lot to contribute to society. Magneto views this as being a glorified janitor for humanity’s screw-ups, and he doesn’t share the same hope that his counterpart does. This dynamic has a lot to say about the minority experience, and it is also a look into how modern day activists go about enacting social justice. Essentially, this single theme would enable a creator to bring audiences a movie that not only portrays the nuance of how minorities of various backgrounds feel (Professor X grew up quite privileged, whereas Magneto was a Holocaust survivor), but can also serve as an analysis of our modern protest culture and the political correctness movement itself.

Many are already aware that Fox no longer has the rights to these characters, as they have been bought by Disney to now fall under the MCU umbrella. While Marvel Studios has stated that fans will have to wait a while to see the X-Men on the big screen again, and while the purchase of Fox’s assets by Disney have caused a lot of unrest in the industry, I have high hopes that the same studio that brought us Black Panther and Captain Marvel can focus on this powerful dynamic between Charles and Erik. I will always fondly remember Stewart/McAvoy and McKellen/Fassbender as these characters, and I implore anyone reading this to take some time and do the same.

Of course, Marvel/Disney could always just choose to give us more of the Phoenix Force, more of Wolverine’s personal conflict, and more dick jokes with Deadpool. Or they could choose to use these characters to give us something real, thought provoking, and culturally relevant. One can only hope they give us the latter.

Recommended Viewing:

  1. X-Men: The Animated Series*
  2. X-Men: First Class
  3. X2
  4. X-Men: Evolution*
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

*Television series, available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.

Movie Review – The Lego Ninjago Movie

All cats involved in the production in this movie were all great pets that I’m sure were misunderstood.

Have you ever been the only childless adult in a theater full of parents and kids? Then laugh uncontrollably when the “My Little Pony Movie” trailer comes on and some kid yells “I WANNA SEE THAT DADDY”? Would highly recommend if you’re feeling like a mad lad.

“The Lego Ninjago Movie” is the third Lego movie and stars Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux, and others. I remember seeing the trailer for this one while watching “The Lego Batman Movie” and thinking to myself that I definitely wanted to see it, because I’ve had so much fun with these past two Lego movies. Not only do I absolutely love Legos, but the animation style is still pretty darn cool and impressive and it made for a new “sub-genre” in the genre of animated movies. Let me explain:

 

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If you think about the last two Lego movies, they were fresh because it felt like animation that was not only family friendly, but with messages and fun for adults. There was self-aware humor for the franchises they parodied, a lot of sarcasm, a lot of poking fun at the genre as well (especially in the case of “The Lego Batman Movie”). Throw in some A-list celebrities (Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and SO many more) and you have yourself a great movie.

Whereas “The Lego Batman Movie” had a lot of similarities in theme and structure to “The Lego Movie”, it still felt fresh due to the focus on a character that’s been around for 75 years and making fun of everything that happened in those 75 years (you can peep my review for that back in February here). Unfortunately I have to say that trying to do the same with the Ninjago franchise just didn’t work as well, and caused the formula to be exposed.

Before I get into that, I should note some good things. I think the animation is getting even better (Ninjago city looked better than Gotham did in the last movie) and while the star-studded celebrities may not be entirely present, there’s still some great voice acting from funny people like Dave Franco, Jackie Chan, and Kumail Nanjiani. I laughed a few times, but you also have to remember I have the sense of humor of a toddler sometimes. Regardless, there are one or two small punchlines that kids won’t get, and the action scenes are also pretty sweet. Now that I got that out of the way…

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This movie just felt really predictable and unoriginal. Keep in mind if you know how I roll, you know I think “Its formulaic so I don’t like it” is one of the laziest movie criticisms anyone can say, and most people sound so pompous when they talk about it (and it turns out they haven’t even seen the installment of the franchise they’re bashing 9 out of 10 times). So for me to say that this movie followed a formula is kind of a big deal to me. What bothered me the most is that I always associate the Lego movies with parody and satire…and this plot-line was so generic that it was begging to be parodied? Kid that no one likes, is secretly a super cool hero, Dad is evil, and Uncle is good? I feel like I’ve seen this kind of movie so many times and that a sarcastic interpretation of it with the Lego medium would’ve been a great opportunity…but this was the first time I felt like a Lego movie was exactly what everyone assumed the first one was going to be: A kid’s movie that parents would be dragged to only to be dragged to their local Lego store right after.

Admittedly I might be sounding too harsh, especially if the intention was just to make a family friendly movie. But honestly, my stance on “kids” movies is that they can be powerful and fun for everyone, and we all know that there are so many examples of this. Yeah, you can make a movie that’s just meant for kids, but if you get me into the theater by marketing to me, I’m going to expect something in it for me (especially given your track record with previous movies). So because of that, my opinion on this one isn’t that it’s “bad”…but it’s just kind of there to kill time.

“The Lego Ninjago Movie” gets a 6/10.

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Guest Post – Prometheus: A Study in Villainy

Always 10 steps ahead.

This piece is written by my good friend Uday, and I’m thrilled to have him contribute the first guest post on Soggz Blogs! Uday Mehta is an engineer, columnist, podcaster, and aspiring author. He writes for ‘Eudaymonia’, hosts ‘Coming Soon’, and in his spare time works with radioactive waste management at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He has a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from UC Berkeley. Be sure to check out Uday’s podcast over at this link! A familiar name may or may not be appearing on it soon…
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A show like Arrow is fundamentally designed for different audiences than any other show on television – coming before its Arrowverse counterparts, it had the luxury of picking its niche. The Flash has its roots in nerd-dom and comic book storyline that fuse with a soap opera relationship vibe. Legends of Tomorrow is a fun ensemble show where you can watch a single standalone episode and enjoy it. Supergirl is a fresh, pleasant escape.

But Arrow attempts to satisfy the most difficult demographic – the generic superhero fan. The fan that can range from a die-hard comic book consumer to a middling cinematic admirer to a casual action aficionado. These are the same group of fans that are uniquely split on the primary love story, the same ones that argued the merits of the villains while also somehow agreeing on the need for a better protagonist arc. And this season, it’s that second point of debate that turned from just that – a debate – to acclaim. after 1.5 to 2 (depending on which of those fans you ask) lackluster to mediocre seasons, the consensus is that the show has offered up a contender for its best season yet.

Prometheus – the throwing-star killer – serves as this season’s big bad, a villain that on the surface seems to hold no more or no less appeal than Ra’s Al Ghul or Damien Darhk, the respective final bosses for Seasons 3 and 4. In terms of history, he’s somewhere in the middle of Ra’s famed comic track record (including a headlining villain role in Batman Begins and an upcoming appearance in Gotham) and Damien Darhk’s relative obscurity. With respect to ability, he’s once again right in the middle, his shurikens likely more than a match for Ra’s’ fighting prowess and Darhk’s magic. But it’s not like executive producer Marc Guggenheim just struck gold with this actor or his ability – Prometheus serves as an example that when the show defines the character, it creates a far superior product than when the character defines the show.

Think of all the great villains in movie and TV history – Vader. Moriarty. The Joker. Even Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Throw in Loki since we need a Marvel representative (we see you sitting on that damn chair, Thanos). Every one of these characters, if written slightly differently, could have been antiheroes. But the way they are, they’re a little bit more ‘anti’ than ‘hero’ and it’s because they’ve managed to follow this archetype to a t.

Through the 23-episode gauntlet, the curtain is slowly drawn back on Prometheus. Shrouded – literally, with his scary black garb – in mystery from his first extended appearance a fifth of the way in, more is gradually revealed about him all the way through ‘til the end. He isn’t dragged out for public consumption from the beginning, a la Darth Maul, nor does he end his arc by remaining an unknown quantity. From the explanation of his name (a reference to challenging the Gods), to his literal unmasking – which the show doesn’t play around with, considering Prometheus’ identity is revealed to Arrow not too long after it’s revealed to the audience – to the final control of his own destiny, Prometheus maintains a firm grip on how the protagonist and the audience see him.

Prometheus was truly formidable, but more importantly he was consistently formidable. Damien Darhk’s totem powers were flexible dependent on the plot, and his organization H.I.V.E. would conveniently ‘go to ground’ when Team Arrow needed a few episodes to recoup. Ra’s could seemingly ‘kill’ Oliver effortlessly halfway through his season, but was killed just as easily in the finale with his weapon of choice (a sword, as opposed to Arrow’s… arrows) and hundreds of years’ more experience. It was one of the defining marks of the Jason Bourne franchise – Bourne was so much better than everybody else, and they never strayed from that. It stands in stark contrast to the Flash’s powers – where the show changes the rules to fit whatever villain they’re fighting, letting the character define the show. Prometheus was never solely a physical adversary, but one strengthened by motivation, something that can’t be said of the previous two.

Many writers make a genuine effort to make villains ‘relatable’, but end up conflating that term with ‘vulnerable’. We don’t need to see that the bad guy can be defeated until he’s actually defeated, because then he stops being bad. He goes from Agent Smith from The Matrix to Agent Smith from The Matrix: Reloaded, where they just copy him a hundred times, effectively making him faceless. While Prometheus doesn’t get a win every episode, the losses he takes avoid uncovering any true weaknesses that he’s had. The true standard of relatability is when you can see the character’s point of view and think, ‘yeah, I could go for that’ – akin to Khan from Star Trek: Into Darkness. By not overplaying the dead-father cliché, coupled with his connection to Arrow’s fundamental premise (Prometheus is to ‘You have failed this city’ as Game of Thrones’ Petyr Baelish is to the death of Jon Arryn), the show is able to cultivate relatability without making him seem like ‘just one of us’.

None of these elements had anything to do with the plot, or the character’s actions, or even his dialogue, but how he was portrayed thematically throughout. His character was developed on a level akin to that of a hero’s, perhaps more so than Oliver himself. Which was necessary, because pure, unadulterated evil is at its core somewhat boring. It’s a good thing that Prometheus – and Arrow – didn’t stoop to such a level.

Welcome back, kid.

Invasion! (The CW’s DCTV Crossover) – TV Review

As many of you know, the CW is currently home to four different DC Superhero shows: Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. Even though I’m aware that most of my readers and friends only stick to watching Barry screw timelines on “The Flash”, that would still mean they were aware that this was happening due to all the marketing and effort the CW has put out for this crossover event. Despite the four shows attracting different audiences and receiving very different reception (I’m not going to open the can of worms that is “Arrow”‘s 4th season…at least not on this review), I’ve gotta say I’m a fan of this crossover event and I enjoyed a vast majority of it.  

DC managed to find their strength when it comes to live action media, and that strength happens to be making corny, fun, awkward, and exciting TV shows over at the CW. I stuck with “Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow” since day 1, had to catch up on “Arrow” before its 3rd season and went from there, and I haven’t had the chance to check out “Supergirl”…but man oh man, I enjoyed almost EVERYONE in this crossover. The four episodes managed to entertain me and actually have implications and consequences for the individual plot-lines of each show. I’m really excited about this, so I’m going to go into spoilers and talk about each of the 4 episodes briefly. Here it goes!

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All of the hype.

[SPOILERS START HERE]

 

Supergirl – Okay so a lot of people missed this, but it was already revealed that this episode of Supergirl would serve as a “small prologue” for the crossover rather than being the actual first part of it. I know some people feel like they got tricked into watching an episode of Supergirl when they didn’t want to…but honestly I could watch Melissa Benoist any time of the day and never complain…siiiiigh…..Huh, what? Oh, right, the review. Basically we get an episode of Supergirl that gives some insight into her personality and her world until the last 30 seconds where Barry and Cisco show up and tell Kara that her help is needed on their earth. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

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If I had a type…yeah…in case anyone was wondering…

Flash – So THIS is where the crossover really starts. We’re introduced to The Dominators, a group of aliens that have attacked earth before and do not come in peace. The all-star team is assembled and consisting of: Flash, Green Arrow, Spartan, Speedy, Supergirl, Heatwave, Atom, White Canary, Firestorm, Overwatch, and Vibe….aka (respectively) Barry, Oliver, Diggle, Thea, Kara, Rory, Ray, Sara, Jax/Martin, and (unfortunately) Felicity and Cisco (who’s basically the Felicity of “Flash” right now). Barry, Oliver, Jax, and Martin stay back to talk while the rest of the team goes out on reconnaissance, which gives us a scene here with the Future Barry’s message (revealed in Legends of Tomorrow) and the consequences of Flashpoint being realized by everyone in this universe. This was great because we really get to see Barry appear to be the “villain” in this group of heroes after he’s been looked to as an amazing guy this entire time…it shows that Barry is flawed and now even his friends are beating up on him rather than just himself. There’s a scene here where Oliver explains the deaths of his parents to Barry…and boy, that gets intense. The chemistry between Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin has never been stronger than it was in all the crossover episodes, and I REALLY hope we see these two interact more often. The episode wraps up with Barry and Oliver freeing the rest of the team from the Dominators’ mind control devices, only for five members of the team to be immediately abducted by a Dominator ship.

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Quicksilver who?

Arrow (Happy 100th episode!) – I’m going to be honest, this show hasn’t had an episode this good since season 2. The 100th episode of Arrow reminded me of why I stick with it: for moments like the ones we saw here. Oliver, Ray, Sara, Diggle, and Thea all end up in a shared hallucination that represents their ideal lives. Oliver is marrying Laurel (IT’S WHAT I WANTED ALL ALONG), Thea and Oliver’s parents are still alive, Ray is engaged to Felicity, and Diggle is the Arrow. Oliver is the first one to realize what is going down here and convinces everyone one-by-one that this isn’t real. The tension is so well done here…Oliver and company can actually enjoy this hallucination and choose to live happily for, what it seems like, the first time. After realizing that its best for them to face reality and fight, they’re greeted by the villains of the past season for this EPIC fight scene where our heroes fight the ones they have super personal beef with. Thea fights Malcom Merlyn, Oliver fights Deathstroke, and Sara finally gets to have her revenge against Damien Dahrk…and this whole thing was one of the best action scenes I’ve seen on any of these shows. Our heroes wake up and try to escape the Dominators’ ship on an alien pod, and are saved by the Waverider, where Gideon reveals to us that the Dominators are planning on using a weapon against earth.

Legends of Tomorrow – The concluding episode of the entire crossover felt like Television’s “Avengers”. Most of the action takes place here as everything wraps up,  after a time-traveling shenanigan with some of the Legends (what else is new?). It was one of those moments where your inner-12-year-old was so hyped that you begged your mom for a Flash action figure as soon as the episode was over. I can’t even explain it through words, its one of those things where you just need to watch it yourself. Oh, and that final scene with Barry and Oliver having a drink? Perfect.

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The funniest thing I heard all week (Superman Returns, if you don’t get it).

I’m not sure that a crossover would be such a good idea in the future, since there are few circumstances that could actually get the 4 shows together. Since this was the first one, it was acceptable to use “generic faceless army” as an excuse for some awesome superhero fan-service. This is one of those things where I geeked out so hard, probably to the point where my rationality gets a little skewed…knowing that, I’m still giving the DCTV “Invasion!” crossover event an 8/10.

I apologize that my Pokemon Sun review is taking so long, i’m still playing through it! I WILL write about it once I’m done. As for the Suicide Squad extended cut, I’ve decided not to review that and instead give my thoughts on the DC films as a whole in a future post. Let me know if there’s some content you think I’d enjoy that you’d like me to review, and please help me get my blog some more exposure if you like what you see!

That’s all for now,
Soggz out!