Who doesn’t love the X-Men? Before Iron Man changed thing like a bat-themed vigilante changed Gotham, almost anyone you stopped in the street could reel off more mutants that any superhero type, even if they’d never held a comic beyond using it to beat its dorky owner around the head before going off to do man stuff (as one of the frequently beaten, I assumed this involves lots of sex making with those terrifying cootie-carriers called “girls”, and chopping down trees while shirtless). Yes the X-Men enjoyed some pretty lofty times capturing the hearts and minds of millions, helped exponentially by the still acclaimed 1993-97 animated series and game-changing block buster movies. But then Mojo infiltrated 20th Century Fox in order to destroy his enemies in the most effective way possible: bad ratings. Sub-standard films staring way too much Halle Berry, not enough Deadpool and WAAAAAYYYYYY too many subplots followed. Initially X-Men: First Class appeared to be a salvation from this near-devastating blow to the franchise. But as with a certain blue-skinned woman, looks can be deceiving…
Imagine my “uhg :(” upon hearing that not only would one of my all time most loved films (John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing, a remake of the 1951 The Thing From Another World, based on the short 1938 ‘Who Goes There?’) was about to receive the prequel treatment, but it would share the SAME EXACT TITLE OF THE ORIGINAL [REMAKE] in order to totally fuck with my DVD filing system. Despite my initial scepticism I lowered my axe and stopped Google mapping the houses of the production team upon learning that the crew were obsessive fan boys who’d gone over the 5 min scene of that smouldering Norwegian base with an anally attentive eye, weeding out all possibilities of how the shit went down at the camp 24 hours before it hit the American base. This was no half-assed studio grab for cash (….not entirely) but a Hollywood financed fan fiction by a duo of fanatics. And best of all it would show the alien in its first form before it added people and dogs to its lexicon. So why did it suck?
Well mainly it’s the story, a retread of the 1982 movie with a few variations of the familiar sequences. The biggest let down is that we learn nothing new about the creature who demands a film dedicated to exploring the physiology alone, and its true alien form is quickly ditched in favour of humanoid designs – seen that back in ‘82, now show us more lobstrocities from Planet X! The characters feel like nothing more than underdeveloped monster fodder and it’s all too predictable to know who the hidden alien is, which is never a good aspect in a narrative centred on paranoia and guess work. Most damming of all though was the decision to use CGI rather than practical effects. The 1982 films’ puppets/robots were the finest of it’s time, and although their quality may appear dated to modern audiences the masterful direction skills of John Carpenter made use of light/shadows and camera positions to minimise obvious puppetry while maximising gross-out scares. The fact theses were fully automated animatronics bound in rubbery flesh and oozing all manner of vile viscous fluids gives them an off-putting ‘almost real’ vibe, which is why 30 years on they are still much more frightening than computer generated creatures, because no matter how convincing the CGI it’ll always lack that crude physicality (those who doubt should compare the slug-turds of Shivers to those in Slither).
The shame of all this is that this [p]re-make’s producers went to the trouble of crafting fully working animatronics, only to then overlay them with postproduction flesh tones to better match them to the lighting, rather than adapting their lighting to better hide their imperfections. The end result is a film with blockbuster glitz and glamour that undermines the horrific designs, and tries to tries to follow in the footsteps of its forbearer with a few new twists that fail to distract from the fact this is a fan love letter to Carpenter. A letter written from the heart and with some creative flair, but nothing more. This is The Thing….2011.
We all came to recognise Phantom Menace for the debacle that it was 10 minutes after the lights dimmed in the cinema, the following 100 minutes going on to make Star Wars fanboys even more intolerable to the rational world as we bitched and moaned like self-righteous Holocaust survivors. However by the time Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones aired its first Fett filled trailer many were convinced that Lucas had learnt his lesson. After all, he’d been out for the writing/directing game a while since Willow, and if you examine the context of the period in which Phantom Menace is set – during the end of the longest period of galactic peace – for all we knew the child-friendly nature of the piece could have been symbolic of the innocence and tranquillity wrapped around the denizens of the fictional galaxy at the time. I’d like to say this could be the case, but as his repeat offences have shown, George Lucas knows crap all about his own characters, setting and general themes of his universe, in addition to also having no idea of pacing, directing, editing, emotion on any level of human comprehension or any of the other baser skills required to handle a film series of this magnitude [to its’ fans]. But what did we care back in the Spring of 2002; this trailer featured more Slave-I dog-fighting, space rhino bronco riding, lightsaber swashbuckling, weird alien gladiatorial battles and plot-thickening romance brewing between Anakin and Padme than we could shake a Bantha at. We were willing to move on, all it had to do was live up to our ridiculous expectations, and how hard could pleasing Star Wars fans be…..?
Once upon a time there lived a shy, discerning young boy with an obsessive addiction to television to make up for the lack of friends. In 1967 he was awarded a scholarship at Warner Brothers for his short film THX 1138, where he met with up-and-coming director Francis Ford Coppola who took the retreating young Lucas under his wing, instilling in him the confidence to make the movies that he wanted to make – too Hell with the studio system. Oh the irony that despite being mentored by one of the master art-house pioneers of the decade, Lucas’ Star Wars only helped cement the blockbuster, death of art, ‘greed is good’ mentality of the movie making world, as studios desperately tried to reign-in the ego-mad directors running amuck with their wildly escalating budgets and Apocalypse Now release push-backs – affirming and justifying the need for the heads of Fox, Warner Bros et al to reassume control at the expense of ‘artistic vision’ after a decade of directors running the show. If not for George Lucas, and Stephen Spielberg deserves no fewer lashings for this, we’d all have a lot more District 9s and a lot less Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in our picture houses right now, all because by-the-numbers, epic in audio/visual scope (though not narrative) films with high child-merchandise capabilities were proved to be more profitable than say Super or Stranger than Fiction thanks to Star Wars and its ilk. Yes, thank you George for allowing studios to make more from mass profit toy sales with ZERO collectors value (all those ‘Power of the Force’ figures in your cupboard since the mid 90s: burn ‘em to save on heating bills) than on drawing in audiences with intelligent, provocative features that may actually make people think.
Not contented with destroying art in cinema for over 3 decades, and self-evidently holding little to no love of his own creation, pre-Ewok (Lucas admittedly went through Hell making Star Wars, which is why directing duties went to the excellent Irvin Kershner for the stand-alone brilliance that is Empire Strikes Back), Lucas has since gone on to repeatedly shun the original fans who got him to where he is today; the Prequels, the re-edits after re-edits, the shoddy rips of the originally presented Saga despite Lucas campaigning against filmmakers tampering with their films AND presenting viewers with the best possible quality of film – this man just does not give two shits about those who made him the one-man monopoly he is today. And as if this hasn’t been made clear enough since Return of the Jedi, here’s the ultimate proof: if not enough people shell out for the £9/$15 tickets to see Phantom Menace 3D then we won’t get to see any of the other films as they should be seen: on the big screen. That’s right, Lucas hasn’t got the message that Episode I is derided, despised trash, or he has realised and is using it as blackmail: “Hey Guys, you wanna see Empire right? Well then you better go see Episode I, II & III then”.
With Phantom Menace now threatening selected cinema screens once again, now ‘enhanced’ with post- edit 3D rendering to add migraines to the mix, and with the new year knocking at the floodgates of time, there is no better time to re-familiarise myself and readers with one of the most cash-sapping pieces of crap since Batman went Schumacher.
BLARP BLARP FUCKING BLARP SHIT CUNTING BUTTHOLE MATT LEBLANC! That about sets the appropriate tone. In a world where films like this can be funded, made, and populated with A-list actors (or should that be a list actor), can mankind truly expect to advance as society, particularly one dominated by capitalism and commerce? Well as the 2008-Present recession has shown, no it can’t, and wastage of cash on poor-meh CGI blockbusters hasn’t exactly helped matters.
This film is detestable for many, many reasons which will all be details in time. Once again 1997 has made the shit list, forcing my time machine/time anthropomorphic personification device to be rushed into even speedier production in the vain hopes that one day I shall be able to meet ’97 and roundhouse kick her in the January 1st to prevent her spawning 12 months of atrocious, art-killing features. I lost my innocence to this year like the Robinson family lost their planet, and with it their dignity as Matt Leblanc piloted them deeper and deeper into the abyss…
For many the announcement of a new ‘origins’ film that went back and updated the original crew on their early adventures was a blessed celebration of everything they love about the franchise, while others thought it a blighting – a sacrilege of their childhood memories…
I don’t like the original Star Trek. It’s considered slander to say as such, and many would have me retract my status as a virgin for proclaiming it, but what can I say; Next Generation is where my devotion lies. Now don’t get me wrong; the characters and ideology, innovations and being almost singlehandedly responsible for all sci-fi ideas and technological developments since the late 1960s are all fantastic – that’s not my problem. My problem is the fucking Trekies, who bluntly refuse to admit that it’s far from perfection, if not the divine manifestation of the Madonna herself; never mind that I find it cheesy, misogynist, poorly acted and more fun to dwell on than watch, these tunnel vision wankers have been a bane to sci-fi and the general populous for decades, so if they hate this film then I say ‘good’, let ‘em watch the same 72 episodes till the end of time and let us non-fans be. Blesses with a non-bias viewpoint, I can fairly state that this is as good as a Star Trek re-boot could be. However, it’s still plagued with problems – predominantly that viewing can cause severe motion sickness, seizures, migraines and epileptic fits, as is to be expected from anything from J. J. Abrams. So let’s take a trip into the final frontier with sickbags at the ready.
Until First Class redeemed the uncanny trend, the X-Men series was following the same unsettling quality curve of the Star Wars saga: film one established the plot and characters, a little slow in places but ultimately laying the groundwork for something larger than itself; the superior sequel ups the action, drama and stakes, leading to a darker, bleaker finale; part three is a vaguely passable piece of entertainment but far too unfocussed and rushing as it tries to tie up all the loose ends while continuing to develop the larger and stand alone narratives, coming off as half good, half terrible and wholly disappointing. And then we come to the prequel, a film misguidedly focused on how the story and characters we know and love ended up in the predicament we meet them in all those years ago, and taking an adult topic (political process and civil war, and violent revenge and child napping for genetic experimentation) and woefully attaching it to a film aimed primarily at children for toy sale revenue. The parallels are intriguing but unfortunate. But while it could be argued that the Star Wars films were family friendly blockbusters so Phantom Menace was simply tapping into a new generational market of sprogs (if you want to be lynched), X-Men is more young adult+, even though every 3 year old and his invisible friend knows and loves Wolverine, that cuddliest of gruff cigar inhaling psychopaths. And so with the mature bit out of the way it’s time to see why X-Men Origins: Wolverine is comparable to the most rejected film in geekdom history.