Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Review of X-Men 3; or, DIE, Ratner

Well, my nightmare has become reality. This new X-Men film destroyed almost everything I loved so much about the first two.

Instead of retaining all the wonderful subtlety and social commentary of the others, this movie throws itself headlong into the abyss of stereotypes and cheap lines and juvenile sexism. The point of the whole film seems to be a systematic disempowerment of the strong female characters, including Rogue, perhaps the strongest mutant of them all because she can swipe your power from you while she kills you. But in this movie, because she thinks her boyfriend might dump her over the fact that she can't touch him, she chooses to "cure" herself from her power and become a nice safe repository of physicality for him. Because of sexual jealously she castrates herself. I wanted to VOMIT.

This is the young woman who (in X2) whips off her glove and prepares to kick Magneto's ass for him. This character whose development we follow from scared, self-flagellating, and crushing girlishly on Wolverine in the first film to the self-assured woman in a relationship of affectionate equals who is not going to take Magneto's crap in the second--and Ratner breezes in and just erases all that. Eviscerates it. Does not understand it in the least. He sees Rogue as the Sandy character in Grease: Her feminine triumph comes from making herself sexually available to her man so he won't look for it elsewhere. How fucking inspiring.

And then the crime he perpetrates against Mystique. I love Mystique. She's so enormously powerful and so committed to her individuality, to her selfhood. She's blue and freaky looking and if you don't like it you can go piss up a rope. She can look like anyone but chooses above all to look like HERSELF. That's awesome. And her devotion to Magneto, and his to her, has been arresting, even touching, throughout the films. Arguably the most brilliant aspect of the X-Men story is how sympathetic Magneto and Mystique are. They're the villains in that they stand against the goals of the protagonists, but we get them. We understand their position. Why else do we see young Eric's horrific concentration camp experience? Why else the devastating conversation in which Mystique announces that she does not alter her appearance to better fit in with humans because she "shouldn't have to?" Why else Xavier's and Magneto's continued friendship? They're not homicidal maniacs--those guys make picking your team easy--they're people.

Look what the Rat does with that shimmering legacy. I started squirming in my seat early in the film, dreading what I knew was coming. All the talk of the mutant "cure," then lots of Mystique being way too cocky and powerful, clearly being set up to be put in her place, and I recall with ghastly clarity the moment I knew, when the thought burst unwilled into my recoiling consciousness: "This is leading to Rebecca Romijn naked." I could cry.

But it gets worse. Ignoring everything about the history of Magneto and Mystique's mutual trust, each putting his or her life in the other's hands utterly and absolutely without fear over and over, Ratface has Magneto leave Mystique naked and vulnerable on the ground as she begs for his help. Not insulted yet? Magneto then walks away quipping grossly, "A shame. She was so beautiful."

Ha, ha...ha? Get it? Because she's Rebecca Romijn, a lovely swimsuit model, and the lingering Male Gaze shot of her helpless and naked establishes that, wow, she's really hot now that she isn't all blue and scaly, and you know you'd totally hit that and how HILARIOUS that Magneto doesn't want her around NOW when she's finally a proper woman, all tits and ass and heavy eyeliner(?) and none of that annoying power.


So Magneto ditches the bitch without a backward glance, and the next time we see her she's sitting pretty as a picture as some kind of government fucking SECRETARY or something, having given up Magneto's base of operations to the feds, allowing Ratturd to feed us the oh-so-original line, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Yes, IT'S ALL BECAUSE SHE'S FEMALE OF COURSE and GOD HOW I HATE YOU.

And Jean Grey. Oh god. It's truly horrible. Jean, being female and all, suddenly can't handle all of her power and goes rabid, so Wolverine has to put her down like Old Yeller in the end, saying "I love you" and then running her through. She's his dog so he's the one who has to take her out behind the barn and put a bullet in her to protect everyone else, right? She spends the whole film surrounded by men who try to control her and then ends up staring into space wearing a shiny purple bridesmaid's dress (the HELL?) during the climactic battle, waiting passively for someone to please come and "save" her with knives to the belly.

I know some of you will think I'm reaching with this, but it's my blog so bite me: It reminded me of an "honor" killing, like everyone agrees that since Wolverine is her nearest male "relative" (in that he loves her, even though she repeatedly asserts her intention of staying with her husband so he really has no recipricated connection to her, but that doesn't matter because MALE love rules all, which is why stalking is romantic in the movies--but I digress) it's his responsibility to take her out when she's dishonored the family. Nice that it's Storm, Jean's woman friend, not that you'd know it by this movie, who delivers the cold line, "She made her choice," and tells Wolverine to be ready to kill her. Charming. Even Magneto is worth keeping alive, but the plan is to put Jean down, period.

Yes, I understand that Wolverine's quick healing powers make him the only one who can get close enough to kill her, but the sub-text is there too, that he has to do it because he loves her. It's fucking creepy.

The one part somewhat reminiscent of the subtlety of the first films is the Angel character. His relationship with his father suggests a sub-text of his being gay and his father wanting to "cure" him of it, not maliciously, just kind of ignorantly, and I bought that. Of course, they were only in it for like 2 minutes, and it had to end with that cheesy scene where his wings let him catch his father after the bad mutants throw him off a building. Whatever. At least it's just goofy and not soul-killingly offensive.

Speaking of things that bug but at least don't make me wish I could murder people with my mind, Night Crawler (whom I adore) isn't in the movie at all, and unless I missed the explanation while I was busy trying to cut my wrists with my ticket stub his absence was never mentioned.

It is so depressing to me, so heart-wounding, to keep crashing into the same tired gender stereotypes. Even sitting through previews depresses me. They all seem to hate women so much, making nothing but two-dimensional jokes out of us at best and nothing but holes out of us at worst. To hold on through that garbage just to see such a progressive series as X-Men screech to a halt and whip around backward is...painful.


At 4:00 PM, Blogger Jacob said...

God, yes. Exactly. Every single word. The second film is one my favorite movies PRECISELY BECAUSE of the Mystique stuff. I've always been more on Magneto's side than Xavier's, and Mystique rather beautifully explained why in the second film.

And on Jean Grey: I love the "honor killing" thing, but would suggest also going a sexual-awakening route. Scott is all about repression (physically/literally and personally as well, of course, and in their relationship specifically) but it's the "animal" attraction to Logan that awakens the Dark Phoenix for good -- and the incredibly phallic Wolverine, with his Edward Penishands, has to repent for awaking Jean's scary, destructive sensual side by penetrating her one more time. Disgusting. Really disappointing.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger RC said...

crazy stuff...

ii like your thoughts very much namely b/c they are different and yet they make great sense...

i did not think about how women were really put down in this film at all.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspto.com

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Shell said...

Thanks to both of you!

And, yes, Jacob, that is so DEAD ON, especially since your reading would also explain the new sexified hair and clothing as well as the death-by-penetration, IN THE STOMACH, no less, so that it's that much more sexualized. Add the "I love you" against that backdrop. So gross.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff .... Brett Ratner, along with being an awful director, clearly has many issues with powerful women ... the abuse of the Phoenix was the most egregious to me of his many sins

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Margo Bond said...

Amen, amen. I just love it that you invariably articulate those things that I hate about movies but cannot put into words. You rock.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger gad said...

Shelley --

Thank you. I can now safely save my $8.00 (x 2 + concessions + babysitter) and wait for the DVD. Although, I would much rather have bolted from the basement, jumped in a car with you, Tom, & the gang, and heard this reading in person. Some days I actually miss the basement.

By the way, you need to update your activity over at Chain Reading. Don't get me wrong, if I had to choose, I'd much rather read your blog. However, I notice you haven't logged in in 106 days, and I'm sort of the type that likes to have my cake and eat it, too. : )


At 4:32 AM, Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

But did you like the movie? :)

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Dubhe said...

Thank you! I'm highly, HIGHLY dissapointed about this, but I am glad that you pointed all this out. I was about to try and convince BB to rent it, because the first two did have such powerful female characters, and I would have been entirely embarassed and guilty.

I hate my half of the species quite frequently these days. Arg.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger asdgasdfaserwe said...

That is what the film was like for me too, although, not being a fan, it wasn't quite as painful. The worst part, for me, was Jean smiling after being stabbed: she liked it. The message is that women enjoy the violence done to them and welcome their own deaths.

We're pissed off about this, but at least we're able to pick it apart. Just think about the majority of people who will sit there and assimilate the sexism without even noticing it. That's why we need film critics like you Shell!

At 9:45 AM, Blogger CrankyProf said...

This is why we, as English majors, should not go to movies. We over-analyze.

Your review has pretty much guaranteed that I will wait for the dvd, when I can hurl curses at the screen with impunity, and pause only to ogle Hugh Jackman's leather-encased naughty bits.

I honestly believe that Ratner actually HATES the X-men franchise, and wants to kill it by pissing off as many fans as he possibly can.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Great review. I especially enjoyed your thoughts on Rogue, which I only briefly touched on in my own review. Quite simply, this film was a huge disappoinment.

At 8:20 PM, Blogger gad said...

Thanks, Shell. : )


At 10:28 PM, Blogger Shell said...

No prob, G. :)

At 2:17 AM, Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

While I was entertained by the movie on one level, I definitely experienced some discomfort in seeing how some of the female characters were portrayed. Mystique I did not think much about (her downfall seemed quick and like yet another cheap joke), but Rogue and Jean Grey's storylines made me say NOOOO. I still can't believe Rogue gave up her gifts! Though, being newly smitten, I can understand the need for physical touch, it just seemed like plenty of other mutants weren't trading in their powers for makeout sessions with their sweeties. *sigh*

And Jean Grey is dead - nooo. I did love the scene where she killed Professor X. I cried and it was a beautiful scene. But I didn't like the idea that a woman being so powerful was such an evil thing. My DH told me afterward that Professor X actually had put those same mind barriers on himself that he'd put on Jean Grey ... but no mention of this in the film. I think Ratner is really immature.

At 10:58 AM, Blogger belledame222 said...

I wasn't familiar with the whole X-men series before, although i did see the second one in theatre. thanks for putting a finger on what was wrong with this one.

there were other subtexts that could be worth getting into, but...mmm, yeah.

mebbe the next person can turn it around some. really sucks that they had to kill Jean Grey, but hey, it's SF: i bet they could resurrect if they really want to.

but I couldn't help comparing the truncated and silly way they dealt with her JG's going to the dark side with, say, Willow's storyline in BTVS. yeah, I know some people didn't like that one either; but taken in the context of the entire series, I thought it made a lot of sense; they'd been foreshadowing it for over two years. and unlike this story, it came out of her own psychology and complexity, not some dorky male doctor tinkering with her brain halves or whatever it was.

best of all, she lived. (yea, RIP Tara, but...all things considered. better).

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Megatrouble said...

You, my friend, are a sister in spirit...I caught most of the things you mentioned (except, probably the most obvious: powerful Jean=evil), but I was just too depressed after watching the movie to do anything about it. But you had the strength...which is a lot more than what Ratner wants the heroines have. Anyway.

I think I'm going to make this required reading for my sociology of women class!!

At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though I'm just watching this a year later on DVD can I just say, fuck yeah! I was appalled at the sexism in this film, so much fear of the powerful female. I think I need to read the comics.


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