A Short Review of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Last night I went on a date to see “X-Men:  Days of Future Past” and really enjoyed it.  The movie focuses on an alternate timeline in which Sentinels, robots that sniff out and kill mutants, have killed all mutants except for a few.  The remaining mutants, including Professor X, Magneto, Iceman, Kitty Pride, Bishop, Colossus and others retreat to a mountainside building to fight the Sentinels and send Wolverine back in time with the hope that he’ll be able to divert the timeline and avoid the age of the Sentinels.

First, I really think that this movie was a good follow up to “X-Men:  First Class” as it provides a good embellishment of certain  story lines.  I really think that “X-Men:  First Class” did a good job of creating a basis for viewers to understand the dynamic relationship between Xavier and Magneto.  This helps us understand better their relationship in “X-Men:  Days of Future Past” – in the dystopic future, Xavier and Magneto have banded together to fight off the Sentinels and provide a way for Wolverine to go back in time to change the timeline so that the Sentinel program is never developed.  I also think that “X-Men:  Days of Future Past” did a good job showing how Mystique is breaking free of Magneto and Xavier and going down her own path.  Although in the comics Mystique has almost no dealings with Magneto, the movies seem to have taken some liberties with her storyline (something that I don’t particularly approve of as Mystique is a more powerful female in the comic books).

It was the bond between Xavier and Magneto that I found one of the more interesting parts of the “X-Men:  Days of Future Past”.  I guess it’s not a surprise that Professor X and Magneto end up working together in dystopic, Sentinel laden future.  I think that this alternate future that strays from the main timeline does a great job of pointing to the close bond that Magneto and Professor X share, regardless of their ideological differences.  It is therefore sad to see that, by the end of the movie, the young Magneto still prefers a path of destruction based upon his ideology of mutant supremacy.

The undercurrent of racism is pretty prevalent in the movie – with Trask attempting to exterminate the mutant humans, this is a reminder of the world’s dark past, primarily with the attempted extermination of the Jewish population by Hitler, but also other mass exterminations, like the harm done to the Native American population by expansionists in the 1800s.  Of course, this theme is nothing new to the X-Men – seeing as the whole comic book series and movie series is based upon racial tensions, it’s no surprise that the most current movie has this as one of its main themes.  Racial tensions still exist, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not.

Something else that really sparked my interest was the apparent addiction of Professor X to the painkiller that he was using.  To be completely honest, he looked like a heroine addict.  His addiction to the drug relates to a deeper issue – his own brokenness.  Professor X’s storyline then becomes more about surviving addiction and depression than about saving the world – in previous movies, Professor X has seemed put together and strong, not one to lean towards depression or hopelessness.  In this movie, one of the central themes is Professor X saving himself.  This movie really fleshes out his character a lot, showing a side of him that I don’t believe we’ve seen in past movies – we get to see the dark side of his gift and also watch him battle his own demons and come to terms with the fact that he’s not as “good” as he thought he was.  He also, in his interactions with Magneto, must also concede that Magneto is not an evil person at heart – this occurs when he finds out that Magneto was actually trying to save President Kennedy because he was a mutant.  This moment is poignant due to the realization that Xavier comes to – not everything is black and white as he thought previously, nobody is just good or just evil.  It seems as though he suddenly realizes that the world is full of grey areas and he has to navigate those areas as a leader.  Of course, his hope that Magneto may “see the light” is dashed as Magneto remains a static character – he will use others to get what he wants.  His ideology of “survival of the fittest” also seems to remain quite intact.

There were, of course, certain characters I would have liked to see in this movie, like Rogue.  I did think that it was pretty cool that other mutants were introduced to the movie series, including Bishop and Blink, whom I’m hoping will be in the next movie as well.  I was also hoping that there would be more of a lead for the next movie, which was hinted at after the closing credits as dealing with the Apocalypse story line.

To be quite honest, I really enjoyed the movie.  I’m not surprised that the IMdb score is 8.6 – it really deserves it, in my opinion.  I think that the storyline was interesting and held my attention.  I really liked seeing Xavier fleshed out in this movie and also the budding friendship between him and Wolverine.  I was somewhat sad that Magneto’s character remained so static, but I guess that we can’t have it all!

Why The Lord of the Rings Was A Better Movie Adaptation Than The Hobbit

So, here I am again, recovering from the most recent stomach bug I caught, to bring to you another wonderfully written opinion piece about movie adaptations.  It would seem that this field is a bit larger than I expected – almost every movie that I’ve watched in recent years has been an adaptation from a novel or other literature.

Today I’m touching on the ever popular J.R.R. Tolkien big movie adaptations.  And yes, as the title indicates, I am not a big fan of The Hobbit as seen on the big screen.  I’m not sure that others will agree with my reasoning, but here it goes anyway.

First and foremost, I think that The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was a much more faithful movie adaptation.  I didn’t get lost trying to figure out who characters were as they appeared in the movies or trying to figure out what was going on.  There was little to no deviation in those regards.  In The Hobbit, we’re introduced to characters and circumstances that didn’t take place in the novel.  For instance, Radagast the Brown.  Having only read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I don’t recall this character as someone that was introduced.  I decided to do an internet search and found the reason why – he’s only mentioned 3 times in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  (http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Radagast)  So, if you know why he’s in the movies, please enlighten me.

Although The Hobbit was a stand-alone novel and didn’t mention much about what Gandalf was doing when he wasn’t in the company of the dwarves and Bilbo, the movie does.  The movie adaptation focuses on these instances and adds some scenes that aren’t from the novel itself – like when Gandalf meets with Galadriel and Elrond about the Ring.  Galadriel doesn’t make any appearance in The Hobbit.  Neither does Orlando Bloom… errr, Legolas.  I understand that the movie’s purpose is to be a prequel, but the novel wasn’t intended this way.  Well, that’s the impression I got from reading it.

Secondly, the structure to this particular novel was simple and straight forward – Bilbo goes on a journey, Bilbo fights the dragon Smaug, Bilbo gets rich and goes home.  And somewhere in there he just happens to meet Golem and get the Ring and some other exciting stuff happens.  There wasn’t deviation from the main story – it was a hero’s quest – Bilbo overcame his fears and lives happily ever after, in a sense.  The Lord of the Rings has a more complex story structure and follows many different events that lead up to the defeat of Sauron and the destroying of the Ring.  Therefore, it makes sense that the movie adaptation of the trilogy deviates from a main story thread – that of Frodo and Sam going to destroy the Ring – to tell of events going on elsewhere.  These events are essential to the action.  Also, it happens in the novels.   In my opinion, The Hobbit, as it is aptly named, is the story of Bilbo and therefore the movie adaptation doesn’t need to deviate from his main story to go off on seemingly random tangents that don’t appear in the novel.

So now we get to my favorite part.  Why has The Hobbit been adapted into three movies?  Beats me!  The Lord of the Rings needed three movies to tell the complete story – and that’s without deviations from the main story-line.  The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, therefore, a movie trilogy makes sense.  And let me tell you, in my opinion, those books were heavy.  And the movie trilogy didn’t even cover everything that happened in the novel.

But The Hobbit?  Not so.  It took me a day to read the book.  With pauses.  At work.  Would you be surprised if I told you that in 1977 the animated version of The Hobbit was a whopping 90 minutes long?  Ok, just visit the IMDb site (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077687/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1).  I haven’t seen this version, but have it on good authority that it covers the novel pretty thoroughly.  In 90 minutes.  So, why does it take 3 very long movies to do the same?  I’m not saying that listening to the dwarves sing the Song of the Misty Mountains wasn’t thrilling.  Nor am I complaining about the CGI dragon… that took up the last 30 minutes of “The Desolation of Smaug” chasing the dwarves around …  Ok, so maybe I am.  Cool CGI effects, but Smaug is going to see some more action in the third movie so, why bore me with another “Apocalypto”?  Was Mel Gibson directing this film?  Oh, no, wait a second… it was Peter Jackson.  Who also did the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.  Seems as though someone got a bit money hungry along the way.

The question still hangs in the air – should I spend my hard earned money on the third installment of this trilogy?  Should I pass it up?  I’m still on the fence about this one.  To be fair, I really enjoyed the first installment of the trilogy.  But “The Desolation of Smaug” was deviated too much from The Hobbit for me to be 100% satisfied.

Why I’m Not Going to Watch “Ender’s Game”

I was pretty surprised when I heard that the novel Ender´s Game had been adapted to movie form.  The more I read about the movie the less inclined I was to see it.

The main reason that I was less inclined to see the movie is because the novel is that awesome.  I really enjoyed reading Ender´s story and it left me with a lot of questions about the future of our world.  I mean, it is a futuristic sci-fi novel, so why wouldn´t it, right?  I found the idea of manufactured babies for the sole purpose of getting back at the Buggers for their attempted invasion of Earth an interesting premise.  The fact that the children are selected at an early age was really impactful – I can´t imagine my own son doing what Ender did in the novel for a multitude of reasons.  Of course, my son also wasn´t engineered, so there´s really no comparison in the first place.

For one, the type of technology present in the novel is not even near to being made.  That said, I would expect that most of the movie has CGI animation.  Although CGI is a great tool, I think it´s used too often in movies these days.  Some think that by putting in a bunch of technologically cool stuff, they can hide the fact that the movie has absolutely no plot and is a boring, ill written piece of garbage.  But boy does that garbage sell!

Aside from this, in making the movie, although I wouldn´t expect a person the age that Ender is when he enters the battle school in the novel to portray him on the big screen, the impact of having such a young child schooled in the art of battle is completely lost due to the actor’s age.  For me, the novel provoked a very strong feeling of disgust, due to the age of the children.  Although, for some, Ender´s seeming inability to cope with being in battle school made him seem sappy, I could understand his feelings of resentment as his childhood was taken from him.  In the movie, he is portrayed by an actor who is somewhat older than Ender is in the books – although Asa Butterfield does look really young, being older still takes away some of the shock that is felt upon reading the novel.

Lastly, I have an imagination.  I completely understand why Tolkien didn´t want his novels adapted into movies – the movie removes the need for imagination from the viewer.   If you´ve watched The Lord of the Rings, I assure you that, henceforth, whenever you decide to read the novels over again, Legolas will be forever imprinted in your imagination as Orlando Bloom with poorly dyed blond hair.  And you´ll always call Elijah Woods “Frodo”.  I just don´t want my perception of the novels to be changed forever by watching the movie.  I don’t want to think of Ender as being older than he really is.    Or think of terrible CGI effects.

So, at the end of the day, why do I refuse to watch the movie?  Simply because I don´t think a movie can do the novel justice.                                                                                   

Blade Runner – Movie Review/Comments

So, when I saw Blade Runner, I wasn´t surprised to find that I liked it.  I´m a pretty big Sci-Fi/Fantasy buff, so it only made sense that I should get around to watching the movie at some time (I will also have to read Do Androids Dream of Sheep? since “Blade Runner” is based off of the novel).  This said, it was easy to see what subsequent titles have been influenced by “Blade Runner” – among them, “Dark City” and “The Matrix” come to mind, although I´m sure that its reach has been much more influential than I´m giving it credit for.  In his 2005 review of the movie, Roger Ebert includes “Gattaca,” “12 Monkeys” and “Total Recall” as other films that followed and were largely influenced by “Blade Runner” (you can see his complete review at http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-blade-runner-the-final-cut-1982).  In general, “Blade Runner” has an average rating of about 8.5 (you can visit the IMDb page as well as other online sources for this information).  Personally, I give this movie 10 stars, and here´s why.

The acting is superb.  Harrison, a veteran at this point of the Sci-Fi genre – taking  into consideration his appearances as Hans Solo in the Star Wars trilogy and his success in the first of the Indiana Jones franchise – was a great catch.  He plays the main character, Rick Deckard, a “blade runner” who is commissioned by the police force to wipe out some insurgent replicants who have escaped their slave colony and found their way to Earth.  His character portrayal keeps the viewer wondering where his allegiance lies.  Aside from this, there is the question about whether Deckard is a replicant – Ridley Scott seems to put this question to rest, as he states that Deckard is in fact a replicant.  This is emphasized by the dynamic between Deckard and Gaff, as per Scott, the origami unicorn at the end of the movie points to a moment not only when Deckard is questioning his own humanity, but also to the possibility that Gaff knows that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant. (I got this info from his interview here:  http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/15-10/ff_bladerunner_full?currentPage=all )

I also wouldn´t be able to get through this review without also giving two thumbs up to Rutger Hauer for his performance in the movie.  He plays Roy Batty, perhaps the most complex of the replicants in terms of personality.  He also steals the show with perhaps the most poignant moment of the film, his “Tears in the Rain” monologue, before a dove flies from his arms to freedom.  Taking into consideration the symbol of the dove as the spirit, perhaps this is pointing the viewer to the conclusion that Roy Batty, although a clone, is just as human as any natural born man.  In death, his spirit finds the freedom that he could not attain in life.

Some other notable images:

The geisha advertisement – this seemed to me, in a way, to be a form of commentary in juxtaposition to Pris and Zhora who both, at one moment, paint their face or hide behind a disguise.  For Zhora, her disguise is used to blend in as she is an exotic dancer.  The way she disguises herself makes her seem very warm and humanlike.  Pris, on the other hand, seems to stand out more and become more mechanical when she paints her face white.  It´s notable that this disguise works when Deckard reaches J.F. Sebastian´s apartment – he doesn´t realize that she´s human and that is how she is able to attack him.

The Coca-Cola advertisement – ok, so maybe this is more connected with the fact that Coca-Cola was struggling due to some changes in their recipe in the 80s.  But, what do you link Coca-Cola with?  In a way, to me at least, it seems to be a symbol of youth.

Gaff and the origami – Gaff is a human creator of replicants but on a much smaller scale than Tyrell.  The origami creatures that Gaff makes, much like the replicants, are approaching the beings that they represent, but aren´t 100% true to the original.  They are made of different material and serve a different purpose – considering the unicorn at the end of the movie, it´s a way of passive-aggression, showing Gaff´s need for control.  His creations cannot possibly have a mind of their own or evolve as Tyrell´s replicants have.

All in all, I have to say, this was one of my favorite all time movies and I look forward to watching it again soon.