On Sunday, I decided to have my own Ian McKellen film festival, and I went to see both X Men III: The Last Stand and The DaVinci Code at the local multiplex. This double feature was easily achieved because X Men was playing on three screens and DaVinci was on two screens. I was even able to get the bargain matinee price for each.
I wonder if twenty years ago, Ian McKellen could have predicted all this. Back when he was making his great MacBeth TV program (with Judi Dench as Lady MacBeth), would he have even suspected that he would be making films where he plays Gandalf, Magneto, and a rich guy obsessed with the holy grail. I hope Sir Ian is enjoying life. He makes me look forward to my sixties.
The first film up on this eye burning extravaganza was X Men. I settled into a seat in front of a group of teenage girls. I love me my X men. What other super hero ensemble has two Oscar winners, 2 ex-RSC guys, and that guy from Australia who does musical theatre (Musical Theatre! I love this guy.).
When I saw X1 back in 2000, I had never read the X-Men comics, but I was impressed how much time went into a little thing called character development. These weren't just mutants. They were adult mutants. Some of them were even in functional, committed relationships. The teenage mutants had teen angst coupled with super powers.
Then, there was the Wolverine. That first shot we see of Wolverine---his very muscular back to the camera in a fighting cage. . . . . . .okay, yeah, forget the Gladiator, this guy has claws. And he doesn't get the woman because she's in a functional committed relationship.
But the X men movies aren't just the Wolverine show. Both the good guys and bad guys have depth. You might not agree with them, but you can see where they're coming from. Also, they're pretty smart. The base of operations for the good guys is a school, so kids, stay in school, and someday, you might get to fly the jet.
This weekend, X III made over a hundred million dollars in box office in the US. I am going to give away big plot points because I am assuming many people have already seen it. I also am not going to do a summary. So this is your last warning before I spoil the movie for you.
If you still haven't seen X III and are still reading, sit through the whole credits. There's a short scene tacked on right after the credits. Even though this is the Last Stand, there is potential for sequel.
In X III, the mutant body count is high. Some die, some lose their powers, but the school stays open. I'm glad I didn't have to sit through another funeral scene. It would have been too much. This film has more angst than a fourth season episode of Blakes 7.
Jean Grey is back. You know that cliché about the quiet ones cutting loose and raising hell. Meet the Phoenix. Yikes. So much for the functional committed relationship. So much calm and civility. Raising the house was impressive, but having it fall back in place exactly was extraordinary.
And I love the Phoenix hair. All the X Women have great hair and amazing skin. I think there's an overlooked upside to the mutation gene.
Finally, Storm gets to do something instead of just flying the jet and making storms. She gets to take on a more leadership role while still controlling fog and cloud patterns.
I really liked Kelsey Grammer's big blue Beast. There's something kind of sexy about blue furry intellectual who can kick ass and play politics.
X III had a lot of talking bits and sad bits, and the kids in the theatre got restless. There's a lot of mental mind melding and telekinetics. Is the mutant cure good or bad? Gay subtext, union subtext, avant garde subtext. What did Wolverine learn in this movie? The importance of teamwork---and don't fall in love with Class 5 mutants.
A potential two-page essay topic. If you could have any mutant power, what would it be and why? Two pages, double space, be concise.
I like that the Last Stand ends with a Chess game. Magneto refers to the Last Stand as a chess game and sends his pawns in first. True Magneto has a very powerful queen, but she doesn't move until after check mate. Maybe he should have moved the queen earlier. Hmmm. But then you wouldn't have the tragic ending.
After the massive X destruction, I needed a cocktail but there was none to be found in the vicinity. Fortunately, I had a decent cup of coffee while I mentally moved from the kick ass feminine to the divine feminine. Basically, both movies show us how men can't deal with female power. Guys, please, get over it. Girls aren't that scary.
Back in January, I listened to The DaVinci Code in the car. It makes for good car listening. The writing sucks, but the story moves along at a fun pulpish clip. There's a lot of ‘oh no! how are they gonna get out of this one!'.
The DaVinci Code utilizes a genre or aesthetic I like to call Cath Goth. Cath Goth usually has at least one bishop, one secret council in a lush room, lots of velvet, shadows, old churches (this stuff could never happen in a church built in the 20th century), doves, old statues, and enough incense to choke on. Oh, and in the new millennium, you need a conspiracy and a very good actor to explain it all quickly and concisely (hence Sir Ian in the Obi Wan Kenobi part).
The DaVinci Code even gives us a Powerpoint presentation of DaVinci's Last Supper. Powerpoint is big in The DaVinci Code. The film opens with the main character giving a Powerpoint presentation. What Shakespeare could have done with Powerpoint.
In the midst of his Powerpoint presentation, the main character, Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks, shouts ‘English please!' to his audience. You see, they're in Paris, and the French speak French. Most of the time, the French do speak French in The DaVinci Code except in scenes containing lots of exposition. Fortunately, the holy grail expert is English, so thousands of years of history can be capsulated in English with History Channel like visuals.
I think The DaVinci Code plays into unconscious American views of the rest of the World. French are entitled yet terribly inept. The Americans might bungle but are really smarter than they might seem although the English are really smarter, but that's okay because they're the bad guys, but the Americans will bungle through to success in the end.
There are lots of codes and puzzles in The DaVinci Code, and Ron Howard got to play with glowing numbers and letters like he did in A Beautiful Mind. I also kept hoping that Paul Bettany was playing an imaginary friend like in A Beautiful Mind, but no, his albino monk, Silas, was unfortunately real. Let's watch the albino monk whip himself yet again. How very Cath Goth.
I did have fun watching The DaVinci Code. I marveled that Langdon was able to kneel over a naked dead body and get Leonardo DaVinci The Mona Lisa out of ‘O Draconian Devil Oh Lame Saint'. Personally, once I'd gotten DaVinci Mona, I would be so far away from the dead guy.
It was fun hearing words like keystone, divine feminine, priory of scion, knights of the templar, and cryptec again. Audrey Tatou can really run in heels although I bet she was ready to burn the blue cardigan by the end of the shoot. Tom Hanks is just gosh darn appealing. When will he do another comedy? Ian McKellan is having fun. The Safe Passage Clause at the Swiss Bank is ingenious.
--Why are you helping us? --There's a safe passage clause on the account.
As I walked away from the crowded multiplex, I wondered why the guys don't the girls in movies anymore. Sophie Neveu in The DaVinci Code is beautiful, French, can drive a stick backwards through Paris traffic, and is a descendent of Christ. What more do you need, Robert Langdon? 24 hours of action and adventure and all you give her is a kiss on the forehead? Back in X land, the Phoenix has uncontrollable power capable of pulverizing the human body and unleashing epic destruction on San Francisco, but should that stand in the way of a healthy relationship? They could work it out. There must be a support group somewhere.
Walking in the warm California night, I really longed for a cocktail. Fortunately, I have a special mixing power and a very long spoon. Yeehah!