Category Archives: Movies

X-Men : Days of Future Past

Written by Eike Pierstorff

To sum up: Professor X, Magneto, Storm, the black guy who wasn’t really introduced, burning man, the clanking metal boy who had showed up for like two seconds in X2, China’s answer to that gun from “Portal” and a condescendingly portrayed native-indian type of fellow get slaughtered amongst some thee lines of dialogue in a not to distant future that has moved on form Harrier-like VTOL and machine guns to almost non-newtonian motion by shapeshifting killer robots in just a few decades while Wolverine, sent back by Shadowcat (who has hooked up with Iceman which tells us something about the fate of Rogue and possibly something other about the moral character of Bobby Drake), mucks about with the past to erase all memory of the stinker that was formerly known as X3 – The Last Stand.

Okay, so that wasn’t the most concise sentence ever but I propose that the problem is with the movie rather than with my writing. Which really is a bit of a pity, since for me personally this was the most expected feature this year and after it had turned out as a bit of a meh – experience (not really good, not really bad, just “meh”) all I have to look forward to this summer is a movie about a talking specimen of the species Procyon lotor.

First the good points: The wonderful escape scene from the Pentagon featuring Quicksilver accompanied by Jim Croce’s “Time in a bottle” – I have to admit that alone would have made the movie worth watching. Also a few of the in-jokes, like Quicksilver saying “So you control metal ? My mum used to know a guy like that”, or James McAvoy asking “who can curve a bullet” (he did, or at least his character, in “Wanted”). The rest was neither bad nor good, just, as I’ve said, meh.

What I had expected was indeed not meh but, as would befit a Marvel timetravel story, two carefully entwined timelines that interact with and influence each other. However the future in those days of future past is just a thin foil – we see just enough of it to get the action started, then it’s for most intents and purposes dismissed and forgotten (Meta-objection: this is the future that will not have happened, so it does not need to look real. Meta-objection hereby happily dismissed). And it seems rather gratuitous to deploy major Marvel assets like Bishop or Colossus (and yes, even Sunspot, Blink or Warpath) and send them to rather gruesome deaths without giving the audience any opportunity, or reason, to relate to them. That is simply not good storytelling, especially in a franchise that so far spent most of it’s time on building elaborate backstories for it’s characters.

And talking of bad, the science in the movie is even worse. And I’m not talking about telepathy or people who shoot flames from their body; with an X-Men movie that comes under “suspension of disbelief”. I’m talking about the quaint idea espoused in the Singer movies (also Vaughn in “First Class”, which has Singer as producer and with a story credit) that evolution works hierarchically and that there are “higher” and “lower” forms of evolved live. That is not at all how it works; evolution is not a ladder that goes upwards; Homo sapiens did not drive the Neanderthal to extinction because they were superior; Homo sapiens is the “dominant species on the planet” only inasfar as they are the ones who made up words like “superior” (if you’re the only one talking you might as well brag). “Survival of the fittest” [1] does not mean that the physically or mentally strongest (whatever that means) will inherit the earth; it means that an organism is adapted to fit a niche (think a Paramyxovirus in a kindergarten run by Jenny Mccarthy).

If you claim, as both the “good” and the “bad” guys do in X-Men, that it is the natural order of things that lower species are superseded by “superior” species you are no longer talking theory of evolution; your talking Social Darwinism, i.e. bloody, dangerous nonsense. With the rise of the internet the argument has not, alas, progressed, rather is has evolved to a point where it fills a thousand niches that haven’t existed before.

That brings us back, rather unhappily, to the topic of backstories. I think it was the first Singer movie that turned Magneto into a jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps (the idea has since adapted for the comics), taking on the old adage about the victim that becomes the perpetrator – a bit tasteless if you talk about a member of group that is regularly, if quite absurdly, accused of doing to the Arabs what the Nazis once did to them. However it is “First Class” that took “tasteless” to a new level when Erik Lensherr tells the Mengele stand-in Sebastian Shaw: “I’d like you to know that I agree with every word you said. We are the future. But, unfortunately, you killed my mother”. So the Jew is the Nazi, the only thing that separates them are some misgivings about a mishandled family matter. No wonder the homo goyim sapiens try to defend themselves in DOPF, especially as their society had already been infiltrated by mutant zionist fascists at the highest level (Kennedy!) .

At least that tells us where Singer et al. got there views about evolution from – not from Darwin, but from the likes of “evolutionary psychologist” Kevin B. MacDonald who claimed that Judaism (Magnetos Brotherhood of mutants) is a group strategy to acquire and maintain genetic traits superior to those of the goyim. So the X-Men movies are not only extremely well-made and entertaining, they are also anti-semitic and anti-scientific claptrap that will stick in our heads far more pertinently than the somewhat haphazard science lessons our educational systems occasionally afford.

What lesson do we take away from all this ? Well, if in the olden days a middle-aged man wanted to get really grumpy about something he had to turn to the Sunday newspapers and compose letters to the editor complaining that the funnies were not as entertaining as they used to be. Today I can replicate the very same thing using merely a blog, a pair of 3D glasses and a 200 million CGI-spectacle. Thus it would seem there has been some progress after all.

  1.  Somewhat ironically that phrase has been coined by Herbert Spencer whose name is pretty much synonymous with Social Darwinism

Why bother, indeed

Written by Eike Pierstorff

For those who read german, Jakob has written a brilliant review of the Indiana Jones movie, which covers all the points I would have had to mention hadn’t I preferred to reminisce about the olden days. If you’re less interested in soppy stories about my personal life and more in finding out how critical theory pertains to Indiana Jones you should read this.

    Indiana Jones and the massive Spoiler alert.

    Written by Eike Pierstorff

    That was not the actual title, I just thought I’d better put a warning up in front. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” premiered on wednesday in Berlin. I was going to write a lengthy review, but why bother – if you want to see an enjoyable performance by Harrison Ford and assorted cast then go see the movie, if you feel that you cannot tolerate a plot that is stupid even by the expansive standards of the Indiana Jones Franchise then by all means avoid it. Still, to ask if the fourth Indie movie could possibly be as fresh and original as “Raiders of the lost Ark” misses the point as far as I am concerned.

    Back then in the 1980s I became a fan of Indiana Jones because – well, actually I didn’t; until wednesday I’d never seen an Indiana Jones movie at the cinema. I caught up with the movies in their endless cycle of reruns on television, picking up the first bit here and the last bit there, and everything in between on several other occasions, and it wasn’t until the 90s that Indie became a permanent fixture in my life. So when I finally went to see him on the big screen it was a bit of a family reunion. Indiana and I had aged together, and if the old man could still pull up stunts in yet another sequel then, by extension, so can I. I’m happy to say Uncle Jones did alright.

    So, here’s a list of things that sucked and rocked in the movie:

    Sucked

    • incoherent plot
    • indians, mayans and general other cultures are just decoration instead of, well, cultures
    • to much Däniken-esk alien-crap in the storyline

    Rocked

    • Fights, flights and lots of action
    • Cate Blanchett as communist she-thug
    • Karen Allen. Seriously.

    Stephanie Zacharek, movie critic at salon.com writes about Allen that “her performance is like joy let out of a box”. That’s true and the joy is all mine. Call it an early midlife crises, but as I get older the idea of homecoming is just as welcome as embarking for an adventure, and what better to come home to than a friendly face. Karen Allen is so radiant in this movie that for a moment I forgot she was only acting, and if that’s not a compliment for an actress then I don’t know what is.

    Also running

    • a remarkably unobtrusive Shia LaBeouf as Henry Jones III
    • Nuclear Explosions, man-eating ants, russian villians and other speedbumpers for our favourite archeologist. Oddly enough the russians look far more anachronistic than the Nazis in the previous movies.

    Of course “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is reactionary tripe – a reconstituted Jones family fights evil communists who have undermined the USA to an extent where they can drive in platoon strength right into a military base (so the Mccarthyists at the start of the movie probably weren’t paranoid after all). But Indie movies have always been also a vacation from reason, and political correctness because, while we all know that the world is a complex and difficult place we sometimes wish it wasn’t.

      I am footnote

      Written by Eike Pierstorff

      Yesterday I went to the movies to see “I am Legend”. I love Mathesons novel, so I knew I would be disappointed. But I had at least hoped for some kind of mindless action flick, a dumbed-down version of the original story with cool special effects. The movie was mindless, alright, but in a annoying rather than a fun way.

      It was probably not the fault of the leading man. I had seen Will Smith first in Men in Black and had cast him down as a decent Eddy-Murphy stand-in, but had really come to like him after his performance in Ali. Smith makes an excellent Robert Neville; here he is very much a character actor, and at the end of the movie he looks exhausted and even old, an Robinson Crusoe without hope for rescue on his desert island of Manhattan. So, no objections here.

      Nor was it the scenery, the desert Manhattan through which the Protagonist stumbles. Of course the movie is in large parts a Quiet Earth-ripoff, with much better production values and a lot less atmosphere. But plagiarism is a form of flattery, plus IaL had some potentially cool monsters thrown in so that was okay also.

      (massive spoilers below the fold)

      (more…)