Wednesday, June 8, 2011
X-Men & The Summer Movie I Really Want to See
I saw X-Men: First Class last night. It's an engaging blockbuster with an ensemble cast not afraid to take time away from the "boom" moments in order to develop characters. Apparently, the Cuban Missile Crisis was masterminded by a rogue mutant intent on edging out homo sapiens ftw, and of course it's up to X and crew (including Magneto!) to deal with it. The action is creative and visceral, and they even managed to squeeze in the least throwaway training montage of action film history. And if that's not enough to commend the film, take note of Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto; between this and his short bit in Inglourious Basterds he is becoming one of my new favorite people to see in a movie.
Now that I've done my part to talk up this well-made summer flick, I'm going to renege somewhat. I suppose this is part of not being thirteen anymore, but there were parts of the film where I was bored. I'd say the action, though as effective as one might hope, had about a 50/50 grab on my adrenaline. As a movie nerd/idealist/critic/whatever, my hopes for any film are that I will be absorbed by the audio-visual experience, and that doesn't mean that the "boom" moments have to be overwhelming. Those moments can be used to their full effect (I'm looking at you, James Cameron) but mostly these days they just induce CGI ennui.
I found myself longing for a film of more significance last night. Wishing that Midnight in Paris or The Tree of Life were showing in Pittsburgh. A film that exceeded mere commercial success and accomplished something aesthetically. This may sound kind of old hat--the movie guy saying summer movies are dumb, let's watch something else; but I don't think X-men was dumb, just not what I wanted from the movies last night. I fondly recall seeing Pan's Labyrinth for the first time at the Tallahassee art theater, bowled over by its weirdness, coiled with tension as it built to its climax, pensive and silent for several minutes after it was over. My friend and I sat there as the credits rolled, motionless and quiet. That's the kind of movie I want to see this summer.
I try to be careful with my words when I describe the significance of a film. As a servant of and thinker for the kingdom of God, my cosmic and existential map precludes ever taking a film too seriously. In Ratatouille, one of my favorites and a vivid celebration of the creative process, the rat protagonist insists to his cynical father "I know I'm supposed to hate humans, but there's something about them. They don't just survive, they discover, they create." Good art is part of the beauty of the goodness of creation, part of that God-given self-reflection bestowed upon homo sapiens. I understand that most people don't experience that through film the way that I do. I understand the relative harmlessness of an isolated 2+ hours of blockbuster escapism. But, please, whatever you do, have the itch--the itch for something other, something more than escapism and successful commercialization of intellectual property. Because ultimately that need, that desire will point you beyond yourself, beyond others, beyond mere five-sense knowledge. That's the realm of the holy, the reality of God, and he wants you to want him.