Friday, June 02, 2006

Heroes and Thugs

X-Men 3 – The Last Stand? Maybe!

What is the point of reviewing such a movie? Even if the critics trash it (which they did), people will still go in record numbers to see the film (and they did just). In a particular theatre (city X), all the opening day evening screenings were sold out and so the theatre (in its infinite greed) decided to have a special show at midnight just to accommodate all the numbers. Now, considering this multiplex was running shows every 30 minutes (more or less) starting from 11:40 am Friday morning, you would have thought that the line-ups would not have been that bad. But all those timings catered to a variety of crowds and ensured all age groups would be present to see the movie -- the die-hard fan probably could not sleep the night before so he/she might have seen the special Thu Midnight screenings; remaining dedicated fans would have taken Friday afternoon off from work to see the movie; Friday evening was reserved for the Teeny boppers who treated this as a date night flick and the weekend afternoon shows brought in kids between the ages of 8-13. Yes a truly great movie for every age group! So if that is the case, then who the hell cares if this movie is any good or not? Heck, a monkey could have directed this movie. Because the truth is all the hard work in order to build this franchise was done in the first two movies. Bryan Singer, who didn’t return to direct this 3rd installment, build such a good reputation with the first two films, that this movie would have made money no matter what. For example, here are some of the things done right with the first two parts:

1) Casting – It was a brilliant idea to cast the two powerful Brits, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the battling foes. There is nothing better on screen than to see two intelligent good friends turn their wits against each other, all the while respecting each other. Then there was the discovery of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (in fact, his character has grown so much throughout the series that he will have his own spin-off movie); Famke Janssen's presence added to the film’s glamour and beauty and Halle Berry's inclusion ensured crowds (even though she is the least favourite character of mine in the movie).

2) X-Men 101 – The first movie was so basic that anyone could have understood it. That opened the door for people not familiar with the comic book or the cartoon series. The second movie was much better and only added to the interest.

3) Special Effects – Ice, Fire, Storms, Claws, Lasers, Mind waves and other cool super powers ensured that the audiences were treated to amazing special effects in each movie.

So what is X-Men 3 about? And what could this movie possibly offer?

Well it is hard to constantly find plots for humans and mutants to keep fighting each other so the only possible angle left was the anti-mutant gene factor -- for every proton, there is an electron. So for every x-gene mutant, there has to be a gene which can take away (or negate) the x-gene! Sure enough, the humans find the anti-mutant gene and try to ‘cure’ the mutants. Oh-oh. Bad idea!! That leads to yet another political debate about acceptance and tolerance (‘God loves you the way you are’). Ofcourse, all this ties in very well with the spirit of X-Men (the original story was developed with an eye on civil rights) and the story incorporates modern day issues of equality and societal integration of ‘different’ people. New characters with even more cool powers are added, some are killed off and the stage is set for ending it all. But ofcourse, it is difficult to finish this money making series that easily. The teaser clip at the end of the credits gives a taste of possible future movies. But the fact is, if this had to be final movie, it should have had more punch to it. The movie is too tame and even the effects are pointless. The biggest special effect in the movie is when Magneto uses his powers to dislodge the Golden Gate bridge and re-locates it to form a connection to the island prison of Alcatraz so that his army of mutants can get to the prison. Seriously, why this much effort? Would it be un-cool for the mutants to go on speed-boats to the island prison? Could Magneto not have acquired a classy stealth fighter for his gang? Atleast in most other movies, there is a reason for having special effects. In this case, it was absolutely pointless. But what difference does that make? People came to watch the movie and it made tons of money. That is all Hollywood cares for!

Rating -- 6/10

Election – Voting for Thugs!

The Godfather introduced the cool gangster to the silver-screen. From then on, countless copies were made. Eventually, the winds blew the genre far East where film studios in Japan, Hong Kong and India polished and build on the ideas and crafted their own masterpieces. In recent years, Hong Kong and Japan's quality of this genre has been so high that Hollywood and Bollywood have started making their own copies of these Eastern gangster talkies. Johnny To’s Election is just another addition to this firmly established cool gangster genre. This time around, we are introduced to the inner workings of a triad’s leadership selection process. This particular triad elects its chairman through a democratic process as opposed to having the leader inherit his position through familial ties (like a rival group’s mentioned in the movie). But in reality, democracy is only good on paper. Sooner or later, someone will find ways to manipulate the process and buy the votes. And this is exactly what Big D does in the film. But the elders find out and vote for Lok instead, much to Big D’s dismay. But Lok can’t officially be the chairman until he gets the sacred baton, which has been in the gang for centuries. The movie then moves into a search and hunt film to retrieve the baton (feels very similar to To’s 2003 movie P.T.U which was about a search for a missing gun and had a lot of the same actors as Election ). Back-room dealing ensures that the Baton is properly handed over to Lok. Even that does not ensure forever peace. The movie ends with a feeling of more to come and sure enough, Election 2 premiered this year and even played at Cannes last month. Overall, I really liked this movie even though it has nothing new to offer; the story takes the corrupt model of democracy, mixes it with the Godfather theme and adds a few sprinklings of P.T.U . The final product is an interesting movie, which will surely be copied by Hollywood and Bollywood in the near future.

Rating: 9/10

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