Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Weekend Update and Recent Purchases

I, like 12 million other Americans (based on $10 a ticket), went to see X-Men III this weekend. Geek that I am, I had already read the novelization by Chris Claremont (Chris Claremont!) so I knew what to expect which was both good and bad. My opinion of the film is largely the same as Bill Cunningham's over at DISContent so in the effort to avoid redundancy I will only describe where my opinion expands on his own.

As Bill states quite convincingly, the movie lacked texture. Where I most agree with this assessment is in the "cure" storyline. While Storm assures the audience, and her fellow mutants, that "there is nothing wrong with us," she is only correct with regard to a certain group of mutants. There is nothing wrong with mutants who have a beneficial mutation, like the X-men and the Brotherhood of Evil mutants. Her statement is important from a Civil Rights perspective, which has been the undercurrent of the X-men since day one, but from an evolutionary/medical one it is folly.

The movie attempted to show some of the potentially detrimental effects in it's highly underused Rogue narrative, but failed to represent the stakes properly. While there is tragedy in Rogue's inability to touch anyone without possibly killing them, she does also benefit by the temporary assimilation of their superpowers (if they have any) as well. Her mutation is a mixed bag, both benficial and detrimental. This lowers the emotional impact of any conflict she may be experiencing regarding wanting to "kiss her boyfriend." The impact is even less for fans of the comic series, in which Rogue has already "assumed" the power set of Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) in addition to her own and has fragments of Danvers' personality as well. The audience needed to see mutants with truly detrimental mutations, things that would make them evolutionary dead ends. While fear of power in wrong hands is one motivation for anti-mutant racism, mere difference is another and the most dramatically compelling. Thus the movie should have also included neutral, but cosmetically unappealling, mutations as well.

To be fair, the comics are rarely better than the movie was with this issue. In fact, the best example of this kind of social commentary is in the Wild Cards series edited by George R.R. Martin. In that series, there are three sets of mutations caused by an alien virus. The first creates what are known as Aces, your typical superheroes. The second creates Jokers, people with physically negative or even detrimental mutations. Lastly come the Black Queens, those who are killed by the mutation they acquire.

If not all mutations are beneficial, you have room for drama. If that is the case there is a legitimate reason for the creation of a "cure" but tension is created when that cure is then used as a weapon by intolerant leadership.

I also thought the movie dropped the ball on the tension hinted at at the end of X-men 2 where the Professor had essentially almost killed all non-mutants. That and a couple of editing/dialogue problems and the possible need for more creative use of special effects funds.

Other than that, good stuff. Fast, Furious, and Fun.


Matt Forbeck has a recommendation post on "Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids by David Kushner. It’s the story of how Jon Finkel, a Magic: The Gathering player, went from high-school nerd to world champion, joined a casino blackjack card-counting team." Sounds like the next book to be added to my reading queue. I used to work at a casino, I play a lot of games as you know, and I am a fan of poker books.

As you may have noticed, I have updated the sidebar to include The Flash television series, a Cure anthology CD set, a novel by James Barclay, and a wargame based on Lord of the Rings. Quick rundown...

I loved The Flash television series when it came out and the life and death of Barry Allen frame my favorite era of comic books. When Barry Allen died in 1985 it, among other things, heralded the era of "important" comics and the slow death of comics that are fun. To often comics have lost their sense of providing pleasure and have replaced it with a desire to create "art." This has led to many very good series, but it has also relegated the medium to obscurity. The television show was a reminder of those old, good times. I hope when I get around to watching the episodes that they will hold up.

The Cure anthology is a collection of the band's B-Sides and it constitutes 4 of the six slots in my cd changer in my car.

James Barclay is one of the few authors who could base a series of novels on a roleplaying campaign and have it be entertaining. His Raven series is based on his old Dragonquest campaign. It is fun and imaginative fluff and I have "borrowed" liberally from it in my home campaigns.

War of the Ring is a very good wargame based on the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. You can play the game with simplified or advanced rules (I recommend advanced). The most innovative feature of the game is the need for both players to keep track of how well the Fellowship is doing, in addition to strategic decisions.
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