Saturday, May 10, 2003


The first two decades of cinema history are very often referred to as "the cinema of attractions." The artform was brand new, and before filmmakers figured out that it could be used to tell stories, much of its raison d'etre was in simply showing audiences filmed visions that they had never seen before. A man disappearing and then reappearing. Smoke billowing across a screen. A train driving straight into the audience.

The aspect of "lookee what we can do" has always been part of the screen art form. When people dismiss special effects as being a modern aberation, they are in fact attacking cinema for being what it has always been. At least, in some aspect.

X2, the sequel to X-Men justifies its existence as continuing this long tradition of the cinema of attractions. It is one long visual rush. It is fun to watch. The story is only so-so, and there are several moments where we viewers have to suspend our disbelief way beyond acceptable limits...but then, we are watching a film about mutant human beings who can teleport, mind meld and change the weather, so fortunately the credibility meter should already be turned off. (Principle among the story problems, is that we are all supposed to buy that the telepathy chick, Jean, would turn down super-hunk Hugh "Wolverine" Jackson, for the uptight dude in the dorky glasses... Come on, people. Weren't there any women in the story meetings?!)

There are way too many characters in this film, and so none of them have any real arc. The Christ-like act of self-donation of one of the mutants at the end of the film loses its emotional power, because the movie hasn't been about her enough for us to really register her loss.

But these are minor problems, because the point here is not to affect our minds, but rather to supply a fun rush. There is also a something extra here for the global audience, in that one of the characters prays several times to the Christian God using a rosary and a couple of our prayers. And then there is the dying for one's friends thing at the end...although, the movie was quite clear that the death will actually lead to the next stage in for X3.

The film has a few violent sequences. It is very loud and probably confusing for people who haven't seen the first film. Actually, I found it confusing and I had seen the first film, but I don't have the fantasy gene, so I never remember all the rules of these comic book arena movies. It's fine for teens to see this film. It's fun and might make them want to be heroic. Or else a mutant.

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