In the last month and a half, there have been three major comic movie releases: Thor, X-Men:First Class, and Green Lantern.
To be fair and equitable each should be reviewed on its own merits irrespective of the others. I’m not going to do that.
Spoiler Free Summaries:
Thor: Genuinely enjoyable. Some decent action, some clever lines, fun for the whole family.
X-Men: Solid. Well written, well cast, well acted. Keeps with the themes of the comics though largely ignores canon.
Green Lantern: Dull. Very little action. No memorable moments or characters. Not awful but very forgettable.
Spoilers and Ranting
In my opinion, Thor is the best blockbuster movie of the three. That’s tough to say because I liked x-men better. Thor, however, was made to be very accessible. There’s humor, action, an attempt at romance and a completely self contained story. You don’t need to like or understand comics to enjoy Thor.
My only gripe with Thor is that they affected a complete character change overnight. Quite literally overnight. One night our hero is a headstrong arrogant warrior and the next morning he’s making eggs for his new friends. Apparently failing to pick up his hammer is enough to instill humility in a god. Also, it takes two days to fall in love. You do not need to spend those days together.
Skeptically speaking, Thor is guilty of comic book science. Call magic science, give it some technical sounding names and you’re golden. Their representation of scientists, though was surprisingly fair. Natalie Portman was a bright but underfunded researcher working on a contentious theory and not really getting anywhere after years of work. Now that’s science!
X-Men: First Class
First Class was an excellent prequel. It did a pretty solid job of developing the characters of Professor X, Magneto and Mystique in a believable way. They successfully explore how different backgrounds and upbringings can shape the perspective of a person. After setting up their backgrounds, all three main characters are put through the same ordeal, but how they view the world changes how they perceive it and what they do in the aftermath.
X-men is the fifth movie in a series, of which you are meant to ignore the third and fourth members. That being the case, they expect the audience to already be familiar with the core concepts and who the characters are going to be in the future. If you haven’t seen the others, I’d definitely recommend watching the first one before First Class.
The skeptical spin on this one is consistent with the others in the series: We can accept magic powers coming as a result of genetics, but… I think we need Morbo’s help
Thank you Morbo.
I don’t have a problem with movies making up science or making up new rules for science. My worry here is that Patric Stewart’s description of evolution itself is done straight and is probably better known now that Darwin’s. That’s an issue in that it sounds correct but has a couple of key flaws. Evolution does not leap. It crawls. Dinosaurs didn’t suddenly start having kids with wings and beaks, there were thousands of interstitial steps. X-men style evolution is becoming pervasive enough that we may have to start un-teaching it.
Green Lantern was a movie. There was a plot and there were actors. There were also some shiny and expensive special effects but they weren’t used to great effect and sometimes looked very fake. I can’t think of much else to say about it. There wasn’t anything really terrible about it, there just wasn’t anything really good either. It was primarily about a grown man learning to not be afraid anymore and to take responsibility for his actions. Except that he’s only really irresponsible by report and he’s already an accomplished test pilot so… not really feeling it. Really the guy just has a fear of commitment and worries about disappointing people.
There isn’t really a skeptical spin worth taking here. There is a group of intergalactic police officers with magic rings. Their jurristictions contain hundreds of thousands of galaxies each, but whatever I just imagine that they only really deal with large-scale, interplanetary crime, of which there can’t be that much and part of their magic ring power clearly lets them travel at arbitrary speed. Sure all of this is impossible but it’s not pretending to be science, it’s just magic.