Important Books

Yoinked from Bag O'Wicks: Civilization has collapsed and the remnants of humanity live in conditions which are, at best, Medieval or, at worst, completely chaotic. However, you have been given an opportunity to go back in time to pick up two books with which you can rebuild human society. Which two books would you choose?

Hmm... After due consideration, I'd probably select the Bible (with Christ's sermon on the mount highlighted), and the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. That would probably be a good start.

If not the Bible, maybe something by C.S. Lewis.

Important Blogs

If you've ever wondered why the blogging community has a Persian subculture, this article and interview by Blogs Canada's Jim Elve will help answer some of your questions. Whatever the case, it's an interesting read and well worth your attention.

X-Men 2 Reviewed


Just because I haven't been reviewing things lately doesn't mean I haven't been seeing things lately. A few days ago, Dan was kind enough to bring over the X2 DVD and we settled in for a popcorn evening.

X2 is the latest in the growing lineup of Marvel comics to have made the leap to the big screen (including Spiderman and Ang Lee's The Hulk). They appear to be filling a very precise niche: that of the movie that doesn't insult your intelligence, but wherein things blow up. Erin especially is in the mood for this sort of movie, and they're surprisingly hard to come by (consider the adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Marvel comics has been very wise in setting up its growing lineup of movie franchises. Not only have they ensured that their movies have been largely high-quality, they've been careful to set up each movie with opportunities for sequels -- not in a cheap manner as is often the case, but in a way that naturally develops storylines and justifies the existence of subsequent movies.

Central to this is the X-Men franchise. Whereas Spiderman and the Hulk both depend upon a single character and a single actor (ensuring that only a limited number of movies will ever get made), X-Men is Marvel's ensemble hero franchise. The first movie was packed with stars, and managed to set up the universe, establish the characters and their relationships, and set up numerous future storylines, all the while succeeding as a stand-alone movie (albeit one that felt like a pilot episode of a television show).

X2 picks up where the first movie leaves off. Human mutants continue to emerge throughout civilization, and "normal" human society continues to react with growing fear and paranoia. The first movie's main villain, Magneto (Ian McKellen), is still ensconced in his plastic prison, and Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is still running his school for the gifted, no doubt worried the human governments bending to public pressure and imposing anti-mutant legislation. Of course, with such major players in the mix, the situation quickly deteriorates into a life-and-death struggle that could wipe all mutants, or all humans, off the face of the planet.

The movie focuses on Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), as he continues investigate his mysterious origins in the Canadian arctic at the urging of Xavier, who knows far more than he lets on. Then, William Stryker (played by Brian Cox -- you know, when a character's name is like that, he's got to be evil) an advisor to the President, hatches a secret plan to drain information from Magneto, abduct Xavier, take him to the secret complex where Wolverine was created, and use his own mutant son to identify and destroy every mutant in the world.

The plotline is so pat and connected that it strains suspension of disbelief when you stop and think about it, but better that a plotline be pat than it be sacrificed entirely for senseless action (see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). The script works well enough to give the many players enough screen time to develop their characters (albeit in a very quick-and-to-the-point kind of way). The movie trots out the same allegories of persecution (adding a funny scene of a young mutant "coming out" to his parents alongside the previous movie's "racial purity" references) and manages to balance all elements in a way that satisfies and gets the job done.

All of the actors are comfortable in their roles. The movie is careful to add little details that touch on developments in the first movie that aren't front-and-centre in the second. Rogue and Cyclops, who were key figures in the first movie, have marginal roles here, but still get a good amount of screen time. Wolverine comes to the fore, and Hugh Jackman makes the role shine.

So X2 is a solid three-star movie, with a very simple plot but one which respects the audience's intelligence. The action is worthy of the Marvel name and sells a lot of popcorn. But where I see the franchise's brilliance is how X2 set the stage for X3. Throughout the storyline was a very small and mysterious subplot, that rose to prominence in the climax and then, in the final scene, satisfied long-time comic fans with a link to one of the major storylines the X-Men canon was well known for.

The X-Men series succeeds despite a number of challenges. They manage to get a large ensemble cast a good amount of screen time and character development. Their script plots just enough to move the story forward logically, while providing a platform for excellent action. But best of all, the producers of the X-Men have patience. They did not load down their first movie with every single high-point from the X-Men canon. They've taken their time and have saved some of their best for their next movie.

This sort of approach is best suited to long-running television series, not to a movie franchise which comes out every second year. But Marvel looks to be building a long-lineup of comic-book movies. Central to this will be the X-Men, which could well have a run that will take it into the next decade.

The Lord of the Rings marathon is happening as I write this. Twelve hours to view all three movies of the series. I must admit, I wish I was there. Oh, well. I'll be seeing Return of the King soon enough.

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