Wednesday, 15 June 2016

X-Men Apocalypse; Magneto is Donald Trump

X-Men Apocalypse is a profoundly stupid movie, as if anything based on a comic book has much chance of being anything else, but since Bryan Singer has clearly believes the whole X-men project is a platform for him to speak his mind about minorities, I’m going to take him at his intention, and ask him if he’s really thought this message all the way through.

We’ve now lived through six X-Men movies not counting Wolverine movies, which are the It’s Not Lupus of the X-Men infection. There’s the first three, which fell apart, and the next three which amount to a desperate struggle to reboot things into an alternative universe where Bret Ratner doesn’t exist. You think that’s mean? X-Men Apocalypse takes a moment from its busy schedule to lay down a sick burn on Bret Ratner’s master work X Men Last Stand. And the whole way through this, the underlying subtext is that we should be nice to minorities, and accept people who are different to us.

Which, before I go further, I completely endorse. 

What we don’t want to be going around accepting is rampaging arseholes. Accepting rampaging arseholes is a bad plan. Confronting them is messy, ugly, and the best you can hope for is getting way too close to arseholes, and everything that comes out of them, while the worst you can dread is no-one being able to tell the difference between you and the arseholes after a while. But if you don’t confront them, you’re going to live in a world run the arsehole way, because arseholes want things their way, and the hell with the rest of us. 

And whether Bryan Singer likes it or not, the X-Men movies are a celebrity endorsement for arseholes. Who, let’s face it, have things way too much their own way as it is, without well meaning efforts to cheer for entitlement.

That escalated pretty fast, you might be thinking. Well, so did the Man With Tiny Hands campaign, and I am now going to tell you why one thing leads to another.

One of the minor mysteries of our age is why so many people in dead end jobs think that a maniacal millionaire can possibly be their saviour. Surely, well meaning socialists of my acquaintance keep wringing their hands, people can see that a fair world would have equal rights and prospects for everyone. It turns out, that’s not how a lot of people think. A lot of people see nothing wrong with a grossly unequal society. They can see how sweet things are for the people at the top of that society, and they’d like to be just like them. That kind of life would suit them fine, and they can see damn fine that the people at the top haven’t done anything amazing to earn their wealth. Their only problem with the system is that right now, they’re not at the top. And in their minds, a “fair” system would give them a better chance of getting all that money for nothing. Just them, personally. Not all those other guys.

And X-Men is like the logical working out of that fantasy. All the X-Men are outsiders, ignored by society, but secretly brilliant, and as soon as they’re given a chance, they can be wonderful with way less effort than it take to learn to play the guitar badly. That’s the message of the X-Men; if we could just change the world so that we’d get the recognition we deserve, we could have all the nice things. And that’s a very lower case “we". It’s the “we" you hear from a basement dwelling internet troll who’s trying to pretend to be Legion as he explains how "those blast points are too precise for sand people and everyone knows this really”. It’s not the “we” of a community.

Movies like the X-Men movies help to popularise and cement that mindset. We’ve had twenty years of this nonsense, and it’s starting to rot people’s minds, just the way that thirty years of computer games have given us a generation of mid level economic decision makers who think that the simple-minded models of Sim City and countless other “sandbox” games are a meaningful parallel for the real world. 

But they’re just movies! No, they’re propaganda. Anything which costs a fortune - and these movies cost a fortune - is going to reflect the outlooks of people who have fortunes. And people who have fortunes want to keep them, and make them bigger, and they sure don’t want anyone knocking on the door questioning the status quo and looking for some of that money. So let’s not be seeing any movies which might get people’s minds working that way. If we can, let’s be seeing movies which make people accept the status quo; get them to buy the idea that the people in charge are unique, and special, and deserve to be in charge because of their inner greatness. You know what, we laugh at those idiots trying to make movies out of the works of Ayn Rand, but the only thing that’s really funny is that anyone thinks there’s a NEED to make movies expressly about Ayn Rand’s ideas.

Still, it’s a big jump to call Magento Donald Trump, isn’t it? I mean, Michael Fassbender is so dreamy. Dreamy, dreamy, dreamy. Happens I agree with that, but Magneto is a monster, and every X-Men movie gives him a free pass. And none more so than this movie. That’s what got my motor running.

Like all modern crap summer movies, X-Men Apocalypse has an - the word will come to me - oh yeah - apocalypse going on. There’s a monster from the deep past, and he wants to destroy everything and make the world suit him. Like most movie villains, he’s an assclown. Dug up out of the ground by accident, he wanders round the world, or Poland anyway, looking for henchmen. So Magneto; good choice, really. Certified monster, can manipulate metal, which is everywhere. And some other random chick with white hair, who can manipulate weather. Another good choice. Then two complete bystanders, one with the superpower of flying, which in this world is like having the superpower of eating your food with a knife and fork, and the other whose superpower is wearing stripperriffic spandex and cutting up things within about twenty feet of her. No way they’re going to be much help in conquering the world. Maybe if he just wanted to conquer, I don’t know, Podunk, Idaho.

Anyhow, his key henchperson is Magneto, who spends the back half of the movie destroying landmarks all over the world. Meanwhile his boss has completely levelled Cairo to make himself a pyramid out of the ruins. Between them, I don’t know how many people they killed. We literally don’t see a survivor in Cairo, population 12 million. Magneto is scragging everything from the George Washington Bridge to the Sydney Opera House; there’s no way that doesn’t come with a body count. By the time the “good” X-Men show up to do something about it, Cairo’s a pile of rubble and half the industrialised world’s infrastructure is ruins. And in the thirty minute punch up that follows, we don’t see a single living person who’s not a member of the elite. 

So far, so stupid Marvel movies. They level cities all the time. But this time the coda really got on my nerves. Because there’s a happy ending. Just for the good guys, not for anyone else. Half way through the movie, the Xavier Academy for entitled douchebags gets blown to bits [1]. And at the end of the movie, Magneto and Jean Grey are patiently putting it all back together again, just the way it was, using their superpowers. It’s not just that Magneto is completely off the hook for his latest monster fit (there’s a cute voiceover in which the TV tells us that he was instrumental in stopping the Apocalypse, which he completely was by, you know, stopping doing what he was doing). It’s that with half the world in ruins, Cairo flattened, and god knows how many hospitals and water treatment plants and what all completely buggered up thanks to Magneto he’s whiling away his time before disappearing rebuilding the Xavier Academy for entitled douchebags. And that’s when I cracked, really. That’s what makes Magneto Trump. Ruin everything around you, take the blame for nothing, and then do some small token thing which cheers you up and only benefits your rich friends, and ignore all the other devastation you’ve created.

X-Men. Screw those guys.

[1] Apart from the fact that it’s Xavier’s academy for entitled douchebags being blown up, which is objectively a great idea, it’s also the coolest scene in the movie, since it’s got the Speedster running around saving everyone. Just like the last movie, the Speedster is the best thing in it. And the actor deserves all the love, because it took him three and a half months, or something like four weeks for every minute on screen. He’s practically in another movie, and I’d much rather watch that one. 

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