The trailer for the new X-Men movie was released yesterday, and it actually looks quite good. This doesn’t tell any long-time readers of my stuff anything, though, because it is well-known that I am easily entertained. I know how hard it is to produce a good story in a collaborative medium, and I know well-intentioned creators don’t wake up in the morning, enthusiastically greeting the day so they can half-ass some story for you. So I try to find things to like in even obviously weak or failed entertainments, because somebody was working hard even if it all doesn’t come together at the end.
But this doesn’t look to be the case with X-Men: First Class. It looks great; I love the period setting and the SR-71 and the yellow-and-black costumes…
…and I could not care any less than I already do about the lineup of the team.
X-Men enthusiasts have been crying in their ginger ale for months about how this movie is going to suck and that the original team is Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Iceman, and Angel, and anything else is a perversion of “canon” and this drives me crazy. Not because of fanboys’ cavalier appropriation of a religious term for their use, because, let’s face it, folks have been using “canon” for hundreds of years outside of religious decrees to refer to literary works, secular laws, and other generally accepted principles, so I get it. But to apply it to apply it to funny books just seems crass.
And to then have an argument about how the movies are conflicting with previously-published comics, or even previously-released movies, seems to… well, to not have a firm grasp of the tiller, you know? And in the specific case of The X-Men, it seems particularly futile. Corporate comics are a serialized entertainment, like soap operas. All the storylines produced feed the machine. The X-Men are nearly fifty years old; hundreds of writers have added tales to the mix. There’s no way that any corporate comic book with so many writers will ever be one linear narrative. And then trying to transplant the core idea to film, a different medium, will cause other compromises and compressions and trade-offs. And then, recast those films, and port the storyline to the past to dramatize backstory, and there’s going to be a big ol’ mess of conflicting mixed-media-messages.
But… and this is the important part…
At least with all the various religious canons, there are appointed keepers or mystics or other celebrants who keep it all straight for the worshippers. And, in fairness, Star Wars has Leland Chee, the continuity cop, who keeps it all straight for Lucasfilm.
But regular audience members wanting to start generational blood feuds with people who disagree with them about whether or not Professor X should walk and have hair just seems a little odd. In fact, this kind of thing cracks me up. There are six Star Wars movies, with an interlaced storyline. There is no “canon.” There is no “apocrypha.” There are six movies. Everything else is ancillary, and old cranks like me might even call it “surplus to requirements.”
Go ahead, enjoy what you want, but unless the audience admits everything in every storybook, novel, and comic book that says Star Wars on it actually happened, it’s just easier to watch the six movies and enjoy the other stuff dim-sum style.
Otherwise, you end up with stuff like this as having officially “happened:”
That’s right: Harrison Ford is fighting back-to-back against Imperial foes with a giant green bunny rabbit. Kinda makes you miss Jar-Jar, doesn’t it?
So let’s keep this “canon” stuff in perspective, shall we? Comics are comics and movies are movies, and as long as whatever story you’re talking about remains internally-consistent it doesn’t matter.
I think my circuit breaker on this issue finally tripped with the Star Trek movie and the swirl of agita I had to endure amongst close friends and acquaintances. There was a whole bunch of hair-pulling going on and I just couldn’t take it. There’s the show, and then there’s the movie. They’re separated by forty years. Of course they’re going to be different!
And that’s how I feel about this latest X-Men brouhaha. I’m just glad Kevin Bacon’s in it; it’ll help with Six Degrees.