Tuesday, August 6, 2013

X2: What's Your Real Name?

After I watched The Wolverine, I guess I got onto an X-Men kick, so I bought the X-Men Trilogy on Blu-Ray. I hadn't seen the movies in years, and it was great to go back and watch the series that really jump-started the recent run of awesome superhero movies we've had since the turn of the century.

Of the three, X2: X-Men United is my favorite. Sure, it has its fair share of plot holes, bad acting, and other silly things that don't make much sense, but overall, it is just such a great superhero movie!

It's funny how you notice different things when watching old movies again. For example, I did not catch the hilariousness of Mystique's flipping the bird the first time around.

Then there is, of course, the whole homosexual analogy. Apparently, that was one of the convincing factors to get Ian McKellen to star in the films. And, did you know the director, Bryan Singer, is gay, too? That was news to me. The clearest portrayal of this is when Iceman "comes out" of the mutant closet to his parents and his mother asks him, "Have you tried ... not being a mutant?"

I also like the little Once and Future King Easter Eggs. While I've not yet read the book, apparently there are some parallels to be drawn between Professor X and Merlin, and the whole might vs. right motif is a metaphor for Magneto.

Speaking of Magneto, did Ian McKellen nail it, or what? He's got to be my favorite rendition of Magneto. He really gets the whole mental side of the character. Watching Sir McKellen portray Magneto, I really believe that he believes he is "a god among insects", as he told Pryo:
Pyro: So, they say you're the bad guy.
Magneto: Is that what they say?
Pyro: That's a dorky looking helmet. What's it for?
Magneto: This "dorky looking helmet" is the only thing that's going to protect me from the REAL bad guys.
[magnetically takes Pyro's lighter and lights it]
Magneto: What's your name?
Pyro: [staring at his lighter in Magneto's hands] John.
Magneto: What's your *real* name, John?
Pyro: [summons lighter's flame to his hand] Pyro.
Magneto: Quite a talent you have there, Pyro.
Pyro: I can only manipulate the fire
[flame disappears into Pyro's hand]
Pyro: I can't create it.
Magneto: You are a god among insects. Never let anyone tell you different.

I keyed in on something else in that clip: the name. Magneto asks Aaron Stanford's character, "What's your name?" "John," he replies. "What's your real name, John?"

How great is that? It's got to be the best line in the whole X-Men movie series. "What's your real name?" That exemplifies everything Magneto stands for, everything he believes. He is homo sapien superior, and to fully be that, his entire identity has to change. He is not "John", the measly human, but "Pyro", a god. This exemplifies how Magneto could be so full of hubris as to start, basically, his own cult, "The Brotherhood" (thank God they didn't call themselves "Evil Mutants"!). It's because he really does believe that he is beyond humanity, that they are bugs beneath his feet, that he is a god amongst men.

In the next movie, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mystique takes this deal with the names a bit farther:

This is a little less subtle, but still shows Magneto's influence over Mystique via her calling Raven her "slave name". I like how at the end of the clip, she whispers, "homo sapien," just dripping with disgust.

Sadly, in the fourth movie, X-Men: First Class, they take this a little to far and lose all of the true homo superior vibes that Magneto brought to the issue when he first asked Pryo, "What's your real name?.

They took this totally awesome dichotomy of human name versus superhuman name and made it like something you'd see on the Disney channel. "We should pick code names! Yay!" I will admit it is pretty neat that they let teenage Mystique give Magneto his name (just after this clip ends), but, other than that, this whole scene is lame.

Still, I am drawn back to what is the greatest line in X-Men movie history: "What's your real name?" This lays out the entire Magneto character in four words. I think it was Scott Lobdell who, in the Generation X: Comic Book History special feature on disc 2 of X-Men: First Class, said that many people think of Magneto as the Malcom X to Charles Xavier's Martin Luther King, Jr; but, in reality, Magneto isn't Malcom X. He is Hitler. And, thus, you have the full character arc. He begins to hate humanity because of what Hitler's Nazis did to him in the concentration camps. And then he becomes just as racist as Hitler ever was, replacing white with mutant and, in essence, the Aryan Brotherhood with his own homo superior Brotherhood.