Sunday, November 27, 2011

Let's Talk: Jean Grey

Welcome once more to the Guide to Geekdom. Today I wanted to talk about Jean Grey, the pinnacle in comic book death and resurrection. Seriously, is there any character in comic book lore that has died and come back more than Jean Grey? (…..besides Mr. Immortal).
The truth is that there is a lot more to her character than being a constant martyr for her teammates, which is why I wanted to discuss her with you.
Jean Grey was one of the original X-Men members, she has vast telekinetic mutant abilities, she has a loving relationship with Cyclops, Wolverine tries to have a relationship with her every so often, and she has a horrible knack for becoming the avatar for a benevolent god known as the Phoenix that uses her body to kill all life which is shortly followed by her sacrificing herself in order to protect all life from the Phoenix which is shortly followed by her resurrection which is shortly followed by her re-possession by the Phoenix which is shortly followed by her sacrifice which REPEATS THE PROCESS AGAIN. HERE IS A SHORT LIST DETAILING HER LIFE: POSSESSION – SACRIFICE – RESURRECTION – REPEAT.
The Character
You can’t really talk about Jean Grey without talking about the X-Men. The X-Men are one of the largest superhero teams in comic books, but mostly they act as one big family. Where does Jean Grey fit within this family? Jean Grey is the heart of the X-Men. She helps the various members of the team with their personal issues. It’s obvious why both Cyclops and Wolverine fell in love with Jean, it’s because they are the most troubled of all the members.
Cyclops has spent a good portion of his life trying to contain the massive force of nature he wields just by starring at something. Cyclops has disciplined himself to have a strict control of his every move so that he doesn’t slip up and hurt somebody (it’s why he is such a good leader), but this act of self control has stopped him from being free with himself, this is where Jean comes in. Jean forces Cyclops to come out of his shell and actually live life to the fullest. When it comes to Jean, Scott can finely enjoy life again and realize his powers don’t have to define him.
With Wolverine, it’s all about his humanity. Logan had been ferociously abused by Weapon X and was force to become an unemotional assassin. With his freedom, Logan is finding it hard to reconnect himself to his humanity when he can’t even remember who he is. Jean Grey helps him by trying to help him reconnect with the past and to try and build a strong friendship with him so that he has someone he can depend on. She was being one of the first people to ever be kind to him in ages; Logan instantly attaches himself to her love and care. He finds in himself compassion for another person and in turn this helps him care for others on the team and to rekindle his lost humanity.
What happens when the greatest problem you face is yourself? Now I could spend this time talking about how the Brotherhood is her greatest villain but the Brotherhood is more of the X-Men’s greatest nemesis and not hers solely (as a side note, multiple X-Men have had their own arch Nemesis over the years not dealing with the Brotherhood). Jean Grey’s greatest problem is the Phoenix. You can’t stop an all powerful god from taking over your body and forcing you to do bad things.
 As a frame of reference to how powerful Phoenix is, Phoenix managed to defeat Galactus in direct combat
(If you don’t know who Galactus is…… that’s another story for another day).
In complete honesty, you can only hope that the Phoenix simply doesn’t care. Jean Grey, at most times, can use a fraction of the Phoenix’s power for good, when she is fighting alongside the X-Men. Unfortunately, when the Phoenix has a set goal in its mind it will take control and force Jean into doing her bidding. Jean mostly resolves this problem by sacrificing herself in order to save reality; this hasn’t really worked so far.
Supporting Cast
Once again Jean is a member of the X-Men and I’ve already discussed what her key position on the team is. What I want to use this section for is to describe what is going on without her. Jean Grey has been dead for a few years now and the X-Men have basically carried on with their lives and their goals again. The position of Jean Grey has been mostly replaced by Emma Frost.
Emma Frost is now the current telepath of the team and is the love interest of Cyclops. Unfortunately, I am thoroughly against this relationship. Writers have a tendency to just kind of force Emma Frost into this position. She is not Jean Grey and she is not the heart of the team. Emma Frost is her very own character who can exist without Cyclops. She represents a masterful mutant who does have the skill to teach new mutants how to best use their abilities. She was converted to the side of good by the X-Men and for the current generation, has represented a teacher who is cold in her teaching but has a deep passion for those she cares about. The relationship between her and Cyclops should not exist for the very reason that the second Jean Grey comes back to life, Cyclops will dump Emma and go straight back to Jean. Every writer accepts this fact and shows it everywhere. WHY IS EMMA STILL WITH HIM WHEN SHE CLEARLY REALIZES SHE IS JUST A HOLDING SPOT FOR JEAN GREY?!?
During Jean Grey’s absence, the X-Men have currently split themselves up between Cyclops and Wolverine. It may seem a bit backwards how Cyclops’ group is the more gun-ho activist group who is seeking to militaristically train all new mutants to fight against mutant protestors, while Wolverine is going back to Westchester to start up a new school to act as a haven for young mutants, but really think about Jean Grey in this decision. Without Jean Cyclops has reverted back into an incredibly strict person who only sees the wrongs in the world that needs trained mutants to help fight against it. He has effectively lost his ability to enjoy life. Wolverine on the other hand wishes to continue the work Jean had done with him and the other X-Men: be the support they need. He has set up a school in her name in order to house young mutants who have nowhere else to turn to.
What Doesn’t Work
(I think I may have already started this in the previous section).
In her lifetime, Jean Grey had that one amazing storyline, where she was possessed by a god and sacrificed herself in order to save everyone. It was an incredibly successful storyline and Marvel has been trying to duplicate it ever since. This constant repetition has completely taken over her character. Jean Grey can’t exist for very long without Marvel thinking they can squeeze out more money from us if they show the Phoenix to us again and have her die again. It’s sad, but this is almost a comic book form of type casting. Marvel will constantly have her relive her one successful story arc so long as they think they can get cash for it. Honestly, there is no other excuse besides the search for more money to abuse a comic book character to this extent.
{At this point I will briefly touch upon X-Men 3. If you are trying to blot this horrible film from your memories, please skip ahead to the next section.}
The Phoenix storyline was the main focus of the third X-Men film. This was done horribly. I understand that we have to change certain aspects of comic book characters in order to make them seem more realistic for the film, but they simply changed too much. The Phoenix is a benevolent force, not some deep metal issues. The X2 perfectly set it up so that the Phoenix could represent the evolution of mutant kind, but X3 changed it to say the Professor X accidentally cause a second personally in Jean to emerge and be a vicious killer. This was a horrible mistake, but the absolute truth is: SUPERMAN RETURNS RUINED X3! SUPERMAN RETURNS STOLE BOTH THE DIRECTOR OF THE FIRST TWO FILMS AND THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED CYCLOPS! THIS FORCED THE STUDEO TO FIND SOMEONE ELSE TO DIRECT AND TO KILL OFF CYCLOPS EARLIER IN THE FILM AND FORCE WOLVERINE INTO THE LEADERSHIP POSTION WHICH IS NOT WHERE HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE! IF BRYAN SINGER HAD BEEN THERE TO DIRECT X3 IT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNGODLY AWESOME! INSTEAD WE HAD TO SIT THROUGH A BAD ENDING TO THE X-MEN TRILOGY AND A BAD SUPERMAN FILM! SUPERMAN RETURNS RUINED X3!!!
………that is all
What Can Be Done
Having Jean Grey remain dead is a bad idea, but continuing her on the same path doesn’t help either. She represents a key part of the X-Men that has been seriously lacking since her recent death. The X-Men have lost the ability to actually connect with us. I honestly can’t connect anymore with a group of people who now live on an island, cut off from the rest of society. Jean Grey was a character who brought the more….. let’s call it elaborate parts of the X-Men’s storylines back down to Earth. She is a very basic character who is incredibly easy to connect to due to her passion for others.
The true issue is the Phoenix. I want to see an incredibly elaborate storyline where the Phoenix God, through years of watching Jean Grey sacrifice herself in order to stop the destruction of everything, has finally come to understand why her avatar fights her so willingly. A big threat will represent itself and Jean Grey will think that she needs to sacrifice herself again in order to save everyone, but in reality the choice will fall to the Phoenix. Will it allow Jean Grey to kill herself again for the betterment of all, eventually coming back to life and doing this all over again, or will it finally sacrifice itself for the greater good, saving Jean Grey in the process and proving that it could be a force for good after all? This is the story I want Marvel to produce. We can finally see Jean Grey free of her servitude to the Phoenix and finally bring an end to this incredibly long character arc.
In Conclusion
I am quite certain that Jean Grey will be returning to comics soon enough. Personally I believe that the X-Men need her. She represents a specific part of them that is needed to keep them together. Jean Grey should be able to finally move on from her greatest story arc and go into unknown territory that will allow her character to grow, ultimately allowing for better story telling that the same story over and over again.
Thanks for reading
- The Guide
{As a side note that I wanted to mention, this character analysis was a request. I am willing to take in more requests. If you want me to do a specific review, character analysis, top 10, or examine a trend in the industry today, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Happy Thanksgiving.}

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let's Review: Immortals

I am a big fan of mythology and folklore. I am not of course claiming that I am the most knowledgeable person in this field simply that I am a big fan and like to hear stories here or there. I understand that there is a big market in the retelling and customizing of the ancient tales, and that some are more successful than others in their retellings. That being said, did this new film succeed in the retelling of Theseus’ story? Let’s review Immortals.
The Negative
A few scenes early on in the film (and near the end as well) suffered from too many jump cuts. The scene jumps around so often that it’s easy to become disorientated. A jump cut allows us to establish various points of view of the same scene that allows us to focus in on the main action of the scene. The problem with too many jump cuts is that it doesn’t give the audience a long enough moment to focus on the main action in the scene. As a frame of reference, look at a picture for half a second then look away. You might be able to figure out a few things about the photo, but overall its main purpose will remain oblivious to you. The problem with too many jump cuts is that it actually removes the purpose of one in the first place.
The problem with the film is how silly it is. Now I liked the film 300, but admittedly the story is incredibly silly. Whether or not it’s trying to be historically accurate or mythological correct, overall the interpretation of the source material is very overblown. Immortals suffers from the same issue. Its retelling of the ancient myth is overblown to such high extents, it becomes incredible difficult to take it seriously. As an example, the old myth has Theseus fight a Minotaur at the center of a labyrinth, in the film Theseus brings his dead mother to the center of a maze of a shrine in order to bury her. Once there Theseus finds a magical bow that shoots arrows of light and fights King Hyperion’s assassin, a massive torturer who is wearing a barbed wire bull-shaped helmet that’s coated in poison as armor. Theseus manages to decapitate the mad man and bring the head outside to show his friends. IF THAT ISN’T OVERBLOWN SILLINESS I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS!
The Positive
I actually found myself quite enjoying this film. What really makes the film is its visual style. This is where the overblown works best for the film. The massive set pieces, beautiful areas, stunning special effects, and a number of other visual effects really make this film feel like a special kind of art piece. Most scenes with the gods were amazing to watch with the vast amount of effects that made them feel like they were actually gods dancing across the screen.
This was a great performance out of both Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke. Cavill’s Theseus was a man who had such power and ferocity but all he wanted to do was live in peace with his loved ones. You can tell he deeply cares for his friends and family because he only shows his true colors as a warrior when one of them is threatened.
Rourke’s King Hyperion was an incredibly competent villain who knew exactly what he wanted and he wasn’t going to stop until his goals were accomplished. Hyperion was ruthless in his pursuits and showed his intelligence as a leader by viciously enslaving the traitor Lysander and forcing him to work for him instead of giving into his demands. If there was one thing wrong with him, it was the plot convenience fairy that forced him to be the dumb bad guy. I honestly don’t believe that this very competent ruler would let Theseus live after killing his mother in front of him, nor do I believe that he would stop himself from killing Theseus (when he had the advantage) in order to talk to him for a bit about his superiority. It was these two forced moments that allowed Theseus to live, and give Theseus the opening he needed to win in the final fight. Other than those two things, King Hyperion was a very intimidating villain when he wasn’t wearing his rabbit ears/lobster claw helmet in battle.
In Conclusion
This film had a lot of potential to be better than what it turned out to be. The biggest issue is that it let its over the top moments take over the film. There is only so much extreme action I can take in a film before it becomes redundant. I personally think this film would have done better had it not been based upon Greek mythology at all, and had instead tried to be its own franchise independent of the rules and regulations it has to follow with being a reinterpretation of mythology. 3.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top 10 Supernatural Investigators

I wanted to wrap up October with another Top 10 list, but then I got distracted and now it’s November. Whatever, I’m not going to let a silly thing like time stop me from writing. To close the month, I’d like to take a look at the very best investigators that keep the evil supernatural forces at bay. As per usual I have a few runners up:
-Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files)
-Blade (Blade)
-Mick St. John (Moonlight)
And without further hesitation (before we end up in December), here is the Top 10 Supernatural Investigators:
10-Gabriel Van Helsing (Van Helsing)
Gabriel Van Helsing is secretly the Archangel Gabriel who was sent by God to destroy the evil on Earth. He is currently working for the Vatican as their secret weapon against the occult. Whether he is taking down Mr. Hyde or slaying Dracula and his brides, Van Helsing is your guy. I know a lot of people didn’t like this movie but it is a personal favorite of mine that spun off an animated film and a short comic series.
9-Etrigan the Demon (The Demon)
 Gone, gone the form of man, Rise the demon Etrigan! Jason Blood, once a knight of King Arthur’s table, was cursed to have the demon Etrigan bonded to him. This curse has granted Blood immortality and the ability to transform into Etrigan. Living for centuries, Jason Blood investigates the occult while trying to convert the infernal demon toward the side of good, with varying levels of success.
8- John Constantine (Hellblazer)
The cynical occultist who has…sometimes been a hero. Constantine is a thrill seeker that only the world of the supernatural can satiate. Constantine wanders the world fighting the forces of both heaven and hell for his own selfish gains as well as the well being of his fellow man (on occasion). More often than not, Constantine will avoid physical conflict and outsmart his opponents, because he knows more about the occult than you could possible imagine.
7- The Winchesters (Supernatural)
It’s hard being forced to constantly hunt the supernatural for your own survival. The evil forces of hell refuse to leave the Winchester brothers alone and they will kill all of their friends and family just to get at them.  Luckily these two brothers happen to be the best in the business when it comes to slaying demons. They even managed to banish Lucifer back into hell.
 6-Dante (Devil May Cry)
The owner of the demon slaying business, Devil May Cry, Dante is a half-devil mercenary who is looking for vengeance against the demons who murdered his mother. Due to his father being a devil, Dante has supernatural powers and skills that make him more than a match for demons. Dante is famous for his heavy arsenal of big swords and handguns that never need reloading. Dante is able to connect himself back to his human half because devils never cry.
5-Alucard (Hellsing)
This is not just any vampire. This is the vampire that will make you stay up late at night weeping in fear. He is the ultimate vampire. Alucard was originally Dracula, but instead of being slain by Abraham Van Helsing, he was put into servitude of the family and became their trump card of their current supernatural investigation organization. He is nearly impossible to destroy and he will stop at nothing to annihilate his target.
4- Doctor Strange (Doctor Strange)
Doctor Stephen Strange was a world renowned surgeon before losing it all in a car accident. Seeking to heal himself though the help of the Ancient One, instead he became his apprentice in the ancient mystic arts. Stephen now operates as the Sorcerer Supreme, the guardian of our dimensional plane against any supernatural force. Doctor Strange is considered to have powers and abilities on the level of cosmic beings. If you need help, he is the one to turn to.
3- Ghost Rider (Ghost Rider)
Johnny Blaze sold his soul to Mephisto in the hopes of saving his father from illness. Unfortunately, the demon double crossed him and killed his father anyways. Cursed to become Mephisto’s bounty hunter, Johnny transformed into the Ghost Rider. Later on Johnny would rebel against Mephisto and set out to defend the innocent against those who would do them harm, waging a war against his former demon master and the armies of hell.
2-Angel (Angel)
The vampire with a soul. Once known as Angelus, the greatest vampire in the world who terrorized the world with his bloodlust, he was cursed with a soul in order to stop his rampage. Feeling the guilt of all the pain he had caused people over the years, Angel is on a path of redemption hoping to right the wrongs and find inner peace. Angel put together Angel Investigations, a detective agency which put some of the greatest supernatural combatants together in order to fight evil wherever it may be.
1-Hellboy (Hellboy)
‘And upon his brow is set a crown of fire…’
If there was one person you would not expect to be defending you against the evil forces of hell and otherworldly beings of evil, it’s the beast of the apocalypse. Hellboy is fated to bring about the end of all things, and yet he fights for our right to live every day. Whether he is working alongside his fellow BPRD agents or is on a globetrotting adventure, Hellboy is always the paranormal investigator you want on your side.