Pharyngula

X-Men!

Gary Farber has a round-up of the reviews of X-Men: The Last Stand. My two boys and I are going to go see it tonight (yes, it’s true—we have a first-run movie on opening day here in the little town of Morris). Skatje is going to be working the refreshment stand at the theater, so it’s going to be a family event, sort of.

When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction, and I’m afraid there will be more of the same here. It’s a struggle, but these movies do have an entirely idiotic premise—mutations just don’t work that way—and I have to shut down most of my brain to be able to sit through them. This will only work if there are sufficient explosions and laser blasts and naked Romijns to keep me distracted.

I’ll put up my review tomorrow. We shall see if I can suspend disbelief for two hours of unbelievable mutants.

Comments

  1. #1 plucky punk
    May 26, 2006

    It’s best to see it in allegorical terms. In the comics, I think, being a mutant in American society was supposed to be an allegory for being a minority in American society, with the obvious connection between Professor X/Magneto and Martin Luter King/Malcolm X.

    In the recent movies, especially the last one, I think the allegory is more that being a mutant is like being gay, especially when Iceman’s parents ask him “Have you ever tried *not* being a mutant?”

  2. #2 JamesNicoll
    May 26, 2006

    Evolution in Marvel Comics is orthogenesis in action: there’s a planned sequence of species and we’re ratcheting our way through it. As I recall, the backstory on that in the comics is that at one point gigantic Kirbyesque aliens tampered with human development to produce just that result.

  3. #3 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    “When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction, and I’m afraid there will be more of the same here.”

    Well, it’s quite literally a comic book notion, PZ, and from 1963.

    It’s never pretended to be serious science fiction, and neither Stan Lee nor Jack Kirby ever remotely pretended to be writing serious science fiction.

    We’re talking guys who wrote a lot before that about Fin Fang Foom, Monster From Outer Space.

    I mean, it also turns out that getting bitten by a radioactive spider won’t give you super-powers, and neither will standing near a non-existent “gamma bomb,” nor is there a Super-Soldier formula, neither a planet Krypton under a red sun, nor a planet Oa whose big-brained inhabitants give out rings with amazing green ray powers, nor will be drenched in chemicals and struck by lighting let you move at super-speed, nor will cosmic rays let you stretch, burst into flames safely, turn invisible, or give you super-strength.

    You’re not even apt to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, a cowardly lot, by dressing up as a giant bat, I suggest.

    Nor, for that matter, is there a land of Middle-Earth, with an evil lord named Sauron, and elves and dwarves and little people.

    I’ve looked into all this, and I’m fairly sure of my conclusions here.

    So you either can accept the fantasy “gimmes” and go on, or not. But pointing out that none of this is remotely real or plausible is not precisely a revelation.

    Just think of them as magic mutants (although magic in the comics is yet another thing, but we can save that for discussion of a Dr. Strange movie). Stuff like this in sf is called “hand-waving,” and you’re generally allowed at least one basic hand-wave (maybe two — three really pushes it, and beyond that, you’re doing crap). “Mutation” in the Marvel universe is a basic huge one. (In the DC universe, in more recent years, they came up with “metahumans”; same diff.)

    “This will only work if there are sufficient explosions and laser blasts….”

    I think you’re on safe grounds there. And Romijn clearly gets some screen time, but don’t count on seeing anyone on stage too long, beyond Hugh Jackman, given the profusion of characters.

    “In the comics, I think, being a mutant in American society was supposed to be an allegory for being a minority in American society….”

    Of course.

  4. #4 DouglasG
    May 26, 2006

    I’ll second “Naked Romijns”. Stephen Colbert says she is a lot more attractive now that she lost the “Stamos”…

  5. #5 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    “As I recall, the backstory on that in the comics is that at one point gigantic Kirbyesque aliens tampered with human development to produce just that result.”

    Hi, James! The Eternals.

  6. #6 DouglasG
    May 26, 2006

    Also, the evolution stuff in X-Men is far better than any of the evolution in all of the Planet of the Apes movies…

  7. #7 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    Whoops, I meant the Celestials.

    (The Marvel Universe does not lack for Cosmic Beings.)

  8. #8 Nocturne
    May 26, 2006

    Well, it is fantasy, after all. Unlike certain other popular works of fiction, no one (to my knowledge) is holding X-Men lore up as an example of truths in the world.

    Although it would be highly amusing to fast-forward a few thousand years and find shrines to cultural icons like Wolverine or Cyclops. “What Would Wolverine Do?” 🙂

  9. #9 Roger Tang
    May 26, 2006

    Although it would be highly amusing to fast-forward a few thousand years and find shrines to cultural icons like Wolverine or Cyclops. “What Would Wolverine Do?” 🙂

    “I’m the best there is in what I do, bub. And what I do isn’t very nice.”

  10. #10 PZ Myers
    May 26, 2006

    Of course I know it is a fantasy with little grip on reality. But you have to understand that my context is as someone who reads about mutations and mutants on a daily basis, knows the mechanisms and the possiblities, and every time they misuse my workaday lingo, it’s extraordinarily jarring. It’s like Star Wars: I could blithely let the silly “Force” idea slide by and just say to myself, “it’s magic,” but when Lucas started with the cells and midichlorians and pseudoscientific babble, suspension of disbelief went zoom, right out the airlock.

  11. #11 Sanjiv Sarwate
    May 26, 2006

    We all have our things, I suppose. One friend of mine hates anything with talking animals.

    But, seriously, you have to give them the major conceits. It’s the little stuff that is more problematic. For example, I could spot “Jurassic Park” the ludicrous method of how they were able to make the dinosaurs. It’s ridiculous, but you have to give it to them – we have to have the dinosaurs to make the movie work. But the scene where two adults and some kids close a door on a fast-moving velociraptor? Sorry, you lost me there.

    You might want to read “Physics of Superheroes.” It’s pretty interesting.

  12. #12 Apikoros
    May 26, 2006

    Rumor has it that there is a “coda” at the very end of the closing credits that reveals someething very significant.

    This is per the web site “http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/709/709574p1.html” (fair warning: incredibly annoying ads when you click!) where they say:

    “Message to X3 Moviegoers
    Seeing The Last Stand this weekend? IGN has an important tip.
    by Steve Head

    May 22, 2006 – You’re planning to see X-Men: The Last Stand this weekend, right? We expect most of you are. That being the case, apart from our regular reporting on the movie, IGN FilmForce now asks you to do one important thing. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll regret it if you don’t! At the theater this weekend, when the credits roll, when the audiences begins to filter out of the exits… keep your seat. And then, perhaps, share this little secret with a few of your friends: the movie isn’t over.

    We don’t want to spoil anything for you, but we want you to know that the scene that follows isn’t your typical post-credits tack-on. It’s a coda for one of the main characters. The scene is maybe 30 seconds in length, but it’s enough. And it will surely be one of the more talked moments in the fan community.”

    Me? not seeing it, don’t care.

  13. #13 Ken Cope
    May 26, 2006

    So you either can accept the fantasy “gimmes” and go on, or not. But pointing out that none of this is remotely real or plausible is not precisely a revelation.

    That none of the Bible is remotely real nor plausible will never be a revelation to a scarily large number of people. They take X-mutation to be what’s being crammed into their spawn by evilutionist propellerheads. Cartoon fantasy displaces any real science that might have otherwise snuck past their spiritual armor.

    So we amuse ourselves by cataloging precisely how much disbelief we must suspend before letting go and enjoying the ride, and parse whatever moral is intended by the tale. We understand that supe– underwear perverts are merely the current fashion in tales of gods and monsters. We know that a story can be entertaining, even meaningful, without the requirement that it be non-fiction.

    Among most of our fellow popcorn munchers in the movie theater, that makes us the mutants.

  14. #14 Mike Fox
    May 26, 2006

    I went to the midnight showing. It was pretty good, but it was more like a second movie in a trilogy with the plot-for-later inserts.

    In addition, there was a preview for a movie that made the whole theater bust into laughter over. Here is it’s website: http://www.snakesonaplane.com

  15. #15 Molly Newman
    May 26, 2006

    “Unbelievable” mutants? More like “unbelievably hot.”

    Seems like having Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin and Patrick Stewart all under the same roof has got to be contributing to global warming in some dangerous way… *fans self*

    Got to agree, though, PZ… “Force” is much better as a magical mystery substance without all that poppycock about mitochondria or whatever.

  16. #16 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 26, 2006

    It is always a stretch to see fictionalised science, either it is in ordinary movies (stylized fighting, damages or vehicle movements, bad math) or scifi (sound effects, ray weapons, …, the works). Scifi based on comics are the worst of course, since comic alternative worlds are the most contrived.

    I mean, call it *comics* and USe it for *superheroes*. And no one gets killed, get real damages, or are interested in sex.

    I was relieved to see Zenith where they punch through each others ribcages with superstrength, puts eyes out, rips heads or arms off, or get laid. That is so much more believable. Preacher is even better since they aren’t superheroes but normal humans in extraordinary circumstances, and people get believable wounds, from guns for example.

    Manga top that because they don’t have the superhero fixation at all. OTOH manga has some nonbelievable illustrative methods, one has to imagine seeing them as projected through anothers imagination. But it works. Superheroes doesn’t. They usually bore me to death.

  17. #17 Dr. Free-Ride
    May 26, 2006

    Also, the evolution stuff in X-Men is far better than any of the evolution in all of the Planet of the Apes movies…

    That may well be, but gorillas with rifles on horseback is cinematic genius.

  18. #18 Jason
    May 26, 2006

    When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction

    Congratulations, PZ! You now have something in common with Christian fundamentalists.

    (Gotta love that irony.)

  19. #19 Rey Fox
    May 26, 2006

    I’m worried about Snakes On A Plane, with that logo. I’m worried that the makers of the movie saw how popular it was getting on the internet, and did some retooling of it to make it into a “wink-wink-we’re-in-on-the-joke-too” sort of package. No! You’re supposed to make it unselfconsciously bad, that’s why everyone’s laughing at it!

    As for X-Men, I’d say just enjoy the ride, but admittedly, that franchise has overplayed its hand with regards to evolution and the scientific validity of it all before. I would hope that the whole premise is over the top enough for people not to take the evolution aspect of it seriously, but you just NEVER BLOODY KNOW.

  20. #20 Ginger Yellow
    May 26, 2006

    Preacher is even better since they aren’t superheroes but normal humans in extraordinary circumstances, and people get believable wounds, from guns for example.

    Only if you consider a vampire, the embodied offspring of demon and angel, and the mentally handicapped descendant of Jesus “normal people”

  21. #21 Bachalon
    May 26, 2006

    S’got all that and more.

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    May 26, 2006

    No, that is not in common with fundies. I found it irritating because it was contradictory to reality; they dislike it because it contradicts the dogma of their superstitions.

  23. #23 Bachalon
    May 26, 2006

    S’got all that and more.

  24. #24 Matt T.
    May 26, 2006

    But you have to understand that my context is as someone who reads about mutations and mutants on a daily basis, knows the mechanisms and the possiblities, and every time they misuse my workaday lingo, it’s extraordinarily jarring.

    I know how ya feel, though I’m by no stretch of the imagination anything close to a working scientist. I am, however, a fan of science and a curmudgeon by heart (used to be a music critic, Elvis forgive me), so while I have a pretty healthy talent for suspension of disbelief*, now and again something in a movie will just be so friggin’ wrong that it flat ruins the whole picture. Then, of course, I set about ruining the movie for whomever’s watching it with me when I explain what’s wrong and why. I do the same thing with movies that play fast and loose with recorded history, which actually got me thrown out of a showing of Braveheart once.

    However – and I’m not trying to be contrary or nothin’ – I have found that a greater understand of real science leads to a greater enjoyment of movie science (except, of course, when it’s jarring.). To wit, not long after I’d turned my brother on to string theory, loop quantum gravity and other extremely cool theoretical fields of physics, we watched In The Mouth of Madness. It was the first time my brother saw it, and with the different concepts of quantum mechanics and just the idea of reality not being quite as concrete as we’re lead to believe, the ending freaked him right the hell out. Science marches on!

    On the other end, I was a comic book geek and a member of the Mighty Marvel Marching Society up until the early ’90s (when comic books started to suck mightily), so I can be extremely irritating in regards to the recent crop of super hero flicks. I still haven’t forgiven Hollywood for what they did to my childhood hero Spider Man. Organic webshooters, my ass. Plus, no Nightcrawler, which is a bummer, but I’ll see it anyway.

    *Have to be, “Doctor Who” fan. The new episodes are all slick and logical, but with the older ones, you just had to be willing to let a few things slide.

  25. #25 Ken Cope
    May 26, 2006

    A troll claims that PZ and Christian fundamentalists share the opinion that evolution is “freaking stupid nonsense.”

    The movie version has nothing to do with science or evolution, while too many fundies see no difference between such nonsense and the caricature of evolution flogged by trolls who dishonestly mischaracterize science in the name of religion.

  26. #26 Hugh
    May 26, 2006

    You’re going to see a movie about people shooting lasers out of their eyes, telekinetics, A GUY WITH METAL BONDED TO HIS BONES, and you’re seriously complaining about a little science talk? WHO CARES if the science is bad? This movie isn’t supposed to make you think, just enjoy it.

  27. #27 MtMan900
    May 26, 2006

    PZ, (and anyone else going to see X3 it tonight, for that matter)

    Before you go tonight, I suggest a quick little primer so that you’re ready for it. Check out this video. While you may not be able to get through all of it, I do suggest you understand the basic premise of it.

  28. #28 Bachalon
    May 26, 2006

    It’s got explosions a plenty and less plenty naked Romijns. Stay for the credits.

  29. #29 Roman Werpachowski
    May 26, 2006

    Stuff like this in sf is called “hand-waving,” and you’re generally allowed at least one basic hand-wave (maybe two — three really pushes it, and beyond that, you’re doing crap).

    Unless you’re Stanislaw Lem, who did without any hand-waving at all.

    PZ, here’s a hint: if you want a SF digestible to a scientists, read Lem. He even got evolution correct, I presume.

  30. #30 Jim Kakalios
    May 26, 2006

    Stan Lee only went the ‘mutant’ route with the X-Men because he was getting burned out trying to come up with “plausible” origins for his characters. There’s only so many trips to the well of accidents with chemicals, radioactivity, lightning strikes, and combinations of same that you can make.

    When the X-Men came around, Lee threw up his hands and effectively said – to hell with it – they were born this way. Yeah – they’re mutants, that’s the ticket.

    Lee wanted to call the comic series The Mutants, but publisher Martin Goodman thought kids wouldn’t know what that word meant, so he had him change it to X-Men.

    And isn’t Xavier’s little speech in the films just an argument for punctuated evolution? I’m assuming that among the 97% of our DNA which is termed “junk” that does not code for protein production, are unrecognized genes for the growth of wings, optic blasts, and mental telepathy (obviously coupled with the gene for male pattern baldness). These genes were incorporated into our genetic code by the Celestials at the dawn of man, the ultimate cosmic molecular biologists.

    As an exercise in my class, The Physics of Superheroes, (who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of shamless plugs), students would consider Wolverine’s fast healing ability. When we are cut the wound doesn’t heal in seconds, but neither does it take months. Clearly there’s a rate limiting step that sets the time scale for our healing – and it’s interesting to see if it is physically possible to speed this step up by a factor of ten, for example.

    anyway – enjoy the film, PZ, I’ll be there myself, but in the Twin Cities.

    Your Friendly Neighborhood Physics Professor,

    Jim Kakalios

  31. #31 Greco
    May 26, 2006

    This will only work if there are sufficient explosions and laser blasts and naked Romijns to keep me distracted.

    Not enough explosions and laser blasts and not enough time in general, but if you want Naked Romijn, you’re in for a treat.

  32. #32 Jeff Nuttall
    May 26, 2006

    As I recall, the backstory on that in the comics is that at one point gigantic Kirbyesque aliens tampered with human development to produce just that result.

    Well…yes and no. I’m pretty sure that rationalization was added long after the fact; it wasn’t part of the original concept. It just got thrown in when someone at Marvel realized that mutations didn’t really work the way they’d been working in the X-Men. Still, I guess it’s better that they figured this out and threw in an explanation after the fact than never figuring it out at all.

    Besides, though, PZ was referring to the movie–and that explanation certainly never comes up there! The narration about evolution at the beginning of the X-Men movie is quite sober and authoritative-sounding–and of course thoroughly wrong–and I can definitely see where PZ’s coming from. I’m not a biologist, but it kind of annoyed me too.

  33. #33 Jeff Nuttall
    May 26, 2006

    Er, in the above comment, “movie” should be “movies“–I’m aware there’s more than one, and meant to use the plural. Sorry.

  34. #34 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    “Unless you’re Stanislaw Lem, who did without any hand-waving at all.”

    Interesting. I had no idea that it was actual fact that there are actually alien planetary intelligences that can create geometrical shapes to talk to humans. Or that there were so many other planets with alien intelligences. Or that you can construct a simulated kingdom of tiny intelligent beings. Or that there’s actually information encoded in the background neutrino radiation of the universe. Or that there are cosmic constructors running about the universe who can build machines that build anything. That you can build battery powered probability amplifiers. That there are dragons that eat moons. I’m particularly intrigued to learn that the sentient space-flying potatoes are true.

    This all fascinating news, and I welcome learning that it’s all true fact, real science, no hand-waving, and we must accept that.

    Hint: I used to be a (junior) science fiction editor at Avon Books. Guess who published much of Lem’s work in the U.S.?

  35. #35 Caledonian
    May 26, 2006

    Making truly plausible science fiction is just coming up with revolutionary new science, then writing an interesting story showcasing it.

    In other words, it’s virtually impossible.

    All SF relies on handwaving, whether the handwaving is subtle or blatant.

  36. #36 windy
    May 26, 2006

    “Unless you’re Stanislaw Lem, who did without any hand-waving at all.”
    Interesting. I had no idea that it was actual fact that there are actually alien planetary intelligences that can create geometrical shapes to talk to humans.

    And pseudo-Medieval robotic civilisations with kings and princesses. And space pirates with PhDs trying to accumulate all knowledge in the universe.

    Hint: I used to be a (junior) science fiction editor at Avon Books. Guess who published much of Lem’s work in the U.S.?

    Cool. Were you acquainted with whoever translated them? That must have been a pickle…

  37. #37 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    “Were you acquainted with whoever translated them?”

    Michael Kandel? Nah. Truth be told, I was at Avon in the mid-Eighties, after Lem had been done before I got there. I did deal with Mira Ginsburg, who translated Zamyatin’s We for us, though. Man, was she pissed off when we did it not just in the traditional classy “literature” Bard version, but also did one that offensively had “SF” discreetly on the spine (the only difference in the two editions).

    Because, of course, science fiction is crap, and thus We Isn’t Science Fiction. As she let me know by angry phone call for some twenty-five minutes, plus various angry notes.

    I also dealt with the translators of our Latin American line, which I worked on, such as Tom Colchie. Little known guys like some guy who did something called One Hundred Years Of Solitude, and Julio Cortazar, Marcio Souza, Mario Vargas Llosa, Manuel Puig, Jorge Amado, Miguel Angel Asturias, and other writers of the genre.

    Plus the works of various mystery writers, like “Ed McBain,” Elmore Leonard, my old pal James Ellroy, Judy Jance, and on and on.

    Plus endless other types of books. Our Vietnam nonfiction and fiction line, including something called “Dispatches” by Michael Herr, but many others. General fiction, general nonfiction, a proposed science books line I was the designated hitter on but could never get off the ground against the resistance of our Editor-in-Chief, though the Editorial Director loved the idea, and lots of other stuff. Political books. Pretty much everything (trade and mass-market paperback) but cookbooks, business books, sports books, and YA.

    I won’t even start on all the sf writers I’ve worked with, or known years before they sold anything (cough, Bill Gibson, cough), because that list runs into hundreds of folks, both since I freelanced for practically every sf publisher in my adult lifetime (starting as an “Assistant Editor” [read “slush reader”] for Amazing SF Magazine and Fantastic Stories when I was 15), but as much from being active in sf fandom since age 12 (I’m now 47). I was 12 when I first met Isaac Asimov and 14 when I first met Heinlein and Arthur Clarke.

    Sometimes I namedrop mildly. It’s what I got left. Plus blogging.

    And occasional one-up-manship. 🙂

    Feel free to visit my blog beyond when P.Z. kindly links. 🙂

    Actually, my favorite experience at Avon was opening up the locked Dead Contracts files, and caressing the original yellowing contracts signed by A. Merritt from the 1930s. But I gots zillions of stories. Dealing with Whitley Strieber, for one.

    One namedrop: first time I met Roger Zelazny I was still just a fan, and he was using the urinal next to me.

    But I was very happy to work on some of his books decades later. And so on and so on. But it’s been a few years since I’ve been working professionally in publishing, for various reasons, including health.

  38. #38 Ithika
    May 26, 2006

    This was mentioned by another commenter, but must be stressed heavily:

    Stay for the credits. Specifically, watch to the end of the credits.

    Thank you.

  39. #39 Gary Farber
    May 26, 2006

    “Stay for the credits. Specifically, watch to the end of the credits.”

    My crankiness on this issue comes out with this emphasis. I think that people who are sufficiently rude to the other patrons, and disrespectful to the makers of the film, as to not normally stay until the film is done and the credits finished, deserve to miss anything and everything, and deserve no special emphasis as regards a specific movie.

    It’s not that hard to sit through a few minutes of credits, especially relative to sitting through 20 minutes of ads before the movie, but even absent that.

    But, as I said, it’s an issue I’ve long been cranky about, so don’t mind me.

  40. #40 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 26, 2006

    “”Preacher is even better since they aren’t superheroes but normal humans in extraordinary circumstances, and people get believable wounds, from guns for example.”

    Only if you consider a vampire, the embodied offspring of demon and angel, and the mentally handicapped descendant of Jesus “normal people””

    I would call a vampire and a mentally handicapped descendant of Jesus “normal humans in extraordinary circumstances”. I didn’t really think about the adversary figures of angels,
    demons and gods. But the embodied offspring of demon and angel is more natural than the usual version.

    “”Unless you’re Stanislaw Lem, who did without any hand-waving at all.”

    Interesting. I had no idea that it was actual fact”

    I think the reference is to that Lem doesn’t try to explain (away) phenomena at all, ie no handwaving.

    “here are actually alien planetary intelligences that can create geometrical shapes to talk to humans. Or that there were so many other planets with alien intelligences. Or that you can construct a simulated kingdom of tiny intelligent beings. Or that there’s actually information encoded in the background neutrino radiation of the universe. Or that there are cosmic constructors running about the universe who can build machines that build anything. That you can build battery powered probability amplifiers. That there are dragons that eat moons. I’m particularly intrigued to learn that the sentient space-flying potatoes are true.”

    Well, all these remains to be seen. (Except for the simulation of sets of beings with rudimentary adaptive behaviour, that is already done once or twice.) At least Virgin Galactic are trying to launch entient space-flying couch potatoes soon. 🙂

  41. #41 thwaite
    May 26, 2006

    Dealing with Whitley Strieber, for one.

    OK, I’ll bite. Stories?

    Streiber & Kunetka’s 1986 NATURE’S END was so prescient on so many details if not (yet) its primary thesis, that I went looking for subsequent works by these guys. WARDAY – meh. Thereafter – so weird, WTF !?

    Thanks…

  42. #42 Jessica Guilford
    May 27, 2006

    Saw it today and was pretty disappointed.

    I didn’t stay for the credits, so I did miss part of it, apparently. (If anybody who did see them today wants to fill me in on what happens that I missed, I’d appreciate it: hiproglogrrrl @ hotmail . com.)

    And obviously the science was . . . well, comic-book science. I don’t go to action movies to learn about science, though, so that’s fine.

    What I disliked was that there were at least two gigantic continuity errors (and I’m not even usually the kind of person who notices, much less noticing right as the movie is happening).

    The big battle scene was fought stupidly by both sides; kind of the strategic equivalent of the movie cliche where the hero defends him-/rself from a mob of attackers who very carefully only attack one at a time. Maybe not that bad. But still. (I don’t think this’d count as a spoiler: once it’s established that Wolverine cannot fight Magneto, maybe he should stop trying to.)

    Character motivation or thought processes were very glancing, or in some cases absent altogether. For “good guys,” the X-Men showed astoundingly little attention to preservation of life, whether mutant or human. And I found the primary character-centric plot (which I won’t spoil here: if you’ve seen it then you can probably guess which character I mean) annoying and ridiculous as hell. Never one of my favorite characters in the first place, and I liked [him, her] even less this time around.

    Plus the mutant/gay allegory that has been glancingly referenced in the second film was more or less ignored, despite having really great potential for building plot around.

    They set up all these characters and plots and themes and whatever and then did nothing with them, as far as I can tell. So I was angry about having seen it. (Not as angry as I was when I saw the second Matrix movie, but angry nevertheless.) The whole thing felt like they went to some special effects guys and asked, “So what can you do for us that’s new,” got a list of scenes they wanted to show, and then wrote scenes to connect the special effects extravagasms to one another in about twelve hours and started filming.

    So I’m bitter.

    But maybe the credits scene made up for all that. I wouldn’t know.

  43. #43 Gary Farber
    May 27, 2006

    “OK, I’ll bite. Stories?”

    Oh, now, I didn’t say I was going to tell any in public, did I? No, I’m just a tease.

    But let’s just say that keeping a straight face, as required to keep my job, when working on the publication of Communion was the most difficult professional publishing experience I’ve ever had. The following I can safely say after twenty years.

    My boss instructed me that I’d be fired if I expressed the faintest degree of public skepticism. (Communion, for those blessedly unfamiliar with it, is Whitley’s “true” [and he did sincerely believe it, I believe, though he also knew he was onto something that would sell, in his hands] account of being taken by aliens while he slept and anally probed — this is the book that started that whole thing.)

    I wound up having to say a lot of variants of the following to colleagues and others for a long time: “Gee, Whitley is such an effective writer, don’t you think?” And “Whitley expresses himself so vividly.” And so on.

    Nothing that had to violate my personal ethics by indicating I thought the book was the least bit plausible — just not expressing how completely risible I thought it was, and that Whitley was indeed a very effective writer, without mentioning that he was also a flaming nutbar.

    But it walked the line of my personal ethics more finely than any other experience.

    Another chore, though not directly ethically challenging, was being assigned for a while at Avon to be one of the two editors reading proposals for “New Age” books.

    The easy part was saying “no” to just about everything. The painful — save for the hilarious moments — part was having to at least rapidly skim through endless inane proposals and manuscripts, which I couldn’t get out of doing.

    Though I did want to buy, on a purely cynical this-will-make-money basis, a manuscript called, if I recall correctly, “Elvis After Life,” which was essentially an account of many post-death sightings of Elvis. It was certainly true in the sense that it simply related the accounts of a lot of people who thought they’d seen him.

    For whatever reason, I was unable to convince our editorial meeting that this was a surefire money-maker, and couldn’t get authorization to buy it.

    So Bantam (I think) bought it, and it was on best seller lists for months. I could have lived with that. It’s hard to do professional publishing without being a little cynical at times so as to do a chance to do the good stuff, too.

    The newage (rhymes with “sewage”) — or as the general publishing term was, “woo-woo” — proposal I found most hilarious was one about How To read people’s “auras,” which was standard fair for that line of crap, but the twist here was that it was a guide to doing it — seeing the “color auras” “around” people — on your television set. And deriving deep insights about the people, of course, from the colors you saw around them. That you saw on your color tv.

    I trust you see the key point there. The author seemed completely oblivious, but maybe she never adjusted “tint” or “color” back in those days when it was routine to manually make those adjustments on your tv.

    But the newage crap was a tiny proportion of what I’ve ever done, and I never had to actually buy one of those books/proposals, or work on anything like it other than Communion (which was an unbelievably gigantic seller for years).

    Wish I could have gotten the science books program off the ground before I left, though. But you win some, you lose some.

  44. #44 Roman Werpachowski
    May 27, 2006

    Those who were referring to “Cyberiad” — nice try. But you know, “Cyberiad” stories are not straight SF — they are philosophical parables… But if we stick to Lem’s more SF novels, like “Eden” or “Invincible”, you will notice that he tries to make his world be as scientifically plausible as possible. In this sense, Lem doesn’t do hand-waving.

  45. #45 Jason
    May 27, 2006

    No, that is not in common with fundies. I found it irritating because it was contradictory to reality; they dislike it because it contradicts the dogma of their superstitions.

    Good gosh, you people are dense. Do I really have to spell it out for you?

    X-Men: irritates PZ (and others) because it contradicts his beliefs

    Da Vinci Code: irritates Christian fundamentalists because it contradicts their beliefs.

    Nice little attempt at a logical fallacy there, too. “[I]t was contradictory to reality.” Oh, really? Which “reality” is that? Is it the “reality” where evolution happens gradually over time or the “reality” where evolution happens quickly in short segments of time?

  46. #46 Jason
    May 27, 2006

    A troll

    Better to be a free-thinking troll than a mindless, blathering yes-man for PZ here.

    claims that PZ and Christian fundamentalists share the opinion that evolution is “freaking stupid nonsense.”

    Did I claim that? No. Not in the least. Dunno where you pulled that out of, but I suspect it came from the same oriface where you keep your head.

    You can see what I was refering to in my previous post.

    The movie version has nothing to do with science or evolution, while too many fundies see no difference between such nonsense and the caricature of evolution flogged by trolls who dishonestly mischaracterize science in the name of religion.

    What a load of bull droppings. First of all, the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians don’t care what the X-men movies have to say about evolution. Second, very few people of any belief will take anything the movies say about evolution and apply them to the real world. Third, it is grossly hypocritical for you to denounce people who “mischaracterize science in the name of religion” on a blog that regularly mischaracterizes religion in the name of… well… in the name of mischaracterizing religion, really. Simple, unabashed bigotry and hate. If I were to take the language that is used here against Christians and use it against, say, Muslims or atheists, I would be condemned by you and the rest of left-wingdom as hateful. But that’s just it. When liberals do it, it’s okay because they are superior to us slack-jawed “fundie” trolls, right?

  47. #47 Nick (Matzke)
    May 27, 2006

    “When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction, and I’m afraid there will be more of the same here.”

    You might as well complain about the fact that every single mutant violates one or more fundamental laws of physics.

    The science stuff didn’t bug me at all. But I just saw X3, and it was the biggest letdown probably since the Matrix III. No, it was worse.

    X2: Tight plot, character development, well-planned action that made sense, high stakes, and generally lots of creative
    elements.

    X3: A mess through and through. Terrible dialog (the audience was laughing at allegedly serious lines), no real point, lots of random characters that aren’t developed, and generally many elements that are arbitrary or make no sense even in the context of the movie. I mean, the guy with wings? What the heck? Did he play any role in the movie plot at all, except for being a big flying metaphor?

  48. #48 mersault
    May 27, 2006

    Oh, you poor biologists have it so hard. What about us physicists, huh? Lasers from eyes, telekenesis, pyrokenesis, ferrokenesis, walking through walls, changing the weather, teleportation… all things that make physicists cringe. They even have a man who can change his own momentum without changing his velocity or mass! There’s a website devoted to this sort of thing: Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics . That being said, I thought this last movie was great. Sometimes you have to leave the science at the door.

  49. #49 Dan
    May 27, 2006

    Good gosh, you people are dense. Do I really have to spell it out for you?

    Well, you are an excellent speller. You deserve a gold star.

    X-Men: irritates PZ (and others) because it contradicts his beliefs

    Da Vinci Code: irritates Christian fundamentalists because it contradicts their beliefs.

    One of these things is not like the other.

    Nice little attempt at a logical fallacy there, too. “[I]t was contradictory to reality.” Oh, really? Which “reality” is that? Is it the “reality” where evolution happens gradually over time or the “reality” where evolution happens quickly in short segments of time?

    There’s only one reality, Jason. The fact that you wouldn’t recognize it if it jumped up and stuck its todger in your ear is completely irrelevant.

  50. #50 Dan
    May 27, 2006

    Better to be a free-thinking troll than a mindless, blathering yes-man for PZ here.

    In order to be “free-thinking”, Jason, you first have to be “thinking”. And even you have to admit that it’s not your strong suit.

    First of all, the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians don’t care what the X-men movies have to say about evolution.

    They don’t particularly care what anyone else has to say about evolution, either, including the people who actually know a little something about it.

    Second, very few people of any belief will take anything the movies say about evolution and apply them to the real world.

    People are stupid, Jason. There are studies showing that a majority of Americans (something like 60%, IIRC) think that small-arms fire has enough energy to blow a human body backwards 20 feet.

    The funny thing is that even the worst movies are still more believable than the Bible.

    Third, it is grossly hypocritical for you to denounce people who “mischaracterize science in the name of religion” on a blog that regularly mischaracterizes religion in the name of… well… in the name of mischaracterizing religion, really. Simple, unabashed bigotry and hate.

    Your premise is false, but even if it were true, your conclusion does not follow.

    It takes real effort to make an argument that is both invalid and unsound. You should be proud.

    If I were to take the language that is used here against Christians and use it against, say, Muslims or atheists, I would be condemned by you and the rest of left-wingdom as hateful. But that’s just it. When liberals do it, it’s okay because they are superior to us slack-jawed “fundie” trolls, right?

    Wah. It’s not PZ’s fault that you’re exactly the kind of “Christian” that he’s talking about. If you don’t being called on your bullshit, keep it to yourself.

  51. #51 Ian H Spedding
    May 27, 2006

    Warp drive, phasers, magic swords and rings, light-sabres and The Force, superpowers and mutations are really no more than new ‘costumes’ in which to dress up age-old dramatic conflicts. They can be enjoyed provided you can suspend disbelief for the duration:

    O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
    Attest in little place a million;
    And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
    On your imaginary forces work.

    (Henry V was the set Shakespeare play for Eng Lit when I was at school)

    I suspect, though, that most people have something that punctures the ‘warp bubble’ of suspended disbelief. For me, it’s sound in space that really grates if the movie is at least attempting a nodding acquaintance with scientific credibility.

  52. #52 Jason
    May 27, 2006

    Dan said: “No, it isn’t.” [paraphrased, of course]

    You’re just offering contradiction, Dan. Nothing you’ve posted disproves my points or proves yours. Reminds me of this:

    http://www.mindspring.com/~mfpatton/sketch.htm

  53. #53 Jason
    May 27, 2006

    People are stupid, Jason. There are studies showing that a majority of Americans (something like 60%, IIRC) think that small-arms fire has enough energy to blow a human body backwards 20 feet.

    Ah, so then the Da Vinci Code really isn’t – as a lot of non-Christians have been saying in their criticisms of Christians – “just a movie” and Christians are right in defending their beliefs because of it. Thank you, Dan.

  54. #54 George Cauldron
    May 27, 2006

    Nice little attempt at a logical fallacy there, too. “[I]t was contradictory to reality.” Oh, really? Which “reality” is that? Is it the “reality” where evolution happens gradually over time or the “reality” where evolution happens quickly in short segments of time?

    Crabby little jason is back, 4 days after running away from all our questions!

    Here’s the pattern: Jason stomps in with his irritable wingnut fundie yelling, we throw questions at him, he insults PZ (whom he still seems to be quite obsessed with), we throw more questions at him, he disappears for 4 days. Quite an advertisement for his faith.

    So ready to answer those questions about religion NOW, Jason? I can direct you to them if you forgot what they are!

  55. #55 Mike Crichton
    May 27, 2006

    Now ya know how Heinlein fans felt about the “Starship Troopers”(Ptui!) movie.

  56. #56 Ken Cope
    May 27, 2006

    Quite an advertisement for his faith

    There would be a pattern. It’s apparent from Jason’s sterquilinian contortions on this thread alone that he’s a dishonest science denier who figures his brand of religion gives him carte blanche to behave like a dick, although I did read a post on his blog for more context. In it, he quotemines a string of opposing views from 30 years of the emerging science of global warming, as if to conclude that disagreement along the way to consensus was a bug instead of a feature.

    Which “reality” is that? Is it the “reality” where evolution happens gradually over time or the “reality” where evolution happens quickly in short segments of time?

    Reality doesn’t care how you misrepresent it. You want to raise some false dichotomy between PE and gradualism (which were never intended to be exclusive), as if to cite Gould to justify your scorn for evolution–reality for that matter, go right ahead. But in the words of St. Augustine, “…It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”

  57. #57 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    May 28, 2006

    But still. (I don’t think this’d count as a spoiler: once it’s established that Wolverine cannot fight Magneto, maybe he should stop trying to.)

    Er, *** BIG HUGE SPOILER ***

    He didn’t fight Magneto.

    Instead he presented Magneto with this incredibly annoying idiot who simply won’t learn his lesson as a distraction while the blue hairy guy snuck up on him. Worked wonders too – the twit started gloating in the middle of an ongoing battle.

    Oh, and evolution does indeed work over small periods of time – usually the length of time it takes for a predator to leap on and kill something that didn’t move fast enough or was seen too easily or didn’t advertise itself as tasing foul or…

  58. #58 Aaron Denney
    May 28, 2006

    When I saw X2, I have to say that the freaking stupid nonsense about evolution in the opening and closing scenes drove me to distraction

    I thought the one at the beginning was designed to be a snowjob on the congressmen by Jean Grey. It wasn’t supposed to make sense, just convince them all that it was natural.

  59. #59 Jason
    May 29, 2006

    Crabby little jason is back, 4 days after running away from all our questions!

    I have a life outside of the computer. I simply don’t have time to follow every comment posted to me here.

    Here’s the pattern: Jason stomps in with his irritable wingnut fundie yelling, we throw questions at him, he insults PZ (whom he still seems to be quite obsessed with), we throw more questions at him, he disappears for 4 days. Quite an advertisement for his faith.

    Here’s the pattern here: I present reasoned, intelligent arguments and questions, you respond with insults (the “troll” insult is very adorable, btw), childish questions, more insults, and ultimately avoid answering anything I post with anything other than, “Nuh-uh!”

    Quite an advertisement for your faith/beliefs.

    So ready to answer those questions about religion NOW, Jason? I can direct you to them if you forgot what they are!

    As I recall, the questions I saw a while ago were childish. Try to come up with something worth answering and something that hasn’t been repeated ad nauseum on all the skeptic websites.

  60. #60 George Cauldron
    May 29, 2006

    Oh, WONDERFUL, Jason, does this mean you have a response to all that ‘childish’ shredding we did of your idiotic ideas about global warming? Fantastic! Go thru the corrections, and explain to us all why those people who are so much better informed than you are so wrong, while you are so right. Dying to hear it.

  61. #61 George Cauldron
    May 29, 2006

    Here, Jason, here’s the link:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/05/dont_worry_skeptico.php#commentsArea

    So go charge right in there, refute those ‘childish’ scientists, and tell us why global warming is just a liberal conspiracy!

  62. #62 Jason
    May 30, 2006

    I simply don’t have the time to sort through all those comments, George. You’re certainly welcome to pick out whatever you want me to address. You can even post them on my blog comments so I will be sure to see them. Use this post:

    http://shockandblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/world-is-cooling-no-wait-its-warming.html

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