Build yourself up enough for any given movie, and your bound to experience that moment of dread right before you actually go experience the thing — not the idea of the thing, not the review or plot summary, but the actual text itself — that whispers in your ear, “Oy, what if you were wrong about talking this up to everyone and squealing with glee, you idiot?” And you go, “Uh oh…” Those are the somersaults my stomach’s performing right now.
See, I’ve been talking this prequel/reboot up to anyone that can bear the sound of my voice when I start talking about comic book movies for weeks now. The minute I found out this film was set during the Kennedy years, my mind nearly melted. I thought this was a brilliant idea. It’s not that I minded the first threequel, but it’s characters seemed somehow out-of-place, like they had wandered in from the wrong era but weren’t aware of it so they kept going about their daily bussiness. I feel like they were almost as lost as the misplaced live-action Scooby gang that ran around a kooky 21st century Mystery Island like mislaid time travelers. Why do we keep pulling our sixties cartoon and comic book characters out of the milieu from which they came, and the one in which they make sense, so that we can stick them like cardboard cutouts into a boring, “been there, done that,” completely anonymous, contemporary setting? Case in point: Gwen Stacy. That girl, the squeaky-clean, good girl model you’d want to take home to Auntie May, was so out-of-place in Spiderman 3 that they literally could not write anything for her to do but… look out place, like a relic from another time, a time when Peter Parker would love a girl like Gwen. (I have hope that the upcoming reboot will not make the same mistake considering Gwen appears to be the main-attraction and will be played by the saucy Emma Stone.)
It’s not that these characters have to be stuck in that setting. Not at all. I love Ultimate Spiderman, the comics reboot that brought Spidey and pals into the 21st century, but that reboot made the necessary adjustments to classic characters, and suddenly they made sense in our time. Iron Man is another good example. He actually makes more sense in our time, thanks to the fine direction of his movie, then he ever did at his conception, when he was a fervent Commie fighter. But when the effort isn’t even made to try to make ’60s characters fit into the modern setting, and to make them relevent to the time period you’ve asked them to jump to, and to make them say something to people about their contemporary ways, then you just get cardboard. You get Halle Berry as Storm (and yes, I am aware that Storm was not created until the 1970s).
So the idea of a superhero movie as a period piece and not a contemporary blockbuster intrigued me more then I can express. (Captain America excites me for the same reason, but saddens me because inevitably Cap will get iced (literally) and when he wakes up he’ll find himself in drab 21st century comic-book land and the 1940s will be lost.) That this film would embrace the essential Kennedy-era nature of these characters as they were initially concieved was a big step, and one I hoped would effect the comic film craze as it enters its awkward adolescence this decade. Great reviews made me optimistic that the faith I’d put in a movie which was getting largely pushed under the rug had not been mislaid. This is after all, one of four huge comics blockbusters coming out in the span of two months, and this one is the only that is based on a comic which has already been adapted to dimishing returns four times, and which does not have the possibility of an Avengers or Justice League mega-film attatched to it. No one seemed to be excited for it. But some reviewers were. IGN’s was the first review I read, and it was gushing. It said this was far and away the best X-film. And there was much rejoicing!
But I can’t seem to drum up interest to get this movie on the friend-gathering pipeline for the life of me. The two friends I know who’ve seen it have called it “good-ish” and “decent.” Both of those pithy reviews were daggers to my overeager heart. (I am admitting this knowing that anyone reading this realizes I need to get my priorities in order, big time!) And yet, none of my friends love (or even watch) Mad Men, and think “You know what’d be awesome… If Magneto were more like Don Draper, and the villians layer looked more like Roger’s office, and Betty was actually in the film! Yeah, that’d be awesome!” Also, none have long held the assumption that superhero films that have the balls to be deep period pieces dripping in retro set design and knowing history might be the ones that can truly rock. So I’m split. Should I be worried about being let down by this film, or just go in marching blissfully to the beat of my own drum and hope for the best?