How do you mess up the same story twice? How do you make arguably the best X-Men story ever into mediocre entertainment 13 years after the same producers/writers/directors did it the first time? Simple: throw the comicbook story away because, like Batman-movie-killer Joel T. Schumacher or, even better, Zack Snyder, who seemingly thought every DC movie was some sort of “Watchmen” prequel, you think your vision is more important. There’s a reason this film has been correctly savaged: after almost 20 years, critics and fans are tired of this version of the X-Men, and they are waiting for Kevin Feige to take over. Because when he does, Cyclops, Storm and Jean will stop being supporting characters to J-Law (why even bother calling her Mystique when she does nothing? To be honest, I almost cheered when Jean killed her; she should have died at least one movie ago), Michael Fassbender (Dude, change your mind about James Bond, and do one film!), and James McAvoy. The “Dark Phoenix” story is simple to adapt, as either of these X-Men animated series can show you: Jean goes out of control, and each individual X-Man(/Woman) has to search his or her conscience how to handle it. But that would require each X-Man to be a fully developed character we would actually care about. (Quiz: Who plays Storm? You don’t know, right? See??? 🙂 ) And so one of the classic 20th century superhero stories will never get its proper due. So when does “Spider-Man: Far From Home” come out again?
This historian turning his anecdotes inward is interesting to hardcore Caro-ites, like this writer. The how and the why are answered. The rules are simple: Marry the right woman (Ina Caro, a historian in her own right and Caro’s only researcher, needs her own published version of these stories). Turn every page. Ask thousands, What did you see? What did you hear? Now ask the questions repeatedly. Also simple is Caro’s origin story. He was a young Princeton grad who did well at Long Island Newsday when all of that mattered, and who, luckily for him, found the team that is now American literary legend: Lynn Nesbit and Robert Gottlieb. So for more than 50 years, Caro has been financially freed up to read, research, interview, and write about American political power. The winner of enough literary awards to weigh down a battleship, he can afford the incredible amount of shoe-leather that allows him to patiently find any buried truth or fact, anywhere. “Of course there was more,” he writes. “If you ask the right questions, there always is. That’s the problem.” Caro, who admits this book is a sort-of collection of memories and notes for a coming memoir, says biography must be a visual medium to be successful, and that “silence is the weapon” in interviews. The author’s real weapon is total immersion, and the lonely-by-necessity Lyndon Baines Johnson scribe makes many top-notch American presidential biographers into little more than weekend historians by comparison. The man who hates the unanswered question has decided to ask every single one, repeatedly if necessary, no matter how long, or where, it takes.
This epic is many things, among them a meditation of how powerful love, honor, duty and friendship can be, if among the right group of people. An extraordinary end–and make no mistake, it is an ending! Deserves its place among the greatest superhero films ever made, even if detractors will correctly point out that it’s the sequel to 21 films, one that mined all its predecessors to create a perfect-hits collection.
Well…..I’ll just say it’s a good thing historians nourish ourselves through memory. 😦