Monday, May 29, 2006

The moral ambiguity of X-men 3

My experience of X-Men: The Last Stand was pretty much marred by my prior knowledge of the Marvel universe. Many characters were somewhat out of character, especially Magneto. I doubt he would sacrifice many mutants as cannon fodder (unless it is Ultimate Magneto). Other problems, like Jean Grey's power and Juggernaught being nerfed, are also distracting.

In anycase, what really interested me was the moral ambiguity of many important characters in the film. The X-men, while supposedly the good guys, are actually highly inconsistent in their morality. Even Professor X, ever the pacifist, reveals himself to be a flawed man.

While he advocates the responsible use of mutant powers, I doubt the morality of manipulating Jean Grey's mind (and actually, Wolverine's). Of course, he justifies his actions by refering to the "possible consequences" which could cause great harm. Is this reasonable or even consistent ? If he could make this one concession, then it would not be a far leap to consider mind-wiping dangerous villains like Magneto in order to block or limit their powers. The slippery slope could go even deeper, as he could be compelled to "persuade" anyone to his "righteous cause".

The X-men defeated Magneto using the mutant antigen to remove his powers. In doing so, they have abetted its use as a weapon against mutants. What utter folly, as they should have stopped him using their considerable powers. Now, they have absolutely no ground to stand on if others used the antigen on them.

Finally, I am deeply suspicious of the US government portrayed in the film. They seem to be too well prepared for the mutant insurgency, being armed with what are clearly anti-mutant (or anti-magneto) weapons. Futhermore, they were already shown to have used the antigen as a anti-mutant weapon in the prison convoy. In light of this, Magneto's military response may be perfectly justified, as the goverment clearly had some intent of using the cure against them. Fear ultimately breeds fear, and the difference may merely be who lays the first strike. In this case, it was Magneto, but the alternative may well be a Sentinel attack on the mutants in the future.

These moral ambiguities make the film much more realistic, as the original X-men comic, set in the racially-charged background of their time, was. Nothing is really as clear cut as it seems.

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