Wednesday, 16 September 2009

X Men the Last stand and TV

A whole week has passed since that wonderful first day at the cricket and my mood, created to a great extent by the weather and because of age is that the party is well and truly over. Fortunately I have the internal resources to overcome these feelings although it is always sensible to balance moments of euphoria with the reality of the commonplace.

My work, looking back, not just on the previous day though these writings, but on my seventy years in the context of my immediate environment, country, planet and universe is also a constant reminder of the reality of individual human experience. I need to devote more time to the work as well as to settling what is to happen to it when my physical presence as well as self awareness is no longer. I was reminded of this impending last night just before midnight, not a good time for such experience by the last episode pf Morse, the televised version of the Dexter novel set mainly in the City of Oxford and surrounding countryside with occasional forays to London and at least once to Italy. I had forgotten the story of the episode which remains unimportant because of the brilliant portrayal by John Thaw of what it is like to be told that nothing could be done to remedy his heart condition other than limit feeling degrees of grottiness by giving up two of the things he needed most in his life, his work and real ale and scotch. He could not give up either, trying to become enthusiastic about bird watching from a window overlooking his garden. What added to the performance is that John Thaw died soon after this programme. Performance like this, couple with my own feelings about the inevitability of an ending at some point couple with direct experience of the different ways of that time and that moment only serves to underline the pain I continue to feel about the waste of life, especially young life through military service and childhood death because of famine and preventable illness. I awoke this morning to hear someone involved in the provision of help in natural disasters that climate change was already having a negative impact on the health of the poorest nations as well as reminding that during the last major heat wave 3000 people had died in the UK more than the those from the swine flu virus to-date and where the availability of vaccination should match the expected growth of the virus as winter approaches.

I also watched the Fixer on ITV at 9pm in preference to the last hour of the fifth one international between Australia and England at Trent Bridge. I had paid some attention to the England innings in which the batsmen made good starts, including Captain Strauss, who suffered an unfortunate dismissal and where no one really took off big time in a prolonged way although the team managed to reach 299, but still short of what was needed to set Australia a difficult challenge. The problem is that England cannot take wickets without Pietersen and having discarded Harmison and Patterson and with Rashid and the other slow bowlers unable to hold back the tide of Australian run getting. I had also completely forgotten the first round of the main Euro football competition but switched over to find that Manchester United and Chelsea were winning 1.0 as the final whistle was sounded in their respective matches

The Fixer was the third in the series experienced with the fist concerning the criminal exploitation of children across counties for sex, violence adoption and the use by one arm of extended government of others to achieve individual and collective objectives. This week following the expected death from national causes of champion of the licence to kill team, the day to day administrative head does a deal with the creative par excellence from overseas black ops to get rid of the alleged previously unknown head of drug organisation producing heroin in Afghanistan. We the audience immediately knew as the team administrator that they were being used and the man was obviously lying about the situation and had his own as well as government agency agenda. The top killer in the team is shot barely escaping with his life and becomes depressed at his failure and the apparent pointlessness of it all. There is always someone else to step in a take over whatever racket or criminal activity is being tackled and the motives are always.. The target in question is a disillusioned SAS operative who has been sent by the black ops individualist to make money from drugs in order to finance what he regards as important operations starved of funds because of government funds. The idea that the government uses such people, as it does without the closest of monitoring and with the capacity to eliminate their activities if they get out of hand is preposterous but serves to remind that governments do use the creative individualists and that they do sometimes get out of hand and their activities can become counter productive as well as the making of genuine mistakes. In the episode the gone stray front line operative is taken out and the black ops organiser lives to another day as does the team. The series is of the third rank lacking great scripts and great acting.

This cannot be said for Waking the Dead with Trevor Eve as the wayward individualist head of team and Sue Johnston who first came to attention in Brookside while Trevor who is a first rank stage actor made his TV name with the series Shoestring. Boyd is also one of those prepared to break the law to bring the guilty to justice. The story of the two night episode was profound and accurately explained.

An already emotional vulnerable young woman goes out one evening to make a phone call using a public box (in the days before the mobile phone significantly reduced the need to go out of the home to make clandestine calls and is forced to take her young brother with her to the local store. On the way home the car has a puncture and two men who in car who stop to help turn out to be rapists and one kills the boy and attempts to kill the young woman who survives physically but becomes an emotional wreck, especially when the police fail to catch the two men involved. Boyd and the unit become involved again when the girl attempts to commit suicide and leaves a note for Boyd saying find them.

The young woman is persuaded to come to the unit and describe what happened to her and her brother so they the sceptical other members will be motivated. Through the latest scientific methods, some luck and by Boyd breaking into a private home to obtain evidence the team are able to identify the two men and then obtain the evidence sufficient for a prosecution. The key was to work out from the account of the victim that there are two very different men. One is inadequate who convinces himself that he is fulfilling the needs of his victims as well as of himself and is attempting to find the love and satisfaction he cannot obtain in the rest of his life. They work out that he was a serial rapist in the area of Manchester where he lived and may be continuing from his job as a caretaker at a college crammer when he looks after his disabled wife in wheelchair. When the unit close in on him he contacts the other younger man and blackmails him into looking after his wife explaining that he has kept incriminating evidence just for this kind of situation.

The second man is described by the Sue Johnston character as someone with anger towards women seeking revenge for what happened to him in his past, (in this instance a mother and a childhood girlfriend who he subsequently married but found out that she had become promiscuous while attending university before him). This was the man who killed he boy, beat up the victim as he raped her and pushed the other man into throwing her off a bridge as he had thrown off the boy. The question asked by Trevor and others members of the team is why did these two men unite in what appeared to be the only joint rape and murder. Sue explains the psychology and Boyd and other team members find out the particular circumstances which led to the two men having contact and striking a relationship. The second man has become an outstanding a surgeon consultant and I thought for a moment the moral issue was whether there was a case for letting him go because of the good he had done and was doing in reparation. The great twist of this story was that that the victim, became perpetrator. Boyd when be broke into the house was spotted by someone who noted the number of his car and he was traced and the anti corruption/ misuse of position squad are brought in and tell Boyd to suspend his involvement in work pending further investigation. This happens at the very point he is about to tell the victim that the case has been solved but now as a result of his methods there is the likelihood that a prosecution will flounder because a criminal act was used to obtain evidence.

Aware that this is so the victim nearly kills a member of the unit and then appears to kill the man who murdered her brother. Boyd has to prevent the woman then killing herself. The story therefore brought out the appalling truth that victims do become perpetrators of crime in some instances, especially if the crime is not detected and perpetrators brought to justice. It also underlines the point that the end can never be used to justify the means.

However just how difficult it can be for those working in justice system to defeat the professional criminal was under lined in the latest episode of New Tricks which similar to Waking the dead is a unit set up to examine previously unsolved crimes, including crimes which only come to light several years, sometimes decades after they were committed. In the latest episode the action takes place during the trial of a man who has confessed to having run down the wife of one of the team members. The Barrister defending the man has obtained information about the each of the unit members, and reveals that one in addition to having had a questionable private life with four marriages and various children used his position to check DNA information whether a young woman who had contacted was his daughter. She is not but in order not to disappoint he has lied to her but when faced with telling the truth in the court he hesitates sufficiently before doing so and she realises this. Another member of the team is shown to have a chemical imbalance which means that he needs to take medication throughout the day to remain in balance and that if he takes alcoholic to which he had become addicted or leaves off the medication he becomes exceptionally emotionally unstable and attacked in the witness box he is broken down. Similarly the victim’s partner is exposed as being obsessed and unable to move on, talking to his wife every night over her ashes buried in the garden and surrounded by lighted candles. The succession of attacks on the characters and behaviour of the key witnesses for the prosecution is successful before a jury as the man is acquitted.

A very different fictional experience was X Men the Last Stand and which take away the computerised trickery this is story about racialism and how those with the best intentions can become criminals and enemies of society, endangering the future of humanity. The theme of the series of films )in which the The Last Stand could be the last as three of the leading characters are believed to have been killed but where in two instances the bodies are not shown and the death is imprecise), is the need for coexistence between “normal” humans and mutations some of whom have superhuman powers which include significant changes to the physical body. The films are based on the Marvel comic book characters and a new novelisation was created and is said to differ in some respects from the film story.

The issue raised by the film is a moral one. What if is it possible through medical science to create a means by injection abnormal people can become normal so they do not stand out and can lead anonymous lives. In the film the antidote is offered free but it is also developed into a weapons to destroy the powers of the mutants when they decide that this voluntary approach is wrong and want society to treat and accept mutants as having the same rights as everyone else. It touches upon the age old argument about the military and social uses of science and the degree to which human beings tend to want to be normal or average and can become hostile to the different and extraordinary.

In the film series Patrick Stewart plays the head of a special school, rather like the Harry Potter Hogwarts is designed to harness the powers of Mutant for good and help in bridging the differences between those with special powers and those which do not. Although wheel chair bound he plays someone with exceptional ability to read minds and influence. He has been able to keep in check the negative powers within one of his former students who dies at the end of the previous film and is resurrected but only through her dark powers whose telepathy is stronger than that of Patrick Stewart and telekinetic powers with atomic destructiveness. Fortunately there are traces of her human self left which means that she accepts death from someone who loves her at the end of the film thus saving her comrades and the world twice.

Hugh Jackman plays the man who loves her, a Wolverine whose bones have been encased in metal and has metal claws which emerge from each hand as powerful fighting and defensive weapons. He misguidedly releases “Phoenix” from her controlled state after she is brought to the centre and therefore it is fitting that he is responsible for neutralising her at the end of the film. Patrick was already grooming Cyclops to take over from him as head of the school, a man who has a destructive energy blast through his eyes which unless being used for good purposes have to be shielded by a ruby quartz visor. He is devastated by the loss of Phoenix and is believed killed by her during the film. His prospective position as school head is passed to Halle Berry who plays Storm with the power to control the weather with her mind. She refused to participate in the film unless she was given a part which reflected the role of the character in the comic books. Other characters include a blue haired all over scientist with a high IQ and great strength and agility who is US government Minister in charge of Mutant Affairs, Anna Paquin is Rogue who has power to absorb the life force, killing anyone them if she holds on them too long. Another has a body with the characteristics of Ice and can use the power to combat fire by creating force of ice and cold (Iceman). Another student can walk through matter. Colossus can transform his skin into steel with power to resist force including heat.

Unfortunately there are also Mutant forces who want to redress the balance between humans and mutants. They want to destroy the ability to convert mutants into functioning humans. They are led by Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto a Holocaust victim with the power to manipulate any form of metal and in the spectacular finale he moves the Gold Gate Bridge so they can get to Alcatraz which is being used as a medical science laboratory producing the mutant antidote. He then uses cars which have stopped on the bridge as weapons tossing them into the air as weapons which are then ignited into fire bombs by one of his supporters (Pyro) a former Institute Student with an inbuilt flame throw which he uses against his former friend Iceman in a dual to the death.

Sir Ian’s main assistant is Mystique who can shape shift into female and male forms including other characters in the film and who has great strength and agility. She takes a hit from the human converting drugs to protect Sir Ian so becomes human. When he discards her because of this she provides intelligence to the government. Vinnie Jones plays Juggernaut who is a new recruit with the power which increases as he gains momentum, able to penetrate all substances and cannot be stopped. There is also a character Multiple who can create unlimited copies of himself. Finally among the mutants is the son of the man who has developed the vaccine. He has angel wings and can fly. He hates being odd and his father creates the vaccine to help his son however at the last moment the son changes his mind and at the end of the film we see him using his wings to fly freely. Given that the characters have this range of powers it is inevitable that much of the film taken with showing off displays and combats. However the central theme is always present and for once an American President is portrayed as a thoughtful, intelligent, caring individual, faced with hard choices which are often the lesser of several evils.

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