Tributes to Two Genre Giants

I really enjoyed Bill Paxton, and I’m gonna miss him.

Bill Paxton collage

Bill Paxton collage

In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, Paxton passed away the other day from complications during surgery at age 61. As genre actors go, he was both beloved by fans and, I think, perhaps a bit underappreciated. His resume goes back to the mid-1970s and includes many movies and TV appearances that sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure fans, along with fans of other genres, will forever remember him for. Some roles were quite brief (e.g., one of three punks who first encounter the T-800 in The Terminator), some were significant supporting roles, and others were terrific starring roles. Good or bad, you could tell he loved his job.

Most recently, Paxton could be seen co-starring with Justin Cornwell in the new “Training Day” TV series. A couple years ago, he did a guest stint on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. I haven’t watched everything he was in, of course. But, of those I have seen, probably my top 5 Paxton roles were: Pvt. Hudson in Aliens (1986), Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), Bill Harding in Twister (1996), and, yes, “Punk Leader” from The Terminator (1984). He also appeared in Weird Science, Commando, Predator 2, Trespass, Boxing Helena, True Lies, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young (1998 remake), U-571, a couple of Spy Kids sequels, Edge of Tomorrow, and many more.

Paxton may not have been quite the household name as some of his co-stars, but among many aficionados of TV and film, he was a “big deal”. He provided a lot of entertainment to young and old, and I’ll always enjoy his work. He is gone too soon from this world, and all that is left to say is, “Thank you, sir.” Well, that and…

Game over, man. Well played.

Neil Fingleton

Neil Fingleton / Mag the Mighty

The other “giant” I’d like to pay tribute to was not nearly as well known as Paxton but was a giant of another kind. Former basketball player Neil Fingleton was known as the UK’s “tallest British-born man” at 7 feet 7.5 inches (232.5 cm) in height. He was playing professionally in an American minor league in Europe when he decided to give it up and pursue a career in showbiz.

Fingleton’s name and face may not be very familiar even to genre fans, unless perhaps you saw him on one or the other (or both) of two British TV documentaries he appeared in in 2007: “Britain’s Tallest Men” on BBC Four and “Superhuman: Giants” on ITV. The reasons are 1) at his height, there haven’t been that many roles he fit, and 2) the roles he had involved him being covered in a lot of make-up, prosthetics, and/or armor.

His credits include minor roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. In 47 Ronin, he played a Lovecraftian Samurai who fought Keanu Reeves’ character. He played the giant “Mag the Mighty” in the epic “Game of Thrones” episode “The Watchers on the Wall”. (Other GoT giants, Dongo and Wun Wun, were played by Ian Whyte (7’1″).) In 2015 he portrayed the scary Fisher King in the “Doctor Who” episode “Before the Flood”. He also did a few stunts and motion capture work for “Ultron” in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Fingleton died of heart failure this past weekend mere days after turning 36.

One last thing… I watched For the Love of Spock last week. If you haven’t already seen it and were curious, I very much recommend it. It’s a touching tribute to both the character of Spock and the man who first brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Certainly, it’s a must-see for Trekkies/Trekkers, and particularly for fans of the Original Series.

Pros & Cons of *X-Men: First Class*

As with last week, I’d like to share a few notes I originally made after watching one of the X-Men movies — this time, X-Men: First Class. Given that it was to be a prequel to the first three movies, featuring decades-younger versions of Xavier and Magneto, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The casting and characterization of those two characters actually wasn’t bad. What was to prove much more annoying was, again, how many changes were made to characters from the comics — ages, powers, appearances, relations to other characters, etc. (More on that below.)

There are fewer notes than last time, but here they be….

X-Men: First Class

Movie poster of xmen - first class

Pros:

1) Founding of the school
2) Certain homages to comics (e.g., joking about shaving Xavier’s head)
3) Wolverine cameo!
4) Cerebro! (inc. ‘visions’ of young Ororo, though she shouldn’t have even been conceived in 1962, let alone 8-10yo)
5) Blackbird!
6) Danger Room!
7) I like the fact that Magneto’s helmet was originally made by Shaw’s people to protect him from Xavier. Note: Wasn’t he afraid Emma might manipulate him?

Cons:

1) Characters from the comics whose look and/or powers are changed dramatically
— Beast (too thin, feet too simian; why would he have superspeed?)
— Riptide (no costume; signature flowing, white hair from comics replaced with dark hair)
— Shaw (not burly enough; not “upper-crusty” and doesn’t wear Victorian-era clothes; his powers were too undefined (e.g., how much control does he maintain of the energy once discharged from his body?))
— White Queen (should not have had her secondary mutation to change to diamond, yet)
— Moira (supposed to be a geneticist, not a CIA field agent, for Pete’s sake!)

Questions:

1) In the scene in Magneto’s room, why did he totally reject Mystique, then “go for it”?
2) Did Emma know Xavier & co. was there at the Russian estate?
3) Why didn’t Emma break out of the holding cell, especially once she cut through the glass of the observation window?
4) In one previous movie, a somewhat younger Charles & Erik visited Jean Grey’s home for first time. If they were working together then, does that mean they will temporarily reconcile at some point? Or, did they screw up the movie continuity?
5) Darwin could have given Alex a silent signal rather than shouting, “Alex, now!” (Still wouldn’t have succeeded, but would’ve been a lot smarter.)

Problems w/ movie version of X-Men in general:

1) I understand why the movies can’t replicate the comics, by why do they have to be SO different? For example, it irks me that they had to so totally change the chronology of when certain characters lived, when they met other characters, etc. (e.g., Emma Frost, Hank McCoy, and Alex Summers shouldn’t even be alive in 1962! Banshee may have been a toddler, not teen.)
2) The close, sisterly bond Mystique has with Xavier is a far departure from the comics. And there was no indication in the other movies that they ever had such a relationship. But, considering said bond, I find the pretense under which Mystique eventually sides with Magneto unsatisfactory.

IF there is a sequel:

1) To maintain some connection with the comics, they could explore Azazel’s relationship with Mystique, which eventually leads to Kurt Wagner (aka Nightcrawler)’s conception & birth.
2) Magneto’s marriage(?) to the gypsy which gives birth to Wanda & Pietro Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver) could be explored.
3) Maybe we could see budding romance between Xavier and Moira, too.

Despite my reservations and many “issues” I had with changes to characters from the comics versions, I still enjoyed X-Men: First Class. In fact, it may be time to watch it again….

Now, I’d like to leave you with a link to a recent article from WhatCulture.com titled “10 X-Men Characters the Movies Totally Wasted”. Writer Scott Campbell does a great job of explaining why they are great characters and critiquing exactly how they got shafted in the MCU. (Especially Nightcrawler and Angel!) I agree with him 100% and only wish that I had had the time to review the movies and put together something similar. Check it out!