Saturday, May 27, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

Roger Moore of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, for my money the best movie reviewer around, said in the lead of his X-Men review that it would offer the movie "faint praise." I wish I could give it more, but alas, he got it dead right.

The beauty of the X-Men franchise, to me, is the ambiguity of the lead combatants. Professor Charles Xavier is not purely good, and Magneto, though clearly a more prickly pear, was never purely evil.

And X-3, as I'll call it from here on out, sets up the perfect premise for their paths to further blur: A "cure" that will make all mutants "normal." If Brett Ratner had made a movie about how each man and their forces react to this threatening development, we would have a great wrap-up to the second-best superhero franchise (next to Spider-Man, of course.) And he almost pulled it off.

Perhaps his studio handlers got to him and whispered in his ear. Someone must have told him, "You surely can't make a Summer blockbuster about that. We need more. More mutants. More action. More, more, more!"

And that's where he gets into trouble. Concepts that would have made for their own great X-Men movie are introduced here as mere diversions, then swatted away as soon as they start to get interesting. The most egregious was the Phoenix. I don't want to turn into a comic-book geek here, partly because I'm not a very good one. But I have read many X-Men comics, and the Phoenix saga is one of the most compelling storylines in the X-Men canon; Here it is introduced and discarded in a matter of minutes.

That happens just way too many times in X-3 to make it terribly compelling. Rogue's struggle with whether to stay a mutant or take the cure? Five minutes of screen-time at best. And Angel? Why bother to give us the mutant whose father was so repulsed by him that he dedicated his life to eradicating the mutant gene from his son, and then tell us nothing else about him?

But I shouldn't get so worked up over what is, after all, a popcorn movie. And it's far from all bad here. Ratner, for all the abuse he takes, is developing a real talent for set pieces. The encounter at Jean Grey's house and the final showdown at Worthington lab were fun to watch, and clear of any of the shaky-camera hijinx that are so contagious nowadays.

And Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart just got better with each movie, especially Sir Ian. He makes Magneto such a force that you manage to forget just how silly that costume looks on such a distinguished actor. Kelsey Grammer as the Beast is also a welcome addition.

Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry, however, are just annoying. Watching Jackman's Wolverine become more and more cuddly as they set him up for his solo franchise sometime in the near future is simply sickening.

In the end, it adds up to how I'm beginning to think the rest of this summer will turn out: Not as bad as we feared, but not nearly as good as we deserve.


Dave said...

Wow Keith, I wish I had written that post. I think you nailed it right on.

Not only the plot lines that appear and dissapear, along with some of the cast, but the Ratner angle as well. He got a lot of abuse going into this, and I was pleasantly surprised by how he did.

Again, the film is lacking a great deal, but I won't necessarily cringe next time I hear he's directing a movie I want to see.

And I'm so glad someone else has commented on the shakey camera thing. What's up with that? I mean really? A touch of it goes a looooong way.

Great, great post!

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Dave ... I probably would have liked this movie a lot more if it weren't about the X-Men, but they are dear to my geek heart

rgmb said...

excellent review! Apparently you managed to get more out of it than I did only noticing the palette : ).

Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Satchmo said...

Good points - the scripting often seemed to assume that the audience would make logical connections, or would know backstories, and left it at that.

I left this comment on my blog (on XIII), but I didn't like how they did Beast - he's articulate in a suit, but when it comes to fighting, he roars? There's a fundamental misunderstanding of Beast's character there, I think. They almost seem to suggest that, like the Phoenix, he has a kind of alternate self as well, which he keeps under wraps most of the time in everyday life. It's a little thing, but I think it was a mistake. I think they could have at least couched it with a couple more one-liners.

If I can say one good thing about the filming, it's that they avoided bullet-time, which often has served to make actions scenes less visceral. That was at least one good move.

Easy E said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm glad someone else agrees with how offensive his madeup story regarding Dark Phoenix is, and the more I read your review the more I realize that the screenplay probably reads like a high school drop out wrote it. I forgot the 5 minute struggle Rogue had with taking the cure and instead I was more alarmed that they made this strong, independent female character in the series into pretty much the exact opposite. It's ok that she has problems now, but the fact that they've now pretty much removed her from ever maturing into a great character is sick.

It looks like you and I have been talking about some of the same news articles ;) Obviously you spend more time on them since this is what you're more interested in, so more power to ya!

omar said...

yao, it was pretty dreadful. Do to fanboyism, I can't wholly discard the movie, cause X-men are still damn cool ^^_ but wow, the way 'the phoenix' was handled was pretty useless.

Halle Berry, of the past 3 movies, has only ever been Halle Berry. She hasn't any commanding presence or leadership. But Hugh Jackman's done a decent job I think. At times I see past the actor. I thought he & Xavier were some of the best.

And there were all those fan service instances, like when Bobby went all ice. : ) that was nice, but overall, meh, trouble. And for that, I think I do end up blaming the director. I'm definitely gonna check out Superman Returns. Brian Singer did a really good job w/ X:2.

ryang said...

My least favorite of the three, but the most entertaining movie I've seen this summer — though I'll admit to only hitting the blockbusters so far.

I'm no fanboy, and I never read the comics (somewhat regretably, since those folks seemed to get a thrill out of some of the small nods Ratner threw in, a la Iceman and Juggernaut), but I have truly enjoyed the X trilogy, particularly the masterfully done X2.

I'll second and third what others have said — the Dark Phoenix storyline could have been a fantastic and devastating tour de force, but they turned her into a pawn. Disappointing. Also, you could remove Halle Berry from all three movies without hurting the story a bit, IMHO.

Still, I showed up at midnight on Thursday with the rest of the geeks and had a good time, so it was worth my seven bucks.

William K. Scurry Jr. said...

The miracle was that Ratner didn't sully the brand -- but he certainly didn't add any kind of imprimatur to it. And I have to agree about Kelsey Grammer; he was a nice touch, bringing a bit of gravity to the flick.

The Prof X in the dead-dude's brain thingie was SO telegraphed by that ethics class question.

voice of a junkie said...

You made a good point at the end of your review. I have always looked forward to the summer movie season, but this year it seems that nothing really stands out and grabs my attention. I really wanted to enjoy x-men 3, however i was greatly disappointed. I just hope that the rest of the movies coming out this summer will not be disappointing.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to what has turned into a lively discussion .. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who gets mad when hacks mess with movies we love!

Jack's Shack said...

I am late to the party, but I wanted to add my own affirmation to the comments here.

Ratner had enough material for at least 7 movies. He should have focused his attention here instead of screwing up what could have been a wonderful picture.

Shell said...

You're exactly right, Fanatic; the movie's structure suffers from all the false starts. As you know, my own review focuses on the wretched treatment of female characters in the film, but there's no question Ratner dropped other balls as well. What a disappointment.

Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I love Spinal Tap too. :)

Lorcy said...

As the last poster said, thanks for commetning on my made rants!

"Not as bad as we feared, but not nearly as good as we deserve". This should be put on T-shirts we can wear from the summer, it was a cruel irony to have Superman Retuerns trailer before X-3, I just kept thinking about it during the flash bang wallop nature of X-3.

I do get the feeling that fanboy in Ratner left alone would have made a decent flick but like that kid in Silver Spoons there was a rich guy in his ear going ride the wee train it's in the credits you have to ride the wee train round the room...

at least x-3 will engender a fan commaderie among those fanboys who did see it

i can't get the image of ratner rolling around in balls of money with hip-hop honeys though....

Chris Holmes said...

Thanks for stopping by my site and leaving a comment Keith. Found my way to your blog because of it. Apparently we're of like mind on this one.

My sense of this, in regards to Rattner, is that he's a more than capable filmmaker who was handed a scant script and too little time. He made the best he could out of the garbage he was given.

This seems like a classic case of studio suits destroying a franchise, instead of leaving the creative minds to steer the ship. You'd think after the success of movies like Lord of the Rings that the studio suits would back off and let creative people do their thing, but no.

Watching X-Men: The Last Stand reminded me of that scene from The Majestic, where the studio executives are playing "What if?" with Jim Carry's script...

Chris Holmes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vasta said...

Every time I even think of the latest X-Men movie, I get so angry I punch the wall. Argh. I want Singer back.

And now, I'm going to put a band-aid on these bloody knuckles.

themarina said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but your comment about the sheer number of mutants involved in the film were my concern from the very first I started to hear about this. I enjoy the other two movies but I was already finding that there were 1 or 2 too many characters that I wanted to see more of and with the extended cast we have in this one, I just knew this was going to be a problem.

Great review.

The Val Blog said...

You might think that I have been hiding under a rock (or been paid off by the competition) if I declare that I haven't seen any of the X-Men films.

I remember watching a couple of X-Men cartoons years back (before the first X-Men movie installment) and my memory churns out: "They are quite good"

It's dissapointing to hear about Hugh Jackman not being able to embrace "being Wolverine" that much (I noticed "cuddly" was the word used?). I'm hoping that if they do go ahead with the Wolverine franchise...they would give it more justice. =o/

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