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Jan 31, 2008

Film Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Original Review Date: 6/4/2006

X-Men 3 is the amalgamation of the first two superior X-Men films and bits and pieces of other storylines and characters from the Marvel Universal thrown together to create a substanceless action extravaganza.

Do not be persuaded by my words from seeing this summer movie, however, because there are bits of brilliance throughout the film. Young Warren Worthington III and the scene with the knives and his wings, the first ten minutes of the film involving a teenage Jean Grey and an unparalyzed Professor Xavier, Mystique’s integration scene, where the non-comic book reader learns her real name or as she refers to it, her slave name and a few other scenes. One has to wonder though if these instances would have encompassed all of X-Men 3 and not simply have been brief flashes of a great film, if Bryan Singer had been behind the camera. With a production budget of $210 Million, only a skilled CPA could tell you where all of that money went since a third to half of the special effects are of the quality of those found in Shaolin Soccer and Kung-Fu Hustle. The problem with this occurrence is that those effects were meant to look cheesy, a little off and funny, all at the same time. It was on purpose. Was it on purpose in X-Men 3 or was the production of the film rushed like I’ve read so that 20th Century Fox could beat Singer’s Superman into the theaters? The answers obvious.

If Bryan Singer hadn’t defected with his apt writing team of Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris and gone over to Warner Brothers to write and direct the upcoming Superman Returns, X-Men 3’s cohesion issues, character histories (with their accompanying developments) would have been more in tune with their comic book brethren, helping to fully round the characters from the first two movies. The only characters given any development in X-Men 3 are Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey/Phoenix and Halle Berry’s Storm/Ororo Munroe. I won’t get into the whole Phoenix Saga and how Grey’s mind has been splintered into two halves for her own protection as well as everyone else’s (actually explained well in the film) but summing up the whole Saga in a 104 minute movie is an absolute travesty and a shame. Storm, on the other hand, is given a lot more screen time and dialogue than in the previous X-Men films, as was part of Berry’s contract I believe, and slides into the eventual leadership role (also part of her contract) of the new X-Men team easily. This new team consists of Beast, Iceman, Shadowcat, Colossus and Wolverine. Where’s Cyclops you ask? Don’t worry, we’ll get to him. Don’t concern yourself with Oscar winner Anna Paquin or her character of Rogue either. That character, though developed throughout the first two X-Men films, has been relegated to a minuscule and ineffectual sub plot in this third installment.

“Now comes the part, where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But…‘If ya gotta go, go with a smile.’” That quote from Tim Burton’s Batman sums up the addition of every new character, except for Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast, in X-Men 3. All of the new characters (Callisto, Multiple Man, Siryn, Leech, Flea, etc.) have all been stripped of their past lives and their origins and are simply empty creations to ogle and smirk at when they show up on screen. The most egregious and aggravating of these past alterations/deletions is the butchering done to Cain Marko/Juggernaut. Cain and Professor Xavier are not actually strangers in the slightest as shown on screen in X-Men 3 but the same could be said about Mystique and Nightcrawler in X-Men 2. Cain’s powers come from the Crimson Ruby of Cyttorak which he found in a lost temple during the Korean War, imbuing him with human juggernaut powers. This is why Juggernaut shouldn’t have been in X-Men 3. He’s past is too broad and rich for him to simply be slapped in with a bunch of bad guys. This is the same thing that happened to Bane in the horribly neon and cartoony Batman Forever.

Also, Juggernaut is supposed to be seven feet tall, at least, because the rube transformed him. The actor playing him, Vinnie Jones, is only 6’2 and he happens to be wearing throughout the entirety of X-Men 3 the most obvious and audaciously fake-looking latex muscle suit I’ve ever seen. I guess 6 foot 7, 326 pound professional wrestler Glen Jacobs aka Kane was too busy shooting See No Evil for the part as was 7 foot tall, 500 pound Paul Wight, Jr. aka The Big Show.

At the end of X-Men 3, when Leech and Juggernaut are in the same room, Leech’s powers shouldn’t have affected Cain in the least bit because he isn’t a mutant. His powers are magic based. If this fact had been included in X-Men 3 and the rest of the movie stayed as is, Shadowcat and Leech would have most likely gotten the life beaten out of them (making the film immensely better) by Cain and X-Men 3 would have had an R-rating. For plot and story conveniences, as well as a PG-13 rating, Cain Marko was made into a mutant that knocks himself out on a wall, even though he’s wearing a cushioned steel helmet when he hits it. What most people don’t get is that if Cain hadn’t knocked himself out, we would have had to watch a hardcore, bare-knuckle fight between a guy and a girl in a small, in-closed room where their only weapons would have been their wits, agility and strength. I don’t know about you but I sure as heck wouldn’t want to see that fight. It might actually be memorable, bloody and highly creative.

And then there was James Marsden’s Scott Summers/Cyclops, the disappearing leader. Because of Berry’s contract, coupled with the fact that Marsden took a part in Singer’s Superman Returns, Cyclops’ role in X-Men 3 is completely nonexistent. Cyclops is given a little face time and a few lines to read and then he is killed off screen. I am not kidding. An off screen kill, after being the leader of the X-Men team for two films. When Sarah Conner didn’t appear in Terminator 3, at least you were given a little back story as to why by John Conner. When Cyclops disappeared during the third act of X-Men 2, we were given a reason by Colonel Stryker. In X-Men 3, he just de-materializes, literally.

Let’s not forget about Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique, even though Magneto sure does, rather quickly and callously I might add. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it for you but Mystique finds herself naked and helpless in the corridor of a mobile prison. Magneto, her old, dear friend and comrade, is standing over her. Mystique, who broke Magneto out of prison, stood by him through countless battles and incursions, needs his help and what does he do, he makes a quip, leaves her there and walks away. This is one of the most glaring and omnipresent moments when the writing team of Dougherty and Harris is sorely missed in X-Men 3. They would have had Magneto be the gentleman that his manner always alluded to. They would have had Magneto take off his cape, get down on one knee and cover Mystique’s naked body with it. Then they would have had Magneto lay a comforting, reassuring hand on her shoulder, thank her for her sacrifice, pick her up in his arms (or have had Juggernaut pick her up) and either take her with him or drop her at a bus station in a different state. What they wouldn’t have done was have Magneto leave Mystique on a floor among dead government personnel. It completely goes against Magneto’s character as it does when he watches another one of his friends get slowly killed right in front of his eyes. If he wanted this particular person dead, he could have killed him a long time ago. He didn’t because he wanted to make that person see his point of view on Mutants. There is no way in the world Magneto would sit there and watch as that person is murdered with all of the powers at his disposal.

All and all, Brett Ratner’s X-Men 3 is an above average action film that happens to be the weakest of all three X-Men movies. Like Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3, X-Men 3 has less story and more things blowing up than its two predecessors but unlike Terminator 3, X-Men 3’s third act gets cosmically preposterous. It involves the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun disappearing within seven seconds and a “pacified” character, who was previously serving a life sentence in prison (whose face everyone knows), walking among retreating soldiers and then seeing that same character free, in a public park of all places, playing chess.

Rating6.5/10

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