x-men : The last stand (2006)

Let's hope so. Yes, let's get it out of the way, what could have been an amazing end to a trilogy has officially been botched. This movie was terrible, and over the course of the film's production, my anticipation for it had been somewhat of a roller coaster ride. It started out ridiculously high as the credits began to roll over 3 years ago on X2: X-Men United. That film closed, not only with some thrilling action, but a sensational final shot that promised the one thing X-Men fans were waiting to see: Phoenix. Now, I don't pretend to be any authority on X-Men lore, I never really read the comics, but if there's one thing I remember from the Saturday morning cartoon all those years ago it's that Wolverine was awesome and the Phoenix was the most thrilling story in the X-Men arsenal. I was pumped, and I prepared to wait patiently for the release of the inevitable third installment, comfortable that it was in good hands. However, then came some pretty disappointing news;  Bryan Singer had been snapped up by Warner Brothers to direct the new Superman movie. Bad news for X3. However, as more news started coming out, I grew optimistic. Matthew Vaughn, producer of Snatch and director of last summer's Layer Cake, was signed on to direct and the project started to pan out. However, more bad news. Vaughn left after a few months due to "creative differences" (read: he-knew-the-script-sucked) and the studio brought in none other than Brett Ratner to direct. Yes, the man who brought us Rush Hour was now going to bring us X-Men. Oh boy. However, again, as trailers and photos began to come out I started to think it might have a shot. Needless to say, I was very interested, as I entered the theater on this rainy May night, to see just how X3 had turned out. 

Well, where do I begin? If you want my honest advice, it would be to simply leave your expectations at the door. You can have fun with this film, you can have alot of fun as a matter of fact, but only to a point. It's the kind of fun that's only so much fun because it gives the constant illusion that it's going somewhere, that it's leading to something big that'll be here in just a few moments. If Ratner had one thing down to perfection, it was the set-up for a fantastic scene. Remember in the cartoon when they would arrange a big dangerous climactic moment like some character falling off a cliff or something and then they'd suddenly cut to commercials? And then when they returned, the character would grab a tree branch or would have the problem solved by some other equally simple and unexciting solution? Yeah. It was like that. The scene would become tense. The music would swell. All the characters would begin to run around. And then the scene would just sort of deflate in one way or another and end up being a bit of a let down. The franchise in general is a bit like that with 2 wholes movies carefully seeding the arrival of Dark Phoenix and then ending in a manic film that just sort of vomits all of the events onto the screen all at once. But it's like fun vomit that's enjoyable to watch ... if you can imagine that. The entire thing is, in a word, anti-climactic. It introduces about 15 new main characters (I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not), none of which are given adequate screen time to be developed. The only one who comes close is Beast, but even with him they just toss out the old "Oh, he's a guy we all know from way back when! ... Why wasn't he in the other films? .... I dunno .... Maybe he was on vacation!" trick so they don't have to actually establish any character relationships. The casting of Kelsey Grammar in the role was genius, making Beast the only new character I really enjoyed. Other than that, we've got Collosus and Kitty Pride (whoever the hell that is) added to the X-Men team. They were in about a minute of X2, but their inclusion with the regulars is out of place. Also out of place is the fact that they take screen time away from the characters we actually give a damn about. Explain to me again why I should care about characters like Angel (who's barely even in the movie) and Kitty Pride, when characters who've been in every movie get shafted. People like Mystique, Cyclops, and Rogue just sort of get pushed to the side, which is pretty odd considering Rogue was practically the main character of the first movie. On the villain side it gets even worse, so bad that I can't even remember their names. Some chick who could run fast, a really annoying guy who could make even more annoying copies of himself, a dude with spikes in his face, and some transgender thing whose power was causing audience members to glance at each other in confusion. Oh yeah, and Juggernaut, who basically pleads for the audience's affection by actually saying his line from the YouTube parody: "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!!". The entire theater cheered. The film itself just had a disjointed feel to it. It was clear they were desperate for this to be the last movie from the way they recklessly killed off the characters (or had them run into walls and get knocked out). However, they didn't give enough time to even explain everyone's fate. The film would have benefited greatly from an extra 10 minutes or so to give the final battle more time to play out and to wrap up the various stories it had been throwing at us for the last hour and a half. Loose ends are evrywhere by the end of the film, and Ratner doesn't mind throwing us a few more for added frusteration. Alot had been built up over the last 2 films, but we don't see too much of it played out in this film. Which means that, even at its best, this is a film that will still inherently wreak of lost opportunities. 

However, that best I mentioned, is not bad at all. In pointing out all this film's glaring mistakes, I've neglected to mention that for every time they screwed it up, they seemed to also get something right. Wolverine was front and center for most of the flick and delivers most of the action. Ratner really shows his strength for directing action with all of the fight scenes, which were great. I would be lying through my teeth if I didn't say that there was a point in the film where I thought they were gonna pull it off and do a spectacular job. The film's mid-section, all the way until the terrible ending, was thrilling to say the least. A bit excessive, but a good time. Ratner just seemed confused with where to take the film. In trying to impress the fans, he throws in a whole bunch of stuff that just never gels together. There's set-up for stuff like a Wolverine/Juggernaut rivalry that never plays out, the fact that Sentinels exist is tossed out early on, but they never reappear again, which sucks, and then there's a Rogue/Bobby/Kitty side-story that just kinda stops. It's just a sloppy way to tell a story. Chalk it up to a bad script, I suppose, but I doubt it would have happened with Singer helming the project. Not that I blame Ratner, he did a decent job with the short amount of time he was given. The film is just the unfortunate result of poor planning. The cinematography doesn't really match that of the other films, the style just looks somehow different. Singer's first two films were darker in color and tone, whereas Ratner even went so far as to brighten the colors on Mystique (or so it would seem) and on the film as a whole. This one reminded me more of a cartoon-like style, which doesn't mean that it was silly or outrageous, but was more rollicking than the reserved style of the originals. Again, it's not bad, just different from the tone of the first two.. The production design didn't have much to do except design some costumes for the new characters. While they succeeded in making Beast look good, they gave all the new villains a strange goth/ S&M look that was just strange. The tattoos were a bad choice. They also went ahead and changed the already exisitng X-Men outfits to sport giant X emblems on the front, which was kinda dumb. The acting is about the same, Hugh Jackman makes a great Wolverine as always, Halle Berry got to do some more fighting as Storm and it was pretty sweet. Patrick Stewart was as good as ever, Ian McKellen as Magneto was great as always, and Famke Jansen was amazing as Phoenix. She and Kelsey Grammar gave the surprise performances of the film because I honestly didn't expect them to be so great. I really wish Jansen had had more to do, but oh well. The other actors range from decent to pretty bad, but the performances are capable since the movie is more about the visuals. 

This ended up as more rambling about complaints than it did an actual review, but whatever. I still can't get over the amount of things that could have been done with this film to make it fantastic, and how little actually was. However, for what's there, it's a good time. I don't regret seeing it for a second, it suffices as a conclusion to the series, but that's about it. The final battle alone is easily worth the price of admission, so don't hesitate to see it. Oh, but if you were thinking of staying after the credits, don't bother; all it does is trump the lame ending with an even lamer after-credit "twist". Lame is a pretty accurate word to describe this flick. Lame but enjoyable. Fun vomit. That's accurate indeed. 

4