A leader takes the 1st stand. A follower takes the last one.
Publisher: 20th Century Fox
Sat, 28 October 2006
Email the Author
The Director of the first two X-men films, Brian Singer, chose to bow out of doing the third movie, so that he could instead make Superman Returns (which is a whole other story, one I'll have to save for another time). Replacing him at the helm of the latest instalment (and with Singer's blessing, despite many claims to contrary) is Brett Ratner.
As soon as this fact became known, X-Men: The Last Stand (aka X-Men 3, or X3) was doomed, in the hearts and minds of a great many geeks. Which really wouldn't bother me at all, if not for one minor detail - I sincerely believe that people should at least save their condemnation until they've actually watched the damn thing. Other than with things like, say, Scary Movie 18 (or whatever number it is up to now); I just don't think it is fair to make bombastic proclamations about how much a movie sucks before even viewing it.
I've seen and heard some crazy (to me, anyway) stuff said about this movie. From all the X-Men fanatics, it has really elicited some extreme reactions - both positive and negative (though more so the latter). Well, piss on that, I say. Here is the truth, as I see it (which may well seem crazy to someone else!): The third X-Men movie is not as good as the others, especially the awesome X2. But, admittedly, I too had already assumed that would likely be the case. It missed a few opportunities for what should have been some highly compelling ideas, which had been set up (both intricately and quite subtly) in the prequels.
Certain aspects that could have lead to some killer stuff instead got more or less brushed off here. They ("they" here means not necessarily Ratner but, essentially, the ones who sign the cheques) chose to produce what is possibly a more "accessible" (to the general populace), action flick. So, yeah, that is indeed quite a shame.
But don't go crying into your beer just yet, my mutant loving friends - X-Men: The Last Stand is still a fun and visually spectacular ride, that provides more than a few genuinely thrilling moments.
|Ladies love cool Logan |
The situation here reminds me very much of Terminator 3; certainly not as clever as the previous couple and, despite maintaining a general aesthetic consistency, the change of Directors is still noticeable enough to be a little jarring. But, if you just roll with it and judge it on its own merits, it can still provide you with a darn good time.
While X3 definitley has its share of flaws (which I'll get back to in a bit), I think some people have blown them out of proportion. I understand that some fans just truly didn't care for this installment and have their own perfectly valid reasons for that. I am cool with that.
Others, though, seemed to me like they made a concerted effort to soley find as many ways as possible to stop themselves from liking this movie. If you prematurely decide a film is going to flat out suck arse, well before you've seen it, your negativity is liable to have a hard time being dissuaded.
Old Sammy, on the other hand, tends to be (or attempts to be) more of a "glass half full" kind of dude. As such, I was able to find plenty about X-Men: The Last Stand to enjoy.
The most immediately noticeable attribute X3 has in its favour is that it looks fan-fucking-tastic for a great majority of its running time. Those who love a bit of the old special effects powered mayhem are well looked after here. Some excellent set and costume designs are part of the visual splendour, but it is definitely the CGI stuff that takes it over the edge. Some of the film's battle sequences are right up there with movies like Revenge of the Sith, in terms of sheer spectacle.
On the topic of looking good, I've noted before how several females have told me they find Wolverine sexy (and by that I don't just mean Hugh Jackman himself, but Hugh Jackman as Wolverine - the way he looks and acts while playing the character), so I'm sure they'll have fun checking him out again here. But I'd say that male viewers are given even more look at - there are a whole bunch of really fine looking ladies in this cast!
|This character's name is Kitty Pride, but I refer to her as "Miss Jailbait" |
The first two movies featured a heap of characters, yet managed to do a remarkable job of still developing the majority of them. Most of them were constructed to be both individually interesting, while also having a clearly defined role, as to how they each fit into the greater scheme of things.
Here in part 3, even more characters are introduced into the already jam packed roster. Unfortunately though, the well balanced handling of them all has, to a significant degree, fallen by the wayside. There are just too damn many characters to keep track of now. Some of the new ones introduced left me scratching my head a bit - why put them in at all when you don't bother giving the viewer much idea as to who they are? It even affects some of the characters that had been so well established previously, with several of them being pushed into the background, dispatched of in rather flippant ways, or just plain ignored. Also, apart from a couple of well done scenes, I rarely felt anywhere near as much of an emotional response, or connection, to any of the characters in this one as I did in the others.
Mind you there is, in fact, an increase of focus given to a select few characters, such a Pyro and Kitty Pride. Storm is certainly given a far greater amount of attention here too, but I'm not sure that's really a good thing (as I've said before, aside from how awesome her powers look in the movies and the fact she is a very attractive woman, I don't much care for Halle Berry's take on Storm. Besides which, the fact that she insisted on being given a more prominant role before she would agree to be in the movie just kinda rubs me the wrong way).
On the upside, the character of Dr. Hank McCoy (aka Beast) is one newcomer who truly was handled very well, in opinion. They nailed his look and I thought Kelsey Grammar did an excellent job in the role.
|Years of drug abuse has taken its toll on Scully from Monsters Inc. |
As far as other complaints from fans, I have also heard it said more than once that X3 is full of gaping plot holes. Maybe I just wasn't concentrating enough on some of the particular aspects that stood out to others or something, because I honestly never noticed this too much myself. Truthfully, I doubt that there are really too many more gaps in logic in The Last Stand than there are in the vast majority of sci-fi, fantasy or action movies - if you really scrutinise all of the details in these kinds of flicks.
The plot of The Last Stand sees the development of a vaccine that "cures" mutants of their unusual qualities, turning them back into "normal" human beings. This does allow for further explorations of one of the main themes of the X-Men franchise - human being's tendency to persecute those who are different and fear those we are unable to understand. In this story, some of the mutants are pleased at having an opportunity to live ordinary lives, while others are outraged by the suggestion that they should be happy to be robbed of their unique gifts.
You can certainly empathise with both points of view, as a couple of characters provide very understandable reasons for being either for or against the vaccine. It is quite a thought provoking premise. This part of the story is based on one called Gifted, which comes from the Astonishing X-Men comic book (written by Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Firefly fame). What perhaps helps it to be even more pertinent - though probably is more just a happenstance coincidence - is the fact that Magneto is played by a gay man (Sir Ian McKellen). Because, sadly, even today there remain some ignorant buffoons who sincerely believe that homosexuality is a "sickness" that can, and should, be "cured".
However, it was Singer's (and the script writers) intention for part 3 to be focussed on "The Dark Phoenix saga" and those viewers who were aware of this had savoured all the indications that alluded to this becoming the conclusion. The Dark Phoenix saga (written by Chris Claremont, who makes a cameo appearance in The Last Stand, as does Stan Lee - as per usual for any Marvel comics-based pictures) is one of the most celebrated story arcs in the history of the X-Men comics. The gist of it is: Jean Grey (played in the films by Famke Jansen) returns from apparent death, corrupted by her vastly increased power. Then, basically, she starts kicking everyone's arse and the ensuing battle reaches a level epic enough to see entire galaxies destroyed.
That crappy little rundown of mine doesn't do it any justice, just check out the Wikipedia page about it here if you want some more detail. Or email your questions to Professor Scott Tipton over at Comics 101 - that dude has infinitley more knowledge than myself, when it comes to anything related to comic books.
The point is; this Dark Phoenix deal had been the huge thing that X-Men and X2 had started building up to and all the fanboys were eagerly anticipating the chance to watch the whole thing happen. Instead, Jean Grey's return in the Last Stand has become more of an incidental side-story (though she does still manage to make an impact, by killing some of the movie's key characters).
According to an article I read in Total Film magazine (which you needn't purchase, as I don't know anybody who works there) the studio executives were the main cause of this downplaying of the Dark Phoenix stuff. One of the X3's writers, Zack Penn, is quoted in the article as saying "The studio didn't want to do Phoenix, period." Apparently he (and his Last Stand co-writer, Simon Kin) vehemently fought with the studio, in favour of keeping major attention on the Dark Phoenix arc, but in the end he says, "We lost, to be quite frank."
|Like a phoenix rising needs a holy tree, like the sweet revenge of a bitter enemy, I need your love |
It is a drag that many X-Men fans did not get the kind of third movie they'd been expecting and hoping to see. I too would love to have seen Singer direct the third chapter and do it how he'd originally planned. I guess what we must ask ourselves is, can we still be happy that we at least got another X-Men movie? Speaking for myself, I'd say that X-Men: The Last Stand still succeeds in being entertaining, so yes; I am glad we still got a third movie. The word before this movie came out, which was seemingly reinforced by its title, was that The Last Stand was to be the final instalment in the X-Men movie franchise. After seeing the way this one ends though, I don't think anyone will be the least bit shocked if they announce plans for a forth one.
I just remembered three more little things that make an appearance in this flick, which should be pleasing to the comic fans (and most other people probably won't know what the hell I am referring to): The "Danger Room", the detached (via Wolverine) head of a Sentinal and the "fastball special".
If you don't really care so much about the comics and have no particular fascination with the characters, that kind of stuff is unlikely to matter to you anyway. If you happen to just want a fantastic looking action movie, that has some killer fight scenes and what are still some smarter than average (for the genre) elements to its plot- X-Men: The Last Stand most certainly belongs on your DVD rack. I'd even go as far as saying that for those who are more just fans of action movies, rather than the X-Men, you might actually find this one to be more enjoyable than its predecessors.
Helping to seal the deal is the excellent bonus disc, which has hours of interesting material on it. There are some really great, detailed bios of many of the characters that comic lovers will certainly appreciate, a few well put together featurettes and plenty more top stuff. I'd probably recommend a purchase of the DVD just based on the strength of the bonus disc alone! Seriously, it rocks if you are an X-Men buff, or even just a film buff - there a whole lot of fun and rather insightful things packed into this bad boy.
Email the Author
More articles by Hillelman
I find it highly doubtful that this stand will truly be the last, but that's just fine with me. Unlike many X-Men geeks, I really like this movie. What makes this DVD version even better is the utterly fantastic material included on the bonus disc.