Friday, June 3, 2011

X-Men [Indeterminate Amount of Time] Day 6: Review of X-Men - The Last Stand

We’re winding down on X-Men Appreciation “Month/Year/Exactly Three Weeks After You’ve Gotten Sick of It”.  With X-Men: First Class out this weekend we have time for one more blog post before I take the long walk into the movie theater.  So let’s take a look at the final part of the X-Men Trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand.

In the aftermath of the success of X2 a sequel was guaranteed and, at first, it appeared that Bryan Singer would continue on with the series since he had really hit his stride with the previous effort and seemingly had become an expert when it came to making X-Men films.  Unfortunately he was offered the chance to direct a new Superman movie and soon dropped out of the director’s chair in favor of that (Superman Returns, to be exact. How well did that one do again?).  So who did they eventually get to fill the shoes of possibly the only person alive capable of making the X-Men look relevant on the big screen?  Darren Aronofsky, whom Hugh Jackman was pushing for?  No, he turned it down.  How about Joss Whedon, who wrote the original comic book that much of the story here would be based on?   Nope, he was committed to directing the Wonder Woman movie…which never ended up happening.  Zack Snyder, maybe? Of course not, he ended up cutting his comic book directing teeth with 300.  So who did 20th Century Fox end up casting? Why none other than Brett Ratner!  Who is Brett Ratner you ask?  Why he’s only the man who directed all three Rush Hour movies!  You know, movies that are significantly more racist than anyone seems comfortable admitting (Stereotypes are funny, hyuk hyuk hyuk).  So obviously we’d want that guy to make a movie about fighting racism.   Fantastic.

Chris Tucker makes everything slightly more racist
 Also as far as the script went it was written by newcomers to the franchise Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg and it seems that the studio was constantly telling them what to add in.  Because writers OBVIOUSLY don’t know what they’re doing and must ALWAYS being held on short lease!  There were a lot of x-factors (Pun intended) involved in the months leading up to this movie’s release but after two really, really good X-Men films, as well as the really awesome films of Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins still in recent memory, fans had started to believe that the stigma involving comic book films was over and that Hollywood could do no wrong. I f nothing else we now know that this ended up being the highest grossing of this series so clearly something went right.   But the question is this: is this a worthy successor/ending to the up until this point super fun film series?

Find out after the jump.

[WARNING: Plenty of spoilers ahead, but it’s been, what, five years since this came out? Get over it!]

Why yes, bub; I'm the star of this movie too
Why wouldn't I be, really?
Some time has passed since the events at Alkali Lake and the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jenssen). Since then Storm (Halle Berry), with some help from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), has been training several students to join the team proper and former X-Man Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) has been appointed to the new president’s cabinet.  However a research group has just discovered a way to suppress the mutant x-factor and are labeling it a “Cure” which threatens to divide the mutant community.  To make matters more complicated the X-Men soon learn that Jean Grey survived her apparent demise but now appears to be a very, very different person…

Now normally I start these reviews with some positive things about the film to be at least somewhat balanced and yeah, there are indeed god things to talk about so don’t be confused.  However I want to state right here and now what the major flaw in this movie is: it’s too dark.  Now I’m not saying that comic book movies shouldn’t dive into darker territory; some franchises such as Batman are perfect for that.  Nor am I saying the X-Men comic books didn’t have a lot of depressing moments.  I’m saying that the tone of this movie is VASTLY different than the last two.  X-Men and X2 were, at their core, fun superhero movies, even when Jean Grey died in the second one.  X-Men: The Last Stand however comes off as pointlessly angst-filled and cruel.  By the time this film ends Cyclops, Professor X and Jean are all dead while Rogue, Magneto and Mystique have all had been depowered and effectively removed from any sequels without it looking like a cop-out.  That’s basically the majority of the cast form the first film suddenly gone from the franchise.  And what is there to show for it?  Not a whole lot, except from some cheap ploys designed for shock value.  The franchise basically ended on a series of downers and that bothers me a lot. I prefer the ending of X2 which was bittersweet, at least.

We’ll talk more about the deaths in this film and the ending soon.

You lose again, Cyclops
 The best part of this film surprisingly is the music.  I haven’t talked about the music in these films but they had been fairly standard superhero affairs and not really all that stand out.  However in this movie the score by John Powell ended up really stealing the show during certain sequences, especially in the final confrontation between Wolverine and the Phoenix at the film’s climax.   Speaking of Wolverine Hugh Jackman again turns out a solid performance and his character development actually made it logical for him to take on the quasi-leadership role he eventually takes in near the end of the film (A very Cyclops-like speech which is both ironic and infuriating).  Sir Ian McKellen is alright as Magneto although the script makes him come off as both more of an asshole than he had previously been portrayed and also a whole lot dumber (“What have I done?” Magneto asks roughly an hour and a half after the audience did).  Sir Patrick Stewart also gave a pretty decent performance but like his counterpart the script had him come off a bit less likable than he had in previous film but in his case he was killed off before anything really came of it.

Unfortunately there are not a lot of positive things to say about this movie.  The best parts of this film were more along the lines of “tolerable” or “not awful” as opposed to “good”.  There are, however, a lot of major problems to be found, some due to the film itself and some due to its rather fast and loose interpretation of the comic.  Hold on tight, it’s about to become extremely geeky in here…

First of all the plot is too bloated.  The first two movies were fairly simple and straight forward adventures but they in turn felt concise for the most part.  The Last Stand feels like the film makers were trying to fit as much plot in as possible and then failed to do it seamlessly. This movie is an adaptation of two major (Well, one major and one recent) story lines from the comic. First was “The Dark Phoenix Saga” written by Chris Claremont during his legendary tenure on Uncanny X-Men where Jen Grey becomes insane from the godlike powers she had earlier inherited and suddenly threatens the entire universe.  The other is a more recent story from Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men called “Gifted” where a cure for mutants is created and the X-Men decide to destroy it when they learn the dark means the company used to create it. Those are two very large adventures and it seems like trying to fit both into one film is just asking for a train wreck...which is what we got.  There is so much going on in the Last Stand that it’s hard to wrap ones head around it all and clearly the writers knew this because they try to shoehorn the Phoenix plot into the Cure plot by having Jean join Magneto and his Brotherhood as they set to attack the lab that manufactures it.  Why does she bother hanging out with Magneto and his cronies when, according to Professor X, she’s all “instinct, joy, and rage”?  I find it hard to believe that an entity that powerful and yet that simple would bother standing around next to a boring old fart for half the movie looking intimidating.

Her Motivation: Fighting, Feeding, F**king
 This should have been two movies.  Having Magneto as the villain yet again felt rather dull so I’d argue that, following the set-up in X2, X-Men 3 should have been abut Jean’s return, whose power and distorted way of thinking are now endangering all of Earth, and her former teammates sucking up their feelings for her while trying to stop her from hurting anyone else.  Kind of like in the comic.  There could have been character building scenes between Jean and all of her friends, aspects of her background that hadn’t been touched on before, and maybe a better resolution to the barely visible love triangle between her, Wolverine and Cyclops. You know; character development!   X-Men 4 would then focus on the X-Men having to pick themselves off the ground after dealing with their friend and somehow stop a returned Magneto from starting a war with humanity over The Cure. But instead ALL of this stuff was crammed into one film so a lot of important things are just sort of assumed rather than touched upon.

To make this problem worse there are waaaay too many new characters in this movie and most of them are so insanely superfluous that I wonder how the hell anyone in the developmental stage could possibly think this would make a coherent film.  All the new members of the Brotherhood, NONE OF WHOM ARE PROPERLY CHARACTERIZED, add NOTHING to the movie and could have been faceless goons created solely for this film but instead the creators seem to list off the names of X-Men characters and villains and just throw them in regardless as to how it may look.  Longtime X-Men allies Pyslocke and Jamie Maddrox are villains?  White telepath Kid Omega now an Asian dude who shoots spikes out of his skin?  Juggernaut apparently possessing no connection to Xavier (They’re step-brothers in the comic)? Actually that last one really bothers me because that that relationship is such an important aspect of Xavier’s character that it annoys me that they didn’t do it justice here.  If they weren’t even going to try to acknowledge it they should have saved it for a prequel movie like they did with Sabertooth (Except they messed that up a bit as well, but that’s for another day).  Also Rebecca Romjin did, in my opinion, the best acting she’s ever done in this entire film series as Mystique, finally showing some damn emotions, and was rewarded by being written out.  Fantastic.

As for the X-Men?   Christ almighty I feel bad that I said the team wasn’t properly development in the last two films BECAUSE THEY ARE NOTHING BUT WINDOW DRESSING IN THIS ONE!!  First of all where in the blue hell in Nightcrawler?  He was one of the few characters not named “Logan” to get any sizable screen time so why take the time to characterize him so well and cast such an awesome actor in the role and then not use him in the next film?  As I understand it the writers couldn’t think of anything to do with him so they just didn’t include it, which sounds to me like lazy writing but I digress.  What about Rogue?   She literally packs up and leaves fairly early into the movie and we don’t see her again until the very end.   Despite arguably being one of the two leads f the first movie Anna Paquin is demoted to bit part by the third and I don’t understand how the hell this happened!  Kelsey Grammer?  He shows up.   He talks a bit.   I don’t recall anything he said that made me think Hank McCoy had a personally other than “Speaks Well”.  Shanw Ashmore as Iceman/Bobby Drake surprisingly got a promotion to X-Man pure and proper and even got an awesome, if short, fight scene against Pyro (Who’s totally isn’t Australian in this film series; what the hell?) but the creators totally screwed up a love triangle plot between him, Rogue and Kitty Pryde and the whole thing ends up being 100% pointless instead of helping develop anyone.  Speaking of Kitty Pryde she also barely does anything in this film to the point where she might as well have just remained a background character.   Which is really weird because she’s played by the awesome Ellen Page who is absolutely WASTED in this film.  I LOVE Ellen Page and really bothered me how little they were using her talent.  In fact it’ time to update Beta’s Hottest Women in Hollywood List and then feel really bad about myself for being sexist.

#8: Amanda Seyfried
#7: Natalie Portman
#6: Amy Acker
#5: Reese Witherspoon
#4: Kat Dennings
#3: Anne Hathaway
#2: Ellen Page
#1: Michelle Trachtenberg

I will always argue for Juno, no matter what you jerks say
Although this isn’t really the film to judge it by (She was pretty young here) note that Ellen Page is the only person on this list who actually comes close to threatening Michelle’s place in my superficially motivated heart.

Anyway speaking of "misused actors" Ben Foster is also here.  As I said in my Alpha Dog review I think, or rather hope, that he is the future of Hollywood because he is damn impressive in nearly everything I’ve seen him in...except here as Warren Worthington III, through no fault of his own; this character is so frustratingly irrelevant to the plot due to the fact that he does so incredibly little that I’m actively insulted that he appears here.  Goddamn it, X-Men 3, you’re making me say bad things about Ben Foster; you stinking bastard!  How, by all that is holy, how do you feature BOTH Ellen Page AND Ben Foster in a film and then NOT DO A GODDAMN THING WITH THEM?!?!?  And for that matter HOW DO YOU WRITE ALAN F**KING CUMMING OUT OF A MOVIE WHEN HE STOLE THE SHOW THE LAST TIME?!?!?!?  The writers, the director, the producers, all of them are MORONS!

Also Colossus again, does NOTHING in this movie except throw Wolverine at things.  He has absolutely no business whatsoever being in this film if they aren’t going to give him MORE THAN TWO FREAKING LINES!  He didn’t even fight Juggernaut; what the hell?

Despite scenes like this Angel manages to be a bit character
Also Cyclops, my beloved Cyclops, edited in the first movie to look like a prick, written out of most of X2 thus greatly lessening the impact of his reaction to Jean’s death, and now in this film he is made to look like a crybaby loser (Solely because he’s compared to Wolverine who is taking Jean’ death like a robot) and then quickly killed off screen and then barely mentioned again afterwards.  As I understand this happened not because it was the natural evolution of the story but because executives at Fox wanted to kill James Marsden’s character off as he was signed up to do Superman Returns (How’d that film work out, by the way?).  Why they felt he couldn’t be replaced by another actor I don’t know.  Spite, maybe?  They also demanded to kill of Professor X because…um…Wrath of Kahn?  There is no good reason; a body count of the sake of being shocking is the worst reason to kill off a character in any form of storytelling!  Halle Berry, who threatened to quit the production unless she got a bigger role because winning an Oscar made her an asshole I guess, did get a lot more screen time now that Bryan Singer had been disposed of and then proceeded to suck, badly, at every single one of her lines; all of them forced with no shred of humanity.  Well done Miss Berry, you are just terrible.  Please stop appearing in my X-Men movies.

Aside from the characters and crowded feeling of the film there are also some editing problems.  The biggest one is the scene where Magneto moves the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz and it suddenly goes from evening with plenty of sunlight to middle the of the night.  This isn’t a nitpicking; this is a major motion picture and I expect better from it. Also the ending, while not super awful, is not as good as the alternate ending(s) where Beast decides to stay on at the mansion, Iceman is more overtly looked upon as staff (Presumably) and Rogue decided that her powers are a part of her and didn’t take the cure, which would have been pretty heartwarming AND relevant to real world human right issues (The mutant equivalent of coming to terms with your sexuality).  OH WELL, LET’S JUST KILL SOME MORE CHARACTERS, HUMPTY DOO!

I hate Wolverine and Halle Berry yet I like Hugh Jackman and Storm
It's like my movie equivalent of Purgatory
This movie sucks. The plot is way too crowded to be interesting, it’s low-brow and full of action scenes over character development, the script keeps making ludicrous decision with specific characters, Halle Berry destroys every scene she’s in, the acting in general was sub-par for the most part, and somehow it fails to live up to its predecessors on every conceivable level.  This film is proof that the X-Men badly needed Bryan Singer because Brett Ratner obviously didn’t know what the hell he was doing.  Now a lot of the blame can be put on Fox executives as apparently they were rushing production, but the end result is the same; a bad movie.  This is a bad film in general but for me as a longtime X-Men fan it was torture.  I could write two-thousand more words on why this movie made me sick but for now I’ll just say that X-Men 3 tries too hard to be too much and ultimately fails to accomplish anything other than wasting everyone’s time. You may like this movie but I loathed it, especially after watching X-Men and X2 back-to-back. There are worse films, such as Dragonball Evolution, and I later came to realize that this film wasn’t that bad after I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine which seemed hell bent on lowering the bar evn further (Not today, guys, I’m tired) so I simply cannot fail it.  Therefore…

X-Men: The Last Stand gets a generous 2 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros

-Good music

Cons

-Halle Berry is in this movie…and this time we all pay the price

-The plot is much too bloated

-Waaaay too many superfluous character running around

-Less than great editing

-Too many awesome actors being forced to stand around doing nothing

-Jarring shift in tone from the last film (As if it were directed by a different person, even)


Fun trivia: Kick-Ass director Mathew Vaughn was one of the many directors attached to this film who ultimately dropped out (He says Fox was rushing him too much and that making a god film with their timetable wasn’t possible. Can he see the future?).  According to Wikipedia after X-Men: The Last Stand came out he had this to say:

"I could have made something a hundred times better than the film that was eventually made. It sounds arrogant but I could have done something with far more emotion and heart. I'm probably going to be told off for saying that, but I genuinely believe it."

Bold words, but he has indeed been given a chance to make such a film.  His latest movie is X-Men: First Class and it hits theaters today.   By the time you read this I’ll likely have seen it. X-Men Appreciation Week/Month/Beyond Time & Space will come to a conclusion when I deliver my review, so be sure to check back here within the next few days.

Will Matthew Vaughn look like a savior or false prophet?
Find out on the thrilling conclusion of  X-Men [Indeterminate Amount of Time]!!

2 comments:

  1. Not sure if you've seen this or not, but it might take some of the sting out of one of the more important and underrated X-Men characters being killed off so casually like a goddamn Red Shirt from Star Trek

    http://io9.com/5790329/why-hop-is-the-unofficial-sequel-to-x+men-3

    ReplyDelete