So you’re in charge of a major movie franchise, The last 2 films were hits with the second blowing everything out of the water success wise. You’ve hit a snag though. The director of the first 2 films has a prior engagement and has literally thrown the script for the third film in the bin. He’s asking for the time to go make this other film he has lined up and then come back and do the usually risky third part of the series properly when he’s back. What do you do? Miss a summer release opportunity but with the pay off that you know the film will likely be very good when made and bring in a ton of cash or do you hire the first hack who’s willing to root through a bin the keys to the vehicle that is the X-Men? If you’re 20th Century Fox apparently you do the latter.
So here’s the story around X-Men: the Last Stand. Bryan Singer had a plan to make a third film in the series that would introduce a younger team of X-Men so he could do a X-Kids movie of sorts. The idea being that they’d be able to move the franchise on without the ever increasing wage packets certain member of their main cast commanded. The thing is it was kind of an idea generated by the need to save money. Luckily with a director as skilled as Singer at the helm there was a good chance it could have bee pulled off. Only issue was he was signed up to direct Superman Returns at the time, a dream project for him. this was due to be released in 2006, the same year Fox wanted X-Men 3 to go out. The script Singer had was pretty weak at this point and apparently he had literally thrown it in the bin. He requested to be given the chance to head off and film Superman and then come back in to do X-Men 3 properly but with a likely delay to it’s release. trouble is, and quite fairly, Fox didn’t have a major tentpole movie other than X-Men for summer 2006. Well except Ice Age 3 and Big Mammas House 2. Neither of those films had the potential to be the knock it out of the park blockbuster of the summer though. So Fox went on a search to find a new director for the series which as proven in the past is always a good idea. they got hold of everyones favorite hack Brett Ratner and the rest is history.
Brett Ratner, with maybe the exceptions of the first Rush Hour, the pilot of Prison Break and a Madonna music video, has never directed anything of worth. he is the personification of a hack director. he steps in to direct near anything, does a serviceable job and then moves on. The guy at one point was tied to making a movie based on Guitar Hero. You know, because the games are so full of rich characters and strong story elements that would lend themselves well to a movie format and not because it happened to be real popular at the time. I would never say he’s a terrible director, he’s certainly no Uwe Boll or Godfrey ho, but his films lack charm, finesse and character. He’s the sort of director I always get the impression accepts a script as is, or maybe doesn’t know how to improve a poorly written one. With that said I don’t think I’d be keen on on letting him take over a franchise that’s as strong as X-Men was at the time. But Fox did and this is what we got.
X-Men 3 has plenty of issues but it’s not entirely the director that’s caused them. This is film making by marketing. It has a feeling as though, rather than be about passing a torch to a younger generation, it’s about ending one toyline to free up space for a new one. Transformers The Movie (1986 animated one of course) had a similar purpose. Every character in that film from the original series was pretty much wiped out in the first 25 minutes to make way for a new range of toys to have an adventure. There’s even a literal passing of the torch scene. The thing is that film works real well. it’s paced well, it’s got a grand scale and the new characters all have something to do and some sort of journey to go on. The new characters in X-Men 3 have nothing. The old characters, with the exceptions of a handful, have so little to do they’re either killed off or forgotten about. I’ll warn you now, there will be big SPOILERS in the rest of this review.
So who’s in the new line up of mutants for us to enjoy? If you’re the sort to read out loud I suggest taking a deep breath about now. We have Angel, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Juggernaut, Multiple Man,Leech, Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight and about 4,000 other mutants all with randomly generated powers that get approximately 10 seconds screentime each. Here lies one of my biggest issues with this film. It seems to be 99 minutes of the studio going “Hey! Look what this mutant can do”. Xaviers School For Gifted Youngsters is more Hogwarts School For Crazy Ass Mutants. You’ve got mutants levitating paper airplanes down corridors, a kid using his mind to turn on the tv for Xavier because mutants clearly have no need for buttons, mutants that have powers seemingly just to give wolverine something to swing at and one giant sized mutant in particular has the power to fit into small seats despite being huge. He can make himself slim. They honestly spent money on making a fat guy morph into a thin guy for a seating based gag. tehy even make up a couple of extra powers for the already existing mutants. Colossus can apparently make anyone he touches turn to metal and Storm apparently makes literal rain clouds when she’s upset. Also Fire and icey mist have physical mass that can cause them to collide with each other and doesn’t result in a shite load of water and 5th degree burns.
Over the course of the film, as mentioned before so spoilers coming up, the makers of this film seem to believe the best way to give the audience drama is to either kill or neutralise any of the main cast they see fit. Except Storm and Wolverine of course. The odd thing is the story revolves around a “cure” for the mutant condition being invented and so there is plenty to work with there. It’s just not explored hardly at all. Rogue should have been the main character for the emotional core of this movie. All she wants to do is touch someone with her own skin, the cure is a way out for her. It’s exactly what she wants. Beast has a similar arc which, like Rogue, is barely explored after the first 30 minutes. the first 30 minutes is actually fairly strong. in some ways. Storm is stepping up to the plate as a new leader, Rogue has issues because her boyfriend Bobby seems to be taking interest in Kitty Pryde. Ironically a girl that has a choice whether or not someone can touch her. Could have made for an interesting argument between the two women. Instead Rogue has gone from being a cautious girl in the last 2 films to being a grumpy teen in this one. Around 45 minutes in she sees Bobby trying to cheer up Kitty by taking her skating and Rogue runs away to get the cure. Except no-one seems to be that bothered. Wolverine has a short chat and Bobby goes to find her for one scene and that’s it. We don’t see her again for all of 2 more scenes. One character gone.
So who else goes? Well Cyclops get’s killed in the first 20 minutes. Clearly this was because he was signed up to be in Superman Returns, and someone must have bared a grudge because we don’t even actually see him get killed. He’s kissing a resurrected Jean Grey and then Xaviers mutant power of knowing when bad shit is going down kicks in and somehow so does everyone in the schools. By the way, how did Jean Survive the end of the last film. She doesn’t know. She actually says that. Later Xavier guesses that her brain made a cocoon for her under the water. One issue I have with that. She’d still need air and as far as we can tell it’s been a few months since the end of X-Men 2. Maybe her subconscious created a long snorkel like tube to above the surface of the water. So Cyclops is dead. That’s 2 down.
Next up we have a scene where Magneto crushes a bunch of cars and flipping a truck to free a captured Mystique. This is a fun scene because the destruction is kind of uncalled for even by Magnetos usual standards. He’s always been more of the neutralise the threats kind of bad guy in these films than the kill everything type. Although I suppose he did try to kill all the none mutants at the end of the last film but that was right after he had been captured and tortured by them for some time. he had a grudge. here he’s just crushing cops in cars for the hell of it. Anyway Mystique is being held in a caged area at the back of a truck so she’s all on show, and then suddenly there’s apparently two more powerful Mutants in the truck that we had no idea about and they get held in practical wall mounted coffins. So Magneto recruits both Multiple Man and Juggernaut, Mystique get’s shot with the mutant cure drug, saving Magneto from being hit, and Magneto leaves her there because she’s not “one of us” anymore. Bit harsh. Could have had a plot thread where he used his anger at what the humans had done to Mystique to justify his war on them, maybe looking for a way to return her to her former state. But no, she’s forgotten about and we see her on a monitor in one shot later in the film. 3 down.
Around 20 minutes later Xavier has gone after Jean Grey who’s now apparently a being of impulse, rage, desire and other such things mild mannered people fear. There’s a series of special effects in a scene that’s meant to mirror the films opening scene where we see a younger Xavier and Magneto recruit Jean Grey at her home, but instead it’s an excuse to kill of Xavier in what must be the most rubbish fight ever. Wolverine is fighting Juggernaut, Storm is Making weather happen and then they all get stuck to the ceiling of the house as Jean starts levitating it and it’s occupants into the air. Meanwhile her and Xavier are having one of them psychic battles literally like that episode of South Park where Cartman pretends to be psychic. The he’s literally turned to dust. Despite this being the death of one of the most loved of all the X-Men characters this has all the weight of a balloon. Wolverine falls to his knees and cries with Storm and then next thing we know we’re at his funeral where they even have a custom made monolith for Xavier with his face on it. They have potentially the most dangerous being in the world out there and she’s supposedly totally uncontrollable and they actually took the time to have a custom marble monolith made with his face on it and hold a funeral. You’d think they’d deal with the threat at hand first before she turned them all to dust on a whim. 4 down then.
So who’s left from the previous films. Nightcrawler didn’t come over because the studio didn’t want 3 blue mutants in the film so he was gone before they even began. So we’ve got Wolverine who was never going anywhere. Storm who it seems is now just Halle Berry with white hair. Magneto who’s becoming a seemingly distinguished psychopath and lastly there’s Jean Grey/Phoenix. Like I mentioned earlier Phoenix is apparently a being of uncontrollable rage and power. She spends around 50 minutes of the film standing still around Magneto doing nothing. That’s some patience for a being of rage. Speaking of standing around, there’s a lot of it in this film. Characters are always sat or standing in rows. Whenever travel is involved for Magnetos new mutant army the characters just walk in rows towards their destination looking like a bunch of super powered models walking along a catwalk of impending doom. this might not sound like much but when you’re creating an interesting shot you need to take foreground, midground and background into account making sure the shot you have in interesting on all levels. this generally only applies to certain types of sequence. When you have a load of people standing in a line it just looks dull. it’s like you’ve created a wall in the middle of your shot. Even Micheal Bay understands this. Just watch any of his action scenes and there’s a lot of stuff going on at all levels. In this film, even during the massive mutant battle at the end, there’s just a few things going on where ever the characters are and not much else. you’re not getting anything in the foreground to subconsciously place the characters in the location for the viewer and the background are either empty or full of incoherent dark movement.
There’s many odd, slightly dumb, moments in this film. A family get stuck in their car in one of the films few memorable sequences, where magneto moves the whole Golden Gate bridge to reach Alcatraz Island, for as far as I can tell the sole purpose of a gag where they look their doors after Magneto looks at them. it’s funny cos the door lock won’t hurt them. What’s really odd here is that you don’t see them escape, later magneto flings the cars left on the bridge into the air and there’s hardly any cars left at the end. Does that mean he flung that family filled car at the X-Men?
Angels entire involvement is odd too. There’s a scene at the start with him as a child trying to file the stubbs on his back where his wings are growing through down. See his father is anti mutant and the guy that eventually funds the creation of the cure. So this opening scene has much story potential. it shows that the young Warren Worthington III felt as though he was a disappointment to his father for being a mutant. It gives his father a reason to create the “cure’ and it creates a conflict between a father and his son. Warren is due to be the first to receive the cure and he decides against it by breaking free and flying away. That’s all good but he doesn’t do anything other than show up at the X Mansion when they’re deciding if they should continue without the professor, for some reason that’s not explained, and he randomly flies by to catch his father as he’s thrown from the roof of the Alcatraz lab at the end. Now why angel is there or how he flew all the way to San Francisco from New York just to catch his father I don’t know. He wasn’t brought along for the battle, there’s no indication that he want’s to reconcile with his father, in fact he makes no mention of his father at any point. Probably because he was only in 4 scenes over the course of the film.
One other slightly odd moment comes when Magneto has moved the bridge and somehow gains the power to turn day into night in the space of 5 footsteps. I’m not even kidding. It’s late in the day granted when he moves it but the scene literally goes like this. Sun is setting but it’s still bright, Magneto and his army start to walk forwards, the camera points at the ground for an overhead shot, they stop walking a few metres ahead and it’s pitch black. Baffling. I understand that you’d want the finale to be set at night and you’d want the moving of the bridge to be visible but why not just have the sun gradually set over the course of the following scenes. Or better yet turn it dark in one of the many scenes around this point that are set inside either the lab or the X-Jet. Speaking of the X-Jet it apparently has a Predator style active camo mode now. Odd cos Storm did a fine job hiding it in a cloud in the first film. Hell you could have turned day into night while she had the clouds going up everywhere.
I don’t have a much in the way of love for this film. Some scenes just make me facepalm Captain Picard style. The whole film is a distracting series of special effects and wasted potential. The very existence of the mutant cure could have brought about a lot of good scenes of conflict stemming from different character views. instead it’s given a little lip service and a scene where Beast looks at his hand. I can’t believe anyone wanted to be in this film. Jackman and Berry are running through the motions. Patrick Stewart clearly got out when he could and even James Marsden only contributed about 4 scenes and some stubble to the movie. Oh yeah, he rides his bike to Alkali Lake, which is in Alaska in the movie universe, on his motorbike in a matter of hours. That’s after Wolverine had just driven it back from there. New York to Alaska in a few hours on a bike. Right.
Overall I see no reason for anyone over the age of 10 to enjoy this. Sure it’s got a lot of mutants and some good special effects but it’s also lacking any heart, character arcs of worth and is chock full of wasted story elements that could have made it a lot stronger. I suspect one of the things Bryan Singer wanted to do with the film was add 20-30 minutes of character development which honestly could have made a lot of it’s major issues almost forgivable. Now, is it the worst in the series? I think you’ll be able to find out tomorrow when I take on X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Who sews up the Merc With The Mouth’s mouth!?! What idiot thinks that is a good idea?