X-Men 3: The Last Stand [Retro-Review]

11Mar08

Its a Retro Review so there is spoilers.

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I have watched X3 three times now. The first time – in the cinema – I was considerably underwelmed by the whole thing. Although this is common for me these days – so I normally judge a movie based on the second viewing at home on DVD. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same – disappointed and underwelmed.

The third time, last week, I watched it specifically to write this review. I was paying attention to the writing, the direction, the cinematography, the effects and the characterisation. Not just going along for the ride – I thought it might give me a different perspective on the movie and what the filmakers were trying to accomplish.

Simply – this the bastard child of a successful franchaise.

Lets start at the beginning. As with most BIG SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS, X3 was given a release date, a deadline, before anything else was in place. Things looked bright, X2 out-performed the 1999 X-Men movie both critically and commerically. A third movie, with director Bryan Singer attached again and all the major players happy to return was welcomed by fans and Fox studios alike.

But it wasn’t to be.

The Distinguished Competion lured Singer away to make another tentpole summer release and franchaise reboot; Superman Returns. And he basically took Cyclops with him.

Now, I like to think that Singer left before the script and plot were locked, because surely he would not have dispensed with the Dark Phoenix story with such reckless abandon, that the cure would be given time to breathe, and any new Mutants that were introduced were done so for plot reasons rather than (in many cases lacklustre) spectacle.

After a period of pre-production with director Matthew Vaughn attached, Brett Ratner stepped in at the last minute – just two weeks before shooting began. Ratner is essentially a pop-video director. Able to direct films that an audience will respond to and make money – but mostly of little substance. And that’s what X3 is. A pop-video with no substance.

Well, what is there?

Well-known characters die or lose their powers (or should I say mutant-ability) every twenty or so minutes – but no time is allotted to allow it to resonate.

Our gruff bad-boy hero, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), cries like a big girl a couple of times, provides some not-so-comic relief and there is not one mention of having no memory. Storm is given a bigger role to play and Halle Berry flounders with even the simplest of on screen emotions. Beast is added to the X-Men elders – and it is correctly alluded to that he is one of the original members. Kelsey Grammer has the voice for it – but not the physical gravitas that the Beast could have brought – his fighting style embarrasingly looks like the wire-work that it is.

Strangely, it is Ice-Man that gets the most time to grow. His romance with Rogue, his friendship with Kitty and his friendship with Pyro all get addressed. He also gets the coolest moment of the film – which Wolverine got in X1 and Colossus in X2 – by showing the true potential of his powers.

Colossus gets an upgrade to X-Men status, but is somewhat criminally handled with a badly designed physical suit. Daniel Cudmore gets another few sparse lines of dialogue, but the mutant-man-of-steel is mainly seen but not heard. We do get two Fastball Specials – but the shear size of Jackman’s Wolverine against the big but not huge Cudmore makes this somewhat unrealistic. One good moment that did not make the final cut was a Ice-Man teamup on a Brotherhood mutant called Phat – see the DVD deleted scenes for that.

A number of new characters are introduced with mutant ‘maguffin’ abilities; Warren Worthington III is there – he gets three moments – a set up, a set-piece and an ending. His wings do look good though. Juggernaut, played by ex-footballer-hard-man (and shit actor) Vinnie Jones, gets two moments. His muscle suit looks fake. Madrox gets probably the worst treatment – literally one or two lines of setup and then is whored for a completely unneccessary set-piece where the government troops tries to capture the Brotherhood.

Kitty Pryde is the only welcome new face. (Played by the excellent Ellen Page, who is now a big star due to Juno). Her character provides an interesting thorn in the Ice-Man/Rogue romance – as well as getting to use her powers effectively in the finale and gets the one good joke in the whole movie.

Ultimately this film will appeal to some – but for comic fans this can only be seen in a disappointing light. It is the epitamy of the flawed Hollywood sequel system; throw the kitchen sink at it… make it bigger and better… it will make money anyway.

2.0 of 5.0



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