Sunday, October 14, 2012

X-Men: The Last Stand

If you've been hanging around me for the past year you'd know my thoughts on this film. Once I learned that Bryan Singer ditched the production and studio hack Brett Ratner was brought in to replace him I was up in arms about the franchise. Then I read a script review right afterwards that compounded things even further. It was horrible, characters were thrown away to make room for egotist actors with awards, others were brought in just for the hell of it and it seemed just plain silly when compared to what the first two films were, both in tone and character development.

Now that the movie is out and I've seen it I have to say that what was in that script review IS in the movie, and Brett Ratner IS still a studio hack and this movie IS a step in the wrong direction for this franchise.
The plot is that the world is about to be shaken to its very core. A mutant cure has been created that will turn any mutant into your everyday homosapien. At the same time this is being made public Jean Grey returns from the dead, now known as Phoenix, a very angry version of herself who likes to de-atomize her surroundings. On top of this, Magneto is still on the loose and has gathered a large group of mutants together in order to rise up against their so-called oppressors-- mankind. Needless to say the X-Men have their hands full.

As I've said all that horrible crap that I read in that review is in the movie. Cyclops gets killed by his ex-girlfriend-turned-psychopathic killer. Professor X gets offed midway through the flick. Certain likeable mutants taking/receiving the cure and becoming human. The way it was written was just plain awful and angered me beyond words. They play out the same on screen for the most part.
While Hugh Jackman once again owns the flick as Wolverine, the majority of the other X-Men take a step back so that the focus can be aimed solely at him. Halle Berry gets more to do this time around, but she still sucks in the part. Anna Paquin, who was amazing in the first two films, is basically relegated to a cameo and is given absolutely nothing to do but whine about Iceman flirting with Kitty Pryde. Patrick Stewart checks out early, in what is probably the film’s best scene. The same goes for James Marsden’s Cyclops who is killed within the first 15 minutes. One of the newest additions to the roster is Kelsey Grammar’s Beast. Even though he doesn’t get a whole lot of time to strut his stuff, he makes the most of what he’s given. But don’t get me started on Angel.

The villains don’t fare much better. Ian McKellen’s Magneto gets the most screentime, and for good reason. He’s one of the most interesting characters in these films and continues to be here as well. In what was probably the screenwriter’s worst choice, Famke Janssen’s Phoenix only has two moods: zombie and raging bitch. Her reasons for siding with Magneto aren’t clear and once she joins his Brotherhood of Mutants she just stands there looking like a piece of furniture. Only when the plot calls for it does she show any signs of life, and that means going into a psychotic rage and atomizing everything she sees. There are also WAY TOO MANY CHARACTERS to keep track of!
I also have to say that there are a lot of missed opportunities. Magneto is a lot nastier in this movie when compared to the others, and there were a couple of moments where the filmmakers could have shown just how serious he is about his dislike of humans. Like when he moves the bridge during the finale. After it lands on Alcatraz Island he notices that a car that was stranded on the bridge has a family trapped inside. All he does is lock the doors so they can't get out. If I were the writer I would have had him crush the car with his powers, or when he starts hurling the cars at the X-Men, after Pyro sets them on fire, it would have been a great moment to see that family in mortal terror just before their car gets turned into a fiery projectile. It's stuff like that that would have made this film totally bad ass. Too bad we'll never see them.

Ratner doesn’t completely drop the ball. Sure 75% of the time his direction and choices suck, but there are a few bright spots in this epic mess. Professor X's tragic death scene is amazingly heartbreaking, the music adding a certain epic feel to the event that just grabbed me by the balls and didn't let go. Even though I knew it was coming, I was shocked by just how well the scene played out.
The film is action packed! There are HUGE mutant battles in this flick, from small ones (Jean's house) to massive ones (the Alcatraz raid) and not a single one of them sucks. Even though Storm performs a reverse Hurricane kick and Ha-do-ken's a few mutants now and then it's still pretty cool. Wolverine goes into a berserker rage not once, but twice and it's pretty nasty. Phoenix turns an entire army into dust in a pseudo-bullet time effect scene, and it is fookin' awesome! We even get to see the “Fastball Special” from the comic book twice! The acrobatics and sheer number of mutants and their powers on display here is mind blowingly cool. The chase scene between Kitty Pryde and Juggernaut is fantastic, as is the fight scene at Jean Grey's house. If you're an action fan than this is the movie for you! The CGI is tops as well! Most of the time it's barely noticeable that a lot of what you're seeing is fake.

In the end, the movie disappoints on most levels. The script and production feels rushed, there’s way too much going on in such a short runtime, character motivations don’t make any rational sense when compared to the other films, bad decisions plague the entire movie and it’s not even close to being as deep or entertaining as the previous installments. Allowing Bryan Singer to leave was a mistake on 20th Century Fox’s part. They should have given him anything and everything he wanted to make this film the way he saw fit. In a nutshell, I blame them for this misfire. Let’s just hope the franchise’s future isn’t in jeopardy due to this polished turd.

2 out of 5

*written 5/27/06

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