5/29/2006

X-Men: The Last Stand Redux

I cringed two years ago when I read that Bryan Singer was leaving the X-Men film franchise to resurrect Superman for Warner Bros. I became fearful when the writers of the third X-Men movie were announced as the guy who wrote xXx: State of the Union and the guy who wrote Elektra. But then director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) joined the production and I felt a little better. And then he left the production after what seemed like a week. And Fox announced its third and final choice as director and it was Brett-motherfucking-Ratner. And I screamed and cursed toward the heavens, because there was no way this hack of a movie director was going to come close to, let alone surpass, the work that Singer and his writers had accomplished.

Fox was so eager to beat Bryan Singer's Superman Returns to the theatres, to childishly prove some sort of point, that they rushed production, rushed the writers, rushed the casting process, rushed the whole thing into theatres so fast that no one had time to stop and think, "Wait, is this movie even any good?" Sadly, the answer is an emphatic, "No."

I don't even know where to begin.

The characters whom Singer had so wonderfully brought to the big screen, whose personalities were crafted so perfectly (albeit differently from the comics, which is fine, cause these are movies, not comics), they were practically unrecognizable in this third film. I cannot think of a single character whose actions made sense in the context of the series. There was no continuity of personality, for anyone, from the previous films to this one. It was like the only thing they wanted to use from the last movie was Jean Grey's death. Everything else was just tossed aside like so much trash.

I also had issues with the plot of this atrocity: a mutant being used by humans to eliminate the "mutant problem." Sounds vaguely familiar, like that of the second film, perhaps? Of course, in the second film, Stryker used his mutant son to coerce Xavier into killing all the mutants, whereas in the new film the idiot humans were simply using a young mutant to create a "cure" for mutations. See, much better than wholesale slaughter, right?

The other aspect of the so-called plot was an incredibly weak attempt at the "Dark Phoenix Saga," a storyline akin to the Bible for comic book converts. Relegated to the "B" story, it made absolutely no sense, especially in context with the previous two films. There was no emotion, no resonance. A story that could have been a trilogy in its own right was a mere circus sideshow. And since the characters were so poorly written, you just don't care about what happens to them. "Jean Grey Goes Nuts and Kills Everyone With A Three-Movie Contract." There, that's the arc of her story.

There are just so many little things that annoyed the hell out of me about this movie, little, subtle things that Singer does so well in all of his films (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil). Why? Because he's not only a good director, he's a good storyteller. Singer knows how to slow things down, to let the characters breath, to react, to simply exist in the moment. Ratner, he doesn't know what the word "subtle" means. He's all about big action sequences and explosions and cheesy one-liners that would make my grandmother cringe.

(I was telling my dad, there's a scene in the second film, a little more than halfway through, when the X-Men are flying to Alkali Lake for the final confrontation with Stryker, that I like to call the "Seduction of Pyro" scene.

Magneto and Mystique are sitting in the back of the plane with Pyro, a student of Xavier's, discussing who the "bad guys" really are, and Magneto uses his power over metals to levitate Pyro's lighter out of his hand. Magneto grasps the lighter in his hand and looks into the flame and asks Pyro his name.

He replies, "John," to which Magneto again asks, "What's your real name, John?"

"Pyro," he says, manipulating the flame from his lighter. "You are a god among insects," Magneto tells him, handing the lighter back to him, not using his power, but leaning over and placing it in Pyro's hand.

That moment, when Magneto treats Pyro as an equal, not as a child, not as a student, that moment is written, performed and directed so elegantly, so equisitely, it's beautiful. And Bryan Singer has tons of those little moments in his films. Brett Ratner couldn't create a scene like that if you gave him 20 years to try.)

This movie simply isn't fun. It isn't entertaining on any level, save for that of a traffic accident when everyone slows down to look at the carnage. Worst of all, this movie is boring. I can live with a crappy film if it at least entertains me. Look at Fast and the Furious. That's certainly not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's fun in its absurdity. I wasn't entertained or excited by a single aspect of X-Men: The Last Stand.

Bryan Singer's films are both action-packed and thought-provoking.

Ratner's is just nauseating.

(And where the fuck was Nightcrawler?)

3 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

Great review ... Brett Ratboy committed so many sins with this one it's hard to decide where to start, but the most egregious, to me, was his completely shoddy treatment of the Phoenix saga .. a disgrace

EmmaJ said...

I haven't seen the movie yet (hopefully this weekend,) but I liked your review nonetheless. I too remember the "seduction of Pyro" scene, which was so gloriously subtle and haunting I couldn't believe it came from a comic book movie. Singer did have a great sense of balance between action and reflection- it's a shame it couldn't be repeated here.

raptorpack said...

RAmen....I told you I didn't want to talk about it.