X3 Last Stand
Tell me there will never be a sequel to Catwoman!

Theatrical Release Date: 05/26/2006
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Ellen Page, Ben Foster

The X-Men are taking their “Last Stand” and the question on every mutant-loving, comic-book reading fan is: Will they go out with a whimper or a bang?

Much to my chagrin, it’s more of a bang (but a little one).

“X-Men: The Last Stand” had a lot working against it. Brett “I Like to Cast Chris Tucker” Ratner was at the helm after Bryan Singer left to do the new “Superman” flick. The script was going to tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline to some degree, which in my opinion, would take an entire film to do right and didn’t have the proper setup in the first two films. And there were going to be so many mutants, how would they handle character development?

I’ll start off with Ratner. I think he was smart to really streamline the script and avoid as many emotional and interpersonal scenes as possible. At a little over an hour and a half, the film doesn’t have time for actors to try and hone their craft. What is left is a decently tight script, keeping the action at a premium (but not the emotions).

As for the powers and effects, all of that was done as well as they have been the last two films, if not better. Some of the final battle scenes looked like they could have used more work and there are loads of continuity problems but that’s to be expected in a film with so many effect shots.

One thing I will give kudos to is their treatment of the Phoenix. A huge storyline in the comic, I didn’t see how they would be able to do it right given the timeframe, previous buildup (or lack thereof), and the director.

While they did alter it so no references are made to the fact that the Phoenix is a universal entity akin to Life and Death, Order and Chaos, I am okay with it. They even managed to hit a lot of the beats the comics did using the slightly altered origin for the Phoenix’s powers.

Now as for adding somewhere around 677 million new mutants to the film, Ratner got a bit over-ambitious. Most of the new ones were done well (I’ll get to Juggernaut and Leech in a second) but with so little time and so many mutants, you can barely recognize which mutant they are before the scene shifts.

In fact, there were so many mutants I didn’t even notice that R. Lee Ermey was in the film as a human military officer. Now that’s saying something!

There was the requisite Stan Lee cameo but what really impressed me from that standpoint was including a cameo for Chris Claremont, who is the writer responsible for much of the really good and classic X-Men storylines. He should be the one writing the movie scripts!

The problem I had with Leech was two-fold; One, the comic version is a green and physically deformed mutant and Two, they cast Cameron Bright. Check out either my “Ultraviolet” or “Thank You for Smoking” reviews for more insight into how I can’t stand this kid. In this particular film, he continues his increasingly impressive ability to imitate a lump of shit with arms. I think you could cut off his hand and he still wouldn’t react or emote. Creepy.

Juggernaut was perhaps the worst character transition of the entire series, which says a lot because I hate (hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE) that they altered the ages, relationships and timelines of many mutants in order to put them all in this initial trilogy of films.

I normally like Vinnie Jones but I’m at a loss why Juggernaut is British. I’m at a loss why they went for the ridiculous (and hairy) muscle suit instead of the full armor the comic book character uses. I’m at a loss how the character is ghetto, at one point using the line, “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”.

And mostly, I’m at a loss why they made Juggernaut a mutant. At one point, Juggernaut gets within range of Leech’s ability to negate mutant powers. Like flipping a switch, Juggs loses his massive strength and virtual invulnerability.

Anyone who read the comics knows that Juggernaut isn’t a mutant. He got his powers from a mystical crystal. As such, Leech’s powers have no effect on him. I know this is being the utmost of comic book nerds but I think it’s pretty damn important if you’re trying to appease the fans and it really would not have been hard to fix this if they had wanted to.

I will give credit to making this storyline darker and pulling few punches. It’s about time they got a bit more adult with the franchise. Though, of course, now that the first three are in the books, only the younger actors are signed on to participate in future X-Men films so look for the teen versions to come out in a few years.

I can only hope the upcoming Wolverine movie (yes, it’s going to happen) will be dark and I’d be even more pleased if it were R-rated. His origin is bloody and full of ninjas, it would be a shame to tame that down.

Back to “X-Men 3: Rush Hour and a Half”, one thing that drove me nuts from the beginning credits was the score. It is inappropriately raucous and seems to mismatch almost every scene. I don’t know if composer John Powell just didn’t get it, or if he scored the film without seeing it.

As for actors, I’m not going to bother giving a more complete cast list, it’s way too long and I think most people know who’s involved at this point. I do want to again credit Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen for grounding the film with some believability and presence. The franchise would not have worked without their fine acting.

I also want to reiterate how poor Halle Berry is at being Storm. She only relented to coming back for this film after her character got some more development. Each time she’s at the center of a scene, I’d rather hit the skip button. I don’t believe her performance and found it absolutely lacking.

Knocking the script again, why did they do another human vs. mutant story? The first two films brushed the subject adequately enough (really the first film was enough). There are so many storylines available over the hundreds and hundreds of X-Men comic books and their spin-offs. Just tackling one storyline would amount to a feature length film.

Adding all of that up, I will say that I was really enjoying the first hour of the film. I was impressed how well they handled the Phoenix storyline and liked the darker tone. Then the end happens and all of my earlier, pre-viewing doubts are brought back to the surface.

I will capitulate that I like this better than “Mission Impossible III” but really, what does that say? I’m giving “X-Men: The Last Stand” (until more movies are made) a 2 out of 5.

And stay through the credits after the film for a short scene that is important enough that they should have tacked it on the end of the regular film. Stupid Ratner.