Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. Vern has done it again. I gut-laughed at least 3 times during this review... It contains some spoilers, so be warned of that. All these positive reviews for X3 give me hope for the film, but I am worried about a common thread going through these reviews that seem to say that if you care at all about the comics or how these characters will be different from their comic book forms then you might not like the film. Is it wrong to be a geek about a comic book movie? I just know that I loved the Dark Phoenix Saga and I wish I could shake the original comic telling of her story going into the movie, but I know I can't. I really hope I'm smiling as hard as Vern was when watching the flick. Sounds huge and fun. After Vern, I have another review that is from a fan that is very honest about the film, but is kind of a sad read. Enjoy the laughter and happiness first!
X-MEN 3: THE THIRD AND LAST STAND OF THE X-MEN
In the talkback for my review of last week's big movie, SEE NO EVIL, Brycemonkey requested that I review X-MEN 3: X3 THE THIRD X-MEN. As someone who strives for excellence that puts me in a tough position because on one hand I want to make the newsies happy by reviewing the movie, but on the other hand I'm not sure they'll like it because I don't know jack and/or shit about the X-Men outside of these movies.
Ordinarily that would be okay, most movies you're not expected to do twenty years of preparatory research before you are allowed to have an opinion about them. But X-Men is different. I don't know if anybody else has ever noticed this before, but through my personal experiences here and there I've made an observation that some people take this comic strip shit VERY seriously. Don't worry, I'm not talking about you. You're cool. But those other guys are fuckin NUTS. what a bunch of nerds, am I right? ha ha we're different though.
Don't worry I'm not gonna turn this into some attack on comic strip fundamentalism, but I just want to establish that some of you will still hate this movie, even though it's good. Because I'm not looking for the same things you are. I don't even know what to look for. But as someone who was surprised to enjoy the first two pictures (hell, read my review of part 2, RIGHT HERE it's literally a love letter) I was satisfied with part 3. To my ignorant eyes, it's just as good.
The movie picks up a little bit after X PART 2. Jean Grey is still dead underwater (like Godzilla) and Cyclops (remember, the whiny douchebag with the sunglasses) is real grim and brooding. You can tell he has been deeply changed by this tragedy, because he has stubble. However things seem pretty good otherwise because the president of the US was so impressed by Professor X-Man stopping time and making a big speech at the end of part 2 that he appointed a furry blue mutant to his cabinet as the Secretary of Mutant Affairs. This is of course Kelsey Grammar from 'Cheers' and although he does a good job this is probaly gonna be pretty controversial. The writers took alot of poetic license with his character, he doesn't eat cookies or have googly eyes anymore and they call him "Hank."
Hank is the first good guy mutant to find out about some fucked up bullshit that is the main plot of the movie. It seems that the fucking humans have gone and created a "cure" for being a mutant. My favorite X-Man by far, Mystique, was actually the one who caught on to this, stealing the info from the FDA, but she got apprehended by The Man. I always liked Mystique because she has the right attitude about being a mutant. Her power is to change into any form, so it would require no effort for her to appear "normal." And yet she chooses to walk around as a scaly naked blue chick with orange hair and eyes. That's just her thing, man. If you got a problem with it, what I would like you to do is take that problem you have and stick it up your ass. She's here, she's blue and orange, get used to it.
In part 2 of course my girl Mystique busted Magneto out of the joint, and Magneto is enough of a gentleman that he returns the favor. But the escape is botched. Poor Mystique. I kind of thought things would turn out bad for her, because I'm sure at some point Rebecca Romijn-she's-not-Stamos-anymore-fellas is gonna turn down the opportunity to spend 4 hours every day getting glued and painted. But what happens to Mystique is worse than I imagined and, depending how you interpret it, could mean she's not quite as right on as I always thought. But I believe in her.
Meanwhile, the other pretty lady in X-land, Famke Janssen's Jean Grey comes back to life but is part evil and out of control and etc. This ties in to the thread from the whole trilogy where Professor X-Man tries to convince her to control her powers and Magneto tries to convince her to unleash them. But for the first time Magneto gets his way.
Like the other two, this exists in an alternate political landscape where this whole "mutant cure" business becomes a big controversy. A bunch of sellout uncle tom mutants including one of the Academy Award winning cast members line up to get cured while others protest and Magneto tries to lead a revolt. Even more than in the other two, I found myself siding with Magneto on this one. If the cure was voluntary like they say, that would be one thing. But we see that the fucking humans are shooting it out of guns, and that's bullshit.
Magneto gathers all the mutants (you can tell by their tattoos and leather) in the woods and then they attack the facility that makes the cure, which by the way is on Alcatraz for some reason. So you got the two overlapping storylines of Jean Grey's out of control magic powers and this bullshit with trying to cure mutants. And then sad things happen, etc.
There are two main things I like about the X-Pictures. The first one is the way they use this mutant concept as a metaphor for things we can relate to in our mutant-free world. Everybody always mentions that Magneto is Malcolm X and Xavier is Martin Luther King (which is kind of weird since Martin Luther King's space age jet probaly didn't have missiles on it) and I don't know if anybody here has heard about this yet, but Bryan Singer is actually gay so you can read a certain symbolism about anti-gay bigotry into the way humans treat the mutants in the movies.
The other main thing I like is the way there's so much grey area between good guys and bad guys that I always end up rooting for the bad guys. I mean don't get me wrong, Logan Wolverine is cool and everything, but I think Professor X-Man trusts the humans a little too much. When they're shooting the cure out of guns that crosses a line.
Well both of those two main things that I like are present in part 3 and maybe even more than in the previous ones. The whole concept of the cure can obviously be applied to alot of things in life. It makes you think about that silly idea of "curing" gays, but it can be applied to any minority or oppressed group. You could get the cure and people wouldn't stare at you anymore and maybe you would make new friends. But then you would remember that those new friends are the same assholes that stared at you just because you were blue. Mystique knows getting cured is bullshit, and she also refuses to respond to her "slave name." If you are ever in a bind ask yourself "WWMD(BSS)" which means "What would Mystique do (besides shape shift)."
That's why even more than in the other two I was rooting for Magneto's side. Admittedly, part of their plan involves killing a kid. Which I'm against. And they did have some part about taking over the world after they get rid of the cure. But the main thing is getting rid of the cure, which I can get behind more than the diabolical super villain plans Magneto had in the other ones. When The Brotherhood are attacking Alcatraz and the humans turn out to have a surprisingly good counter-attack, I found myself worried, thinking "oh shit, they're gonna get slaughtered, what are they gonna do?" Then when Logan Wolverine and friends showed up to protect the building I actually got pretty uncomfortable. They seem like sellouts. What the fuck are they doing? And then an opportunity presents itself to defeat Magneto but it involves an ethical question, and I think Logan and friends arrive at the wrong answer on that one.
I don't know, maybe that's the one way that this was not as good as the other two to me, that I actually thought that what the X-Men were doing was wrong. But what the hell, might as well challenge me with a comic strip movie. It gives you more to think about than other pictures in the genre such as GARFIELD or GARFIELD'S A TALE OF TWO KITTIES or, I don't know if there's a ZIGGY movie or not.
Anyway, I like that the good guys and bad guys all understand that they have this mutant heritage thing in common. And even though Xavier and Magneto are enemies, they are also old friends. Remember in the first one, Professor X-Man gets Magneto locked up but then goes to visit him and play chess while he's in the can? That type of respect and friendship comes through in this one too. That's how it gets ya, it pulls at your heartstrings.
With as many characters as they have now they have to shortchange some of them or kill them off early (a handy trick they use in this one). Logan Wolverine is still cool and heavily involved in the Jean Grey storyline, but he doesn't seem like the main character anymore. Storm actually has a little more important role and does cooler things, although she still talks like either Janet or Latoya. Kurt (the German guy) has such a small part that he's not in the movie. I think they do a good job of getting across what they need to about each character within a small amount of screen time.
All the main new characters are pretty cool. I like how Hank is a thoughtful, well spoken diplomat who wears a suit and tie but happens to be blue and furry and hang upside down. In the small part of the movie dedicated to him he gets to have a little depth because it's implied that he would like to take the cure, but instead he stands up for his people. I don't like politicians but he seems like a cool guy. Then you got Hawkman, a small character just on screen enough to get an idea across. He's the son of the inventor of the cure, but he has bird wings. It's sad and then moving to see how he hates himself and then how he decides to metaphorically spread his wings and fly. (the wings being a metaphor for his wings.)
Finally there's Juggernaut, played by Vinnie Jones (SUBMERGED). There's no depth to Juggernaut, which is okay in this case. He's just a big muscleman with a metal helmet who runs through walls and punches stuff. I never understood all this talk about "geekgasm" and what not until I saw the reaction to Juggernaut's big scene. Alot of people were whooping and hollering but one particular guy got so excited he actually jumped to his feet and pumped his fists in the air yelling "YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHH!!!! FUCK YEEEAAAAAHHHH!!!" well into the next scene, and I swear people were ducking for cover just in case he really did shoot his wad all over the rows in front of him. So now I get it what Harry is always talking about. You people are sickos but I get it now.
But the new character who matters the most is the director, Brett Ratner. I remember some of you guys had that plan to kidnap the furry bastard and strangle him with spider-man underoos for a little bit of the ol' nerd justice. I never understood that because 1) okay he's not Stanley Kubrick, but he's not the guy who did Daredevil either, so cut the guy some fuckin slack and 2) he hadn't even made the movie yet, isn't he, as an American, innocent until proven guilty? and 3) if you don't think MONEY TALKS is hilarious then I ain't reading casper comics with you, buddy. At least give him credit for MONEY TALKS.
Well I'm never gonna convince you on that one but it'll be interesting to see if you still want to assassinate this guy after you see X PART 3. In my eyes he did a good job. Like Mystique would, he has made an amazing facsimile of Bryan Singer's style from the first two, completing the story. Don't get me wrong, I consider Singer the better filmatist, but honestly if I saw this and didn't know it was a new director I would've fell for it. He is a great fake Singer.
Not that I wouldn't have liked a couple more Ratnerisms in there. The only one I really noticed was that he put Ken Leung, the villain from RUSH HOUR in a small part as the evil mutant Porcupine Man. There's so many mutant extras I don't know why he didn't go for more cameos. I'm sure he coulda fit Chris Tucker in there. And Michael Jackson obviously would've made a good mutant too. Okay, maybe that would be distracting, but one thing I did miss was Lalo Schifrin, the genius behind the music for ENTER THE DRAGON, DIRTY HARRY, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, etc. and also the guy who scored most of Ratner's pictures. I read he was gonna do this one, not sure if that was a mistake or if he got fired for being too awesome, but the score is by some guy called John Powell. Nothing against him, he did fine, but more than Brett Ratner is not Bryan Singer, that motherfucker is NOT Lalo Schifrin. He's some other guy.
But I think Ratner did a good job. And he has the balls to include important information after the credits, something I always enjoy but rarely see. Remember, SEE NO EVIL was afraid to even put the awesome peeing scene at the end of the credits, they put it pretty much at the beginning. This one doesn't involve peeing on a dead body, but it's pretty good.
Now, I'm pretty sure I know how some comical book extremists will react to this movie. They will watch it three times in the theater and buy it on DVD to get a fuller understanding of why it is the worst movie ever made. But I think the average every day nerd on the street, the cool ones like you, are mostly gonna like it. I say this only because the crowd I saw it with (who got their passes from a comic book shop) mostly seemed to love it.
The end is a little weird, it acts like things are wrapped up. But the cure was not uninvented, so there is still a huge fucking dilemma. And plus we got some dead X-Men-and-Women. Still, it leaves you a little hope for if there was a next one. But of course, there are only three X-Men comic books probaly so that must be the end of the story. Too bad, would've been cool to see what would've happened.
Hoo, boy... "The writers took alot of poetic license with his character, he doesn't eat cookies or have googly eyes anymore and they call him "Hank."" hahahaha
Before we go on to the sad fan review, I want to take another moment of laughter. This being the internet, a lot of you out there have seen I'M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!, a fucking hilarious over-dubbing of an X-MEN cartoon. Then there's a clip from X3 that has Vinnie Jones in the film going, "Do you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut!" The clip cuts there, but the below review does confirm he utters the "Bitch" afterwards, which I'd wager was what the fanboys were cheering in Vern's screening. If you haven't already seen what Naztradamix (the folks who did I'M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!) have done besides JUGGERNAUT, you have to click here and scroll down to SPIDER-MAN: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE LUBE Part 1. What they do with Storm had me rolling.
And now with the sadness...
One of the most beloved comic books in history is a little title by the name of X-MEN. There have been quite a few off-shoots of the primary X-MEN title since it debuted, but the main selling point of the characters making up those stories has always been that they are common individuals thrown into extraordinary circumstances, pitted against insurmountable odds in a fight for their very existence. Naturally, this dramatic struggle suited itself well for translation to the big screen, and thus far it has spawned three films with "X3: The Last Stand" being the latest edition.
(NOTE: I'm trying to be fairly light with the spoilers here as I know this is a film lots of people are looking forward to seeing without any sort of ruination beforehand, but I must warn those of you reading this that my review of "X3: The Last Stand" contains specific plot points and you should not venture further unless you don't mind reading about them!)
The movie begins with a flashback sequence involving Professor Xavier and Magneto making a visit to the childhood home of Jean Grey. (I was quite impressed with the anti-aging effect used in this segment to give Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan the appearance of being 20 years younger.) The two of them are attempting to convince Jean that she could learn to develop her powers in a safe environment at the newly formed Xavier Institute. From there, we see a young Warren Worthington trying to literally grate the wings from his back so that he might hide his budding mutation from his father.
Fast forward to the not too distant future as the X-Men are training in the danger room against (you guessed it) a sentinel. Storm is trying to emphasize teamwork to the young group, a point that's somewhat shattered by Wolverine's decision to go ahead and cut off the sentinel's head (with the help of Colossus' throwing arm, mind you). During this time, Cyclops is having issues coming to terms with Jean Grey's death, and he leaves the school because of these feelings only to travel to the lake where Jean died - and quickly discover that she isn't actually dead, even though he would soon die himself at her hands.
Sensing what has happened, Xavier sends Wolverine and Storm to the lake to investigate. What they find is a Jean Grey unlike the one they knew before - something dark exists inside this person, and so they take her back to the Professor where he reveals that he inadvertently caused Jean to suffer from multiple personality disorder when she was young as a direct result of trying to contain a flow of rage and hatred that existed within her. This alternate personality is known as Phoenix and is entirely opposite to the Jean Grey they've all known for so long.
Meanwhile, Warren Worthington's father (a geneticist working to develop a "cure" for mutations) has found a way to reverse mutation by manipulating the DNA of a young mutant named Leech. He tries to persuade his own son into being the first subject to receive this medication, but Warren breaks free and flies away, becoming something of an inspiring figure to mutants having difficulty dealing with their abilities despite the fact that the United States government has now accepted mutant-kind and no longer seeks to eradicate those with mutations.
Knowing that, one would think that Magneto's quest to dominate Homo sapiens would lose its zeal but apparently there are plenty of zealots in the mutant underground. Magneto uses the remaining fear that these mutants have for being hunted and exterminated by humans (now equipped with a weapon to end mutant-kind once and for all) to build a small army bent on destroying the "cure" at its source - Worthington's research laboratory (located on the island of Alcatraz) and the mutant Leech. And so with the Brotherhood poised to attack, the X-Men must take action to once again prevent war between humans and mutants.
First of all, since I am an individual who for years has proudly exclaimed, "Make mine MARVEL!", I have a laundry list of issues with this script and with how the X-Men mythos has been butchered for the sake of jamming as much of it as possible into the span of 100 minutes. To save time, I'm just going to hit on the main two components of this story that made the pages of my comics crinkle.
1) Cain Marko, otherwise known as Juggernaut, is not a mutant - his powers are derived from a mystical crystal and he also happens to be the step-brother of Charles Xavier. In this film, he's apparently a mutant and a British one at that (not to mention also a source of comic relief: "Do you know who I am?! I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!").
2) Bryan Singer set up the potential for a fantastic story revolving around the Phoenix force with his ending of "X2", but that was squandered the moment Charles Xavier here claimed to have been responsible for unleashing Phoenix himself. The Phoenix/Dark Phoenix saga remains one of the most prolific story arcs in all of the X-Men tales, so to have it completely torn asunder was very disappointing.
Other than the gaping inaccuracies created by translating the comics to the big screen, the most obvious problem with this script is that it involves a saturated cast of characters, none of which are given the opportunity to have much of a spotlight shown on them. One moment we're with Wolverine, the next we're with Storm, then all of a sudden we're focused on Rogue and Iceman...But wait, Magneto is here too, and so is Mystique, Pyro, Jean Grey/Phoenix, Shadowcat, Colossus, Angel, Beast, Leech, Juggernaut, the President of the United States, and about 30 other players that are all involved in the way this plot pans out.
As I stated, there is literally a ton of material shoved into this movie; so much so that it makes me want to pull out a, "20 pounds of crap packed into a 5 pound bag", comparison. It's this combined overload of characters and under-developed plot points that make this whole movie feel rather meaningless as I walked away from it without a sensation of caring about what had just gone on. I hate to mention "Rush Hour" in this context, but it stands to reason that you could say that play on words applies to how this film was crafted - in a rushed fashion, leading to a final product with no heart and no real emotional subtext.
Since I opened the door to talking about his work with "X3" by bringing up "Rush Hour", I'll take this chance to comment on Brett Ratner's contribution to X-Men lore. Quite frankly, he didn't do too bad of a job in directing this one, and had he been provided the chance to make a movie of adequate length (as in two and a half hours or so) he might have been able to pull of a stunning upset to a lot of his critics.
As it stands, he's made something that is neither startlingly bad nor altogether fantastic. It's just kind of lukewarm, for lack of a better phrase. Nevertheless, I don't think he should take sole credit for whatever failures are here as the decision to fast-track this picture was done by 20th Century Fox in an effort to put "X3" out in front of "Superman Returns". Anyone who has followed that showdown (what with Bryan Singer jumping ship from Fox to Warner Brothers in order to direct "Superman Returns", and the huge storm that followed) knows full well the reasoning for Fox doing what they've done. All I can say is I'm saddened that yet again corporate greed has gotten in the way of a great story, a fine piece of art being all that it can be.
I'm not a fan of whip/jump edits as I feel that it cheapens the look of a movie when a director has to rely on quick jerks of the camera to add emphasis to a scene. I want to see the action as it happens, not in a blur of a shaking lens and the quick cut to whatever it is that comes next. Unfortunately, the majority of the final battle is constructed out of this technique as are most of the action sequences. I promise you I'm not trying to beat a dead horse, but I keep having to go back to the "What if?" scenario of Fox allowing this film to be produced on a more suitable timeline with a more beefy budget and a script worthy of wearing the X-Men title.
In terms of special effects, there's some good work being done here. I would have liked to have seen a bit more work done in polishing Colossus and Iceman as they don't get a fair shake in my opinion, although it is redeeming to note that Pyro's flame burns bright herein. The bulk of the sequence where Magneto rips the Golden Gate Bridge off of its foundation, then repositions it as a breach point from San Francisco to the island once known as Alcatraz Prison is especially well done (albeit something of an odd battle tactic). Truth be told, the computer generated aspects of the visual effects are quite good and exactly what you'd expect out of a Summer blockbuster. However, where the film begins to sag in this territory is the make-up effects and also the wire stunt work.
I remember being stunned at how silly Vinnie Jones looked with the fake muscle suit when images of him wearing it first appeared on the internet; that sensation hasn't changed a bit now that I've seen the film. The same goes for Kelsey Grammer as Beast - it simply looks like a guy wearing a common, furry, wolf man suit you could get from any costume shop on the planet only this one happens to be blue and has a slightly more articulate mask. I was particularly confused by how poor these effects were when in the credits Rick Baker is given a nod as some sort of consultant to the visual effects team. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall early on and felt it best to not involve himself completely in this production?
The wire work used to create flying effects in "X3" is almost laughable. Isn't the point of using these tools to make someone look as though they're moving through the air under their own power and not with the aid of a harness and cables? Because that's exactly how it appears throughout "The Last Stand".
Since I've already made it clear that there doesn't seem to be a real lead character in this picture, and since I very well can't take the time to mention each and every character brought to life via "X3", I'm going to do my best to go over those performances that stood out in my mind.
I don't get the presentation of Wolverine in this installment. In the past two films, he's been the strong, silent type that speaks with action and Hugh Jackman has played him perfectly. Here with "X3", it's as though the character has been tamed - which, oddly enough, is exactly the comment Jean Grey makes to Logan after she's been brought back to the mansion and it is precisely how I felt watching Jackman throughout "The Last Stand". Hopefully this won't be the case with this character should the rumored Wolverine stand-alone franchise actually take off from development limbo.
Halle Berry isn't doing anything unique with Storm this go-round, which is kind of surprising since she made quite an issue over not wanting to come back to play Ororo Munroe again after the character seemed to be a supporting role and not a primary figure in the first two installments. For the life of me, I don't understand how, in terms of continuity, she began the series with an African accent (well, kind of) and yet now she has not even a hint of cultural influence. At least she got the extended exposure she was after, I guess.
Ian McKellen is a fine actor and well suited to play Magneto, however the writing on "X3" doesn't give him much room to expose his abilities. He is as he has been all along in presentation with his work as Magneto, which is great in terms of spanning the gap from one movie to another, but at the same time I wish he'd gotten more play as the primary villain since Magneto is still the greatest threat the X-Men have ever faced.
Another rather under-whelming performance is that which was turned in by Famke Janssen. Again, I'm of the opinion that it's more of a reflection of the material than of the actor/actress, so you can't blame her for what's wrong here when the fact of the matter is that most of her scenes involve her simply staring into the camera with an intense gaze. Had she been able to jump into the depth that is the true Phoenix/Dark Phoenix character, she could've had a career defining moment. As it is, she got to hump Hugh Jackman on a gurney, which, while not all that unpleasant to watch, isn't exactly what I was most hoping for from Jean Grey.
Kelsey Grammer is a fantastic choice to play Beast...So long as you're looking for someone to handle the voice of the character, that is. Sticking him in that suit was not a good idea (because that's what he looks like - a guy in a suit) as I contend the furball could've been much more successfully handled by way of computer generated imagery. Don't even try to argue with me that they can make Ian McKellen look that much younger than he actually is with CGI yet they can't create a lifelike Beast out of the same technology.
Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), Rebecca Romijn (Mystique), James Marsden (Cyclops), Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Aaron Stanford (Pyro), and Anna Paquin (Rogue) are all involved in this picture at some point as well. None of them struck me as being all that vital to the presentation, though, which is particularly upsetting in the case of Ms. Romijn seeing as how this was more than likely the last opportunity anyone will have to get her into the Mystique get-up ever again.
If you do decide to go see this movie, make sure you stick around after the credits. Some sites on the web have made what takes place after the credits roll seem to be a mind-numbingly beautiful addition to the rest of the thing; I say it was nothing more than an afterthought aimed at leaving the door open for X-Men films to be made in the future.
The bottom line here is that "X3: The Last Stand" is a picture that has loads of potential initially yet falls flat on its face as it moves forward. From the script to the individual performances, it's a situation where things could've gone so much better had there just been some tweaking (perhaps "quality control" would be a better phrase) here and there. I'm sure at some point in the future we'll get an extended edition DVD of "X3" that has more to it than what's going to be arriving in theaters later this week. I'm just disappointed that we'll have to wait for that version as it's more than likely better than what I saw yesterday evening.