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Review

Harry can't stand X-MEN: LAST STAND!

Imagine… the powers that be had just made DR. NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE… but a powerful executive for some arbitrary insanely stupid reason decides to rush GOLDFINGER… but at the same time, being so short sighted that this same executive decides that he’s tired of paying Sean Connery and wants to do a big blowout film… so he combines into GOLDFINGER… THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE and for good measure a dash or two of MOONRAKER. I mean, why not… this is gonna be the last one. Then, before a script is in place he announced the release date, one approximately a half year to a full year ahead of what would best serve the film. He decides to kill off M, Q, BLOFELD and render Bond impotent – since he won’t be in anything else, it’s best that he lose the ability to procreate.

To reflect the giganticness of this monstrosity, they retitle GOLDFINGER… GOLDMOONBALL’S TWICE LIVED SECRET SERVICE. Because good news is delivered in short bursts – this third film will be 40 minutes shorter than the last one, because they have so many kick ass characters and action set pieces that rather than exhaust any single one of them, they’d just touch upon these bits, change day for night at a moments notice to hide the seams of the threadbare action… cuz rather than fully produce any of it… they’ll do a couple of high water marks and then let the waters recede under the cover of darkness as to not reveal that it’s mostly cardboard cutouts and extras from the SPARTACUS sets in wristwatches and togas.

The film you’d get would be… sort of like what has happened with X-MEN: THE LAST STAND.

This isn’t Brett Ratner’s car wreck… oh sure, he was just the hired hand at the wheel who managed to keep the car basically on the road, but he didn’t pick the car, nor did he fill the tank. No, this car, road and explosions were timed, set and sabotaged by Tom Rothman. I actually believe Brett could have made a pretty decent X-MEN movie had he been given the time to adequately adapt the film.

Now, if you have never read an X-MEN comic, if you know nothing about the PHOENIX saga and if early 1980’s Honk Kong wirework still looks miraculous to your eyes… then you’re gonna love this movie.

If you liked the first two X-MEN films – and know the comics – then for the vast majority of the film you’ll notice how clumsy things like deaths are handled, how emotional beats are handled like a disobedient toilet with a plunger in its mouth.

Is there any good here? Absolutely. A shortened schedule couldn’t interfere with the majesty of Ian McKellen’s genius as Magneto, every time he appears on screen it is as if all is great. Also, Patrick Stewart’s Professor X is perfection. When you’re tight on Kelsey Grammer’s Beast – he works wonders. I continue to be quite fond of Shawn Ashmore’s Bobby Drake – though I’d kill to see him actually ICEMAN out. Ya know? Icing up to deliver a headbutt is just lame to me. I like the CURE and how it fits into the previous two films as a story device for bringing Magneto and Xavier’s philosophies to a head to head battle.

HOWEVER… The Problems come here…

1) Wolverine. I’m a huge fan of Hugh Jackman and Wolverine in particular… but adding layer upon layer of cuddly cuteness to WOLVERINE is robbing him of his animalistic furor. Admittedly, Wolverine is a terrible PG-13 character. Though his short battle with Limb-Replacement Man is pretty awesome, for it’s basic gag value. But too often, that’s the point with Wolverine in this film. He’s a gag. A joke. The beginning of a scene that has a punch line exit for the character. Too often, it is Logan that is the butt of the joke. For me, Wolverine is best in Boba Fett doses. Flourishes of badassness, not Rhett Butler. Wolverine as a lovesick babysitter just isn’t nearly as cool as he ever was meant to be.

2) Storm. Halle Berry just grates with every line delivered. Her fight with Callisto had all the choreography of headless chickens fighting upon a red hot grill. It really is painful. Her character has, perhaps, more screentime than she’s ever had in the series to date. But lack of screentime was never Storm’s problem… rather, the lady playing her needed better direction. To be clued into who her character was. Her “street” talk is a sad departure from who she was just in the last film.

3) Cyclops. Anticlimactic doesn’t even begin to cover it. Cyclops always had the thankless task of being the guy who kept it together. He always reminded me of Gregory Peck in THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, a man that got the job done and always knew the danger of unrestrained power. His departure is done off-screen and just flaccid as hell. That they did the great, “Take off your glasses” scene… the “Open your eyes” moment… is nice, but that it didn’t have any of the build up or elegance. That they didn’t allow the moment to breathe… to set in. To be relished, before what they did here.

4) Beast. His political monkey side works for me, but I really dislike how all the acrobatics with him are handled. Close-up of his being upside down hanging reading just isn’t the same as pulling that camera back and seeing him enjoy his hanging upside down… rocking back and forth… or if his hair actually reacted to the gravity of his situation.. Or if during his fight scenes you actually saw something of what he was doing instead of it all being hidden in darkness due to the micro-schedule they had to shoot this sucker on.

5) Callisto and the tattoo bunch. LAME. Really is that simple.

The saddest thing to me is how there’s almost zero emotional development for any characters. When Moriarty said he felt it was surprising which characters died and which ones took the cure… Well, as I sat there… they knocked off pretty much exactly as you would figure. We all heard about two of the three major deaths. I hadn’t heard about the third one, but it was the nail in the coffin that fucking pissed me off. That that is the cinematic legacy of that particular character… it just pisses me off. And I know that that being pissed off comes from “knowing the comic” – but I honestly felt that if that was all they were going to do with that character, then they should have saved the storyline for the 2nd X-MEN trilogy.

This 1st Trilogy was about Xavier and Magneto and how they each chose to advance the cause of mutants in a human run world. The CURE is a perfect device to further play with that story. And had this third film just explored that storyline – without dragging in characters like Juggernaut, Phoenix or Callisto into the mix… well I feel the story could have been done wonderfully. Those cutaways to the mined story bits from other issues – just short changed what the central story for this film was. Making characters like Rogue painfully thin. There was no anguish in the decisions that had to be made. It was night and day.

The only character that I honestly kinda felt for was Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique. Her betrayal was honestly hurtful.

After the film – I saw Massawyrm tremblingly upset, Robogeek visibly annoyed, Quint yawning, Merrick’s dust. The regular audience… they were entertained.

The question of adaptation always comes up on films like these. The questioning of the adaptation process. You see… I don’t want Sentinels for Sentinels sake. It isn’t that it’s just a giant purple robot that Jack Kirby designed. That isn’t why I wanted to see them in the film. It was more about the idea of characters being hunted, captured. Hiding in shadows, being snatched out of their beds at night through roofs. It was about big things pursuing innocence. They certainly are not things to hide in shadows and never reveal. That’s the lamest way to handle them, and if that’s all your budget will allow… then DON’T SHOW THEM, CUZ THAT’S LAME.

You see – it isn’t that I think X-fans are dying to see a character called Phoenix on screen. Her character was perfectly described by Patrick Stewart’s character in his brief analysis of her… sadly – what he described was never shown. Famke was never asked to do those emotions… that range. The scenes were not there. For comic fans – Phoenix and the Phoenix saga isn’t just any story. It’s one of THE Marvel stories. This isn’t a plastic gumball ring of a story, this is the Tiffany’s Diamond Engagement ring. A story you either chose to tell in some sort of complete form… or not at all. That I never get to see the Phoenix force. That I never see the tormenting of her character, the confusion and mind-fucking of her. That we never see the scope of her abilities. That we never fully get to see the depth of her love with Cyclops. That all of that isn’t even really touched on. That she goes from resurrection to goon to the end… is just unforgivable. I truly truly truly hate how they treated it.

A friend asked me if I thought it was worth babysitting money for his wife and him to see it this weekend. I asked him if she and he cared about the characters and the story. His wife knew every issue, as did he. I recommended a matinee sometime during the week, next week. To pay to see this – during prime hours… to inflate Fox’s numbers. Frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it.

This was shoddy work as a whole. HOLLYWOOD REPORTER calls this the RETURN OF THE JEDI of the X-MEN saga. To me – it’s closer to ALIEN 3, minus that film’s style and ambition. This isn’t SUPERMAN III bad, it’s just a film that never was given the love and nourishment it needed to be complete or whole. It feels like a twitchy abused child of a film.

Brett Ratner could have made a better film had he had better time to acquaint himself with the material, better time to hone the material with the writers and the freedom to actually listen to the writers instead of the knuckleheads in charge of that studio.

That said… Wolverine versus Antler-Knife Throwing Man was kinda cool for a little bit. And Huggy Porcupine Boy is a riot. They came right out of Mighty Marvel's NOT BRAND ECHH ishes... If only waterhose Stan had become FORBUSH MAN this could've been something. If you don’t ask for much from your X-MEN movies and you don’t know the characters… this will serve you well. If you give a shit – that’s what you’re gonna get… by the double handful.

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