Overview

X3: The Best Stand?

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With X-Men 3: The Last Stand having opened in theatres worldwide this week, hopes and fears of mutant aficionados around the globe became true. Many burning questions were finally answered at the only place where they could be: on the silver screen.

SPOILER WARNING

Whenever a sequel is released, moviegoers generally cross their fingers hoping that the newest addition to their beloved movie franchise won’t turn into Rocky V or Rambo III, even if Sylvester Stallone isn’t around to blow everyone and the audience to death. Because Sly wasn’t part of X-Men 3 and because I went to see Mission: Impossible 3 earlier this week—a film that outdid its predecessor and rivalled the quality of MI 1 before a terribly cliché ending dampened my good vibes—I had good hopes that The Last Stand would have the same positive effect on me as X2 had. So, when the theatre went dark, my fingers were firmly crossed; this was going to be a great addition to the X-franchise.

Alas, once the credits rolled over the screen, there was only one thought crossing my mind: it wasn’t meant to be.

Yet, the one thing many people had feared would ruin the film before it was even released wasn’t the problem. Brett Ratner did a more than adequate job directing the film. Known as a young but solid ‘action’ filmmaker, the Rush Hour director lived up to his standards with aptly portrayed fight scenes and succeeding to convey enough emotion through the characters, even when their gloves were off. Indeed, when Scott finds Jean at Alkali Lake or when the hot redhead gets out of control and wants to hit it off with Logan in the school’s infirmary immediately after she’s regained consciousness, you feel like you’re part of the story.

Ratner faced all the naysayers out there who lashed out when he was named director and proved them wrong. Aside from two or three sequences that could’ve been shot better, he was a worthy successor to Bryan Singer. Too bad Ratner didn’t have all the same tools at his disposal Singer did. With great special effects and the return of a superstar ensemble cast, he had access to most, though his toolbox was missing the most important instrument: an excellent screenplay.

Even looking past the one-second, can’t-make-a-Marvel-movie-without-it Stan Lee cameo, the script failed to live up to X2 standards. And no, it wasn’t like I absolutely wanted X3 to exceed the bar set by X-Men: United—I would’ve been satisfied already had it been up to par.

Alas, it wasn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like The Last Stand was a bad movie. Mutant lore was honored, as X3 combined classic Claremont/Byrne material (Dark Phoenix) with more contemporary mythology (the concept of the mutant cure introduced by Grant Morrison). Kelsey Grammer played a great Beast, and his action scenes were top notch. The cynical Logan humor was back. There were some awesome little fanboy moments, too, with the fastball special between Wolverine and Colossus and the danger room sequence (Sentinel sighting included!) being the most notable ones. And the movie contained some extremely appealing sequences, both visually and emotionally. The scene where Jean turns into Phoenix, lifts here parents’ house and vaporises Professor X without blinking was a treat to the eye, and the way Storm and Wolverine reacted to their mentor’s death made it all the more meaningful.

What bothered me, though, was that the screenplay failed to link all of these elements together into one coalescent whole.

For starters, The Last Stand takes some time before its actual plot gets going. Before that, there’s a lot of talk going on—Danger Room sequence aside—that serves as a mere set-up for the main event. In X2, the main event started right from the tip-off, with Nightcrawler breaking into the White House and posing an immediate mutant threat. In those first thirty-something minutes, some dialogue is also wasted on reintroducing already established characters, which is woefully unnecessary: trust me, two films in, people already know that Storm can control the weather and that Colossus’ skin turns into impenetrable steel.

Given that this is a film is 29 minutes shorter than its predecessor, wasting any dialogue comes back to haunt the story when the ballots are to be submitted. Especially with several new characters running around, along with a few existing ones that would’ve benefited from some more fleshing-out. Colossus, for example, didn’t get to say a whole lot and it would have made more sense for Angel to join the X-Men in their ‘final’ battle than to have him fly in out of the blue to save his father from falling to death off the Worthington Labs rooftop. In short, X3 would have been better if it was longer so more time could have been devoted to make some character appearances more than an elaborate cameo.

That’s a lot of ‘would haves’ and ‘could haves’ for one paragraph.

How about one more? Surely the screenwriters could have been a tad more creative portraying the ‘President of the United States’, don’t you think? His uttering the action-movie cliché “May God help us all” when faced with the possibility of a Magneto victory made him look like an even bigger goofball than he already was. However, if the screenwriters intended to have him sound as silly as George W., I rest my case.

What was rather silly to see as well was how blatantly the movie proved that the rumors of Halle Berry demanding more screen-time were true. If you don’t agree, then tell me how the scene where Xavier interrupts a class session to meet a depressed Storm on the school’s balcony doesn’t feel forced.  And speaking of Professor X, he must have been very charmed by Berry’s new, sexy haircut to go all out of character and declare Storm his successor, since Cyclops still can’t stop grieving over Jean’s death. Surely, as Xavier’s first recruit and leader of his ‘dream’ team, he could’ve showed a tad more effort towards Scott and a little more grief of his own when he sensed Cyclops had been killed.

The fact that you can see the ending coming from miles away doesn’t help the overall quality of the screenplay either. Storm practically gives it away before the ultimate showdown even begins. It was also rather easy for clever spectators to reason that the mutant cure—which Worthington Labs extracted from a young mutant boy called ‘Leech’, but how exactly is anyone’s guess—wasn’t permanent. Hence, Magneto being able to move the Queen’s pawn on the chess board during the final shot came as anything but a total surprise.

The Last Stand is littered all over with such shortcomings that spoil the overall fun and prevent it from equalling X2, which saw our beloved mutants united by a much stronger screenplay.

Sure, X3 had its breathtaking moments, but it wasn’t a rollercoaster.

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