‘X’ doesn’t mark the spot

Reeling It In

Posted: Thursday, June 01, 2006


  "X-Men: The Last Stand" Twentieth Century Fox 1 hour, 44 minutes DIYAH PERA

"X-Men: The Last Stand"

Twentieth Century Fox

1 hour, 44 minutes


Rarely have I been as depressed as I was leaving the theater after a late showing of one of the movies I most anticipated this summer. The third “X-Men” film doesn’t just end the series, it clubs it to death and then buries it in a shallow grave. Man, oh man.

I should say at the outset that, disappointed though I was, “Last Stand” isn’t simply a bad movie. That might have been better somehow. It’s a mediocre movie, at best, but there are some nice moments, such as when Angel first spreads his wings, or watching Mystique overpower a whole room of guards while chained at the wrists. Both of those moments are in the preview, however, and give no suggestion as to the travesty to come.

The film opens nicely enough. Twenty years ago, a younger Professor Xavier and a younger Magneto come to visit a 12-year-old Jean Grey, who demonstrates awesome potential with her power.

The scene is well constructed and just a little creepy, which gives you hope for the rest of the movie, although in their younger states, both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan give off a slightly plastic sheen. From there we see the origin of Angel, also interesting, and then it’s on to present day and a demonstration of the Danger Room, the training facility that resembles the Holo-deck on Star Trek.

This I found silly, even though it has its roots in the actual comic. It’s downhill from there. A private corporation has developed a “cure” for mutation taken, ironically, from the genes of a mutant whose power is to suppress the powers of those around him. The mutant community is in an uproar, and the perfect opportunity is provided for Magneto and his rapidly expanding Brotherhood of Mutants to wage war on humanity.

It’s up to the X-Men to stop him, but they have been torn asunder, by political, emotional and personal upheaval. Jean Grey is back, but is it really her? And if so, what is she capable of?

It sounds kind of cool, and the problem isn’t really with the story, but with the characters.

A little background. First, I am loathe to admit that I didn’t like this movie. All year, fan-boys (geeky Internet comic/film lovers who swoon with delight over any sci-fi/fantasy/superhero projects) have been trashing this film on the Web. Their reason: Brett Ratner. The other two “X-Men” movies were directed with cool sophistication by Bryan Singer, the man behind “The Usual Suspects.”

For one reason or another (some say because of disputes with Halle Berry) he left the series to go and direct the new “Superman” movie, leaving a creative vacuum. The man the studio chose to fill that vacuum was Ratner, the genius behind the “Rush Hour” films. Now, this didn’t fill me with the kind of dread it did the fan-boys, because he also directed “Red Dragon,” a movie I liked. I figured that the mold already was set, how bad could he screw it up?

How naive I was. The fan-boys were right.

Ratner has admitted that he was not an “X-Men” fan from way back. That’s OK, neither was Singer. But Singer didn’t have the apparent contempt for them that Ratner seems to. Previously iconic characters are swept cruelly aside like they were nothing.

Their behavior is all off, as if the filmmakers here hadn’t even seen the earlier films. Xavier is a jerk. Magneto is callous and evil far beyond the complex layered character he played previously, and poor Oscar-winner Anna Paquin has absolutely nothing to do as Rogue.

There are so many new mutants, but most of them are disappointingly silly, the worst being Juggernaut, a brute who can bash through walls and wears a ridiculous helmet and an even worse-looking muscle suit.

Angel, a founding member of the X-Men, is a character that all fans have been clamoring for, but even he is ruined. Given no real role, his greater sin is that, when flying, he looks like he was created by Ray Harryhausen, the guy who brought us “Clash of the Titans.”

Worst of all, the film is disturbingly dark in its implications. There is virtually no redemption, for the characters or the audience, as one lame sequence after another strips the series of both minor and beloved characters alike.

I won’t give away the ending, but until the last few seconds of the film, I was ready to let Wolverine slash my wrists. Do stay ’til the end of the credits for an interesting epilogue, but even that little tidbit can’t rescue this travesty.

Though the story concept isn’t bad, the actual screenplay is awful and could be a big reason the characters seem suddenly so unfamiliar. On IMDB (the Internet Movie Database, for the uninitiated) David Hayter is listed as the screenwriter for both “X-Men” and “X2.”

No screenwriter is listed for this film, which could mean one of two things. Either they wrote it by committee, or the actual writer is so embarrassed he had his name taken off. Either way it’s a bad sign.

A mediocre action flick that will provide an adequate summer diversion for anyone not wholly bought into the “X-Men” mythos. But to fans, the film is a slap in the face. It is as if Ratner is speaking directly to you, saying, “I was brought in to end the series, and by God I’m going to do it.” Go in with a guarded heart. I didn’t, and Ratner broke it all to pieces. I guess I’m a fan-boy at heart. Grade: D

“X-Men: The Last Stand” is rated PG-13 for violence, language and a few suggestive scenes.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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