(picture curtesy of www.x-menthelaststand.com)
After months of speculations and anticipation, I finally get to see the movie that I have been most looking forward to this summer blockbuster season. When I wrote about watching the trailers back in December and March, I also listed down a few spoiler-ish observations that was able to glean from the two trailers. Coming into the theater to watch this film, I was both excited and apprehensive to see how much I have speculated back then would actually come up on screen. While a lot of the things that I speculated did come up in the finished product, I was pleasantly surprised by the many other story twists that I would have never thought of unfolding as I watched the movie.
“X3: The Last Stand” is allegedly the last installment in the X-Men movie franchise. In this last installment of the mutant trilogy, our merry mutants have moved away from the mutant vs. mutant and human vs. mutant struggles we saw in the first 2 movies. Mutants seemed to be more visible after the end of the last movie and the US government even has a blue-furred mutant Dr. Hank McCoy/The Beast (Kelsey Grammer) on the Cabinet. Just as the world was beginning to look more like what Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) envisioned for his charges, the news of a cure that seemingly neutralizes the mutant gene in mutants is made public by a pharmaceutical company owned by Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy). Worthington Sr. had invested his sizable fortune to find the cure after finding out that his only son, Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Foster), was a mutant with the ability to fly with his 16 feet long angelic-looking wings.
While the mutant cure is being promoted as a purely voluntary option for all mutants, Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen) sees it as just steps away from being something that is forced onto the mutant population by the fearful baseline humans. His fears would be later confirmed when they realized that the US army had been outfitted with cure-guns specially designed to administer the cure forcible to any mutant. In response, Magneto swiftly gathers like-minded mutants into an army opposed to the cure. At the core of his army is the new Brotherhood of Mutants consisting of Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), John Allerdyce/Pyro (Aaron Stanford), Cain Marko/Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Callisto (Dania Ramirez), Jamie Madrox/Multiple Man (Eric Dane), Archlight (Omyhra Mota) and Quill (Ken Leung). Commanding legions of disfranchised mutants, the Brotherhood of Mutants seeks to destroy the cure at its source at any cost.
On the flip-side of the argument, the X-Men favors opening a dialogue with the authorities about the cure despite their own misgiving about their intentions. Ororo Munroe/Storm (Halle Berry) finds the mere idea that there was something to be cured in mutants morally reprehensible while Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) feels that it is up to the individual mutant to choose what is best for them. Marie/Rogue (Anna Paquin) sees the cure as a way for her to be able to finally physically touch her boyfriend Bobby Drake/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) who seems to be getting closer to fellow teammate Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat (Ellen Page). When The Beast resigns from his position in the cabinet over differences with the administration on the issue of the cure, he rejoins the X-Men and adds his considerable skills alongside the strongman Peter Rasputin/Colossus (Daniel Cudmore). The team will have to rise to the occasion when they have to try to stop Magneto and his army when they come to destroy the cure at the source.
While both side of the conflict begin to assemble their forces, Jean Grey/Phoenix (Famke Janssen) returns seemingly from her death at Alkali Lake as shown at the end of the last installment. Her return bodes ill fortune for her grieving boyfriend Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) who gave up leadership of the X-Men after her death. Resurrected with vastly greater levels of telekinetic and telepathic powers, Phoenix becomes Magneto’s most powerful ally when he decides to raid Alcatraz Island where Worthington Pharmaceuticals is developing the mutant cure from the genetic material they harvested from an imprisoned young mutant Jimmy/Leech (Cameron Bright) who has the ability to temporarily suppress any mutant power within a certain radius. The final climatic battle would leave a lasting impact to all involved and would irreversibly change the X-Men forever when they have to face the ultimate sacrifice that they have to undertake.
If all of this seems a lot to be happening in a movie, it is because it is. Story threads from the previous 2 installment make their appearance here to be tied up by the end of the 105 minutes. Add to that, the new storylines that appear here, the combination of these plotlines at times seemed too rushed and unsatisfying. Unlike the previous two films, the newly introduced mutants have little exposure time to allow the viewer to really know them. This was true for the new mutants on both sides of the conflict. Angel was hardly an X-Men in any sense compared to Nightcrawler at the end of the last film and if you’ve seen Archlight’s display of power in the trailers then you’ve already watched everything that she does in this movie. I would have liked to see more character beats in the film for them to shine and be memorable. I guess that part of the problem is that there were too many mutants running around in this movie for director, Brett Ratner and the screenplay writers team of Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, to keep track. In this regards, Bryan Singer’s skill at juggling multiple character development as seen in the last 2 installment was sorely missed.
As a fan and long-time reader of the X-Men comics, the movie has it’s high and low points. I have to say that I was absolutely thrilled at seeing the Danger Room session and the famous “Fastball Special” maneuver which incidentally looks more like a hammer throw rather than a fastball pitch. Seeing it on screen is akin to hearing Human Torch shouting “Flame On!” in the Fantastic Four film for a fanboy. I was even more excited at the prospect of see the Sentinel on screen but alas they only gave us a severed Sentinel head instead. After being disappointed by the lack of the mutant-hunting robot, I was further disappointed by the lack of Phoenix-effect that we say at the end of the last movie when Jean Grey was resurrected. Most of the time the Dark Phoenix seemed to be channeling either Carrie or Gollum when she used her powers. Fortunately for the character, I have no problems with their explanations on how Jean Grey turned to the Dark Phoenix. That particular character development arch felt very organic and in line with the more “real world” feel of the movies compared to the comics.
Acting-wise, I have to say that this latest installment of the X-Men franchise is a mix bag. I was fairly concerned about how Beast would come off but after watching the movie, aside from the hit and miss makeup job, Kelsey Grammer did an acceptable job with the character. Standouts from the movie would be the usually suspects from the previous installments with special mention for Famke Janssen chilling portrayal of the Dark Phoenix. As I mentioned before, the newly introduced mutants this time around got the short stick in this deal. We hardly get to see Colossus in action when a scene where he goes toe to toe with the Juggernaut would have been very much welcomed. Ben Foster’s character, Angel, had all the build up but in the end was let down by disappointing pay-off. Most of the mutants on the Brotherhood side fare no better when their combine powers could be more dramatic in the hands of people who know the characters better.
If this movie was to be the last of the franchise, I have to admit to being sad as it closes the trilogy with a whimper instead of the bang that I expected. After the momentum of the first 2 films, especially the much superior X2 : X-Men United, it was slightly disheartening to see it falter at the finish line. I sincerely hope that I am wrong in this regards and that a future expanded and restored version will be released in DVD form to correct this oversight. I do believe that there is an extended version out there as the film felt too short and rushed through the editing process. Despite all indications based on what the audiences saw in the closing credits, I am not putting too much hope that they will revive the franchise with these group of characters. It would be a bonus if they did but if the don’t then I will be looking forward to the characters spin-offs rumored to be in development. I wouldn’t mind watching a film about the young students at X-Academy dealing with the mutant powers for the first time.
X3 : The Last Stand was not all bad. It fulfilled all the requirements of a summer action movie admirably and it had a fairly thought-provoking storyline. The movie also boast the highest casualty body count in the franchise including several major characters which I admit took me by surprised. The action scenes were sufficiently grand in scope and execution to sustain interest although I would have liked to see more heart in the movie based on a comic that has always been known for angst. If one was willing to over look several glaring plot holes when the characters choose to ignore the more logical approach in favor for the more “showy” action then this film then this can be an exciting movie to spend the afternoon at. Long time comic fans may continue to debate about how successful the movie was but personally I felt that much more could have been done to make this last installment better. There was so much potential here that ended up unrealized at the end.
Monday, June 05, 2006
(picture curtesy of www.x-menthelaststand.com)