27 May 2006

Review: X Men: The Last Stand

I really can’t blame Brett Ratner, too much, for X Men: The Last Stand’s ultimate failure as worthy follow up to X2 or even a great concluding chapter of the first X Men trilogy. He was hired at the last minute by 20th Century Fox to helm the film after Bryan Singer -who helmed the first two films in the franchise - bolted because of Fox’s interference in the creative direction the series should take. And the one hired to replace him, the London based Matthew Vaughn, departed soon after, saying that he did not want to upset his family by moving them to Canada and eventually to Hollywood for a year (though, rumor has it that Vaughn, who had only film under his belt -the small action flick Layer Cake - made Fox reconsider handing over a big, and very expensive {not to mention, very important} franchise to relative new comer).

Most of the blame should go to Fox, who decided that the film should go forward afterSinger left and Vaughn was let go. They had a release date already pen in, May 26, 2006, and because, by now, Bryan Singer had signed with Warner Bros. and was in the midst of filming Superman Returns (scheduled to open at the end of June, 2006) Fox basically decided to get the film done and in theaters just to prove to Singer that he was a fool to run.

Well, I’m sure Bryan Singer is quivering.

Before I go on, let me say that X Men: The Last Stand will be huge this holiday weekend, but like The Da Vinci Code, it’s a one-trick pony and will drop exponentially in the next week -despite the lack of a big feature for the June 2nd weekend.

One of the biggest problems the film has was it’s shortened shoot. Production only began in August of last year, and that effected the end sequence, the final battle, if you will (plus, it seemed every effects house in the world was hired to get the film done on time). It was all hidden in shadows and you never got see how new characters -like Kelsey Grammer’s Beast -work their mutant powers. And, for fans of the first two films will be disappointed to see that all the careful characterization and emotional depth that Singer had brought to each of the characters was tossed away for endless destruction and needless killing-off of characters.

While I’ve read the X Men comics from time to time over the years, I cannot say I m huge fan of them, but I understand what some of the arcs these characters have gone through and what they mean to those diehard fans, and that I feel sorry for them that Fox has allowed such a ruthless tear-down of them. The Phoenix saga itself has been the pinnacle of the comics, and one that should’ve been devoted to a whole film, and not just thrown in as a secondary story line.

Plus, as mentioned, there is zero growth in all the characters and while it’s assumed that hunky, and super buffed Ben Foster will play Angel again in further X Men films, his role is minimum and could’ve been -again - pushed to another film.

This first trilogy was suppose to be about Xavier and Magneto and how each had their view on the direction for mutant rights. But all of that was pushed out in favor of a conclusion where every character gets short-changed and where 20th Century Fox decided to say, please no character development and a hurried story -what there was of it - where all you were going to get. Hell, I could’ve seen The Dukes of Hazzard if I wanted that.

Now, that being said, nothing bad can be said about Ian McKellan, who once again is brilliant in his role as Magneto and he almost makes you forget you are seeing a bad film. And, surprisingly, Brett Ratner’s direction is good, and one wonders, if given the time and less interference from pencil pushers at Fox, he might’ve made a worthy companion piece to Bryan Singer’s first two films.

Alas, we’ll never know.

One hopes that in future years, when Fox begins work on X Men IV: The Next Generation, they’ll learn from creative mistake done here. To make a film so quickly and so shoddy just to prove to Bryan Singer that they don’t need him, seems to me that you have no real investment in a franchise other than making money. X Men and X2 made money and had a concept, a story, an emotional connection. X Men: The Last Stand is pointless and shows what happens when a studio forgets why it made the film in the first place.

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