I started looking forward to the third X-Men movie when the credits began rolling on the second one. That's what convinced me to make certain I went to see X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
It wasn't just the opportunity to see more of Hugh Jackman with his shirts ripped in combat or how nice he looks in an X-Men jumpsuit, or the beguiling way Patrick Stewart's eyes and voice have made me focus on his characterizations for more than 25 years. I had been drawn into the story of the X-Men, and Xavier's school for mutant children, and the mutant population in general -- what was the vision the writers had for how the disenfranchised and despised of the world were to be treated by government and integrated into society? Okay, fine, I'm mostly lying. I wanted to see Hugh Jackman strut around, and listen to Patrick Stewart's mesmerizing speech, and also see Halle Berry as "Storm" get ticked off and call up the lightning.
I got my wishes. Hugh Jackman was very much in evidence, although he didn't have much time for strutting. As "Wolverine" he took a beating through most of the movie, both physically and emotionally. Patrick Stewart still was able to make me forget where I really was and who else might have been in the scenes with him. "Storm" let loose some tempestuous weather in her battle scenes. And Ian McKellan was the quintessential Magneto -- arrogant, powerful, but never overdone. (Not once in any of the movies does he laugh, "Bwah-ha-ha!" I appreciate that.)
The special effects were stunning, of course, as we've come to expect of any action movie these days. Since half the story was set in San Francisco, (on Alcatraz Island, no less) seeing landmarks that are practically down the road from where I live get blown up, defiled, torn to bits was rather bemusing in itself. In an opening scene, both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan were made to appear ten years younger -- what a delight, and what a triumph for CGI and makeup! Explosions, lightning, gravitational effects -- go!
However, on another level, I was disturbed by the number of people who were callously killed in this movie, both humans and mutants alike.
In the first X-Men movie, the government wants to register all mutants because they fear and loathe them. Super-mutant Magneto devises a plan to use a fantastic device to mutate all human beings; if everyone is a mutant, then there need be no mutant discrimination.
In the second X-Men movie, an evil man tries to provoke a war between humans and mutants, making the X-Men and Magneto into unwilling and unlikely allies. (For a while.)
But in the third, Magneto, somehow forgetting how convinced he'd been in the past about leveling the playing field, gets really, really berserk upset that the government has found a "cure" for mutant genetics that can make everyone human again -- and declares war on humanity. Wait. Magneto is a brilliant mind, a classy chess player, an insightful if embittered person, and he can't see that the government is simply doing the same thing he tried to do a couple movies ago? When did Magneto get dumb?
We see the return of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) as Phoenix, and see through her unwitting actions the results of unbridled lust, anger, and fear. But although her passions cause massive destruction, there is no greater message than "Uncontrolled desires and fears can ruin things." No one bothers to mention that we all (humans and mutants wherever they might be) have to learn to look past what we feel at any given moment to consider what is right and good.
Didn't sound much like the former Magneto or the former Jean Grey. And what those characters did, along with Wolverine, was kill lots and lots and lots of people.
There is not an ounce of regret for me in going to the movies to see this film. It was action-filled. Hugh Jackman spent a lot of time exposing his biceps, and did one of the sweetest quick kisses I've ever seen on film. CGI was dang good. The chap who played "Angel" (Ben Foster) was so pretty I hope there's a spinoff on his brief character. Nevertheless, the movie was less of a story than I had hoped for.
Is that a thumbs-down? Not at all. And if you go see this film, at the end, DO NOT LEAVE THE THEATER WHEN THE CREDITS ROLL. Wait until the very end, when the last copyright lines are done, and the screen goes blank for a second ... and then you will see the best part of X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Listen, and be hooked again.
I guess there was some hand wringing within the X-Men fan base before this movie came out over the issue of the director. Bryan Singer had directed the first two movies in this series, but got caught up in making the new Superman movie due out shortly, so was unavailable for X-Men 3: The Last Stand. The task of directing fell to Brett Ratner, the director who had given us the Rush Hour trilogy of Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker cop comedies. Well, I'm no expert on who exactly does what in movie making, but it's always safe to look to the guy in charge as the person ultimately responsible for a project, and when it goes right, give them credit, and when it goes wrong, blame them.
I liked the first two X-Men movies. They were entertaining and fun. They were well told tales supported by cool special effects. Perhaps Brett Ratner was dazzled by the opportunity to do a special effects laden sci-fi film, so dazzled in fact that he forgot that there was supposed to be a story to go along with the effects. X-Men 3: The Last Stand was a humorless, dark, and pointless story, filled with too many dangling ends, too many useless characters, and too much hollow drama.
I am a life-long sci-fi junkie, and believe me I've sat through lots of movies that were far worse, and as long as there was one ray gun or one bug-eyed monster that was once human but received a massive dose of radiation that caused chromosomal damage that resulted in accelerated cell divisions and the growth of sucker tipped appendages and was befriended by a beautiful but naive woman who, before being killed and eaten, believed that love was all that any creature was looking for, as long as there was any CGI or even a rocketship on strings with sparklers for propulsion, I was happy. And in that light, I enjoyed this installment of the X-Men.
The first two X-Men movies were good, first run movie house films. X-Men 3: The Last Stand is more of a Saturday matinee triple feature film, something that would be appropriate sandwiched between Godzilla vs. Mothra and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.
Hmmm, I wonder if Blockbuster still has their copy of that last one?