Previously, The Cinema Doctor canceled the film version of The Avengers. Now, marvel (pun intended) as he braves the storms of the dubious talents of Brett Ratner, as he gives X-Men: The Last Stand a face lift worthy of approval from Macnamara / Troy.
X-Men: The Last Stand
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Rebecca Romijn, Aaron Stanford, Ellen Page, Vinnie Jones, James Marsden, Ben Foster, Daniel Cudmore, and Shohreh Aghdashloo
Based on the Marvel Comics Series
PATIENT DESCRIPTION: After the events in X2, the world has actually changed in significant ways. Strides have been made in Human / Mutant Relations until a new rift is created by a scientific breakthrough: a cure which will remove the mutations from every mutant. The creation of this cure has angered Magneto (Ian McKellen) and The Brotherhood of Mutants, and they are recruiting for a war that could rock the X-Men forever, especially when the Brotherhood reveals their secret weapon: Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
- Ratner chose to retain the look of the prior X-Men films which had been realized so well by Bryan Singer.
- The action sequences are handsomely staged and even take the time to pay tribute to the comics with Wolverine and Colossus’ trademark “Fastball Special.” We also finally get to see Iceman powering up. The fight between Iceman and Pyro is an excellent payoff for the setups going all the way back to X2.
- The story takes some very Whedonesque steps, helping to promote the idea that anything goes, specifically by killing off key characters and incapacitating others. Of course I’m referring to the deaths of Professor Xavier and Cyclops, as well as Mystique’s cure and betrayal by Magneto.
- Kelsey Grammer was the perfect choice to play Beast, and his performance meets all expectations. He is the pleasant natured intellectual who just happens to have blue fur and the physical prowess of a super ape.
- Ian McKellen effectively evolves his characterization of Magneto, who is overcome by personal rage to the border of insanity. He becomes the very thing that he hid from when he was a child: a fascist madman.
- The movie effectively explores the personal conflict some mutants may feel regarding the cure, via the subplot surrounding Rogue.
- The epilogue with Magneto is actually reassuring to jaded fans, as is the post-credits stinger.
- Famke Janssen seems to enjoy finally having something to do in the series as The Phoenix. After seeing her take out Professor Xavier, you’re left genuinely terrified as to how far she’ll go.
- On a related note, making The Phoenix a schizophrenic side of Jean Grey was very effective.
EARLY ASSESSMENT: It’s very clear that the screenwriters were on the right track with the story, the characters, and the action. It is admirable that everyone involved wanted desperately to stick to things Bryan Singer did so well in the prior film adaptations. It is also commendable that the screenwriters intended to take risks in lieu of sticking to any of the stories in the comic books.
- The most obvious problem with this film is that is feels like an insanely cluttered rush job. This problem stems from FOX’s impatience in waiting for Bryan Singer to finish Superman Returns. They grabbed the first director to come along who they knew could do a rush job on a film, regardless of whether said director was the right man for the job.
- Of course this leads us to the next obvious failing of the film. Brett Ratner is, for lack of a better word, inept. He’s a standard issue Hollywood henchman, with no real imagination of his own. It’s evident that the studio chose him because, given his track record, he can put together a major action film on the fly while working with whatever tools are available at present.
- The script is loaded fantastic ideas, but there are so many good ideas that none of them has ample time to be fleshed out to its full potential.
- The subplot with Rogue illustrates a mutant’s personal conflict nicely, but the resolution of the is rushed to the point of making Rogue look like an impulsive emo teen.
- The resolution of the Phoenix subplot is also a tragic rush job. Considering that this is the story fans were eager to see, you’d think that fleshing this story out towards a satisfying conclusion would be a priority. Instead what we get is a cop-out of an ending where Jean begs Wolverine to kill her, which unfortunately weakens the character of Jean Grey. It would show off Jean’s strengths if she actually embraced all that Professor Xavier taught her and were able to keep the Phoenix under control herself.
- While some plot points fail to be fleshed out to their full potential, some fall flat right out of the gate. The prime example is the inclusion of Warren Worthington III (aka Angel). His involvement in the story is totally redundant and contributes absolutely nothing to the movie as a whole.
- Ratner thought that the best way to please the fans was to cram every character but the kitchen sink-man into the film regardless of whether the character is accurate to their nature or even their history. The best (worst?) example is the disastrous use of the Juggernaut. There was no point to his being in this film beyond having killer fight sequences and horrible catchphrases from stupid YouTube videos. Ratner, if you really wanted to please the fans you could have at least mentioned that Juggernaut is Charles Xavier’s stepbrother and that he is actually NOT a mutant! But that’s a whole other story which could have a movie of its own.
- Oh, and speaking of pointless character inserts, aside from the Fastball Special, what purpose did Collossus serve?
- Another element of the film that suffered from the condensed timetable is the script itself. There are bits of dialogue that scream out in desperate need of a script doctor. Seriously, how many times do we have to hear lines like, “If he wants a war, he’ll get one”? The script sounds like a four year old telling us what happened in yesterday’s episode of Teen Titans.
- Storm has never been that interesting of a character. She has always been the female equivalent to Cyclops. If Halle Berry hadn’t been cast in the role to begin with, we probably never would have had to deal with the irritating overemphasis on the character.
- Due to the rush, the movie also suffered on a technical side. This really shows via some severe continuity errors in this film. The best example is that, impressive as Magneto’s lifting of the Golden Gate Bridge is, it’s hard for us to accept that he did it in broad daylight and then five minutes later dropped it on Alcatraz in the dead of night. I’ve been to San Francisco, and the sun doesn’t set that fast.
DIAGNOSIS: Studious Acceleritis
Simply restated, all the problems with X-Men: The Last Stand stem from the studio’s impatience with Bryan Singer’s wanting to do Superman Returns. Granted, it may not have been a GREAT move on Singer’s part, but Superman may have suffered in less capable hands. Ironically the proof lies with X-Men: The Last Stand. Before Ratner was set to direct this film, he was originally going to direct Superman. FOX has been notorious for their childish attitudes towards anyone who doesn’t play ball with them. Singer had every intention of returning to the X-Men franchise, but FOX just didn’t wanna wait. The execs needed their ivory backscratchers and wanted to punch out the third X-Men film so they could get their paychecks.
The solution is simple: Wait for the original maestro’s availabilitiy. His total commitment to the project will insure that the script is fleshed out to its full potential. Even with all the characters and the multiple subplots, the movie could be formed cohesively. The fat can be trimmed, and redundant characters and plot threads can be removed. All of this will guarantee that the third entry of the series will be equal to, if not better than, the predecessors.
CAN THIS PATIENT BE SAVED?
I hate to say it, but to quote the first Spider-Man movie, “We have to take the whole thing back to formula.” That’s the only way we can improve on what strengths the film possesses.
NEXT SESSION: The Cinema Doctor will see if he can nurture a facehugger into a full blown Alien killing machine as he analyzes Alien 3.