Wednesday, May 14, 2014

X-Men Retrospective: X-Men - The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men: The Last Stand
Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Hugh Jackman, HALLE BERRY, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Ben Foster, James Marsden, Kelsey Grammar, Rebecca Romijn, Vinnie Jones
Rated: PG-13

Hello, Moira...
  ~Charles Xavier

Right out of the gates I want to admit that I don't hate this movie.  I have got plenty of problems with it like the rest of you surely do, but I don't think its this atrocity a lot of people have made it out to be.  Is it a good X-Men movie?  No.  Is it a good fit in this movie franchise? No.  Does it still manage to be entertaining with some good superhero action and have some merits of its own to work with?  Definitely.  No, its not some misunderstood movie or some unheralded comic masterpiece, but the film is definitely not terrible because it didn't do what you wanted it to do.
The Last Stand was more a production of being a reaction to and influenced by things going on outside of the film dictating where this movie was to lead.  Bryan Singer left it to go do Superman Returns, while Brett Ratner was taken off Superman to come do X-Men 3.  The project then lost the passion and build that Singer was working for.  Something Ratner was never going to care as much for or understand.  And its not his fault.  Ratner's goal was to make an entertaining popcorn summer action movie.  That's what you get when you bring him in.  I'm guessing he isn't a big comic book guy, and he was brought in pretty late to direct the film.  I'm not making excuses for him, just trying to explain where he's come from on this.  So, instead of Singer driving a vision, you get Ratner taking a big job and likely more susceptible to studio suggestion and demand opposed to Singer.
You also get Halle Berry with her Oscar demanding more screentime and a more prominent role in the film in order for her to come back.  Well, for some reason they think she's too important to be recast, so they listen to her.  As fans, we're all pretty sure Halle has never been "into" the character or cared too much, just in it for the ego boost.  Also, James Marsden was going to be in Superman Returns.  I don't know what scheduling was going to conflict, but I'm pretty sure when Halle's demands were met, he was the first on the chopping block.  Bring him back for a sad, pathetic short cameo, kill him off for shock and give all Cyclops' likely prominence to Storm.  Yay, everybody be happy for Halle.
Then, there's the decision to just up and make it the "final" one.  Nowhere did the first two films lead us to feel like this was going to be some nice and clean trilogy.  The Last Stand just kinda barges in and ends everything.  Its escalation in terms of this series, seems forced and unnatural.  And there's just some sort of balance here that doesn't feel right.  In addition, because they decided it to be last, they try and cram a ton of mutants into the film, most with no weight or substance (they totally WASTE Psylocke...UGH).  Most of them are introduced and feel extremely underdeveloped.  Especially a big character like Angel.  Beast was the only new one that felt he was given his proper due and that might just be to having him played by a solid performer.  I also think Kitty Pride was well done.
And instead of somehow adapting the Phoenix storyline, they just kinda do their own thing.  Look, I understand in this movie universe you can't just go into space and hang with the Fantastic Four and do the thing appropriately.  But, you could find some way to adapt and improvise it to fit your movie.  This shit is just all kinds of whack.  And this will be a fanboy complaint...but damn...they didn't even try to use that costume, which I find to be one of the most iconic superhero uniforms in comic book history.  But you know, a long coat is cool enough, right?  
On a different note, how weird is it that when we go into the "final" battle this is the most unrecognizable X-Men team of all 3 movies?  You get Wolverine, Storm, 2 new characters and 2 characters that haven't gone to battle yet.  It's a nice progression and evolution of character for Iceman and Colossus, I'll give it that.  Yes, I realize Kitty Pride had been in the previous 2 movies but those were glorified cameos by different actresses.  The team seams a little small too, to be taking Magneto's army.  It just doesn't carry the weight it could have had we had at least Cyclops and Rogue added to the mix.  

You're probably wondering why I mentioned that I don't hate this movie.  I think it is actually entertaining in a mindless superhero film.  There's some really terrific action in the film as well as some of the best mutant vs mutant fighting in the series.  I think some of the character arcs and turns are actually quite good.  I do like some of the young X-Men we've got to see grow in the series getting a chance to fight in the end.  Its actually pretty heartbreaking when Mystique gets turned pure human again and Magneto just leaves her in such a cold fashion.  I'm a big Kitty Pride fan and also really really enjoy Ellen Page here in the role.  One of my favorite moments in the series is actually her chase scene with Juggernaut.  It actually fully realizes and displays both their powers appropriately in a pretty suspenseful and intense sequence.  When you first see the film and they are killing people off right and left, you pretty much think Kitty might bite it because her character is sort of a complication in the beloved Iceman/Rogue relationship.  I also think Kelsey Grammar is the perfect Beast and truly brings this character perfectly to life on the big screen (this is possibly the only role I can think of of his that would fit his Expendable requirement - "GRAMMAR").
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of things mishandled in the film.  But, I argue that there is still enough to be enjoyed in this film.  Put your fanboy quibbles aside and treat this thing on its own (yeah, I know, prerequisites for enjoyment are never a good thing, bear with me), and there's some fun to be had in a summer popcorn type affair.  Yes, I think this is one of the weakest X-Men films of the franchise, but it still manages to have entertainment value for me, and in that I can't condemn it completely for having some offensive turns when it comes to my fandom.  Brett Ratner, I don't think realized what he was getting into, and instead of making a good X-Men film, he just wanted to make an entertaining action film.  Should we really blame him for this...or should we blame the guy who left to go direct Superman?  We'll never really know, but I don't think sole blame should be all on Ratner.  

Next Time:  The first Wolverine-centric movie...but haven't we had 3 of those already?

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