X-Men: The Last Stand

Filmmakers face a difficult dilemma when making something like X-Men. Since there are already two big hits in the series, there are now two separate audiences. On the one hand there are the original fans–die hard comic book geeks, who have a lot invested in the characters, and on the other mainstream movie fans who liked the first two movies and don’t necessarily read the comics. This situation became acute because Bryan Singer, the director of the first two, left to direct Superman Returns. While Singer was not an X-head by any means, he did respect the long term fans and their wishes, recognizing that any property that inspires loyalty like that must be doing something right.

His replacement, Brett Ratner is a solid Hollywood man with a half dozen bona fide hits under his belt and a reputation for delivering what the studio wants on time and under budget. Just don’t expect anything adventurous or groundbreaking. Combine this with the fact that Fox desperately wanted to get this out before Singer’s Superman, you have a formula for much angst among the fanboys. They’ve been whining about this one for over a year, ever since Singer left and the early reviews from that sector have been brutal. Apparently they aren’t happy with the direction the filmmakers have taken with some of the characters.

I went into this film poised halfway between these two audiences. I’m a fanboy but I’ve never particularly followed the X-Men. I really liked the first two movies, however, and wish Singer could have finished this project and then gone on to the big blue boy scout.

Let me set up the plot. A “cure” for mutants has arisen. This medicine suppresses the mutant X gene. It, of course, becomes controversial with many mutants suspecting that the government will eventually make it mandatory. Magneto, played by the great Ian McKellen, and his band of evil mutants, get ready for a war, perhaps the final confrontation. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier, played by fanboy idol Patrick Stewart, finds himself in the middle again, trying to prevent violence. Jean Gray, played by Famke Janssen is back from the dead with new and frightening powers and an unclear idea of how to use them.

I can see the fanboys’ point. Things happen in this film that have me, peripherally involved with the characters as I am, saying “you can’t do that!” These events shake up the very premise of the X-Men.

Which might be a good thing if this were a better film. On this project, Ratner was a hired gun, a temp brought in to finish. Consequently, there is a certain by the numbers feel to the film. It was like watching one of Brian DePalma’s homages to Hitchcock. He just can’t get the tone right. You can tell it’s derivative. In the case of X-Men: The Last Stand, the cinematography is the same, tending to cool dark colors; the sets and costumes are identical, and the actors are consistent in their portrayals But it all adds up to something less than what we got in the first two films.

This makes it, however, not a sacrilege to the source material. It’s merely a minor disappointment.

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