I'm not having a good run with films at the moment; after the disappointment of The Da Vinci Code, I really expected X-Men: The Last Stand to be rather good, especially after a very impressive opening was released online to entice viewers. Those six minutes, I should add, are not the opening per se, but rather a collage of some of the opening scenes and other bits which do look quite good ... better, I'd have to say, than the film overall. Before getting critical, let me start with the good: this film has some gorgeous special effects, including Bobby Drake turning fully popsicle at one point, and some very impressive fight scenes by lots and lots of mutants. This time round Kelsey Grammer does adds a very solid Beast to the cast, and Ellen Page is a decent Kitty Pryde. And while we don't get the firebird special effects one might have hoped for, when Jean Grey goes dark phoenix(ish), she does look convincingly evil!
However, Brett Ratner's direction just wasn't up to the job. While Bryan Singer's past two X-Men films certainly took dramatic license in terms of the history or Marvel's merry mutants from the comics, Singer clearly understood what worked and what didn't in adapting for the big screen - he made films accessible to new audiences, but equally exciting for comic book geeks (or even mostly reformed comic book geeks such as myself). In contrast, Ratner helmed a film which squished dozens of big comic book plots together into a story where too much is meant to be addressed and thus everything seems too superficial. Some things that occur to core characters don't make sense or get enough screen time to justify their inclusion. The re-writing of Jean Grey was just a bit dull and unnecessary; the characterisation suffered a great deal (without the past two films to rely on, the character development really wasn't enough to hold any story, let alone such a large one). Actors like Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart did the best they could with average material, while others such as Anna Paquin could do nothing to inject energy into bizarrely limp dialogue.
The politics of a "cure for mutants" certainly opening a number of interesting issues with political resonance today, but these issues really aren't utilised or pursued. Indeed, the US President in the film seems completely inconsistent as a character or as an icon of political power.
All in all, the weakest of the X-Men films by a long shot ...
Update: Despite the unenthused reviews, the film still managed to make $US120M in its opening weekend just in the North American market! By the way, if you do see the film, make sure you stay until the end of the credits. There is a hook to ensure the franchise is open for a fourth film!
[Tags: x-men | thelaststand | film | review]