Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"When the time comes, who will you stand with?"

I will stand with the people who said "Give this movie a chance."

It deserved a chance. And now, the X-Men have made their last stand, and it left me feeling... ok.

Not bad, but it didn't capture me like the first two did either. I'd put it somewhere behind X-Men, X2, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, but significantly ahead of The Hulk, Daredevil or Batman Forever. (Each of which I enjoyed, despite being unhappy with many parts of them.)

I'm going to do my best to make this review spoiler free, so you can read on with impunity.

Why didn't the movie work for me? Well, in large part, it was because of my fears referenced here. Pretty much everything I thought I was going to happen in that post came true.

There was a lot going on in this movie. Without saying anything other than what was in the trailers, we know that Jean Grey comes back from the dead, rising from her grave like a Phoenix. We know that they have developed a "cure" for mutation, that theoretically would work permanently, and that Magneto sees this as the opening salvo of a war.

That's a lot of plot, and there's more to it besides. Warren Worthington II is the financier behind the cure, and his son, Warren Worthington III makes his appearance as Angel, although he has a much smaller role in this film then I'd have expected. There's a romantic triangle brewing between Iceman, Kitty Pryde and Rogue. We meet a ton of new characters, and they all have lots to do.

And that was my biggest single problem with this movie. Oh, I had problems that offended me as a comic book fan, but those are continuity based, and spoiler-y, so they'll wait. In terms of thinking of these characters simply as they exist on the screen, I can forgive most of the choices that were made. Most of them.

But I just felt like they tried to do too much.

Honestly, X2 did too much as well, but Singer could make it work. Singer is a master of the subtle touch. There is a moment in X2 when we see John looking at the photographs of the Drake family home, wistfully. In that moment, we learn everything we need to know about John's home life, and the support he has, or doesn't have, from them. This sets us up perfectly for the other definitive moment for John, when he talks to Magneto about his real name.

Two scenes. Less than three minutes of screen time. Lots of depth of character being revealed.

Rattner just doesn't have that touch. Little moments that invoke that sense from the earlier films fall flat, and seem like he is teasing us by withholding information, rather than illustrating the point through the microcosm.

I also, as has been discussed before, have a problem with superhero movies with a high body count. Wolverine killing I will excuse, simply because I know that fans won't let it be avoided anymore. Other superheroes shouldn't kill though. But there is a lot of death in this movie, of both extras and main characters, and some of it done by people who shouldn't be able to shed blood that casually, if at all.

There is plenty good in this movie, don't get me wrong. Stellar acting all around, and some moments that are perfectly drawn from the pages of the comic. Anyone who isn't impressed by Magneto floating in mid-air as he drops the Golden Gate bridge onto Alcatraz is made of far sterner stuff than myself. Wolverine remains the perpetual badass, and the confrontation between Juggernaut and Kitty Pryde was perfect in so many ways.

Oh, and when you see it, stay through the credits. All the way to the end. Trust me.

Did I enjoy it? Oh yes. In fact, I'll be going back to see it again this weekend. But did it work for me the way that the first two did? Sadly, no. On the positive side, I did win a t-shirt at the premiere, by virtue of being a mutant myself. (I'm an extremely hairy man, for those of you who don't know me personally.)

The title aside, The Last Stand paves the way for a fourth movie. I don't expect it'll get one, and unless Singer decides to come back, I really hope it doesn't.

(As a side note, last night I saw a new trailer for Superman Returns, which just served as a sad reminder of how much better this film could have been with Singer at the helm.)


Blogger Chana said...

i was away for a bit but happy to be back and read that your play closed well and that your future looks brighter than usual...
my boyfriend can't wait to see the movie so i'll let you know what he says about it...

1:30 PM  
Blogger Al B Here said...

I saw the movie this weekend and, to be honest, I didn't like it. I guess that's my "purist" side coming through. From a movie standpoint, it was passable, but then again, so is a kidney stone. Perhaps it will grow on me later, but for the moment I will sit and stew over what they've done to such good characters.

7:30 AM  

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