Friday, June 02, 2006

1st June 06 - X-Men: The Last Stand

Ah comics. The source of a cornucopia of characters from which Mr. Movieland can pick and choose, sometimes creating genius (Spider-Man, Batman Begins) and sometimes creating a frightening mess (Daredevil, Catwoman). X-Men has already spouted two films, both of which didn’t do too bad a job. And now we get this third and supposedly final offering (I'll believe it when I see it) which starts off this summer’s blockbuster run.

As a partial nerd (I watched the cartoons, but didn’t read the comics) I was looking forward to X3, but went in expecting a mediocre effort based on reviews and instincts. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself, well, pleasantly surprised. Being the final film gets rid of the sequel pressure, giving a free-for-all on plot turns. And some plot turns genuinely shocked me. I kept expecting there to be a ‘surprise! We didn’t really just do that!’ But there never was. This slight feeling of doom helped to darken X3’s mood, and give it more of an edge. My main problem with the previous films was they felt too much of a 12-rated affair. It was violence and chaos but in a 12-rated way. A bit too safe for my liking. But despite X3’s 12A stamp, there are some pretty horrific moments, which if watched through an 8 year old’s eyes might make a psychological stamp similar to the one imprinted on my brain from the T-1000.

Anyway, there’re some neat moments in this film (especially the transformation from Jean into the Phoenix, despite being inaccurate) and some great action set pieces. There’re also a trillion new characters, which highlights the fundamental flaw with trying to film X-Men. Through an endless stream of comics you can set up characters and give them all the depth and back-story you want. In a couple of hours, you’re going to struggle. Not only do you need to introduce the newbies, you’ve got all the old favourites to include, plus a couple of lines of plot, plus fight scenes and action pieces. It doesn’t leave much room for dialogue, or much time for any depth to the characters, and the film suffers for it. The new faces include Vinnie Jones (playing himself) as the unstoppable Juggernaut, who is fairly unstoppable for about three seconds. There’s a few S&M style baddie mutants who share five minutes of screen time (they get a turn each to do their powers), and the brilliant Angel, whose character showed so much promise after being introduced as a child trying desperately to file down his wings, and who is completely and shamefully wasted.

The familiar faces also suffer with the jam-packed nature of the film. Even wonderful Wolverine feels deflated, with less time to be angry and wise-cracking, instead just going through the motions and whipping out his claws on cue. But for some reason Storm is given more screen time. Who made that stupid decision? Storm’s rubbish. They may have given her a new hair do and let her fly around a bit, but my interest in her character is about as small as Halle Berry’s waist. The main ‘players’ over on the baddies side, Magneto and the Phoenix, spend most of their time standing with their legs slightly apart and watching stuff, waiting for something to do.

It’s a case of too much crammed in to too little. But what else could they have done? If they were to go into full detail the film would be about 6 hours long. And if they didn’t bother bringing in anyone new then what’s the point in another sequel? It’s a tough job, and overall it wasn’t done half bad. There’s thrills, there’s a few ideas thrown up to ponder and there’s a darkness in it that I admired. If you stay till after the credits then you get a scene that is quite frankly creepy, creepy, creepy. Plus you get to see a blue Frasier Crane kick ass. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s still enjoyable. It makes CF0, and I’m awarding an extra point because it had the balls to avoid the safe route, and instead do some nasty things to our beloved X-Men. Therefore it’s a CF1.

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