X3 doesn't mark the spot
by Jess Schuknecht
(Jess is subbing this time around for Mike, who has the month off - thanks Jess!)
No spoilers in this, so while 99% of you have probably seen this movie already, let's not ruin it for that other 1%, okay? The movie will take care of the ruining on its own.
Feel bad for Brett Ratner, the director of X-Men: The Final Stand (or X3 as the kids call it). When Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men movies, left to fulfill a dream of helming a Superman movie, he left some huge boots to fill. Ratner, mostly known as the director of Red Dragon and the Rush Hour movies, was tapped to carry on the franchise. He knew his take on the X-Men would be compared to Singer's, and justly so, but he couldn't have anticipated the backlash to the announcement that X3 was in his hands. Singer had done a stellar job of balancing movies that would please most fans of the comics while still making the films and their characters and stories appealing to a mass audience that was unfamiliar with them.
© 2006 Marvel Entertainment
That seems to be the biggest downfall of Ratner's X3, which seems likely to disappoint both of these groups. The movie picks up not too far from where X2 ended. Cyclops is still distraught over the apparent death of girlfriend and teammate Jean Grey, Xavier's still teaching young mutants, and Wolverine is still a cigar-smoking rebel. This time around, the main story arc focuses around a cure for the mutant gene being discovered at Worthington Labs, giving mutants the chance to live a more normal life. Several characters are torn over their desire to be more normal, or in cases like Rogue's to just be able to touch someone, versus keeping their powers and uniqueness. Of course, some mutants are determined to destroy what they don't see as a cure, but rather as a deadly weapon of sorts: the possibility of being made into a homo sapien, powerless and weak.
Magneto gathers together a group of mutants, including the resurrected Jean Grey who is know the more dominant and deadly Phoenix, intent on destroying the mutant boy who is providing the lab with the ability to manufacture the cure. The boy, nicknamed Leech (because he leech's other mutants' powers when they are in close proximity of him), is never quite explained as to how he came to be at the lab, or how his powers can be transformed/transferred into the cure vaccine, and maybe it's for the best. X3 isn't about the story. It's about the special effects, the cool powers, and the obvious big battle at the end of the movie. In this case, it's Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants trying to destroy the Leech and the lab while the U.S. Army and some X-Men try to stop them.
The biggest problem of the movie is that the story and characters seem weak, especially compared to the pedigree that Singer had set. Singer loved the comics, and even helped write the first movie. He cared about the characters, but more importantly, wanted the audience to care about them and made that happen through good storytelling. X3 is full of unfleshed out heroes and villains, as well as gaps in logic. Beast and Angel, two of the original X-Men in the comics being newly introduced in the movies, get minimal screen time despite being heavily advertised. They also serve little impact in the film, most notably Angel, who is the picture of wasted potential for a character. However, he does seem to fly from Massachusetts to California in just slightly less time than it takes the X-Men's Blackbird jet to make the trip, so he's at least got some superhuman flying speed going for him.
An equally disturbing issue is the rapid killing or de-powering of characters. One after another, they drop like flies. By the end of the movie, no fewer than six of the main mutants from the franchise are gone in some way or another. That doesn't even count all the secondary characters that suffer similar fates. It would be different if this were indeed the last movie in the series as many have claimed, but the last shot before the credits (and a little bonus scene immediately after them) seem to dictate the exact opposite. Why make this film if the next one is going to basically reset everything done from this one? If another film does get made somewhere down the road, there's going to have to be some serious explaining, because there's no way all of those people who are dead or de-powered aren't in it.
All in all, the movie is a disappointment. Great characters are reduced to jokey caricatures, including Juggernaut (who looks like his mother made his costume for a Halloween contest). Discrepancies and questions in the story and characters are shrugged off as the movie churns ahead full speed. And in one of the worst continuity errors ever for a huge budget summer blockbuster, towards the end of the movie it shifts from broad daylight to super dark nighttime with no explanation. That's a pretty good encapsulation of the film as a whole. If that little attention is being paid to something that obvious, how much was paid to the rest of it?
Come back, Bryan Singer. Your franchise (and let's face it, it is yours) needs you. I hope Superman is a tremendous success and as good as it looks and revitalizes the franchise. No matter how it fares, though, consider coming back to this one. Please. For all of us, fanboys and regular folks alike.
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