Wednesday, May 31, 2006

X-Men III: Not Sufficiently Gay (SPOILERS)

Well? It just wasn't...

Anyway, X-Men: The Last Stand. After movie part the two I left the cinema assuming the third film would bring Jean Grey back (obviously) and deal with Magneto's second attempt to take over the world, leaving a fourth movie to tell the story of The Phoenix, with or without added crunchy Shi'ar goodness. I didn't think they'd try and put both stories into one film, certainly not then on top sprinkle liberally from a 'cure for mutants' storyline.

Anyway, after the last film Magneto is back on the loose and wondering how to topple mankind this time. When Worthington Industries announce a cure for being a mutant he uses this as a means to rally mutants to his cause of overthrowing humanity. Meanwhile Jean Grey is back from the dead and stark bonkers.

What we have is a average-to-middling film. What stops it from being great is that it's too cluttered. The story of Magneto trying to take over the world is a big one, and Jean Grey's is a big emotional one, trying to squish them together robs both of power.

For example, I didn't realise until it was explicitely stated that Jean had killed Scott, the poor guy was a major team player and doesn't get to die on screen. Everyone must have been really pissed off with Cyclops' prima donna attitude as no-one seems to react at all to his apparent death. When Logan and Ororo find Jean's body and race back to the mansion there isn't any mention of "we looked for Scott but there was no sign of him" or "I'm going back up there, he must be somewhere". If the Phoenix is all of Jean's passion why is she so keen on killing her main squeeze? It's rather annoying that Famke Janssen doesn't get much to do for large parts of the film than stand around looking vacant. Although the film makers have gone for the explanation of Phoenix that we got in Mark Millar's Ultimate X-Men series as opposed to the rather complicated continuity nightmare from the main run, we get the positive role model of the first and second movie reduced to 'nasty stuff producer'. After all, why does Jean hang around with Magneto? Does the Phoenix support his actions and intentions? We don't get to find out.

Magneto, excellently played as ever by Sir Ian McKellen, is pleasantly more like his character in X-II than the one dimensional bad guy of X-I. Although still worryingly keen to sacrifice other mutants to further his nefarious schemes he shows true regret over Xavier's demise.

Marvel films still have a problem with fight scenes. While I'm not advocating that every film that involves people fighting hire the same fight team that did The Matrix trilogy the fights here mostly lack zing. As with the first film the fights mainly involve the X-Men being shat upon from a great height. Two few of the fights seem to be done with any real intelligence towards the location or the individuals skills. It's as though the film makers are worried that if the X-Men appear to fight succesfully at any point up to the last rumble it'll make the villains look weak. Instead we get straightforward slugfights, with a few lightning strikes from Storm as well. The only time someone uses their powers intelligently is when Kitty phases Juggernaut into the floor to try and get him stuck.

The special effects look amazing, especially at the climax where Jean appears to be destroying the island and everything on it atom by atom. Watching Wolverine's healing factor battling to keep him in one piece long enough to reach her was slightly queese-inducing. The script is good, Mystique saying she refused to answer to her 'slave name', Wolverine doesn't get to shout "fastball special!" unfortunately but Henry McCoy (who I forgot was Kelsey Grammer until the credits) does mutter "oh my stars and garters!" so my inner x-geek was partially satisfied.

The pacing of the film is just badly off. We start with Magneto, then go off to the return of Jean for about twenty minutes, then it's back to Magneto and he still hasn't really started his plan yet. When Magneto's Army invade the Worthington factory Magneto doesn't get her to do anything, using 'pawns', as he refers to the mutants around him, is all very well but he does have a Queen who could probably take out the human army with little difficulty. When she threatens to stab him with the cure earlier on (at once pointing all viewers to the outcome of Magneto's story) you wonder quite why he wants such a wildcard in his hand at all.

It's not a terrible film, though both the endings of the film (the one before the credits and the one after) suggest that a return to the pre-film three state of affairs wouldn't be too difficult to achieve early in X-IV should it be made. Hopefully if they do they'll simplify things.


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