Friday, April 12, 2013

Give Us Your Worst, Part 19: X-Men: The Last Stand

I last saw X-Men: The Last Stand (more commonly known as X-Men 3) when it was in the theaters. Even with the generally low reviews and lower expectations, I found the movie a massive disappointment at the time, for reasons I'll get to in a moment.

In the meantime, I've assembled every other movie in the franchise on DVD - including X-Men Origins: Wolverine which I picked up for a buck or two last Christmas. When I came across a used copy of Last Stand on a clearance rack for three bucks, I felt obligated to complete the set. Besides, I wanted to include it in this series.

Overall, my reaction hasn't changed significantly since the first time I saw it. The movie is bad, but its most serious issues are in context: it seriously damages the franchise and fails to meet even a fraction of the promise of the previous installment. But I don't find it anywhere near as painful to sit through as most people report. Frankly, I think this is orders of magnitude better than Origins: Wolverine; again, setting aside the damage Last Stand does to its source material and Singer's franchise.

On its own merits, the movie is more bizarre than anything else. Essentially, this is Brett Ratner trying to prove he can handle serious material. For those of you unfamiliar with the behind-the-scenes mess that led to Last Stand, here's a synopsis: Bryan Singer made the first two X-Men movies for Fox, despite serious problems with the studio (they cut half a year of production from the first film, gave both ridiculously low budgets for their exposure, and held off on green-lighting the third despite the fact the second was immensely successful). Singer got a better offer from Warner Bros. to make Superman Returns, so he took off.

As soon as Singer left, Fox fast-tracked The Last Stand. They cycled through a handful of directors before setting on Brett Ratner, who was willing to agree to a release date before Superman Returns. They also killed Cyclops off screen in the first fifteen minutes of Last Stand, presumably in retaliation for the actor signing on as a supporting role in Singer's Superman.

Watching Ratner attempt to fill Singer's shoes is weird. He fails, of course, but damned if he doesn't give it his all. The movie is filled with numerous asides and sequences clearly intended to instill a sense of gravitas and drama to the story. The result is mostly just funny, but at least he put in the effort.

The best part of the movie is Magneto. Despite working with a moronic script, Ian McKellen manages to remain interesting: no small feat. There were a handful of other sequences I enjoyed: I still say the danger room Sentinel fight at the beginning is kind of fun.

I mentioned at the start that I left the theater mad, despite going in expecting the worst. The reason wasn't what was in the movie, so much as what was absent... namely, Phoenix. Setting aside the fact Ratner completely undercut the character's concept, he couldn't even give us the visual of Jean Grey manifesting the fiery form that was promised at the end of X-Men 2. More than anything else, that pissed me off. I wanted to see the Phoenix brought to life, even if it was in the middle of a bad movie. Ratner couldn't even give us that.

Fox threw more money at The Last Stand than they spent on the first two combined, and the result wasn't half as good as either. It derailed the franchise, which is only now recovering (thanks in no small part to Singer's return). That said, this often gets high placement on lists of the worst superhero movies ever made, and I think that's a stretch. This is bad, but I'd take it over Wolverine, either of the two recent Punisher movies, Blade Trinity, either of the Schumacher Batman movies, Barb Wire, The Spirit, and others. It's bad, but there's much worse.

1 comment:

ZaK Kauffman said...

Yeah, it's not godawful, it's just awkward and weird and mediocre inserted into a slot that should be fantastic.

And it's also kinda godawful