As a semi-X-Men fan, I highly anticipated the release of the final movie of the triology. I marked down the release date on my calendar. I checked updates on the official website frequently. I spent hours on the discussion board. Of course, on the opening weekend, I sat in the theatre with extreme excitement.
In X-Men: The Last Stand, a pharmaceutical company had developed a "cure" for muntants, which can eliminate the mutant traits, including their peculiar appearances. This caused conflict between human and mutants as well as in the mutant communities themselves. Some felt it’s the answer to all their problems, while others feared that mutants would be forced to take this cure. Magneto, believing that the government had a secret agenda against mutants, gathered supporters to destroy the pharmaceutical company producing the cure and to start the war he had always wanted. Meanwhile, X-Men were preoccupied with the resurracted Jean Grey, who had become more powerful than even Professor X and Magneto. With the inevitable war between mutants and humans on the horizon, X-Men had to cope with their own loss and fight to protect their belief in harmony between the two groups.
This sounds like a great story, right? It almost seems good enough to be the dark, serious movie that the X-Men deserve. Yet, it is a summer blockbuster. And that means it should pull out all the big guns: special effects, lots of explosion, super action sequences. That’s exactly what X-Men: The Last Stand did, but it lacked everything that had made the first two installments stand out from other campy comic book movies: more focus on the character development (even though it might still be insufficient), the relationships between them and the issue that is the X-Men — facing and accepting themselves.
Every X-Men movie introduced some new characters: Rogue and Wolverine in X-Men, Nightcrawler in X2: X-Men United. This time, one of my favourites, the Beast, or Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) makes his debute in the franchise. Grammer definitely has the voice and presence that make a satisfying Beast. After all, the Beast’s sophisticated voice contrasting his blue, furry body is a huge part of his character. Sadly, Grammer had little material to work with. The writers gave him limited screen time, a few philosophical lines, and some cool action moves.
The short 104-minute running time was probably a big reason why every character’s plot was limited and overall insignificant. The opening scene gave us the backstory of a new mutant, Angel (Ben Foster), who had "evolved" to have all the traits adapted to flight, including a pair of long, white wings. After escaping from his father’s pharmaceutical company, Angel sought refugee at Professor X’s school. He later showed up in two other scenes for a total screen time of less than 15 minutes. The audience also had no idea where the child known as Leech (Cameron Bright), who provided his antibodies for the cure, came from. Rogue, following her storyline in the comics and cartoon as well, desired to be cured and be "normal." But little time was devoted to her internal struggle and the love triangle she was involved in. Yes, this is the problem with the X-Men movies — too many characters, too little time.
In a twist of fate, after Bryan Singer left the franchise for his beloved Superman, Brett Ratner, who had been considered for the Superman Returns project, was on board for this one. And X-Men: The Last Stand is exactly what one’d expect from a Ratner film. If you like a simple story, lots of cool actions and funny catch phrases, you’re one of the fans who adored this movie. Of course, it’s amazing what Magneto could do to the Golden Gate Bridge, any scene with Wolverine and his claws in it was pretty cool, and we finally saw the younger recruits showing their stuff. But for the rest of us, X-Men could be so much more. Marvel comics differ from the all-American goodie superheroes because the heroes are also hated monsters. This provides a chance to explore their darker sides. X-Men deals with the issue of tolerance, but that’s all forgotten here.
That’s why I kept rolling my eyes during the Beast and Wolverine’s animal joke. I started squirming in my seat when the Beast was saying something about leaving his diplomatic ways aside. And I finally gave up all hope when Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) delivered his line: "Don’t you know who I am, b*tch? I’m the Juggernaut!" My friend turned around and asked me, "Are you sure you want to buy the DVD?" I smiled weakly. I watch the DVD’s of the first two X-Men movies repeatedly and frequently. But this time, I almost felt sorry for dragging my sister and my friend to see it with me. I felt embarrassed for the actors.
Don’t get me wrong. The trailer did not lie. X-Men: The Last Stand is a very entertaining movie with great action scenes. Many people are apparently happy about that, hence the record-breaking gain at the box office. But I expected so much more from X-Men. And in the end, my high expectation disappointed me. With a potentially brilliant story like that, I can’t help but wonder how it would have been if Singer stayed with the project.
- From the trivia section for X-Men: The Last Stand: Bryan Singer was supposed to direct and co-write the film’s script, but when he was given the offer to take over the problematic Superman Returns from Brett Ratner, he left the project, taking with him most of the production staff (Singer has maintained in interviews that he would have loved to have gladly done this movie after completing the "Superman" project, but 20th Century Fox chose to continue without him). Matthew Vaughn then stepped into the director’s chair, overseeing the script and production, only to leave 9 weeks before filming, unable to commit to the year-long production schedule which would keep him away from his family in England. In an odd twist of fate, Ratner filled the vacated position. Ironically, Ratner was also a contender to direct X-Men before Singer got the job.
- The actors playing the young X-Men, including Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), the newly introduced Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and Colossus (Dandiel Cudmore), along with Rogue (Anna Paquin), were all born in Canada. The X-Men movies were shot in Vancouver. Canadian X-Men! How about that, eh?
- All photos © 20th Century Fox