The Movie Binge

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

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Above: Cyclops (James Marsden) and Phoenix (Famke Janssen), about to "enjoy" the worst reunion ever.

As promised, the entire Movie Binge crew schlepped out to the AMC/Loews on 34th Street (the top-secret NYC "bargain" movie theatre, where tickets are only $9.75 -- a savings of one entire dollar!) to take in the official kick-start of summer, X-Men: The Last Stand. Our thoughts follow, in convenient paragraph form. And we even managed to avoid spoilers!

Also -- we've got our very first fabulous The Movie Binge Prize Giveaway! At the end of this review, you'll find five X-Men trivia questions, ranging from the quite reasonable to the insanely pedantic (and yes, they're about the comics, so you can't get away with only having seen the movies). Send your answers (and your name and address -- obviously it will not be redistributed to anyone) in to info@themoviebinge.com, and we'll randomly select one person with all five correct responses to receive a free copy of the X-Men: The Last Stand video game for the XBox 360! It's got Nightcrawler in it! You know you're down with Nightcrawler. He was in ze Munich Circus, where ze boys are byoo-teeful, ze girls are byoo-teeful, even ze orchestra is... oh, somebody please stop me right there.

The Latin Snake says...
Let the games begin! Man, I'm super pumped for the Binge. I can't wait to look back on this day in mid-August and question who that late-July Latin Snake was. X-Men was the absolute perfect opener for our summer as it embodied nearly all of the summer requirements. 1. It was an action film. 2. It was a sequel. 3. It was released on a holiday weekend. 4. It had hot, half-naked women. 5. It had a half-baked script. I wish the last one weren't true, but fulfilling wishes isn't one of my mutant abilities. Thankfully, it didn't hurt my enjoyment of the film. The pacing of the film was steady and there were enough crazy explosions to keep me satisfied. I already miss the sex-crazed Jean Grey. Sigh. Unfortunately, I don't think some of the more comics-obsessed Bingers will agree, but that's why we're a gaggle and not a single goose.

Cinecultist says...
Like the sobbing pre-teen mutant in the bathroom with a pile of feathers around him and stubs where his wings used to be, X-Men: The Last Stand has been hobbled. Grounded, if you will, by the best intentions of bombastic director Brett Ratner and forced to be the worst kind of sequel, the kind that's just another ho hum installment in a series. Perhaps it's unfair to judge X-Men 3 in comparison to its predecessors but there's no way to disregard the excellence of those films and the boring mediocrity of this one. It was an entertaining enough hour and a half, with decent pacing, decent acting and decent action sequences, but as soon as the credits finished (watch for a cliffhanger after the final name), it fades from memory. Where X-Men movies in the past succeeded were their ability to soar above their humble comic book beginnings to be really intriguing cinema. Unfortunately, this one is just a passable flick instead.

Matthew Fluxington says...
As an X-Men fan for over twenty years (I bought my first issue when I was five!), it's almost impossible for me to come to an adaptation of the series without a ton of baggage. It's not so much that I expect the films to be slavish replicas of the comics – that's more of a Lord of the Rings nerd sort of thing, and seriously, eff those people – but that I fundamentally lack confidence in the ability of a movie (or even a series of movies) to capture the appeal of the comics, which is very much rooted in their narrative sprawl. There's certainly a lot of fun to be had seeing iconic X-characters brought to life on screen, especially when they are absolutely nailed by the likes of Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Ellen Page, but when the acting/casting is horribly off the mark, as is the case with the lightweight, utterly gravitas-free Halle Berry attempting to play the headstrong weather goddess Storm, it's a bit hard to stomach.

Overall, the film is pleasantly retarded and does its job as a summer action film, but as an adapation of the X-Men, it's very problematic. For one thing, it's rather unclear why the X-Men would side against Magneto's Brotherhood when it comes to the "cure" story thread. Magneto's methods may be radical and violent, but why on earth wouldn't the X-Men oppose the forced neutralization of their kind? Storm has a bit of a rant about the cure that is simpatico with Magneto's politics early on, but by the third act, she's protecting the "cure" and fighting against Magneto's group without a moment of pause or ethical conflict.

The idea of a cure for mutation was introduced in Joss Whedon's first storyline in the currently running Astonishing X-Men series, but his cast was almost uniformly opposed to it, to the point that some of the members had to be held back from doing exactly what Magneto attempts to do in the movie. It seems odd to lift the plot point, but totally ignore how the lead characters ought to relate to it, especially when the resulting theme of the film is contrary to everything the franchise is meant to represent. Under the pen of the comic's three best writers – Whedon, Grant Morrison, and Chris Claremont – the X-Men stood for the acceptance of outsiders, strong female leads, and a progressive attitude about the future. But in X-Men: The Last Stand, we get supposedly heroic characters selling out for the chance to be normal, every female character with the exception of Kitty Pryde involved in some kind of creepy sexist subplot, and a deeply conservative political message. It may be a relatively good time at the multiplex, but it's a very depressing film when given even a bit of thought.

Bronto Burger says....
I get the feeling that there are going to be a lot of films like X-Men 3 this summer. At first, you walk out of the theater with a stupid grin on your face, like "Oh that was loud and flashy, awesome." Ten minutes later, you say to yourself, "What did I actually watch?" That's what happened with this flick. Three days later I'm even more pissed off.

The first two X-Men movies spent time building up capital, yes there was action, but also character development. During Ratner-hour, the ratio of time Wolverine spent flying through the air screaming with claws unsheathed as opposed to talking was about 3:1.

What happened, why should I care about Pyro and Iceman being all pissy at each other? Oh because they were classmates at one point. That was in the other film, right? What about Rogue, and what the hell does she do anyway? I think I might need to go back and watch the first X-Men to remember. Every single actor was reduced to his/her gimmick power, and little more. Seriously, what the hell was up with that punk mutant who could locate others of her ilk? Her name was "plot device" or something. Boo.

Gene Parmesan says...
Well, it wasn't the face-slapping, Singer-dissing, puppy-kicking travesty that I and most other dweebs expected it to be. But it wasn't a very satisfying conclusion to the X-Men "trilogy," either (though with a $120-million four-day take, you'd have to be huffing Kick if you thought Fox was gonna let the franchise retire to the white-hot room now -- and yeah, my apologies for those two nerd references). The hour-and-a-half running time was both a blessing and a curse -- a "blessing" in the sense that every horrendously underthought line of dialogue and whiskey-tango-foxtrot what-were-they-thinking character moment zipped by quickly and efficiently, allowing more time for the admittedly spectacular action sequences (easily the best of the franchise so far, and at times almost beautiful); but a curse in the sense that we were given no less than five completely new major characters in this flick, along with profoundly re-adjusted character arcs for most of the returning cast, but all the script had time to do was assign each one an expository speech and a scene in which they eavesdrop dramatically on another character. The only actor in the film to make such a role work was Hard Candy's Ellen Page, who nails the beloved character of Kitty Pryde with nothing but some facial expressions and body language (Kelsey Grammer as The Beast tried admirably, but his not-quite-there makeup and physicality were a disappointment, and he couldn't quite stick the landing). One more draft of dialogue tweaks and an extra ten or fifteen minutes of character development and they really might've been on to something with this one, but the fiscal goal of cramming one more showing onto each screen each day left us with a hollowed-out movie that didn't have the time or, frankly, the intellect to address some of the potentially compelling characters and scenarios it was frantically tossing out to the audience (and like Matthew, I found the film's inadvertent protect-the-status-quo! politics to be more than slightly disspiriting for a franchise that, at its heart, is entirely about radical social change).

And one last geeky complaint: for all the fan service that Ratner crammed in (more second-string characters than you could shake a run of X-Statix at, my personal favorite being the hilariously androgynous Prince-backup-singer-lookin' Arclight), there was one glaring omission: the Phoenix couldn't have manifested the signature fiery-winged raptor once? Just once? It would've looked sensational! Oh well. That's what fanfic is for.


"Josh Horowitz" says...
Sorry I'm late to the party but judging from the crowd on a Tuesday afternoon in Union Square the unwashed summer movie masses haven't quite moved on to Jen and Vince's lovey dovey tiffs just yet. So here's my big revelation having taken in the third installment of the franchise: most of the problems with this flick lay at the feet of the writers I fear and not that dastardly director whose name is dare not spoken (alright it's Brett Ratner).

This is a flick that just bites off way too much. The more the merrier isn't the case when we're talking mutants. I don't need porcupine boy and chick who can walk through walls and that silly Juggernaut chap leftover from Guy Ritchie (I believe the line should have been: "I'm in the wrong movie, bitch"). I like me my Wolverine, my Professor X, my Magneto, and maybe a little Jean Grey here and there. That's all we need. This movie proves there is indeed a tipping point of too many mutants in a flick.

Now I'm no expert on the comics but this felt more like a greatest hits cover band of the X-Men than the real deal. And if you're going to make this a truly epic film, do it. Do it right. Make it 140 minutes and make the deaths of these characters mean something. There's a lot of waste in this flick. Oh and what's with the kid from Birth pretending he's Robert Duvall in THX 1138? Young man I watched Hayley Joel Osment. I knew Hayley Joel Osment. And you sir are no Hayley Joel Osment.

Alright...I don't want to be too hard on the flick. It's not boring. The action scenes are competently done and it's got enough 'splosions and pulpy comic fun to make me grin once or twice over the course of 100 minutes. But oh what might have been. Too bad this is the last of the X-Men flicks. Yeah right. If you believe that I've got a collector's edition DVD of Rush Hour 2 to sell you.

And now... TRIVIA!

1.) What is Colossus' nationality?
2.) Who built Apocalypse's spaceship?
3.) Forearm, Wildside, and Tempo were members of what team?
4.) What's the best place in Salem Center to get a beer?
5.) Charles Xavier once faked his own death in order to hide away and prepare to battle an alien invasion. What alien race was it?

Once again, one randomly-selected entrant with all five correct answers will win X-Men: The Last Stand - The Official Game for the XBox 360. Send your name, address, and responses to info@themoviebinge.com to enter. Your address will never be given away to anybody else (except, y'know, the US postal service when we mail your prize). Good luck! And don't Google it, cheater.

Comments

***EDITORIAL NOTE: THIS COMMENT CONTAINS SPOILERS***

So I tot realize that I need to read the comic books but I'm just wondering if the Phoenix is actually a Phoenix then how does a couple of metal fingernails keep her down? I mean she was in lake and yet she still was able to make it back. Stefano on DOOL is refered to as the Phoenix and he has died and come back to life something like 10 times. Or did she die because Wolverine's love was just so strong...what am I missing? And why on earth would someone pay Famnke that much money just to stand around and look disturbed because that's all she did.
Also kudos on the fantastic shout-out on The Brian Lehrer show!

'Her name was "plot device" or something. Boo.'

Ha! Quite so.

As soon as I saw Arclight, I thought "holy crap, it's the dude from Shalomar in the Chappelle's Show sketch where Prince plays basketball." My power is to clap!

Nice write-ups all around. I thought it was all right, but nowhere near the Greatest Comic Book Movie Of All-Time (Except Maybe The First Superman) that is X2. McKellen didn't have anything quite as vampy to say as "Love what you've done with your hair," and the two plotlines (Phoenix & Cure) never really got together in a meaningful way. Of note: out of everything in the damn movie, the crowd I watched with got most excited at a certain bit of Juggernaut dialogue. Brilliant.

[Answers to trivia removed by Bingers]

Here are some right back at ya.
1) Who is Colussus' sister and what were her powers, and why did I say "were?"
2) Why should Xavier and Juggernaut know each other?
3) What country does Kitty Pride relocate to, to join what group?
4) Who is Rogue's true love? (someone I would love to see in a movie)
5) Who is Cyclop's brother?

I'd just like to say how pleased I am that some of you guys thought the same way I did about the film - especially re: the protecting the cure part. It's a minority view in my circle of friends unfortunatley - they just think 'it was awesome' and leave it at that :-(

Heh heh.

What I didn't get (and not a comics reader, here) was the proliferation of mutants (or, come to think of it, the amazing bajillion vials of the "cure" in dart form): Huge lines waiting to be cured and even more mutant protesters lining the streets. With this many apparent mutants wouldn't Xavier's school haveta be *very* selective?

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