Strange Brouhaha

Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (SPOILERS)

This post will not be spoiler-free, but I will give ample spoiler warning. This paragraph and the next two do not contain spoilers. The short review is this: the movie is good as a movie, but not so good as far as the history of the X-Men is concerned. The franchise had some changes inflicted upon it, some necessary to make everything work as a movie, some totally not necessary. I recommend seeing it, but be prepared for a bit of dismay.

To me, the "real" X-Men will always be Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel--the original '60s team. The X-Men I grew up reading about, however, were Chris Claremont's X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. I say this so that you know where I'm coming from when I say what I have to say about this movie; I've been less than thrilled with some of the character and storyline choices in the first two movies, and continue to be less than thrilled with the new installment. (By the way, one thing I am thrilled about is the total lack of the lamest X-Man ever, Gambit. I wanted to set straight the punks behind me who were complaining that there was no Gambit in this movie.) I'm very happy to see Kitty have a bigger role--she was always one of my favorites. Kelsey Grammer, as Hank McCoy, works very well, something I was pleasantly surprised to see.

WARNING: Spoilers start now. If you think you're going to go see the movie, stop reading now. You've read everything you need to know about it. In summary: good as a movie, bad as an X-Men movie. Oh, and stay for the closing credits.

Lots of bad stuff here.

Okay, first: They killed Cyclops right off the bat, and that really put me off my stride for the rest of the movie. It served the story they concocted, but that story was badly, badly off-base. Cyclops is my favorite X-Man ever, so I was pissed.

Second: Instead of being an intergalactic entity, the Phoenix is a part of Jean's mind that the Professor had to seal off in order to keep her from becoming too powerful, and a danger to society. Again, it served the story, but it's just plain wrong. They've never had writers just be wrong like that--I don't really like, for example, the relative ages of some of the X-Men, but it's forgiveable. This,

Third: My jaw dropped when Rogue actually took The Cure. Absolutely dropped. There's no excuse for this.

Fourth: Professor X dies. I've never been all that fond of Charley, but this sucked, too.

Fifth: I don't want to be a snob for canon, but if they're going to do Dark Phoenix, they should at least try to do it right. I realize that that would have required them to spend at least a movie setting it up--intergalactic threat, the introduction of the Shi'ar and the Praetorian Guard, a lot of things that frankly aren't that interesting, leading up to Jean's sacrificing herself on the Moon. They could have at least spent this movie having Phoenix turn out to be positive, before approximating a correct Phoenix Must Die story. They could have done Sentinels, or something else. As it is, they established that Phoenix was bad right off the bat, and then everyone spent the rest of the movie being afraid of her without her having to actually do anything. ("All this time, we've been in mortal fear of BILLY BATSON?")

Sixth: Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen have approximately zero chemistry. I never bought the whole Logan-Jean thing in the comics or in the movies, and neither of them helped very much. While it was neat that she kept trying to shred him at the end, before he killed her, I never bought into any "connection" between them.

Seventh: Juggernaut is terrible terrible terrible terrible. And by the way, writers of X-Men 3: Juggie isn't a mutant. His powers come from the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak (and no, I didn't have to look that up--I'm a dork), and so being around The Cure wouldn't have done a damn thing to him.

However, there's good stuff too!

First: I realize that I'm probably one of three or four people in all of fandom that likes Kitty Pryde, but I really do and I'm glad that she got some screen time as an X-Man. I've probably mentioned this before, but I've always identified a little with Kitty. She was the same age I was when I started reading X-Men comics. On the conscious level, I've never really bought into the need for an audience-surrogate character, but all I have to do is think of Kitty to realize that audiences really do tend to identify with characters.

Second: Yay! They killed Patrick Stewart! I really find him insufferable. He's a really poor actor. Perfect for the role of Professor X, but he's still a scenery-chewer.

Third: I'm among the millions of people who gave a collective "Huh?" when Kelsey Grammer was cast as Hank McCoy. I'm really glad to say that that "Huh?" was unfounded. He's actually perfect. While I'm not a big fan of the blue version of The Beast, it really, really worked--because, of course, Kelsey Grammer has the perfect voice for the character, and that more than anything really cemented it. (Of course, I did keep expecting Niles to pop in and offer Frasier some sherry.)

Fourth: good fight scenes. As before, they concentrate on fan-service for Wolverine, but there's plenty of action for everyone.

Fifth: You may have read that they used CG to reverse-age Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in the opening sequence. You could tell that it was going on--the synchronization between the effect and the natural head movements was a bit off, although that may have been heightened by the fact that I knew something was being done--but it looked VERY neat.

Update: I forgot one: the Fastball Special. Purely for the fanboys, of course...but it's in there twice and it rules.


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