The Extinction Agenda: X-Men take the bullet

by Aaron on May 26, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Films, like any collaborative effort, require the right ingredients.  Let’s take a gander at some of the (supposedly) last X-Men film’s key ingredients:  Directed by the guy who gave us Rush Hour 2, Money Talks, and Running Scared.  Written by two gents who between them have delivered unto a grateful populace the cinematic bounty of Urban Legend 2: Bloody Mary, Electra, Catwoman, Fantastic Four, xXx: State of the Union, and Inspector Gadget.  Acted out by seemingly competent actors who are only slightly less shocked than the audience at how incredibly stupid and contrived the whole affair is.

Sorry, true believers, but film couldn’t suck any harder if it was powered by a bavarian creme doughnut crazed Lindsay Lohan.  The plot makes about as much sense as a box of magetic poetry phrases arranged by a blind man, the action is both nonsensical and dull, and the CGI looks like it was cribbed from a Super Nintendo game. 

Thanks, Brett Ratner.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Negative Stars

Let’s be honest here:  I love the X-Men.  Hands down it was my favorite comic book obsession for nearly 20 years.  As such, it was the last comic book property I wanted to be made into a film, because there’s no concievable way that any film could match the impact those glorious four color epics had on my life.  Then Bryan Singer sucker punched me hard.  Twice.  I went into the first films expecting the worst, and I came out thinking ‘holy shit, he actually understood the comic!’.  Sure, they changed stuff that I’d have otherwise left alone, but at least the spirit of the comic was intact within the interpersonal dynamics and moody atmosphere of the first two X-Men films. 

X-Men: The Last Stand however, will one day be held up as a film that manages to make Batman & Robin look like Apocalypse Now.

Trust me, I was in Catwoman.  RUN!

This time out, we’re treated to a vastly expanded cast of mutants dealing with the triple threat of a genetically engineered ‘mutant cure’ being offered by billionaire Warren Worthington II (whose son’s mutation vexes him to no end), a fired up and recruiting Magneto, and the return of Jean Grey, whose seemingly limitless powers are raging out of control.  Wolverine and Storm are left to make a new team out of the also-rans of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in order to stop the opening salvo of what Magneto hopes will be the war on humankind.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t elaborate further.  Frankly, there’s not much else to the plot, and Ratner and Co. throw some much at the screen that it’s a wonder anyone could walk out of the movie and remember what they’ve seen.  I’m not going to address the heresies Ratner commits against the comic book’s history, because frankly the film sucks just as a film, regardless of it’s source material.  Following in the much-hated footsteps of Joel Schumacher, writers Zak Penn and Simon Kinsberg decided to ignore any semblance of good sense by throwing so much at the audience that it becomes impossible to care about any of it.  We see the return of Peter Rasputin (aka Colossus), yet we know exactly nothing about him beyond that he’d be a welcome addition to any Circuit City staff, and he turns very, very shiny.  We’re given marginally more info on Kitty Pryde (whose now been played by 3 different actors), but only in the form of a needless and ridiculous romantic subplot with Bobby Drake (Iceman) that exists only to remove the otherwise useless Rogue from the film for the last two reels.  Otherwise we’re given nearly dozens of new characters, so much so that we’re not even given their names even though they have ample screentime.

Penn and Kinsberg likewise ignore the established Martin Luther King / Malcolm X dynamic of Charles Xavier (who, let’s face it, is awesome even when he phones it in as he does for the all of 15 minutes he’s in the film) and Magneto (a sadly less compelling McKellan) in favor of a Jesus vs. Osama Bin Laden thing.  Oddly, the whole film reeks of a ‘War on Terror’ atmosphere, which undermines the previous films just as much as the character excesses and nonsensical plot twists.  While almost cartoonishly bloodless, the film revels in moments where the uppity mutant terrorists are given their ghastly due. 

Visually the film attempts to follow Bryan Singers color and lighting template (which makes sense since Ratner was brought on just a couple weeks prior to shooting), but again the sheer excess of everything ensures that most of the CGI work is decidedly subpar and shoddy.  In fact, most of the moments that should be jawdropping look like B reel footage from a Sci Fi channel film.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment and send a message to those companies that create the title credit sequences:  Do us all a favor and just delete those ‘inside the body’ and ‘assembly line’ macros you have.  It’s tired, it’s already cliched, and it’s about as impressive as a Power Point presentation.  Seriously.  Just start the damn movie already.

Know who this is?  Should you care?  No.

I’ve been asked if there is anything positive that I can say for the film, and all I can come up with is that the color balance seemed okay, the audio was well dubbed, and the film never jumped the reels.  That’s about it.

It’s bad enough that Bryan Singer jumped ship to give the Big Blue Schoolboy another shot at box office glory (which rumors say might be a $300 catastrophe), but giving Brett (the extra ‘t’ shows he’s extreme) Ratner the reins to a previously viable franchise illustrates just how much contempt Hollywood has for this kind of material, and for it’s audience.  There’s a very pervasive attitude out there that states that, for some reason, we should lower our cinematic standards and expectations when it comes to comic book adaptations.  It’s an attitude that extends from the heads of the studios, to the marketers, to the cast and crew themselves.  Of course, the fact that most film critics seem to share that view doesn’t help matters.  Don’t believe me?  Check out mainstream reviews of the Fantastic Four film.  Not only did that atrocity kill at the box office, it was the recipient of a baffling number of positive reviews.

I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t bring up the moment in the film where I had to be physically restrained by another critic from attacking the screen.  I’ve so far avoided talking about the abominable casting and design of Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), but it’s impossible for me not to address this.  At one point in the film, the underwhelming Juggernaut utters the line “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”, beating out Storm’s infamous lightning and the toad line from the first film, but also commiting the tasteless crime of blatantly ripping off an Internet meme (NSFW language).  It’s a perfect example of just how careless the crew of this film is with their creation, and it’s not hard to imagine a dull moment on the set where some doofus blurted out ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”.  Save that shit for the blooper reels, people. 

Comic books started the painful (and long overdue) process of growing up over 20 years ago by using the form to address very real themes with a sophistication that belies it’s admittedly juvenille history.  It’s about time Hollywood did the same and started treating this material with if not reverence, at least a little respect.  There’s no reason why a comic book film can’t have an intelligent script, great acting, and a powerful story.  So let’s all do each other a favor and stay away from this peice of trash and hope Hollywood gets the message.

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