Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

I guess it's appropriate that director Brett Ratner would eventually show up to do an X-Men movie, since he's the Mystique of modern filmmakers -- rather than create a style of his own, he inhabits the styles of others to the best of his abilities. In the past, he's morphed into such luminaries as James L. Brooks and Jonathan Demme; here, as respect to the man who made this series, he's trying on a Bryan Singer suit, which means this film has been directed by a mediocre Hollywood hack imitating another mediocre Hollywood hack. (No ruptures in the time-space continuum have been reported, though I've heard rumors of several auteurists suffering crippling migraines.) As could be imagined, the result isn't inspiring, but it's agreeable for a while. The dialogue seems taped together out of every soap-opera and moody-superhero cliche that could be scratched up (you can't give Halle Berry dialogue like this and not expect disaster), and the pacing is clunky due to the overwhelming number of characters old and new. The latter has been my main complaint over the length of this series -- there's too many heroes and villains being crammed into the narrative. This works with comic books, where you can go on for issue after issue and eventually everyone will get their turn in the spotlight; narrative cinema is another matter, though, and it creates characterizations that are scattered, listless and reductive. The greatest casualty of this is Ben Foster as Warren Worthington III. Reportedly, Singer kept trying to work this character into the previous two films but couldn't find a way to do it; it's a bit sad to note, then, that even though he's finally been shoehorned in, he's no more than an afterthought (a superfluous appendage, if you will). Furthermore, some fascinating characters (Rogue in particular) get short shrift so that other, less interesting mutants can be paraded onscreen. With all that, I was still with the movie most of the way -- Ratner's low-level panache and dedication to brevity keep the film moving, so that most of the flaws hurry by in a blur, gone before you can really pick at them. But then there's the horrid climax, which squanders some great opportunities just so [SPOILER ELIDED] can play hero and bring closure to the trilogy's most obnoxious recurring subplot. There's at least two superior ways that the film's Big Bad could have been dealt with. And on a related note, why have a character with the awesome nullifying power of Leech if you aren't going to do anything at all with him? As I have a brief versing in X-Men lore (I collected Marvel trading cards in the early '90s), there were a couple elements of this that surprised the hell out of me, and even a relative noob like me can appreciate the poignancy in the film's last shot. But we've still got to have standards, and despite some rousing action scenes, this isn't very good. (Also: Worst. Credit-Cookie. Ever.)

Grade: C+


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