May 26, 2006

12:00 12:00 12:00

...then 12:01, and time for X-Men: The Last Stand. It seems the Thing To Do when discussing this movie is to stake out one's ground first, so let me do that. I like comic books. I like the X-Men. I in no way have read even a meaningful fraction of the X-Men series, much less its multiple spin-offs. Ergo, I have a tenuous at best grip on what can laughingly be called its 'continuity.' I liked the first X-Men movie, and wasn't so thrilled with X2. I think Bryan Singer is overrated by those who discuss his directing.

I'll try to hold any spoilers until later, and label 'em clearly.

Okay? Okay.

Cheap escape: I liked the flick. Highly entertaining.

More depth: From what little I know, this movie takes the notion of continuity from the comic sense and laughs while wiping its ass with it. There's even holes when considered strictly as the third of three movies in a vacuum. But like a magnificent drunk, the movie just stumbles with divine grace across these holes and somehow stays upright through momentum. It's a summer movie, for Gawd's sake, it's not supposed to make sense. There's actually a story of sorts in there; one that connects with the prior two movies, so in that we are lucky. Looked at with one eye closed and the other squinting, it looks almost like it was planned as the third movie in an arc trilogy. Almost.

There are noticeably more explosions, effects, asskickings, and general mayhem moments than in the first two. Part of that no doubt reflects a higher budget, but part of it also reflects much less of a tendency to get angsty about the personal stressors of mutantdom. The stress is there and still plays a significant role in the story (if not the most critical!) but much less time is spent trying to coach marginal actors into producing believable expressions of personal conflict underneath DRAMATIC MUSIC to display INNER TENSION. More time is spent having said characters display their Issues by blowing the ever-loving shit out of some piece of scenery or even (in this flick) some hapless homo sapiens or even mutant who happens to be in the way - which, really, is what it's all about.

All hail the pyrotechnics teams.

Okay, some minor spoilers below. Nothing you wouldn't get from a close examination of the trailer, I promise.

Seriously.

Still with me? Okay. Some pluses and minuses. Here's one of my biggest peeves - Nightcrawler does not appear anywhere in this film. Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. He was perhaps my favorite mutant; I was ecstatic when he showed up in X2, and they even did it right, making him one of that movie's high points. For God's sake (heh) he even bamfed properly! Give those people cigars! And then...what? He's just not there. We don't even get a throwaway line explanation of what the hell happened to him. We even have a scene in an abandoned church for God's sake! His stomping grounds! But nope. No Nightcrawler. POINTS DEDUCTED.

We get a completely nude Rebecca Romijn. This is never bad. :-)

Ian McKellen is a splendid bastard. Truly he is. Despite wearing what looks like a padded vise around his head, his eyebrows manage to perform some 47 percent of the acting duties of the entire cast. Watching him tailor his physical gestures (degree of exertion, type of motion) to his various Magneto exploits is a treat to behold. Finally, we get not one but at least two Magneto-vs.-Xavier debates-with-pointy-words-and-tone, and just being able to pull two actors of Stewart and McKellen's caliber into the project speaks well of this flick. They rock.

There were a great number of Inexcusable Movie Cliches, even for a comic book flick. Honestly. Helpless-housewife-locks-car-door-in-the-face-of-unimaginable-power. R. Lee Ermey's Drill Sergeant Voice. Jack-Ryan-Style Fake-IR-Satellite-Realtime-Video Taken-From-Ten-Feet-Up Live-In-The-White-House. A President who can only speak in four-word-cliches. Sometimes the cliches even overrode the movie's sensibilities - for example, Magneto's army. Because the army is Bad Mutants, there's some reason that 95% of them have to look like Biker Gang rejects and be wearing clothes straight out of Deliverance. Uh, I call bullshit on this one. Eric Lensharr would not be delivering his speeches of self-defense and actualization to a bunch of intensely racist backwoods types. He'd be able to find a bunch of self-interested as well as urbane types who had a better place to hang out than behind Cousin Bob's Trailer.

More good-natured jokes about the outfits, which is good. Hank McCoy wearing his 'old' outfit and bitching about how it used to fit him was a good follow-on to 'You'd prefer yellow spandex?'

On the plus side as well, the storyline they chose fit in extremely well with Magneto's character and backstory; his motivations were COMPLETELY believable, and his actions throughout were (mostly) self-consistent and understandable. The 'with us or against us' meme was developed well, and they didn't spend too much time (as I feel sure Singer would have) 'exploring the issues this would have raised among the Xavier community.' Nope, too busy with the asskicking and general Armageddon.

Technically, the movie was midrange. There were a lot of effects, but the CGI got fairly sloppy at times, especially at the end battle. Almost Lawnmower Man-ish, which made me shudder, for certain things. It was inconsistent, though; some of it (Magneto and the Golden Gate) was awesome - I don't know if it reflected a budget disparity or just rushing in some parts to get it done. Jean Grey's dynamic makeup (CGI as well?) was good. We didn't see nearly as much of the Mansion this time, making it seem like less of a 'special place' - we saw some of the school part, but not a lot - and in fact the sets weren't all that great. They were fairly generic. I can't think of any that stand out.

One thing that would have tickled me is for one of the young 'uns to have poked a button in the X-Jet during our pan past them in the passenger section, causing a 'call' light to bong at Storm's station resulting in guilty embarrassment. That would have been funny.

Final kvetch: there sure are an awful lot of mutants out there. Makes you wonder how Charles kept everything so quiet and why he even needed the Machine to find them if there were that many - even if they were mainly 'pawns' as Magneto put it.

Okay, done rambling. I enjoyed the flick, and will probably see it again. I liked the final scene; I thought it was the right 'comic book series' ending. Oh, and advice: stay after the credits.

Posted by jbz at May 26, 2006 11:02 AM | TrackBack

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