Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ten Things About X-Men: The Last Stand

Holy crap, Brett Ratner pulled it off.

Yvette and I watched X-Men: The Last Stand at the Podium last night. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting much. I mean, X-Men was pretty good and the sequel was even better, but everyone knows that Bryan Singer, the director of those two flicks, decided to run off and do Superman Returns instead of a second X-sequel. That left someone whose main claim to fame was the Rush Hour movies, starring Jackie Chan and whatsisface, to chronicle the next -- and quite literally most explosive -- chapter in the Marvel mutant saga.

And yeah, Ratner pulled it off. It's not award-winning artsy stuff, obviously, but it is a hell of a ride. Since the first two movies established all the rules, this one hits the ground running. And now here are Ten Things About X-Men: The Last Stand:

1. Yes, Stan Lee has a cameo (it comes early in the flick).

2. And yes, fellow comics geeks, there is a fastball special.

3. Also, there's a scene where Rebecca Romijn is nake-- *sound of readers stampeding to movie theaters* Hello? Hello? Is anyone still out there? Oh well. I guess I'll go ahead and do the rest of the list anyway.

4. I am so glad that they got Kitty Pryde right. Growing up, reading writer Chris Claremont's run on X-Men (and yes, regarding his artistic collaborators, I prefer the Cockrum/Smith/Romita Jr. era to the Byrne stuff, and of course to the 90s stuff as well), despite the fact that to my knowledge I was never a teenaged girl genius with phasing powers, I was totally, totally into Kitty's story: the ups and downs, her triumphs and heartaches. (The issue where Colossus dumps her because he had fallen in love with some dead alien woman -- oh, man.) She was the soul of the X-Men, for me. And she may not have gotten much screen time here, but what little moments she did have were great -- particularly the one where, in time-honored X-Men comics fashion, she defeats a foe she should have absolutely no friggin' chance against. Plus, Ellen Page is such a cutie. I would have felt slightly creepy about typing that last sentence, but a quick IMDB check confirms that she is, in fact, of legal age.

5. Storm does have much more to do here: aside from gaining a few cool new tricks in battle, she's portrayed as more essential to the team and the school. In fact, in one scene, Prof X tells her that she is the one he envisions taking over the school in the event of his passing on. It brought back nice comics memories of when Storm became the X-Men's field leader after Cyclops/Scott Summers left. Made for many many good stories by Chris Claremont, way back. However, the movies will never, ever get her hair right, ever. It may be that it's not humanly possible to get that mane of white hair right outside of the comics. Funny, because I would have thought it would be Wolverine's hair that would be impossible to portray onscreen.

6. And speaking of Wolverine -- of course he gets the best lines and the key scenes. The movie audience has spoken, and they likes 'em some Jackman (why that sounds vaguely dirty, I don't know). Even in the comics, he's by far the most popular, so there may very well be something inherent in the character that appeals to people. However, like most fans who have been reading comics since the 80s, I'm pretty sick of him getting the spotlight all the time -- but the interesting thing is, Wolverine-as-pivotal-character does work better in the movies, probably because Jackman-as-Wolverine is funnier, less angsty, and yes, more domesticated than the comics version. Also, he was established in the first movie as being the audience's POV character: the one with the irreverence to remark to the Prof, "So, she's Storm... he's Cyclops... who are you, Wheels?" Having said all that, I am amazed at how many people they depict him eviscerating onscreen. Total disregard of the usual "only kill when there is no other option" comics rule. So in a weird way, movie-Wolvie is both more candy-ass and more bad-ass.

7. Famke Janssen really throws herself into the role of Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix. Her acting's almost too much, at times; but then, hey, this is super-powered soap opera we're talking about. The story calls for her to be -- by turns -- vulnerable, savage, detached, ambivalent, and fucking scary, and she does it all convincingly. There's a certain scene where you won't know whether to be turned on, or horrified, or, God help you, both.

8. Magneto will fuck your shit up. You will believe that a man pushing 70 can tear apart a city with the power of his mind (and some fancy shmancy hand gestures).

9. As you may have already gathered, there are a lot of characters here; literally dozens of them, mostly based on the comics, though you wouldn't know it to glance at them. Recognition usually comes when a character calls another character out by name ("That's Arclight?!"), or in some cases, when the end credits are rolling ("Where the heck were Psylocke and Jubilee?"). Certain characters that had major roles in the first two movies have either had their roles reduced or are completely absent this time around. Nightcrawler is nowhere to be seen; presumably he rejoined the circus. And, this may be a bit of a spoiler, but Rogue doesn't have much to do here either. Comics fans will realize that she played such an active role in the Claremont and post-Claremont stories because she had already permanently leeched off Carol Danvers' powers of flight, super-strength and near-invulnerability by the time she joined the X-Men, and thus was much more handy in a fight; that hasn't happened -- and most likely never will happen -- in the movies. Still, despite the huge cast, many members are given a chance to shine.

10. The story, despite weaving together no less than three major plotlines/themes from the comics and a whole bunch of other subplots and sub-themes, is remarkably simple and easy to follow. Motivations dovetail nicely; setpieces spring out naturally. The people who put together this movie knew what to use and what to leave out: it is, after all, possible to do the Dark Phoenix concept without involving the Shi'ar (and thank God, because Lilandra's hair is more impossible than either Storm's or Wolverine's. And can you imagine the giggles that Gladiator's space mohawk would have garnered?) There are some relationships that originated in the comics but are handled slightly differently in the movie (like the enmity between Storm and Callisto), and some that for the most part belong to the movie alone (the Iceman/Pyro rivalry); as noted, these guys knew what to leave and take and what to invent. In terms of juggling, many balls are tossed into the air, and it's amazing how many of them are caught once again by movie's end, though there are one or two that end up falling to the ground.

And that's all for now. So, is X-Men: The Last Stand worth seeing? Let's ask Kitty:

X-Men: The Last Stand -- a film about prejudice, equality, power, responsibility, and hair.


joelle said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! I've to wait for Mikah to come back from the beach. *sigh*

Thanks for this beautiful review. No mention of Angel, I see. Hehe.

Luis K. said...

Thanks Joelle! :) The one comment most people had upon seeing stills from the movie featuring Angel were: "He's not hot enough." I mean, Warren Worthington III is supposed to be so handsome that he makes Brad Pitt look like crap. According to IMDB, lots of people were considered for the part. Ben Foster did a good job though, despite not being pretty enough, and Angel's little storyarc within the bigger story was a very nice touch.

Dania Ramirez as a super-powered Callisto was pretty good too. In the comics, she kidnapped and bound Angel, declaring him her prize as the leader of the Morlocks. "Every princess must have a prince, and who better for me than the most beautiful man in the world!" Would have been interesting to see that onscreen, though there was of course no room for yet another subplot in that movie. ;p

PS. Am glad Summer Glau didn't get the part of Kitty Pryde. She was good in Serenity though.

Ash said...

Can't wait for this! lovely blog, and review.

Luis K. said...

Thank you very much, Ash! :)

pinoymaclover said...

Great review! I'm a huge X-Men fan myself. I even wore an X-Men t-shirt when I watched last wednesday. Hehehe. I am laughing at myself because I am 25 years old, and not 12. Anyways, I absolutely enjoyed the movie. But I have to admit, I liked X2 a lot more. Perhaps I was expecting too much (just like the rest of the world). The ending just wasn't as grand as I hoped it would be. Not like when they ended the X-Men Evolution cartoon series. Professor X's monologue at the end of the final episode gave me goosebumps and I kept replaying it for days. But in the end, I believe X3 still succeeds more than it disappoints. I'd actually be willing to spend another 150 bucks just to watch it again. And, by the way, you are so right about the hair.

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