A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

X-Men: The Last Stand

July 16, 2010

X-Men: The Last Stand

Another X-Men movie and another actor in blue face paint. Tonight it’s Emmy award winning actor Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy (aka Beast.) I do regret the loss of Nightcrawler (who I’m guessing is absent because Alan didn’t want to go through the torture of all the make-up again) but having McCoy around is kind of cool. Indeed if there’s one thing this movie does well it’s introducing a whole mess of new mutants to the movie universe. Some are very nice realizations of characters from the books (such as Angel, Beast, and Multiple Man) and some of whom are decidedly NOT who they were in the books. (See Amanda’s review for more on that.)

This movie wants to be a giant rousing conclusion to the X-Trilogy. It wants to be bigger, more impact-full, more emotionally powerful than the first two. But you can’t get there just by throwing a whole mess of mutants into the mix and killing off a couple major characters. There’s something unsettlingly incomplete about this movie. I can plainly see what the movie is supposed to be, and there are even parts of it that hint at the greatness that it reached for, but it falls so sadly short of its lofty goals.

As with yesterday’s movie this one has more than one major plot. But the two don’t really connect in any way. On the one hand the movie is about a “cure” for the Mutant-X gene which will render any mutant simply human. This naturally enrages Magneto who heads out to gather a mighty and unstoppable army of Mutants to destroy the cure (and incidentally to take over the world I assume.) On the other hand you have the whole Dark Phoenix plot, with Jean coming back from her supposed death at the end of the last movie and going off-the-charts crazy with power.

Either one of these plots would have been kind of cool on their own, but with both of them playing out simultaneously they end up both feeling somewhat shortchanged. They don’t really play into each other in any way – they just happen to be going on at the same time. (Sure Magneto has Jean hanging around with him for a while, but you never get the feeling that she’s part of his cadre, and she never contributes in any way to his cause.)

There’s a big climactic battle with Magneto’s army storming Alcatraz (which for no particular reason is where the company that has developed the cure has set up base) but it’s a battle with no stakes. By which I mean, yeah, there’s a lot of crazy visual spectacle (what with Magneto stealing the Golden Gate Bridge and all) and a bunch of explosions and people getting shot and a whole lot of wire-work and stunts, but as an audience member I had absolutely no investment in the battle. The cure isn’t a real threat to any of the characters we care about (except for Magneto and Mystique – and I don’t know if a sort of empathy for the bad guy counts as emotional involvement.)

Then there’s the Dark Phoenix. Again, I love the visual presentation. But there are a couple problems with the actual execution. For one thing the film makers base much of the Phoenix plot on the supposed romance between Jean and Wolverine. In the first two movies I just kind of rolled my eyes and waited in resignation for the scenes that attempted to play on this non-existent attraction to end, but in this movie so much of the climax hinges on it that it can’t be simply ignored. The other problem is that Famke Janssen is FINALLY given something to do besides just being a kind of ineffectual member of the X-team and the writers just kind of give up on her. She has one or two lines in the entire second half of the movie. She has this one cool scene with her awakening just about at the exact center of the film (a moment that DOES manage to have some emotional impact, thanks in large part to the marvelous acting of Patrick Stewart) and then she is relegated to lurking in the background and looking ominous for the next forty minutes or so. They could have done so much with this epic struggle and her losing her grip on the world as her power overcomes her, but instead Phoenix is more like some kind of walking natural disaster – a human tornado that just spreads random destruction. It hurts me, inside, that something as potentially cool and ominous as Phoenix ends up being just a big visual effect that has no emotional grounding.

Oh, and while I’m ranting about disappointments let me briefly talk about Pyro. His character arc also falls short of meeting its true potential for me, chiefly because he almost doesn’t have one. John was a whiny kid in the second movie who Magneto took under his wing, and I kind of expected him to have evolved by the time he reached this movie, but here he’s still pretty much just a whiny kid. Why is he portrayed as being Magneto’s right-hand-man? He doesn’t even come off as being very powerful – he doesn’t do anything cool with his ability to shape and work with flame – he just shoots fireballs. Magneto could have just strapped a flamethrower to some sulky jerk and had the same effect. It diminishes the awe factor of Magneto’s supposedly unstoppable army of Mutants that they seem for the most part to be so ineffectual.

I don’t know. This movie has some cool bits and some things that X-fans had been waiting to see (Angel flies! Beast kicks a modicum of ass! Sentinels and the Danger Room! Ice-Man finally takes on his glistening ice-form!) But it fails to really deliver on its own promise. Ultimately I have to say that the second movie was far better, and this one was fairly flat. I want to like it more, and I feel that it’s somewhat a betrayal that I don’t, but there it is.

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July 16, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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