May 27, 2006

Let's Heckle "X-Men: The Last Stand"

Man, did X-Men: The Last Stand rape the franchise. I have a feeling that not too many people make a habit of sitting through the closing titles, but if anyone here did, what did you think of the post-credits punchline? It really, really infuriated me. Much like the final shot of the film (which was legitimately poignant--until), it basically invalidated whatever conceptual integrity X3 had.

Referring to Kitty Pryde as a "bitch," even in the context of Juggernaut's Internet-spawned catchphrase, was unforgivable but entirely expected. I still remember the uncomfortable segment on the Rush Hour 2 DVD where Chris Tucker refuses to call Zhang Ziyi a bitch. Tucker basically felt that being casually misogynist in a movie as populist as that was socially irresponsible. It gave me new respect for him...which vaporized once he caved in to Brett Fathead's incessant whining and prodding.

Anyway, as a stopgap before the next edition of "The Trench" (I'm sick of seeing Clyde Beatty every time I come here), feel free to bash or defend X-Men: The Last Stand as you see fit. In case you missed Walter's review, you can read that here. Meanwhile, see what our own Travis Hoover had to say about it over at Exclaim.


Update (05/28)
Norm Wilner, my old editor at Marquee, contributes to this conversation over at his brand-spanking new blog. Check it out--he draws a really succinct analogy to the Star Wars trilogy.

33 comments:

Jefferson said...

Haven't seen it yet. Does Ann Paquin's seatbelt malfunction again? That's really all I need to determine whether this is a true X-Men movie.

Jack_Sommersby said...

(moved this previous post to this more-relevant blog)

I just can't believe a cinematographer as great as Dante Spinotti has chosen to be the regular cameraman for a director as sub-par as Brett Ratner. Four films together now! This is the same guy who did 2 with Curtis Hanson and 4 with Michael Mann.

C'mon, Dante, ditch this piss-brain!

P.S.

I jumped ahead of myself. Checking Spinotti's upcoming jobs at imdb.com, it looks like he and Ratner are teaming up for a fifth film. Wait, it gets worse. Here's the plot description for it (Josiah's Canon):

A master thief (Connery) organizes a team of notorious bank robbers to pull a job on a Swiss location - one that holds special appeal to the chief crook, as it allegedly holds money deposited by Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Oh, no -- it's Entrapment 2!

(By the way, I'm glad there are those at the site I review for who see and review the new releases, so I don't have to lay eyes on stuff like X-Men. I'm perfectly content sitting at home and re-watching and reviewing '80s films, thank you very much.)

Bill C said...

Jefferson: Ha!

Anna P. is really wasted in the movie, for what it's worth. Not that she had much to do in the second one, either, but here they contrive a love triangle from which they then excuse her early on.

Walter_Chaw said...

I think I trampled a toddler to get out of the theater. What's the ten-second post-credit punchline?

Bill C said...

SPOILER WARNING In the coda, we find out Xavier has resurrected himself by possessing the coma patient from that video he used to teach his class about psychic teleportation.

Justin said...

I sat through the credits, but I'd been warned something was coming, so I was a little more concerned about who the coda involved than whether it invalidated the finale or not. But you're right--it undercuts whatever emotional impact the ending had. The only thing I liked about it is it gave me hope they'll do more of these things, except they'll go back to doing them well. There's no reason to summarize forty years of source material in three movies just because George Lucas made a trilogy once, but it looks like Marvel management really wanted a trilogy. Thus we got two different X-storylines grafted onto each other.

And without knowing the Juggernaut catchphrase thing I was bothered by the bitch comment. But Kitty got to call him a dickhead in the next scene--so it all evens out! Well, probably not.

My own reaction is between Walter's and Travis', in that I had leftover good will from the first two films to expend on this one, which I don't think Walter did from reading his X2 review. But I think Travis is too kind--for instance, I felt that the finale degenerated into your basic unimaginative "anonymous dudes rush the heroes and quickly get cut down" scene. And why is Wolverine suddenly commanding the U.S. army? Never minding the mess they made of the Logan/Jean/Scott triangle, or the ineptness of the Iceman/Kitty/Rogue triangle.

Meh. I agree with the CHUD guy who blamed whoever decided a movie with two main plots, two love triangles, and about twenty major characters needed to stop after ninety minutes.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Who's the dude in the 6th and 8th square on the top row? Looks like Doogie Howser trying (and failing) to look Eastwood-tough.

Justin said...

They're two different Doogies, Jack! That's Iceman (junior X-man) and Pyro (junior evil mutant.)

Anonymous said...

The Good:
- It wasn't boring. It had enough flashing lights and fast cuts to maintain interest.
- The look of Phoenix. When she Darked-up, she looked spectacular, with her flesh charring and eyes firing up, that was the one worthy special effect of the film.

The Bad:
- The script threw in at least half a dozen plotlines from the comic book series into one long, ludicrous mish-mash that made no sense whatsoever. Consider: What did they intend to do with their war after Alcatraz? Why did they even start the war? How did they harvest the cure from Leech? Would Magneto really have abandoned Mystique so quickly? Why did Phoenix decide to destroy the world? What the hell did Magneto plan to do with Phoenix? The film lacked any kind of grace or humanity or real coherance - it was a light show that rushed so fast that you never got a real chance to reflect on why what was happening was happening because, with any closer inspection, the entire thing preposterous and a mess.
- The action sequences were terribly shot and edited and scripted, with no moment ever holding any weight or peril. (Back to the lack of common sense, notice Magneto telling Juggernaut not to let anyone in, then the first thing he does is throw Logan through the window into the house - what?!) Just as Walter noted, Magento could have wiped out 1/3 of the opponents in the final battle, likewise, "the power of the weather" Storm could have hurricaned pretty much all of the opposing faction in a jiffy. Instead, a pitiful series of short, ludicrous 1-on-1s without any real violence or kinetics or anything at all, while the other lackeys run around behind them - I found the grace of Bryan Singer's movies was that each was a series of sequences that caught the imagination and thrill of the comics and utilized the mutant powers in such a way as to make you gasp every scene. There's nothing in Brett Ratner's film with any sense of amazement or cleverness or even logic - the house comes loose and everyone sticks to the ceiling, why?! Why didn't he just come to pieces right away? What the hell is going on?
- Complete lack of subtext. The great minority subtext and conversation from the first two films is shot to hell with no solutions or even questions as the thing goes about its ridiculous "war on something" ignoring all of the things that should be central to this film.
- The dialogue is atrocious. Did any lines from this film make anyone laugh (intentionally, that is)? Did any of the lines from this film sound like something a human would/should utter? The jokes fall flat, the framing is useless, it's a mess and a waste of great talent.
- Too many characters, all 2D, none of them fleshed out. Ok, so we got our Brotherhood and we got Juggernaut/Calisto/Multiple Man/Angel etc etc, but we couldn't like any of them or even be interested in any of them. The X-Men films have always suffered from having too many characters but when none of them are fleshed out or cared about, there's nothing to latch onto. Even our smirking avatar Logan doesn't get anything except "He loves Jean" and, really, what? I thought he was over her at the beginning? How well did he even know her in the previous films? It's really, really awful. Also find no explanation for the lack of Nightcrawler, and find no reason for every freaking mutant in the Brotherhood to look like a Goth or a Suicide Girl.

Clumsy, fumbling waste of time mess that effectively kills the franchise, with nothing interesting or clever or thrilling. The character deaths are cheap and worthless, each plot thread is wasted and each question unanswered, I hate Brett Ratner and I hate his shitty, shitty film. The coda just made me gag - who was the woman in the room with him?

Justin said...

The woman is Moira MacTaggert, Scottish geneticist and friend to all X-Men. Forgive me for knowing these things.

Chris said...

Off topic, but I want to hear what you guys think: I was given a DVD recorder as a birthday gift, and the existence of such an item never even occured to me. Are blank DVDs going to replace blank tapes, or is everyone using DVRs now? I'm not good at switching over to a new technology. Should I sell the thing and buy a 5-disc changer? Discuss.

Alex Jackson said...

Okay, I just finished saying this elsewhere but I think that you're all piling it on just because it's Brett Ratner's name on the credits. I can especially sympathize with Bill since he's probably spent more time with the man then any of us ever have. (Seriously, would you watch the supplementary material for Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, Red Dragon, and After the Sunset? Even out of curiosity).

But no, I didn't think that this was that much better or worse than the first X-men movie. Worse than the second one, this isn't a progression of the series, but not worse than the first one. It particularly peeves me that Walter complained about the allusions to the Holocaust when the original film started out with a scene actually in a concentration camp.

Agree with the dialogue and agree with that there are too many characters and too many subplots and it kind of capsizes under it's own weight. I won't argue that it was a great movie.

However, I don't feel the subtext was lacking. I'm not sure how much I'm projecting but I felt that Pyro and Magneto were lovers, particularly since he is so deeply involved in his cause and they were so very much joined at a hip that a sexual attraction seems inevitable. This was a frutiful extention of their relationship as established in X2. I thought the prologue with the kid discovering his wings was affective. And the whole plot revolving around a cure for mutantism represents a meaningful extention of the gay parallels and poses what I felt were provocative questions regarding the ramnifications of a gay gene.

Ratner sucks and all and this would have been a better movie with another director, but I think that there was a lot of good stuff embedded within the makeup of the frachise that he couldn't mess up.

Chris said...

The way everyone's tilted to the left or right in that picture makes for a bunch of blades and chalices - perhaps Mr. Ratner is saying something about the divine feminine after all?

Reel Fanatic said...

I was so angry when this ended I thought my head might explode ... to abuse the Phoenix saga like that was inexcusable!

James Allen said...

I have to switch gears for a second, I just read this from The Onion.

Dark as hell (surely tasteless to some), but I laughed like crazy. It somehow hit the right spot for me.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I just finished saying this elsewhere but I think that you're all piling it on just because it's Brett Ratner's name on the credits.

I disagree. Shit by anyone is still shit, and this film (for all the reasons I listed above) was diarrhea. I hate Ratner, but I don't hate Rush Hour, I'm willing to give any and all a chance. This was not a good film. X-Men 1 can defend the use of Holocaust allusion because it can hold the weight of its subtext. X-3 has no idea what it wants to be about, what it is about, it stumbles around minority hatred and sexual awakening and rallying against abortion and this and that and never for a second has any clear focus, not with anything.

However, I don't feel the subtext was lacking. I'm not sure how much I'm projecting but I felt that Pyro and Magneto were lovers

I'm sorry, what? Alright, I could agree with you as far as being seduced by the mentor offering power, but when did Magneto ever show Pyro love? Ignoring the fact that the film never gives anyone enough screen time to establish any real interaction, X-3 is ruled by chaos, and all of its relationships are meaningless. Characters can chop and change emotions and character at the drop of a hat, all while uttering ridiculous one liners that offer no depth or humor or emotion or anything but the realisation that we should have eliminated Tom "$" Rothman before he rose to power.

I'm not interested in arguing, but elaborate for me how "the whole plot revolving around a cure for mutantism represents a meaningful extention of the gay parallels and poses what I felt were provocative questions regarding the ramnifications of a gay gene"?

dave said...

I don't understand all the love this "franchise" gets here, the first two movies weren't really that good. The holocaust scene in the first one was careless and totally out of place. I would really like to know what ominious subtext was in the movies besides "it's okay to be different, mkay?". I didn't even bother to watch the second one when it came out, I just catched it two days ago on TV and it barely managed to keep me awake, and only because it hit its "subtext" over me with a stick so that I frequently had to scream "YES, I GET IT". I mean, dialogues like

Nightcrawler: Then why not stay in disguise all the time? You know, look like everyone else.
Mystique: Because we shouldn't have to.

should even make Star Trek fanboys cringe.

Dave Gibson said...

It’s been awhile since Film Freak busted out a “rape” analogy in order to decry something really important—like yet another lousy superhero movie (here’s hoping “Superman Returns” merely “stalks and makes harassing phone calls to the franchise”) so, I sense there are a lot of Jim Shooter-era True Believers out there expecting a thought-provoking, nuanced film experience from a film featuring “Frasier” as a blue werewolf. Most films conceived as “franchises” in the first place, will inevitably disappoint anyone expecting anything more than a Big Mac experience. I’m not particularly enamored of the first two “X-Men” movies and their sloppy, obvious political subtexts so, I can’t get too worked up over the Ratner hatchet job. I can easily concede that Singer’s films were measurably better, though afflicted with the grave self importance which turns most recent comic book movies into turgid bores. Sociopolitical allusions which can easily be compressed into press-junket sound-bites probably aren’t too deep or elusive to begin with. Singer is a better cook but it’s still junk and--- I do agree with AJ that the geek community has been itching to shiv Ratner since he took the directors chair. I think Walters’ bad review gives Ratner too much credit as some kind of Idiot Auteur, though Ratner is some kind of well-funded Tinto Brass, rather than just a lucky hack. I believe he’s far more mediocre and bland than labels like “misanthropic moron” at the helm of a “hateful” film would suggest—it’s just quintessential sloppy, rushed, big-studio filmmaking to me. Paste Tom Shadyac or Joel Schumacher’s name in the director slot, and it’s still pretty much the same movie (It seems that Ratner has unofficially inherited Schumacher’s’ title of Count Blandula) Ratner aside, I’ve always loved comics, but even as a young geek, I wasn’t much into the angst-ridden mutants—which inevitably made me an anomaly at the comic book store, and probably on this site. I was much more annoyed by the jocular disrespect heaped on my favourite comic character: “Swamp Thing” than anything Mr. Ratner will ever cook up. Anyways—still holding out for a fourth, in hopes that Scarlett Johansen will strap on Dazzlers’ magic roller skates and boogie her way into our hearts.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Well, the tally's in: $107-million, 3-day box office take. Gracious. I stayed in last night and watched "Brothers Grimm" and was perfectly content (sorry, Walter, I know you hated that film; but I thought Peter Stormare was hysterically brilliant!).

So up yours, X-Men fanatics!

aron said...

oh, james allen, man. this onion thing is brilliant. an d very wrong. i just laughed tears, really.

Bill C said...

Oh man, that Onion thing is hysterical.

Dave Gibson said...

I admit I haven’t seen “After the Sunset”—but, I have seen the “Rush Hour” flicks, “Red Dragon” and “The Family Man” (and “Money Talks” for some reason) so—I do have more than a passing familiarity with the dubious Ratner oeuvre. I thought that all of them were mediocre-to-lousy big studio stuff, but no better or worse than any of the recent work from the two directors I mentioned (and not one of those films were as loathsomely misogynistic or hateful as “Sin City”) Since I referred to Ratner as a “hack” and likened him to Joel Schumacher, I can’t agree that I’m defending him on any level (unless simply asserting that Ratner is not the Anti-Christ is tantamount to a defense) I’m very familiar with the long held disdain for Ratner and, again, I don’t think he’s particularly talented, nor particularly worthy of notoriety he’s garnered. The word that leaps to my mind when thinking of Ratners’ films is: ‘bland’. This unequivocally puts me at odds with the assessment that Ratner is dangerously awful rather than merely awful. Anyhoo--I love you Film Freaks and as penance for my cheeky opening remarks, I promise to watch “After the Sunset” this week and see if can remain so nonplussed.

Bill C said...

Deleted my post with the intent of tweaking it before you replied, Dave, but you beat me to it. Anyway, should you decide to go through with that After the Sunset screening, I'll light a candle for you.

Jared said...

According to the IMDB Brett Rattner's favorite director is Hal Ashby, wow, could any director be more the polar opposite of Rattner? Last I checked Hal Ashby made small reserved films about people, maybe Rattner just likes watching movies like that or something. He says his favorite film is Scarface though, which sounds more like him, although he'll never come up with anything close to the awesome scene where that clown gets shot up.

X-Men 3's ads made it look like a campy Batman and Robin version of the first two X-Men movies, and I fell asleep in the theater during the severely overrated X2. That franchise has a serious problem with economy of characters (I mean, this one sounds DAMN overwhelming) and cheesy dialogue and acting with the exception of Anna Paquin and apparently the actress who plays Kitty Pryde in this one (The third one to do it in this series) is pretty good.

Does Kelsey Grammer get to say "Have you ever seen a perm like this before in your life, no ya haven't!"?

Jefferson said...

The thing I'm struck by after just seeing X3 is how quickly the little moments of poetry hurried by me. A little boy sawing off his wings, the very things so many little boys pray to have; a man who must hide his eyes for fear of destroying the world finally able to look at his lover unshielded, only to be obliterated in turn; a beleaguered child allowed to rescue and thereby redeem the father who would have taken away his uniqueness; a man literally walking through a flaying fire to kill, and thereby save, the woman he loves ...

Ratner was stuck with a script and an aesthetic inherited from Singer, and that may have saved him from truly stinking up the film. Singer, I have no qualms in saying, would have let these moments linger, and mean something. Ratner seems to know it's important to have them, without really understanding them. I think that's too bad, and if the magic was truncated just to hit a certain running time, I have to ask why. People sat through nine hours of Lord of the Rings to be stirred by just such poetic notions; surely there's enough goodwill in the X-audience to sit through more than a rushed and unsatisfying 90 minutes.

Oh, and Anna Paquin's seatbelt obviously DID fail again. Otherwise, she wouldn't have been so egregiously ejected from the main plot thread.

Justin said...

I completely agree with Jefferson--the loss of Singer meant the loss of a lot of little character moments, and thus a loss of meaning as well.

And I can't think of a hammier portrayal of the United States President in a major film (not that my knowledge is that expansive.)

Walter_Chaw said...

Walter complained about the allusions to the Holocaust when the original film started out with a scene actually in a concentration camp.

Yep - answered already above, but I felt like the first flick made meat from that instead of just using it as grease for a soulless machine. I was pretty poleaxed by its appearance in both cases - especially since Singer was fresh off of Apt Pupil back then. It's not forbidden territory in any case - might as well reclaim the Holocaust for the gays and the gypsies, right? - but in Ratner's hands here, it felt a lot like a bunch of feckless exploitation.

Here's what Bill said in his very fine review:

"The film has heroes--superheroes--but no arch villains; after having the nerve to set its prologue during the Holocaust, Singer owed us a story of some depth, yet audiences don't always want what they demand, especially in the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Which leads me to X-Men's dilemma that dialogue scenes are more plentiful, and more memorable, than its noisy, effects-studded ones, the same for which cannot be said of the mawkish smash The Perfect Storm. Grave, quiet moments between Rogue and Wolverine, or Xavier and Magneto, are riveting in their austerity."

It's nice. Wish like I'd hell I wrote that.

I'm not a big fan of the second film, either, but that scene with Iceman at home with the parents remains a good teaching tool of how to make mainstream flicks with substance.

Subtext in X3. . . no, I'm not convinced that there is anything beyond Ratner's participation. You raise the interesting point of either he's an idiot/moron or an evil genius (see also "W", right?) but like in that other debate, I'm going with both. You can't make this consistent a retinue of bad, hateful flicks without having at least some influence on your subject. And this from a guy who guiltily digs Family Man.

No better or worse than any other mainstream fare? I think that's being unfair to mainstream fare. Most of that stuff out there, man, is just innocuously awful - if I see 400 movies again this year, I swear I'll only be moved one way or another by less than 100 films. I won't go too far in saying that X3 is soul-crushing like, say, After the Sunset - but what's the deal, anyway, of having a fight between Storm and that Grace Jones-looking fast-woman? That's the action movie equivalent of pairing up all the minorities in romantic subsets, isn't it?

Any case: I felt dirty watching X3 in a way that I didn't feel dirty about watching the first two flicks - and I think I know why and tried to articulate it - but 107m bucks worth of people probably disagree. Would I have written the same review if Schumacher had directed it? Probably not. Schumacher just sort of innocuously sucks and the movie he would have made would probably have been 150min long, played like a drag revue, and been as smooth and frictionless as an airplane wing.

I don't think Ratner's the new Bland - I think he's the new Bay.

Alex Jackson said...

I'm sorry, what? Alright, I could agree with you as far as being seduced by the mentor offering power, but when did Magneto ever show Pyro love?

Yeah, mostly seeing it from Pyro's perspective although near the end of X2 Magneto does say something along the lines of "You're a God among insects" which somehow struck me as having a bit of seductive slant. I agree that the film is not very focused on their relationship or any other relationship though, and again I could have been projecting.

I'm not interested in arguing, but elaborate for me how "the whole plot revolving around a cure for mutantism represents a meaningful extention of the gay parallels and poses what I felt were provocative questions regarding the ramnifications of a gay gene"?

Well, like all good science fiction it deals with hypotheticals; a lot of the appeal of the film is just laying out the problem in (relatively) lucid terms.

If a gay gene exists than the problem is biological and it's a small step to say that there could be a chemical/biologically engineered solution.

If gayness could be "fixed" than it could legitimately be regarded as a choice; freeing us "unafflicted" from the burden of pity. Also many may choose to continue carrying the "affliction" as they see it as being integral to their identity.

The message of the film though, is that it should remain a choice all the same to be rejected or embraced on a case by case basis. Not all mutants are the same and not all homosexuals are the same, the individual is the best judge of their own situation.

I don't know; this represented to me an evolution of social thinking from the anti-bigotry message of the first two films.

Jared said...

The whole mutant gene subplot is about the abortion debate. The people on the other side of the fence with their picket signs tended to be the "privileged" mutants whose mutations didn't affect the way they fit in with the world or harm their everyday lives while most of the mutants in line to get "fixed" were minorities, women, etc... It's a shame the film used this as a backdrop for it's big Alcatraz action blowout instead of going further with it since Rattner's stuff here was kind of cogent and he seemed to actually show a fairly unbiased perspective toward the debate, unlike Michael Bay's "it's a child not a choice" bumper sticker of a film "The Island".

Paul Clarke said...

(An extract from my review.) The script needlessly kills off several major characters, with the result that at the end, as the remaining X-Men go into battle, we are left with almost no-one to root for (or at least almost no-one that we give a damn about anymore). Halle Berry was probably one of the few on the planet that thought that Storm’s role should be expanded. That character is as dull as ditchwater and is unfortunately supposed to be the centrepoint of the X-Men at the barely-engaging climax. Thank god we have Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who is around to provide one of X3’s few engaging characters and toss off a couple of genuinely witty one-liners.

The ‘action-packed’ climax of X Men: The Last Gasp is seriously flawed because: (a) we don’t particularly care about the characters; (b) the idea of Magneto making a section of the Golden Gate Bridge detach and fly away was probably more exciting in concept than it is in dreary execution; and (c) what the X-Men and Magneto’s forces hope to accomplish in their big battle is deeply murky, and I don’t think this was a result of conscious ambiguity.

Scott said...

Everybody keeps saying that Magneto's goals in the final battle were murky, and I just don't see it. They were three-fold:

1) Kill Leech and thereby destroy the source of the cure. The movie is crystal clear in stating that the cure is derived from Leech and can't be generated without him. Bonus points for killing scientists and executives involved with the research, just in case.

2) Accomplish #1 in as showy and ostentatious a manner as possible, to demonstrate the sheer power of his mutant army and make humans deeply afraid of ever messing with any of them again. This may be very stupid (he doesn't think this would cause a full-scale war in which many mutants would die?), but not inconsistent with Magneto's character as established.

3) Not incidentally, use the cure as his cause celebre to gather said army and get them to follow him.

In short, it's a power trip that would not be served nearly as well by simply bombarding the island with metal shrapnel till the kid was dead, even though that would be much more efficient.

Carl Walker said...

I watched about half of the Juggernaut Internet video, and I dunno who here has seen it, but the use of the "catchphrase" is actually worse in context, what with the rape jokes features in the video.

Kirk said...

I am very late to the party. That being said, X3 was a piece of trash. It became too painful to watch as a fan of the comics (and only a half-fan of the first two movies). Having to deal with so many character missteps, it becomes hard to judge exactly which character gets screwed over the most. Cyclops has already been the most criminally underused character in the films, and I don't even like him that much, comic book or otherwise! The Dark Phoenix subplot was totally mishandled. There should have been something going between Kitty Pryde and Colossus (she's intangible, he's solid steel--they can take everything else from the recent Astonishing x-men run but that? Please.) The end battle was so far below par that I couldn't even think about it. No cool Iceman slides, no Colossus/Juggernaut fight...couldn't the x-men have hustled Leech out in the middle to neutralize everybody? I have at least 10 more valid points to make but it's getting me too worked up. This movie is bullshit.