Friday, May 26, 2006

Cherwell X-Men: The Last Stand Review

[This article has been edited because the links no longer work -- see below. ]

Because I was asked to review X-Men: The Last Stand for the student newspaper I got to attend a preview screening in a posh mini-theatre (no commercials, no previews) at the London Fox headquarters. The seats were very comfortable, and I considered reviewing them instead, just to keep things positive. Click here to read my one star review-attack of X-Men: The Last Stand.

I have to say I was shocked to discover that the film was not panned by The New York Times, The Onion AV Club, or The Village Voice. I suppose it is possible that my usually good radar could be off here, but I doubt it.

[I have reprinted the original article below.]

X-Men: The Last Stand

By Geoff Klock

Unlike the first two admirable Bryan Singer X-Men films, Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand is wretched. It packs all the mistakes found in the Matrix sequels into a mere 104 minutes, leaving no time for even a single salvageable moment, or line of dialogue. The posters, stylishly designed, are much better than the movie.

The plot of the third X-Men film revolves around a so-called mutant cure. The stress between super-powered mutants and normal humans explodes into war as the American president threatens to “de-power” mutants with a new vaccine. Ian McKellen’s Magneto gathers mutants who refuse to see themselves as diseased and leads them in battle. The X-Men – the mutants dedicated to harmonious living between mutants and humans – are torn down the middle, many tempted by a “normal” life. To complicate matters, the unbelievably powerful former X-Men Jean Grey is back from the dead, and psychotic. There is nothing essentially bad about the idea for the film; there is everything wrong with its execution.

Ratner veers between ham-fisted control and no control at all. My audience laughed as Patrick Stewart’s Xavier suddenly launched into a big, sudden, absurd explanation of Jean Grey’s survival and her split personality. A mutant who can sense other mutants might as well be code-named “Plot Device Girl.” Shades of Barbarella and Flash Gordon insinuate themselves into serious moments, such as a beautiful topless winged mutant boy in jeans who poses the camera, before jumping out of the window in defiance. The film wants awe; it has a pinup that looks, in the long shot, like a seagull. Characters repent for no reason, and speak cliché after cliché (at one point, two in a row). Famke Jansson’s Jean Grey, the film’s sex symbol, is made to look terrible when she is evil, which is most of the time.

Even the film’s blockbuster effects amount to nothing. Magneto violently relocates the Golden Gate bridge so he can get to, and then attack, a small island off the coast of California; one wonders why he couldn’t have just flown, chartered a ferry, or even just destroyed the island with the bridge and been done with it. Magneto throwing cars is not enough, and so his mutant lackey bizarrely sets them on fire first. A film like Charlie’s Angels 2 can use mess to its advantage, wallowing in gleeful insanity, but X-Men 3 is just a badly told story.

The film’s attack of its own characters is perhaps most disturbing. Though there are small loopholes, the emotional impact of the end of the film involves life-changing violence to no less than six main characters from the first film. That’s bad enough, but no first-year student filmmaker would make Ratner’s appalling mistake of leaving two of these major character moments completely off screen. Words alone cannot express the badness of this film. It has to be seen to be believed, but it shouldn’t be.


jennifert72 said...

wow. that is some review. and you didn't even get to go in to depth about the mishandling of deaths or major decisions of main characters.
at least you have the superman movie to look forward to. and, possibly, the wonder woman movie at some time in the not too distant future?

Geoff Klock said...

Because it has turned out that more than a few people liked this film, let me say I am open to debate. Everyone should feel free to try to change my mind (though I may not be able to respond for a week).

Anonymous said...

What the hell, Geoff.. I'll give it a try. Here's the link to my thoughts on X-Men 3:

I won't post it here because of spoilers and length. The line of thought is greatly inspired by your book.

Love to hear what you think.


Geoff Klock said...

Mitch: I thought you made some really good points in that review, and Brad had some positive things to say about X3 as well (Jean and Wolverine in the Lab, the destroyed house, the balls to destroy useless characters). I especially like your Morrison-Phoenix analogy. But I can't get behind it being a good film because it represents an era of comics. That's interesting, and perhaps important, but it doesn't make a good film. Even though I grew up as a comics fan with Onslaught, I am not ready to say the Onslaught plot has a "confounding glory" (though I know what you are getting at and like the phrase). Maybe I am just being cranky this week. Or maybe I just should have seen the film in a room of screaming NYC comic book fans like I saw the first two films.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are plenty of us screaming NYC fans with DVD players waiting for ya in the city, bub.

Glad you liked the Morrison-Phoenix analogy. Big surprise. haha. Thanks for taking the time to give this a look. I can appreciate that you don't find the movie to be all that. There is a wretched sequence of FIVE LINES at the end, delivered to the best of Ian McKellan's ability (which knows no end) that must be the most pointless and redundant lines in the history of cinema. Overall, I agree with Brad that this was a brave movie and that allows me to forgive it for it's shortcomings.


Geoff Klock said...

Mitch: "Glad you liked the Morrison-Phoenix analogy. Big surprise. haha." I am getting a reputation for being uncritically in love with any Grant Morrison anything. (One guy on the comic geek speak forum complained that I would could make philosophical hay out of Morrison crapping in a bag). One of these days I am going to have to blog a detailed analysis of how a lot of his run on New X-Men sucked, just to prove to people that I CAN say bad things about him. :)

(People should let me know if they want me to do this: I try to stay away from complaining about things basically because, as Auden said, if someone likes eating boiled cabbage, you don't get them to change their mind by telling them how bad it is; you introduce them to try new and better foods, and hope it works out).

And yes, I agree that both comics and comic book adaptations need bravery. I should have at least said something in my review about the balls on Ratner.

Anonymous said...

Blog away on New X-Men, IMO. Ironically, I happened to really enjoy that run. Mostly because it was my introduction to Morrison.

Geoff Klock said...

An excellent review of X3 is Jim Roeg's. Go here"

He gives a link to a guy named Thomas who argues that X3 is good becuase it is (in a way) intentionally surreal and "bad". I don't buy it, but since no one believes me when I say Ocean's 12 is a great movie, I have no leg to stand on.

Anonymous said...

Please do blog on the suckage of Morrison's X-run. I agree with Auden about the boiled cabbage, but, as you say, a critique of New X-Men would prove you can say bad things about Moz. And it'd be damned interesting. To me, anyway.

Geoff Klock said...

I think I will talk about why Morrison's portrayal of Magneto was such an abject failure (hint: it has to do with the anxiety of influence and Ian McKellen). Look forward to it.

The Futurist said...

"He gives a link to a guy named Thomas who argues that X3 is good because it is (in a way) intentionally surreal and "bad"."

This is the same argument I heard George Lucas use to excuse for the bad acting in Episode 2. He said the whole series is a throw back to classic Hollywood filmmaking, when the acting was melodramatic. Making something intentionally bad, whatever the reason, doesn't make it good.

In comics, and many times in Sci-fi, I am the most entertained by those elements that seem ridiculous conceptually (monkeys in jet packs), but are somehow delivered in a way that compels me to take them seriously.

Geoff Klock said...

Brad: that's what makes Joss Whedon such a genius: the concept of every episode and Buffy and Angel as a whole is dumb (a brooding vampire with a soul forced to walk the earth?), but he sells it you every single time.

Stephen said...

I don't think your radar is off at all. I liked your review a lot. I enjoyed the movie more than you did -- but I didn't really think it was any better than you did; I just liked it for childhood nostalgic reasons. I don't know if I would say it was Matrix 2 bad (I never saw 3 after how bad 2 was), but it was pretty poor. A real disappointment after the first two films.

I have my own review here:

And let me add my voice to the chorus saying that I would be very interested in reading your take on Morrison's New X-Men. (I like the Auden quote, and agree with it generally, but I think negative criticism does have its place. I'm interested in your take -- I get where you're going with the Ian McKellen - anxiety-of-influence bit, but I'd like to hear what else you have to say.)

Geoff Klock said...

Stephen: (sorry it took me so long to post; this was far down the page and I missed it for a while). You are right, in you review, to say that much of the problem was trying to pack too much stuff in.

And the Morrison's Magneto post is in the can, and will be posted as soon as it comes up in the rotation (I write 10 - 20 blogs at a time and then post them at least once a week).