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The world has entered a relatively peaceful period for mutants. There's a mutant-tolerant president of the United States, a blue furry mutant named Beast (Kelsey Grammer) heading up the Department of Mutant Affairs, and Magneto's shape-shifting femme fatale, Mystique, has been captured. The tranquility is shattered by two events. Worthington Laboratories, using a powerful mutant boy, develops a serum that eliminates the "mutant X gene" permanently. This so-called "cure" quickly divides the mutant community; Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his school are willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt, but Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his mutant Brotherhood see the serum as a vile threat to their way of life. They form an army of mutants and march on the fortified Worthington Laboratory located on Alcatraz Island. A much more dire threat appears in the form of the resurrected super-mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who has succumbed to her cataclysmic Id identity known as The Phoenix. To face these menaces Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) and the younger members of the X-Men must leap into action, but they must do so without the guidance of Professor Xavier--in a showdown with the powers of The Phoenix, his mind-control powers proved insufficient.REVIEW: Haters take note, I’m one of the few
Haters take note, I’m one of the few people who sees the greatness that lies underneath this film. Now, I’m not saying it IS a great film, but it hits those minor chords that if played up and developed more, would have been absolutely incredible. The biggest problem in my opinion, is studio pressure and an under-developed script.
Ok, here’s where the problems lay. The script is balancing several stories at once, which had previously worked for the first two installments. However, in this installment….well, I wouldn’t say they’re rushed. But they’re not as drawn out as they should be. The “epic” attributes are severely underplayed until the absolute finale. That is to say, the final “walk of Wolverine” when he’s going after Jean Gray. That was well done. The movie clocks in around 104 minutes, which is disappointing. Not all “epic movies” should be overly long, but most do for good reason. They take the time to develop the importance of struggles that our characters must face. This film is the same old same basic story structure. Had it been more developed it would have broke new ground and really been the first superhero movie to break the supposed “Third Movie Curse”. Regardless, for the general audience the movie will be a “meh” where as many fanboys will slam their heads against the wall. Liberties are taken within the film to change the origins of many story points, such as the Phoenix. A lot fanboys incorrectly place the blame on Director Brett Ratner, yet fail to remember that it was Bryan Singer who put the seeds in the ground for the new origin of the Phoenix. More on that later. Overall, I think the strongest failure, or “missed opportunity” as I like to rant about in my television reviews is the lack of a main hero. Amongst the several storylines that take place in the film, the lack of a focus on any one character is missing. In the first two prior films, Wolverine always had the main spotlight. Not so much in this case. While his story is most arguably the “most important” of the film, I never felt as though we were with him on his journey as we had been prior. His decisions aren’t complex or ridden with turmoil as previously and his story lacks that “mystery” about him that the first films had. But lets move on…
Returning cast – Once again, if you’d like to know how many of the characters were portrayed, by this point, the actors had all nailed their characters to a T. An honorable mention would be Halle Berry’s improvement on Storm, given that she had more to work with in this go around. Sadly, my favorite character Cyclops was “off’d” fairly soon into the film so James Marsden was heavily wasted. He’s a great talent and does a great job with the 5 or 6 lines he has.
Famke Jenson needs a definite mention as Jean Grey/The Phoenix. Her character is a complete 360 from prior so it warrants a description of pure badass. As in the previous films, The Phoenix becomes the wildcard of the film. You never know who she’s going to side with or what she’ll do. Famke does an amazing take on the new turn of her character and you believe in the spilt personalities going on in her mind. The sad part of it is, the writing lacks the same mystery of Wolverine on the opposing side that would have balanced the characters out and gave some intrigue to their final moments together. Alright….the newbies.
Kelsey Grammar – Beast: Simply put, he gets it right off the bat. Beast is the type of character that is well educated but a pure badass. It’s nice to see that Grammar and Ratner understood that. While I understand the lack of it, his badass aspect is toned down, most likely to maintain the rating of the film.Shawn Ashmore – Iceman: Although in the prior films, Ashmore takes Iceman to the top this go around, finally an official member of the X-Men team. His character has depth, intrigue and believability. He’s a character torn between his former best friend, his girlfriend and his cause. Simply one of the best characters showcased in the film and Ashmore does a great job balancing out the emotions.
Aaron Stanford – Pyro: Also a returner, you can easily see how he’s become power hungry and wrapped in his cause. He shows little mercy to his former friend and his ego leads to his downfall. Stanford does a fantastic job of being a believable cocky asshole. Not easily accomplished these days as many actors overplay it and take it over the top. Stanford hits the mark right on the money and that leads to arguably one of the best moments of the film with his battle against Iceman, one on one.Directing: Here’s where I’ll take some heat. I don’t think Rattner deserves the hatred he gets from most fans for this film. He comes into this franchise with his track record showing the style of films he makes and what does he do? He makes a Brett Ratner film. An action movie with little focus on plot and more about creating scenes of spectacular battle. The problem
Dante Spinotti comes in and does the Cinematographer job. And he does what he does. Now while this camera work doesn’t break the styles and looks set prior, it definitely doesn’t fully live up to that “Marvel look” I always rant and rave about. Something about the color scheme this go around doesn’t feel the same. I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Same complaints about the cinematography. The look seems like it fits, but overall you can’t help but shake the feeling that something is a bit…off.
I wasn’t a fan to be honest. There’s several scenes where takes are used that don’t show the right elements at the right time. As well as choosing poor takes within other scenes. I can recall a shot where Wolverine is staring at Xavier’s grave a bee lands on his jacket and moves around. It definitely wasn’t intended to be in the shot and draws the attention of the viewer almost instantaneously. Not good work in my opinion. And the best reason why? Lack of artistic continuity. There are 3 editors on this film. That creates the same problem when there’s several writers on a project. You get several people with their own take and style going in different directions thinking they’re all going to the same place when they’re not.
Now here’s a step in the right direction. The films score, in my humble opinion, trumps that of the previous films. For something like the X-men, there requires a certain “epic” quality that magnifies the ensemble cast of character. John Powell does a fantastic job of working on that and really bringing some identification to the music and emotional depth to some scenes where the writing lacks it.
While as epic as the attempt is previously been stated, the special effects and visual effects don’t capture the same realistic believability that were used in the first two films. It lacks that “wow” factor and is over used. Rattner’s job with this department was to top the opening scene of X2. And in that, he failed horribly. In closing:
This film suffers from a lack of patience and an abundance of greed on behalf of the studios. WB grabbed Singer for Superman, and Fox got sour. Singer stated that if the studio was willing to wait until after Superman, he would return and finish the X-men franchise as intended. Spiteful, as Hollywood can be, Fox chose not to wait and grabbed Ratner in a “you took our director? Oh yeah? We’ll take your former director” little kid in play school route. Which, in turn, hurt both franchises. The lesson to be learned from this film is that artistic integrity is what makes great films. Artists should play their part as well and recognize what their abilities are good for. Bryan Singer’s Donner-love fest hurt the film overall with general audiences, and Rattners “blow ‘em up, and blow ‘em up BIG” approach was the wrong one for an audience already familiar with the X-men structure. Overall, the film is alright, and on repeat viewings will drive you crazy, as it has for me, at the potential greatness it had but fell short of.
Hopefully, one day, we’ll get that X-men film that really blows Spider-man, Iron Man out of the water. Marvel needs to learn how to do things right the first time. So keep in your prayers and wishes that the mistakes made on this film, won’t be made when the ensemble Avengers film inevitably comes together…