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May 30, 2006

X-Men 3 Review: Wait For DVD

Another big disappointment from a franchise that started off so beautifully.

Wolverine is once again the main character. At times, he seems like the only character. I understand this -- hey, it's Wolverine -- but Wolverine loses some of his mystique when he's on screen all the damn time.

He also becomes less interesting when he doesn't have other characters to conflict with. The Cyclops-Wolverine conflict was one of the highlights of the first movie, along with his love of Jean Grey, and his brotherly relationship with Rogue (who has a not-so-sisterly crush on him).

But in this movie, all of those fun conflicts are missing.

Cyclops is once again taken out of the movie early (as he was in X2-- jeeze, this series hates Cyclops; they can never wait to get rid of him), so there's no whose-mutant-dick-is-bigger Iceman/Maverick one-upmanship.

Jean Grey is now an evil, inhuman thing named "Phoenix," so there's really no romance there.

Rogue disappears almost entirely, which I wouldn't mind, because she's not really all that interesting, but she did at least serve in the past to show a different side of Wolverine, a caring, protective part of him.

Wolverine has some minor conflict with Professor Xavier, who is just too Spock-like to have any real human conflict with, and with... Storm.

Storm has always been the weakest part of this series. Even in the comics, her powers kind of sucked, but at least she had this scary, regal bearing. Iman would have made a good Storm (or at least she would have ten years ago). Halle Berry is a soft-spoken, zero-charisma, low-wattage kind of actress, gorgeous but empty, and simply unconvincing as an action heroine. Or, actually, even as a human being. So having Wolverine bicker with her over stupid crap -- teamwork versus individual initiative, whether a good offense is the best defense -- doesn't make much of an impact. And those are action-movie-cliche type things to argue about anyway -- how many times have we seen a loose canon maverick who plays by his own rules chewed out by a black superior officer? Except here he's not being chewed out by Richard Roundtree, but by the blank-eyed sex-kitten Halle Berry.

Sparks definitely do not fly. "Wolverine, I've had enough of your insubordination! Turn in your X-badge and your claws!"

Seriously. This is Brett Ratner's idea of compelling interpersonal conflict? Kibitzing about team tactics?

So once again, as happened in X2, the movie loses sight of the more interesting, human conflicts between the X-Men that are really the interesting bits of the story, and focuses on the emotionally uninteresting conflict between the X-Men and Magneto.

In X2, we had a very interesting new character in Nightcrawler to liven up the overly-busy, plot-heavy storyline. Nightcrawler is a favorite of mine, but Alan Cumming did a great job. Apparently he couldn't return for this one, so instead we have Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I like Beast, but he's no Nightcrawler, and he adds little of interest. Plus, you know, he's just sort of Wolverine with blue skin and hair-- same powers and schtick, mostly. And it's hard to hide Kelsey Grammer's belly. They do manage to make him look sort of imposing, but it just all looks a little silly as Beast bounces around doing these amazing acrobatic maneuvers and you realize you're watching Frazier Crane twirl around a lamp-post like Nadia Comaneche in her prime.

The whole movie has a cheap look. I think they had to cut back on locations and special effects to bring the film in on a reasonable budget. A good part of it takes place in the woods, for example. And again we return to Alkali Lake, which I grow weary of, personally.

Finally, the movie features way, waaaayyy too many mutants. This is perfectly faithful to the comic books, which features even more mutants, many with unlikely or just plain stupid powers. But it's not the part of the comics you want to emulate. The first movie started off strong with a reasonable number of mutants. The second movie started to get out of hand, but still only introduced one major new character (Nightcrawler) and a couple of minor ones.

This one introduces several new characters, but they get little screen-time. Angel is introduced for a total of -- I'm not kidding -- two and half minutes total, tops. Kitty Pryde has a scene at the X-Mansion and some very minor combat-time; she's in the movie maybe three minutes, total screen time. Colossus returns, to say three words and do one or two things, just as he did in X2.

These are potentially fun characters. Why not do something with them? Instead, the movie heaps a lot of screen time on Bobby Drake/Iceman, who is... well, the actor is callow, the character uninteresting, the powers kinda gay. Of all the minor characters they could have promoted to first-tier status-- they chose Iceman? The kid who makes ice-cubes?

Finally, there has always been this there's-no-such-thing-as-too-many-mutants in the comics, with them creating a new mutant for every stupid, lame power you can imagine. Plastique-- can shape and control any plastic in a 500 yard radius!!!! The Sponge -- with amazing powers of absorbancy and liquid retention!!! Subwoofer-- can project a cone of powerful low-freqency sound!!!

Those aren't real characters (as far as I know), but they may as well be, because the X-Men comics just can't seem to discard any premise for a new mutant power as too stupid or limited.

Anyway, Magneto recruits an army of grungy, streetkid mutants -- apparently these are the lower-class kids Charles Xavier wouldn't allow into his upscale acadmey -- and they have a whole range of incredibly moronic powers. One guy sticks porcupine quills out of his body (and face), which is really dangerous weapon, when you're, you know, at a range of four inches or less. Another guy produces these strange root-looking spikes from his wrists, which he then... throws at people, meaning that he has a mutant power which approximately duplicates the combat power of a normal human being with a bandoleer of throwing-knives. Multiple Man splits into a bunch of different people, none of them particularly interesting or powerful.

Why, in just one person, he has all the awesomeness of an entire high-school A-V club!

And because these idiots are given screen-time, that means that top-drawer villains like Juggernaut are not given screen time.

The movie is also pretty humorless. The first movie had lots of funny stuff, the second movie was eh but still had some truly funny moments with Wolverine, this movie has... well, it has two funny moments in the whole thing, and they're only small chuckles.

Brett Ratner could have made this movie so much stronger by limiting the number of characters and giving them each enough screen-time to make an impact. Instead, he throws a lot of shit at the wall, and, alas, almost none of it sticks at all.

Juggernaut, one of the most powerful villains in the comics, the guy who the entire squad of thirty-plus X-Men can barely manage to contain, gets just as much screentime as Porcupine-Face-Guy. And all he does -- I swear, this is all he does -- is run through a bunch of walls.

His enemy in this film is not Wolverine. His enemy is... walls. Juggernaut-- THE UNSTOPPABLE SCOURGE OF WALLS!!! THE MERCILESS DESTROYER OF ROOM PARTITIONS.

Wow. Good use of an iconic character there, Brett. Not like it might have been fun to watch Colossus and Juggernaut go blow-for-blow for a little while, before Juggernaut sent the steely Russian flying into the next county.

Really, wait for DVD, unless you want to be bored and underwhelmed in the company of strangers. The whole movie seems to be made primarily to set-up coming X-Men films in which the pricier actors of the first three are retired from the series so we can have lower-priced, young no-name actors carry on the franchise.

With its new main character -- Iceman.

PS, I fucking hate Iceman.

PPS, Cyclops is a lot cooler than Iceman. If you can give Iceman ten minutes of screentime, you can give Cyclops at least five.

PPPS, I'm not a homo for Cylcops or anything. But he's been a major character throughout the X-history. He's kind of earned more than a one-minute walk-on in the beginning of each movie.

digg this
posted by Ace at 08:39 PM

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