Monday, May 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand arrived in theatres this past weekend with lots of fan-fare.

I can't remember so much anticipation..... and ill will directed toward a movie before it was even released in a long time....if ever.

The production was plagued with problems. Apparently the script was rushed. The schedule tight, and the movie went through several director changes. First Bryan Singer was set to direct, then he dropped out to do Superman Returns, then Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn was set to direct, he even chose the cast, then unexpectedly dropped out due to creative differences, leaving the job to Rush Hour's Brett Ratner.

That bit of news sent the fan boys on rumor movie websites into a Hulk like rage.

I wasn't necessarily disappointed by the choice of Brett Ratner. I feel he's a capable director. But I knew by bringing him in, the studio wanted someone who wouldn't give them trouble or challenge their creative choices. He was someone who'd bring in the movie under budget, with little problems, and in the required matter what.

In effect make a studio film designed to make huge money, instead of a film aimed at pleasing die hard fans, while challenging audiences.

Which is exactly what the movie turns out to be.... a movie designed to make money.

Not to say that the movie is entirely bad.There are some interesting ideas in the film which are lightly touched on that are surprisingly effective. I like the dilemma of if, and when it is appropriate to use a Mutant "cure". The issue of, is it more productive to conform to the norm or embrace the individual uniqueness was a theme that they touch on. There are also issues concerning the morality of using mutant powers in questionable circumstances.

What's frustrating is that with more time these issues could really be explored correctly, and not just touched upon.

I guess in the end, as a climax to a three movie storyline it works capably....yet not very satisfying. In a way it frustratingly hints at the potential of a movie franchise rather than realizing it's true capabilities. In that sense it's reminiscent to the first Tim Burton Batman. With nothing to compare it to, the first Batman, in it's day, was sort of interesting and cheesy fun. But in retrospect, following the release of the infinitely superior Batman Begins. The movie is laughable, and almost doesn't even feel like a real Batman movie, actually more like a Tim Burton movie.

My sense is that if ever The X-Men movie franchise undergoes a similar reworking, these films will seem trivial if not laughable.

The fact is that these movies are not the X-Men movies that hard core fans have waited years to see. But as a sort of tease at the the potential of a future franchise, it reasonably works. Ultimately it's a summer popcorn film that will please kids and people not familiar with the source material, but disappoint fans hoping that it lives up to the source material.

The truth is I'm not entirely sold on the idea that the X-Men story can be told effectively , at least in a movie format.

I almost think that a 1 hour episodic weekly T.V. show would be the best venue to tell the story that real X-Men fans want to see. Maybe if it had the budget that Star Trek: the Next Generation had in it's prime.

To me the amount of characters, and the large issues that the X-Men stories attempt to tackle can't be encapsulated effectively in a two hour film. Not without cheating out characters and themes.

As far as specifics, I was very disappointed in a lot of the look of the film, and the special effects. Especially when one compares it to other big action films like the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which unfortunately, for this movie, had the trailer play before the film.

The fact is the movie, and special effects looked, and felt rushed in a lot of spots, also....for some reason the production design looked really cheap, seriously low budget.

I'm talking lifetime T.V. movie of the week cheap.

Especially the group scenes which utilized large I take that back.....more like groups of extras. The crowd scenes were just poorly played, and executed all around. There wasn't any conviction, power, or realism in the background performances. I guess that sounds weird. Usually one doesn't notice such things, but in this movie, it was really very apparent. Awkwardly so too.

All the stuff with the Brotherhood looked ridiculous. From the writing, to the costumes, to the performances..... just crappy. It almost looked like costumes we'd see in the 80's Hulk t.v. show or in a parody of the movie Daredevil.

It's disappointing because one of Bryan Singer's strengths in the first two films was the production design. Everything looked reasonably realistic, effective and reverent to the source material.

This whole movie looked like a low budget syndicated t.v. show....seriously like Xena or Hercules.

The Beast and Juggernaut outfits looked like freaking Halloween costumes.

I swear I saw a Target price tag on Juggernaut's helmet.

I also felt the climatic battle was not effective. The Beast special effects left a lot to be desired. I also felt the stakes weren't high enough. The issues why they were even fighting in the first place weren't clear either. It was also anti-climatic.

As far as the good stuff. I thought some of the writing was clever. Especially how it handled the whole Phoenix situation. Also as I mentioned earlier, I like the morality and issues raised in the movie. There's also some themes featuring the escalation of war that is timely.... especially now.

As far as performances I'd say everyone does reasonably well...yet not memorable.

In the end, as I said earlier this movie is just a summer popcorn flick that will inevitably make a huge amount of money.

I think it's in the same class as The Fantastic Four.

Barely capable, yet ultimately forgettable.

It's distressing to me that we, the audience, support movies like this. It's almost unethical that studios take advantage of the brand name, and force feed us this product.

I know people who went to see this movie, knowing it's going to be bad.

I think the reason why we end up supporting films like this is because, in the back of our minds we hope that it will pave the way for the franchise in the future to be fully realized.

But in the end, all the studios care about is stringing us along, enough to the point that we don't feel greatly insulted or grossly cheated, just so they can make money.

The sad fact is, if they ever make another movie, it'll probably be more of the same stuff. Why shouldn't it be? Why change the formula if we keep buying it.

And we'll still go see the sheep we are.


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