Sunday, May 28

X-men: The Last Stand

Death, triumph and mutant fighting aplenty.

Last night, the gang got together in a rare outing to watch the third and supposedly final installment of the Marvel Comics' X-men films. Now, whether the Last Stand is truly the last time we'll see the alumni of Xavier's School onscreen depends really on time and box office receipts.
X3 has been beset by a slew of problems in its making- the so-called super-director Bryan Singer bailed out of the series to meg DC's Superman Returns. The script, which was leaked online early on, had fanboys and geeks foaming at the mouth at various character deaths and other nitpicks. Particular rancor seemed to be aimed at director Brett Ratner and producer Avi Arad. I have to admit I saw the script leaks and I got a bit apprehensive, but I resolved to not judge the film until I actually saw it. I saw the trailers, and I was interested. Let's see the movie and get it over with.

So, did I like the movie? Nope.

I loved it.

The movie kicks ass with easily some of the best scenes and moments in the whole trilogy- stuff that will have you clapping of smiling or grinning at the coolness of it all. There are fewer if any 'iffy' moments as in previous films (No 'What happens to a toad when it get hits by lightning' lines, thankfully) and the pace is fast and never boring.
One big thing that I disagree with a lot of negative reviews is the so-called way that several major character deaths are handled without emotion- I have to say with the exception of the first death, which was intentionally hidden, this is not true. The second, monumental demise had the right sense of finality and power (in fact, it was one of the highlights of the film) and was addressed excellently. The third major character demise was the climax of the movie so that is also a major moment that struck the right tone.

What lacked in previous films (too little in the first and none in the second) was the simple fact that the X-men weren't fighting foes that measured up to them. The final fights in the first X-men were kinda lame (save for the Wolverine-Mystique tussle). The second film had zilch. In X3, we see the X-men take on a literal ARMY of mutants, and it really turned out excellently- Ratner knows how to stage great action, which is an improvement over Singer's stunts in X1 and X2. There is speed, brutality, comedy and smarts in the various action setpieces, and it kicks arse.

In terms of characters, this is pretty much Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm's (Halle Berry) movie... James Marsden's Cyclops is a shadow of his former self and has little screentime (one can't help but think this was caused by the actor's defection to DC with Bryan Singer), while returning Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) gets to go all goth-like and scary as the Phoenix (No, not the Power Cosmic entity, but close enough in this universe). Finally, after spending most of the first two movies comatose or captive, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)gets his chance to get into the frontlines and shine (literally).

Gladly, new faces take up the slack that opens up when old characters vacate. Kelsey Grammer makes for a perfect Beast/Hank McCoy, and in particular, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is note-perfect and shows off the character that made her a favorite in the comics... what can I say, Kitty ROCKS. Which is a big bash against onscreen (but unintentional) rival Rogue (Anna Paquin) who loses out on looks and action (but she still gets the guy, who never really was in conflict anyway).

On my own personal fave, Mystique (Rebecca Romijin) gets lesser screentime here, but easily has her BEST scenes in the whole trilogy in X3, plus she gets a fitting resolution (that nicely leaves her open to a return someday...). As for Magneto, Ian McKellen predictably has some of the most impressive scenes in the film (including a jaw-dropping stunt with a bridge), and he just exudes power and class along with the villainy.
I would have liked to see more Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), but at least he gets to do the 'Fastball Special' twice in the movie. We finally get to see Iceman (Shawn Ashford) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) get a decisive one-on-one, which is er, cool. Despite lacking the neck-less costume, Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) was also well done.

Is it perfect? Well, a lot of characters show up, albeit briefly, and so it's inevitable that a lot just get cameos or quick do-aways. I felt brief nicks and pangs a seeing Arclight and Psylocke appear and disappear so fast, but what the heck. Then there's that scene with the never-seen Sentinel, which was kinda a cop-out but still pretty cool.

This stands as a grade-A superhero movie in my book, the best of the X-movie franchise. Thankfully, Brett Ratner kept the look and feel of the movie almost seamless from the previous two films, and at the same time doing away with the previous movies' tendency to keep the X-men inferior to Magneto. In this movie, finally, the X-men give Magneto his come-uppance deserving from X2.

If you're a fan of the characters who DIE, you may get a bit miffed, but in all, the movie is optimistic and forward-looking, with the X-men standing perfect to the way they are in the comics- never giving up and taking up the fight even when the chips are down, no matter how great the odds, as long as they feel they're doing the right thing. They made their stand, and they won.

Highly recommended.

Is it the last X-movie? Hopefully not. The movie DOES open the possibilities up for more chapters in the future, but we'll just have to see. Obviously, the more people who see this one will affect this franchise's future. So, what are you waiting for? GO SEE IT. I want my Mystique movie! Heh.

X-men: The Last Stand is now showing in Metro Manila theaters. Go, go, go! Now!!!

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