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First off, I have to apologize for the long absence. Like our humble host, real life had me sidetracked. I had at least six reviews that I wanted to do, but just didn't have time. I've gone to the movies very seldom in the last six months. Luckily, I have a wife who keeps track of things and lets me know when one of the good movies is coming out. So, after a rough week at work, she and I took the boys to the opening weekend of X-Men: The Last Stand.
First, though: PREVIEWS! (I must note that turning in a late review takes some of the swell-ness out of letting people know what movies are coming out soon.)
Nacho Libre: Jack Black as a Mexican monk who raises money for the children by wrestling at night. Wow. Although nobody on this planet could convince me to cough up $8 to view Mr. Black in tights, I'll probably rent it.
And now, our feature!
There has been a lot of buzz over the casting choices for the latest X-installment. Dr. Fraier Crane is the Beast. No Nightcrawler. A non-Russian playing Colossus. Halle Berry decided to give it one more shot. There was also a lot of buzz about the plot. People had mentioned Sentinels, Leech, Angel, the Marauders, the Morlocks, the Hellfire Club. . . lots of speculation. On top of all of that, I've been an X-Men fan since seventh grade. Above all, THAT is why I was there on opening weekend.
I'll run over the plot quickly. Dr. Jean Grey is back from the dead, though completely unstable and vastly more powerful than before. She's so powerful that Magneto and Professor X are afraid of her. Xavier wants to put some mental blocks into place, to keep her manageable, while Magneto wants her as the bark to his bite. To complicate things further, a "cure" to mutation has been developed. Though the current President is considered a friend to the mutant cause, everyone knows that this cure could be used as a weapon. Magneto and company want to control or destroy the cure.
Brett Ratner did a pretty good job of providing and managing subplots, of which there are many. There is the tension between Logan and Jean Grey, Marie/Rogue's desire to be a normal girl, the struggle of running a school for mutants, Jean Grey's inner turmoil, her relationship with Cyclops. We get to see Iceman versus Pyro, Storm versus Callisto (although a very different Callisto from the comics). We get to see Hank McCoy/Beast try to juggle between his responsibilities as Secretary of Mutant Affairs and his loyalties as a man - and we also get to see him kick ass. We see the little boy Warren Worthington grow to become Angel - and we see that his father has created the mutant cure for him. There were enough subplots taking place, and they were well-enough managed, that all of the film flowed pretty well.
For the comics fans out there, this movie provides all kinds of talking points. We see a slew of new folks: Angel, Beast, Callisto, Juggernaut, Leech, Multiple Man, Arclight, Spike, Moira MacTaggart, and others. We get to see the Beast in action, and I think that part was done very effectively. We get to see Juggernaut in action - it's goofy, I know, but I was looking forward to seeing that. We get to see Phoenix in all of her terrible glory. We get to see Wolverine going on a tear through a bunch of Magneto's bad guys. We finally get to see the Fastball Special. . . even though they did it wrongly. We see a Sentinel (sort of), and Angel flying, and Phoenix making Magneto quake in his fruity little helmet.
The movie also tackled some deeper issues that might unsettle folks. Charles Xavier had deliberately dampened Jean Grey's power and split her personality. He thought that it was in her best interest if he kept her manageable. Was that right, and did he have the right to do it? There is also debate about the ethics involved in creating a "mutant cure." Can it be used as a weapon by the government? If being a mutant is not the same as being diseased, isn't "curing" a mutant like deliberately cutting off the hands or gouging out the eyes of a normal human? We also see Wolverine put in the difficult position of being the only person who can stop Jean Grey - but he'll have to kill her to do it. The superhero movies that have come out recently have done a pretty good job at this, lately. People are starting to realize that comics fans don't just want action. They want to be made to think about what's on the pages in front of them.
The casting was. . . interesting. Of course, since I wasn't consulted, it wasn't cast quite the way I would have liked. Ben Foster pulled off the role of Angel rather well, and did a decent job of showing his struggle. Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut? Not what I would have picked, but it worked for the context in which it was used. Halle Berry as Storm was a lot more present in this film than the others. I don't know that it was good or bad. There was just. . . more of her (and not in a Swordfish kind of way). Ellen Page did a great job as Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, managing to flesh out what had been a stock character in the last film. Callisto and Arclight were so strangely cast that I won't try to describe it to you. Just know that they are NOT quite what they were like in the comics.
There were some bad points, too. While I try to maintain suspension of disbelief throughout most of these films, some things snap me out of it like an icecube down the back of my shirt. I know that I nitpick sometimes, but I have to vent. First off, Magneto has apparently not spent his life learning how to use his powers. When the soldiers are all wearing and carrying no metal, why didn't he just pull the fillings from their teeth, or pick up metal to hurl through them? If you've seen the previews, you know that he tears off a section of the Golden Gate bridge in order to transport his folks to Alcatraz. Maybe it was just for show, but couldn't he have just loaded folks into a tractor trailer and flown IT out there? Also - and this is a major issue for some of the more hardcore comic fans out there - why can Magneto not do away with Wolverine or Colossus? Seriously, man: use Wolverine to carve up the other X-Men while turning Colossus into a television tray. The Golden Gate bridge lands on Alcatraz in the light of day, but Magneto's folks apparently blow a few hours until nightfall (when a proper battle royale should be held). The endings were cheezy. Magneto getting his power back? Xavier transporting his consciousness into a new body (that has been lying inert and useless for God knows how long) and it speaks with HIS voice? You'd think they would hire a continuity person who actually knows comics. Oh, well.
Overall, it's a trip. My wife and I have seen it twice, and we loved it both times. It's a real pleasure to watch. I would recommend it to anyone who even slightly enjoyed either of the other X-flicks. It left me wanting a little more, wondering when the next spinoff movie project would arrive. In the end, I guess that's about the best that I can expect from all but the greatest of films.
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