' ' Cinema Romantico: X-Men 3: (Ratner's) Last Stand?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

X-Men 3: (Ratner's) Last Stand?

Brett Ratner must have incriminating photos of someone high up the chain in Hollywood. I'm convinced of it. How else to explain this guy constantly being put in charge of big budget movies? I know what you're thinking. I'm just another bitter blogger who can't get his own screenplays optioned and so he's venting his enormous frustration through said medium. All true, I cannot argue. But that does not change the fact that Brett Ratner can't direct.

There has also been a great deal of what we'll call gobbledy-gook on the internet about how the movie parallels our current government or how perhaps it's a comment on the status of the homosexual community in America. Please. Ratner isn't a delicate enough director to pull off such a thing. His concern is the build-up to his precious action setpieces and nothing else. I don't know why movie viewers are always so quick to try and figure out what a movie supposedly means. The negative reviews I've read of the astounding "United 93" have wondered what the filmmaker was trying to "say" about September 11? Why the hell did he have to "say" anything? It's a movie. He showed. That's his statement. Save your incessant analysis for later. But I digress.........

The most irritating aspect of Ratner's failure with "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" is that he so clearly had solid material with which to work. There are two key developments as the movie opens. 1.) The father of new mutant Angel has developed a cure for mutants to make them "normal". 2.) Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who died in the superb second film turns out not be dead and returns to life, only to be consumed by her newfound overwhelming power and turn against the good mutants. Now both of these developments would appear to be goldmines for deep characterization and philosophizing which would, in turn, let much gravitas to the action sequences.

The mutant villain (Ian McKellen) is all up in arms about this, naturally, and declares war against the inventors of this cure and any mutants who choose to partake in it. The mutant hero (Patrick Stewart) does not make such rash judgements though it is clear he and many of his followers are anti-cure as well. But Rogue (Anna Paquin) - saddled with a power that causes her to suck the life right out anyone with whom she comes into contact - clearly has a crisis of conscience regarding whether or not to be cured. But Ratner barely explores it. She mentions her desire to be cured, briefly, and then shows up to stand in line for the cure and that's about all we get. Are you kidding me?! THIS is where the drama in the movie was hidden away just waiting to be discovered! It's the equivalent of Magic Johnson throwing a dazzling lob to James Worthy for the easy dunk and instead Worthy pulling the ball down, dribbling out to the three point line and launching one that misses - but misses spectacularly. You HAD the jam!

Ditto the tale of Jean Grey. This should have resonated with the feeling of a Shakespearean tragedy. She comes back from the dead, gains more power than ever, turns bad, and then willingly sacrifices herself (again) to save the world. But that single sentence is about as much attention as Ratner pays to it. It doesn't get the proper build-up so it doesn't get the proper pay-off. People in the theater were talking through Jean Grey's final scene. That should not happen.

We're also introducted to numerous other mutants but I'm hard-pressed to recall who they were, what their powers were and whether or not they were good or bad. It's reminiscent of a grade school play wherein every kid gets a line so their parents can be proud. Effective in 4th grade, certainly, but not so much at this level. Perhaps there were some action figure deals going on behind the scenes?

It should also be noted that Jean Grey isn't the only key character meet her maker in the movie. There are two others (and another unwillingly becomes victim of the cure) but they fall horrendously flat because the sequences aren't paid any attention. They happen and then bloop! They're gone. Keep moving, people, because we got stuff to blow up real good.

I will say that I did enjoy Ratner's "After the Sunset" from a few years ago. But it's a stupid movie and it's supposed to be. The characters are archetypes on purpose. Plus, when you're opening shot is essentially is a long and specific shot of Salma Hayek's cleavage, well, even ol' Brett can't screw up that one. But give him a strong franchise like "X-Men" and, sadly, it's not so strong anymore.

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