Friday, February 28, 2014

Was It Really That Bad? X3: The Last Stand. by Kyle Johannessen

Before I go on and talk about X-Men: The Last Stand, or X3, or the “Brett Ratner one”, whatever you’d like to call it, I feel as though I should clarify what my intentions are with these articles. My goal is not to necessarily defend the films that are the subject. My goal is to go back and watch the film in question with an open mind and see if it deserves all the hate we give it. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gained the status of having ruined childhoods, and I mostly agreed with those opinions. I went back to see if it was that bad and determined that “No, it’s not that bad. But it’s still not good.” So now, I’ll attempt to go back and do the same thing with X3.
X3 turned out the way it did for a lot of reasons. Bryan Singer, the original director of the X-Men series, got offered his dream job of directing Superman Returns (a movie that I will no doubt be talking about in a later article), and with him he took his screenwriters responsible for writing the superior X2. Singer also got a part for James Marsden in his Superman movie, which is why Cyclops dies so quickly in X3. Singer wanted to direct a third X-Men movie, but Fox wanted to fast track the film and Brett Ratner took over. At this point, all Mr. Ratner had to his name were the Rush Hour movies and the serviceable but not excellent Red Dragon adaptation. He wasn’t really a logical choice to make X3, but he was willing to work within the time frame Fox set for the film, so he got the job. Either that, or Fox really likes Jackie Chan movies.
So I did some research on the biggest complaints about the movie. It was pretty tough, because most of us just had a general dislike of the film and didn’t seem to have a specific dislike, but here are the things I’m going to tackle for this article and see if we are justified in our geek rage.

There’s too much action and not enough character development!
I have a problem with this statement in general, but I’ll try to stay focused on what it means in terms of the film. Ratner and the writers of this film have certainly upped the action level, inserting quite a few more action beats than the other X films. But I’d argue that the first two X films were actually lacking in action, something that Singer is guilty of in a lot of his action/adventure projects (see Superman Returns and Jack the Giant Slayer). I’d argue that this is something that Ratner did well and injected some much needed adrenaline into a generally slow paced series.  
And these scenes are actually quite good. The action is creative, makes good use of the powers that the mutants have, and Wolverine kills a bunch of dudes. The fight scene in Jean’s childhood home is really a pretty good bit of choreography. The big final battle is where things get a bit muddled, which is the last place you want the action to go off course, but there’s nothing bad about it. It’s a serviceable action set piece, even though we were expecting more for the end of a trilogy.
Now, with all that being said, the injection of some more and much needed action did take away from the characters. They have less time to change and we have zero time to get to know the new ones (and there are MANY).Except Kitty Pryde, but all she’s really there for is to be a foil for Iceman and Rogue’s storyline and call Juggernaut a dickhead. The movie assumes that we don’t need to see the characters progress at all because they’ve been around for two movies, which is a huge mistake. And speaking of character development:

Why is (character X) doing (X)? I don’t understand!?
See what I did there? With the Xes? Ya get it? Ok, back on track.
This is more of a personal issue for me, but I’m sure you’ve all felt the same way; all of the characters, except for maybe Magneto and to some extent the Phoenix, completely lack motivation for anything that they are doing. I didn’t even realize how big of a problem this was until I went back and re-watched it for this article. I have no idea why anyone is doing anything. I even found myself yelling at the screen because I didn’t understand why the characters are doing these things.
Why does Jean/The Phoenix kill Scott? I know James Marsden had to leave to do Superman, but come on, find a better way! Why does the Government keep Magneto’s favorite henchmen in a big metal box? Why do all the lesser mutants just follow Magneto for no good reason? Why do they suddenly want to close the school after Professor X dies? (Oh… yeah, spoiler alert, Professor X dies.) Why does the Juggernaut throw Wolverine into a house he was told to NOT LET HIM INTO? Why does Kitty Pryde do or say ANYTHING she does? Why does the Phoenix do half that shit that she does? WHOS FUCKING SIDE IS PROFESSOR X ON IN THIS MOVIE?
Professor X dying is the thing that makes the most sense in this whole god damned movie. The Phoenix is pissed that it’s being held back, and Jean isn’t powerful enough to stop it. But everything else Professor X does is contrary to what he’s done in the other films. He practically embraces the Cure, doesn’t seem to care much about it or finding out where is comes from, decides to put STORM in charge of the school. What the hell?! And why does Magneto have take the whole damn bridge with him? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just take a boat? Or a couple of boats? Why do those dudes just attack Wolverine in the woods for no good reason? Maybe he’s there to JOIN THEM, you don’t know, you have no idea stupid characters that just do things. WHY IS R. LEE EMERY IN THIS MOVIE? I don’t understand! This isn’t a matter of suspending my disbelief. These are complete logic destroying moments that can’t be justified if you’ve ever seen the first two movies which, if you’re watching the third one, you more than likely have. The screenwriters make the characters do things just for the sake of their very thin plot, not because the characters have the motivation to do them. And speaking of plot points-

It’s a subplot, and the movie tries to play it off as a somewhat minor subplot, but damn does it break the franchise. The X-Men started off in the 60’s at the height of the civil rights movement and was clearly an allegory for racism and intolerance. The X-Men films, however, changed the allegory a little bit to be more about homosexuality and intolerance. There’s even a great scene in X2 where Iceman “comes out” to his parents.  It’s something that Bryan Singer knows a lot about, being openly gay himself, and it makes a lot of sense to change the metaphor a little bit in the modern age. I mean, there’s still racism in this world, don’t get me wrong, but minorities (legally speaking if not in practice) have their equality, except for the LGBT community that are currently fighting for their rights.
Fox clearly didn’t understand this. Otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten a complete homophobe like Brett Ratner to direct the film. Rogue’s subplot is a disgusting expression of this homophobia. You may not know this, but they actually filmed Rogue coming back from the clinic both ways, with her coming back with and without her powers. They decided to go with the “without powers” and it will take a lot of effort on your part to convince me that wasn’t Ratner’s decision. Rogue not accepting who she is, who she was BORN to be, is the wrong choice thematically. It is so much more poignant, and thematically relevant, for her to come back with her powers still intact. Saying that Mutants can be “cured”, in this case, is saying that Homosexuals can be “cured” and secretly want to be. And in the grander context, all minorities can be “cured”.  And the film never really resolves the “cure” plot. It’s still out there, no one destroyed it.  Leech goes to the Xavier school at the end of the movie, where he can then nullify everyone’s powers. Hell, if Rogue really wants to get busy with Iceman, just put Leech in the next room with some headphones and an Xbox! EVERYONE WINS!
Rogue can be tempted to take the cure, hell she needs to be tempted to take the cure. But the decision to not take it says more philosophically and thematically. Saying Mutation is something akin to depression and can be treated with a simple pill is demeaning. It deteriorates the message of what the X-Men are all about. Ratner clearly doesn’t understand this. How can he? He’s a homophobe! And if you’ve seen the Rush Hour movies, a bit of a racist as well. Fox put the worst person possible to finish off the trilogy. I, personally, am not a member of the LGBT, so I have no right to ask for an apology from the studio for letting that guy get behind the camera, but I think they’re owed one. Of course, the LGBT community probably needs more important and directly relevant films, and have bigger fish to fry than the X-Men movies, but that’s getting off on a tangent.
So what’s the verdict? Unlike Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was “not as bad, but still bad” on my rehash viewing, I had a worse experience watching X3 again than I did when I first saw it. It’s flaws are glaring, the script is awful, the director doesn’t understand the meaning of the story and it absolutely failed to live up to its predecessors. A few great action sequences can’t overcome these things.
So, is it really that bad? The answer is: It’s worse.
Thank god, I don’t have to watch this movie anymore.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of what but I would argue the point with Rogue.

    Several years before X3 came out, heck, I think it was before even X1, there was in the comics a time where mutants lost their powers due to the actions of the High Evolutionary around 2000 (this is not M Day, that was a few years later with Scarlet Witch). At any rate, some mutants were sad, and some were thrilled. Toad for example was happy because he wasn't ugly anymore, but gorgeous. Rogue was mostly sad that she couldn't fly. I remember talking to T about this at the time, and we both agreed that now that she could touch people, she should be jumping Gambit's bones, not being depressed about not being able to fly. But needless to say, there are those people who would be happy about not being a mutant, especially those that can't enter human society.

    In addition, there is a counter point to your argument in the movie itself. The Angel character does the exact opposite of Rogue. His father sought out the cure expressly because he wanted to "cure" his son of his affliction. Angel hid that he was a mutant for his whole life, afraid of what his father and others would think of him. Yet, when he was being strapped to a table and having the cure forced upon him, he fought his way out and escaped. He is in a similar situation to Rogue. They both look relatively normal, but they have to be careful lest their secret be known. Yet, Rogue gave in to the pressure to be normal because of the severity of her problem. I think it is human nature to want to fit in and be accepted. That is why places like those camps to "cure" away the gay exist. We are social creatures first and foremost, and to be told you are not welcome is very damaging. I think we as geeks understand this as well.

    To be honest, the Rogue gets cured part, that bothered me the least, because it made sense to the character. She desperately wanted to touch people since the first movie, and this was her way to that goal. But I agree with you on other points. The bridge was stupid, there were clearly easier ways if he could do that. This movie was just full of why? The later ones got worse as they started getting plot holes you could drive a truck through. One of my favorites is that in 1963, Xavier gets shot and can't walk. Yet, in 1979 he can walk again. But in 2000-something he still can't walk. Brain... hurt... stop... now...