06/07/06
X-Meh

Welcome to this week’s Nerd Condo Newsletter, where we dignify and deride the weekly happenings of the uncool. A note to tenants: Gay overtones or not, the manager will no longer allow the shooting of the parody 'Superman Returns...With a Surprise!' on the premises. Neighbors have complained.

This is the Nerd Newsletter, right? So of course I have to post my opinions on the new X-Men, aptly titled X-Men: The Last Stand. Although maybe they should have called it X-Men: Perhaps The Last Stand, But If Not, Lets Leave Us Some Outs. By now, the Nerd community has already lashed out at this latest Ratner-ized follow-up to the greatest comic book movie of all time*, but I've got a few things to say, and hopefully I won't repeat their tired sentiments. X-Men: The Last Stand is a good movie. But it is not great. It's fun to watch, there are several kick-ass moments, and even a few surprises, but it never reaches the level of Bryan Singer's masterpiece. The thing that is so frustrating is that there is so much potential in the storylines, and the ball is continually dropped. Examples, you ask? Okay!

First, we'll dive into the Dark Phoenix plot, because it's the reason nerds are so up in arms. Dark Phoenix, for those of you who don't know, is the story of Jean Grey's turn from telepath to insane, unstoppable star eater. It is one of the most popular comic storylines of all time, but would be almost impossible to work into the X-Men movies plausibly, as it involves other galaxies, battles on moons, and basically a whole lot of stuff that would have normal people scratching their heads. Many complaints I've read about this latest movie is that the Dark Phoenix storyline is completely butchered. Now, I understand to translate a comic into a movie, certain details have to be retrofitted in order to work. The Dark Phoenix saga has a lot of plot points that are way too out there for a mainstream comic movie. And I feel like a lot of people who are complaining haven't read it in a while, or else they'd be reminded of all the crazy shit that goes down. In the comics, Jean Grey is under a mindspell from the Hellfire Club, where she thinks she's in the 1700's, and the X-Men are out to get her. This triggers her full powers and she ends up going apeshit on everyone. Eventually, she travels galaxies away and destroys a planet of peace-loving aliens. To pay for her crimes, and an Imperial Council decides she must be killed. After the X-Men apprehend her and Professor X has an all-out mind battle with her (which he temporarily wins), they are all transported to a moon, where they have a gladiator battle to save Jean. In the end, she kills herself to finally be at peace. Insane, right?? How do you fit that into a summer blockbuster? You can't. And I think it's ridiculous to complain that they didn't, because it wouldn't fit in the continuity of what we've already seen.

That being said, the overall story of Dark Phoenix is fascinating and would have made for an amazing movie, even if events were altered. Unfortunately, in X3 and the movie universe, her story is only a footnote. A mere subplot that starts out strong, then hangs out with bad guys for 45 minutes without saying a word. I would think people who have only seen the X-Men movies would be disappointing in Jean's development. At the end of X2, you're left wondering what she has become, with the image of the Phoenix in the water. And by the end of this movie, you realize she simply has the power of the War of the Worlds Tri-pods, and is occasionally horny. It doesn't exude the sheer terror of a person destroying planets. In essence, they traded off a planet of aliens for the death of Xavier. I was truly shocked to see that happen, and a little disappointed. Not only did they kill off Professor X, but also offed Cyclops off-screen, talk about shortchange! Nice work. Let's leave it up to Storm to run the team. There were times in this movie when they didn't know how to juggle two storylines at once, instead hitting pause on one while the other caught up. I'm not upset that they changed the Phoenix storyline, I'm just frustrated it didn't have our full attention. Once Magneto scoops her up halfway through the movie, she does nothing until the final 2 minutes. And then she makes Wolvie cry.

Speaking of which, am I the only one who thinks Wolverine should not be the center of these movies? He'll have his chance soon enough.

Okay, now let's get to 'the cure' storyline and how it plays out. I think this is a great story. It was great when Joss Whedon did it with Astonishing X-Men, and it's an intriguing premise. And this coming from someone who is not a Whedon fan. It certainly sets up a lot of great confrontations, especially Mystique's story. But at the end of the movie, when all is said and done (and the final credits have rolled), I got a real sense of undercutting. There's a great shot at the end with Magneto sitting in the park, and as the camera dollies around him, I had this amazing feeling that 'the cure' has completely rendered his life over. Here's a guy who was one of the most powerful beings on Earth just days before, and now he is simply an old man, incapable of changing the world as he wants. And as this moment was resonating with me, it cuts to a shot of a metal chess piece, which moves oh so slightly. Undercut. Part of me cheered, but most of me was completely let down. Basically what this is implying is that the cure didn't work. Is Magneto too strong? Or will all de-powered mutants regain their powers? If that's the case, then this entire movie was a waste of time. All the debate, all the fighting was for nothing. And the sight of Rogue lose her powers becomes meaningless. I feel like this was one of those moments where the filmmakers wanted to be sure, if this movie does make a ton of cash (which it has), another sequel will be possible. And then, after the credits roll, we get another ending where Professor X isn't really dead. Undercut 2! If you're going to have the balls to kill Xavier and de-power Magneto, then fuckin' do it like you mean it! Don't toy with us and attempt another Phoenix foreshadow. Cuz we're only gonna to be let down again.

Was there anything good in this movie? Of course there was. Bill "I'm gonna have me some fun" Duke is in the movie. You know, Mac from Predator? Kelsey Grammer as Beast is probably the best thing in this movie. Colossus shows up, though he doesn't have much to say and definitely isn't Russian. Wolverine has a few good battles, if you can forget the Danger Room scene with the Sentinel. The one scene Cyclops and Jean Grey have is powerful, if brief. And Ian McKellan is unstoppable as Magneto, even if he loses his powers. This will not go down as the worst blunder in comics history, I think that honor is still held by Batman and Robin. But coming off of the infinite potential of X2, The Last Stand should have sat down with a screenwriter a little bit longer.

This movie is a lot like the appearance of Angel. He's set up as a great character, you instantly become emotionally invested in him, then he blends into the background until he's needed, performing an effects-laden flight through San Francisco. Too little, too late.

If you can't believe they didn't have Phoenix eat a star, send a telepathic message to Guerrs, and he'll respond with more proclamations of nerdery.

* - X2 is the greatest comic book movie of all time. Sorry, Spiderman 2 fans.

 

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