If you surf the movie sites or read magazines like Entertainment Weekly, then you already know the well-documented story on this film. But if you live in a cave smearing bat shit on the walls for entertainment, here’s the jist of the situation: Bryan Singer, the director of the previous two X-Men films, chose to helm the upcoming Superman Returns, rather than return to work on X3. Singer repeatedly stated that he would love to shoot the third X-movie when he finished up on Superman Returns, but the studio execs wouldn’t have it. They wanted an X-Men movie delivered to them on Memorial Day weekend 2006, and any delay was unacceptable. So, exit a disappointed Singer and enter the relatively unknown British director Matthew Vaughn, whose only previous directing credit was the U.K. crime drama Layer Cake.
Before Vaughn could shoot an inch of film, however, he bowed out because of “familial obligations.” It wasn’t long before people were crying bullshit over hearing this news, suspecting that the studio execs shitcanned him because he wouldn’t be able to deliver the movie in time for that coveted Memorial Day weekend slot. So, in their darkest hour, the studio heads turned to Brett Ratner, the Hollywood hack behind such masterpieces of cinema as the Rush Hour flicks and the Hannibal Lecter prequel movie, Red Dragon. With Ratner on board, the film was rushed through production, and delivered to the theaters on May 26.
So, was Ratner able to assemble a decent ending to the X-Men film trilogy despite the time constraints, script problems, and controversial casting / special effects issues?
Nope. Not so much.
The main problem with this third movie is its running time. At barely over ninety minutes long, this thing blows by like one of Storm’s cyclones, leaving you wondering what the hell just hit you. With several major character arcs to complete, and the introductions of numerous other characters, the ridiculously brief length turns out to be a huge obstacle to any sort of cohesive, dramatic storytelling.
Hugely important and popular characters are killed off left and right with absolutely no sense of weight; it’s just “oops, so-and-so is gone, on to the next scene.” The effects work, with the exception of the awesome Golden Gate bridge sequence, is completely unacceptable for a movie made in 2006. The CGI effects on characters like Iceman and Colossus looks to be a notch above 1991’s Terminator 2, and the wire-work on fighting and flying sequences is atrocious at best. The Beast, played quite well by Kelsey Grammar despite the awful make-up, is particularly laughable in his “wire-fu” battles.
Perhaps the saddest aspect to this so-called “final chapter” in the X-Men saga is the complete lack of heart put into the characters. Rogue’s heartbreaking journey from the first film ends with a dull thud. Professor Xavier is so out of character that he just comes off like a complete prick, and Wolverine is reduced to a timid self-parody; spouting one-liners at all the appropriate moments (which are still pretty funny, actually). Jean Grey spends the movie looking bored, Storm is a waste of screen time, and Colossus gets one line. The only characters that seem to have any life to them at all are the Beast, newcomer Ellen Page as Kitty Pride, and as always, Sir Ian McKellen, who turns in a tremendous performance despite the awful dialogue. (Of course, the guy could read the phone book and it would sound menacing and awesome.)
I’m sounding pretty harsh here, but it’s only because this could have been a great film if they had only waited another year to develop a better script and get Bryan Singer back on board. I would still recommend seeing it at a matinee, because despite all the negative aspects I’ve talked about, there is a lot of cool stuff in this movie…like seeing Angel fly, finally getting a Danger Room sequence, Famke Jannsen unleashing some of the Dark Phoenix force, Mystique kicking ass like usual, and the opening sequence of the movie is fantastic (I’m not going to spoil it for you here, though).
Oh, and if you go, make sure you stay after the credits for a bonus scene. It sets up a sequel nicely. Let’s just hope Brett Ratner is nowhere near it.