Back Comments (30) Share:
Facebook Button
Following the largely diabolical reaction to Joel Schumacher's 1997 Tribute to Rubber (AKA Batman and Robin), it was going to take something pretty special to revive the humble comic-book movie. In 2000, Bryan Singer offered us X-Men, a serious take on Marvel's superhero mutants and starring a strong, if rather large, ensemble cast. Critical and box-office reaction was positive and the inevitable sequel ( X2) arrived in 2003 reuniting the director and much of the same cast.  

During the three year wait for X3, Singer jumped ship to direct Superman Returns, taking key members of the crew with him. Matthew Vaughan ( Layer Cake) briefly took over clapper-board duties but left soon after, leaving Twentieth Century Fox with a cast, a release date but no director. The vacancy was filled with Brett Ratner ( The Family Man, Rush Hour) leading to outcry from many fans of the franchise who labelled him as little more than a 'hack'.

Audiences finally got to judge the worth of X-Men: The Last Stand when it was released in cinemas in May 2006, and now they can see if it merits repeated viewings with the launch of the DVD.

X-Men: The Last Stand

Feature


A pharmaceutical company has developed a ‘cure’ for mutants, escalating the threat of a war between humans and the Brotherhood of Mutants led by Magneto (Ian McKellan). The X-Men, still in mourning for Jean-Grey (Famke Janssen) are once again called into action to fight for the very people who fear them.

To call X-Men: The Last Stand a crushing disappointment would be akin to saying that Michael Jackson has had a bit of plastic surgery. After the promise of the previous two films, we're left with the Jedi effect and a movie that runs like a half-finished screener of something that could, in the right hands, be very good indeed. After that initial viewing, you'll be looking around for the comments card so you tell Fox just what they should put right for the re-shoots.

Unfortunately, re-shoots had already been conducted following test screenings, but the few amendments could clearly not rescue this muddled movie. This isn’t all that surprising; especially when one considers the strict deadline that Twentieth Century Fox had imposed upon the production. When Singer toddled off to Metropolis, he took his writers with him, leaving the less than thrilling prospect of a X-Men 3 script from the guys that brought you Electra and XXX: State of the Union (what does it take to be blacklisted in Hollywood?). Ratner's hate-mob may deny it, but the ‘thrilling climax of the X-Men saga’ was looking pretty shaky long before the director of Rush Hour appeared on the scene.

So, before we start ranting about Ratner, let's take a look at the efforts of scribes Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. These are the men responsible for killing off two of the longest serving characters before the half-way mark; one with a mere whimper. While there's nothing wrong with superheroes snuffing it, to then expect us to root for a bunch of thinly-written substitutes is a step too far.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Comic book fans will be pleased that Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page)  has been promoted from cameo appearance to fully-fledged X-Woman, but  mainstream audiences will be shrugging as to why we’re expected to care about this character since she's only afforded a couple of lines of dialogue. Likewise, answers on a postcard as to why Angel (Ben Foster) is promoted as such a pivotal character when he only appears sporadically throughout the slender running time. And do remember to add your theory on just why Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut) has a movie career.

Perhaps the writers think there's some kind of 'wow factor' with shoving these new characters in our direction, but it seems foolish to overpopulate an already crowded line-up when our old favourites are marginalised as a consequence. Flying the flag for our original team are Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman. Following an Oscar win, there was no way that Berry was going to be relegated once more to supporting character, so it's Storm that benefits mostly with a greatly enhanced role. Alas, Jackman (Wolverine), one of the best things about the previous two films, is given little new to do. Likewise, for other stalwarts such as Ian Mckellan and Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier) there's nothing here to justify returning.

As for Ratner; well, he got the job done. He completed the movie and, despite the howls of derision from fanboys throughout the world, it's not a bad film. No, it's a slight film; a film that, despite its big budget and large body count, feels woefully inconsequential. Perhaps a fitting precedent is Ratner's take on the Hannibal Lecter mythology; Red Dragon being a passable, yet bland, follow-up to Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

It's pretty disheartening when something with so much potential is marred by a series of wrong choices. While never dull (an accusation that could be directed at Superman Returns), X-Men 3's biggest crime is that it will not leave you with any lasting impression. Since Warner Brothers are happy to give us the Richard Donner cut of Superman II and the Paul Schrader version of the prequel to The Exorcist, would it be too much to ask for Fox to drag Singer back for X-Men 3: Take 2?

X-Men: The Last Stand

Video


This is not the outstanding video presentation one would expect from such a high-profile release from Twentieth Century Fox. Image quality is surprisingly shaky for the 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen picture. While, on the whole, it looks very crisp with fantastic colour representation, there are sporadic issues such as pixellation; particularly noticeable during the finale. On the plus-side, skin-tones are largely fine and there's a nice amount of clarity in scenes shot in darkness.

Audio
While video quality is disappointing, the sound mix present on X-Men: The Last Stand rights many wrongs. The DTS track should be the main port of call for fans with an enabled set-up as it is near faultless. Directional effects are well-handled and the bass packs a punch in the frequent explosions. The Dolby-Digital 5.1 track is similarly pleasing, particularly with regard to the presentation of the dialogue which is clear and concise throughout.

Extras


In an irritating move, the disc designers have elected to give us a complicated menu system which splits the extras on disc one between 'Brotherhood' and 'X-Men' themes. As a result of this we have two batches of deleted scenes and two commentaries...displayed on two menus.  

The first commentary comes courtesy of Brett Ratner and writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. It's fairly light-hearted and gives a nice amount of insight into the evolution of the film, even considering the disappointment of the end product. The second commentary with producers Avi Arad, Lauren Schuler Donner and Ralph Winter is probably worth avoiding since the new ground it covers is less interesting. It's debateable whether information about the filming order of scenes and the 'good attitudes' of actors is going to interest anyone.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Concluding the list of extras on disc one are the deleted scenes. These range from the inconsequential to the utterly bizarre (witness two different versions of an Ian McKellan scene; one where he's bearded, another where he's clean shaven). Sadly, there's nothing here that, if edited back into the film, would have improved it in any way but it is interesting to note the presence of a version of the opening titles which contained a voice-over from Patrick Stewart. This tradition of the first two films was noticeable by its absence in the final movie.

Moving onto disc two, and we have ‘Brett Ratner’s Production Diary’ which will do little to suppress the ill-feeling towards this much-maligned director. Frequently coming across as a fanboy, awestruck that he’s getting to work with such ‘beautiful actresses’ and ‘amazing actors’, this forty minute featurette could do with a high amount of editing.

‘The Evolution of a Trilogy’ recycles talking-head footage from the promotional material for the first two films, together with an endless supply of clips. In hindsight, it’s particularly interesting to note Lauren Shuler Donner’s comments on the importance of Bryan Singer returning to direct X2.

‘X3: The Excitement Continues’ is promotional material disguised as a documentary which means brief anecdotes with the cast and crew and then some very long clips. Don’t expect to garner any insight her or with ‘X-Men Up Close’, which despite the name is a collection of thinly disguised character biographies. Most of this takes the form of text, although short interviews with the cast are also accessible.

Those with an interest in the innermost workings of special effects will appreciate the ‘Anatomy of a Scene’, which focuses on the evolution and creation of the sequence in which Magneto re-sculpts the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next on the list we have the ‘Previz Animatic Gallery’, a collection of sequences that were intricately storyboarded before filming began. Interest in this sort of thing will really come down to personal taste; as it’s just like watching the actual scenes with the actors replaced with CGI versions of themselves.

X-Men: The Last Stand
A group of ‘Vignettes’ gives nuggets of information regarding the filming and writing of the movie. Not one of the seven on offer stretches past the three minute mark which should give an indication of how in-depth they are.

If you followed the production of X3 via the internet, the short blogs will not be new to you. However, it’s worth taking a look at the 'Marvelous Cameos' blog which features a typically enthusiastic appearance from X-Men co-creator Stan Lee.

Finally, we round things off with the galleries (encompassing character stills, concept art and storyboards) and three trailers for the movie.

Overall


A flawed, yet watchable, sequel on a relatively well-presented set. The long list of extras denotes the familiar case of quantity over quality, although the deleted scenes may appease those misguided fans who believe that the movie's biggest flaw is its barely feature-length runtime. Despite the terabytes of text people have used to complain about the movie, it's inevitable that the DVD will be a huge seller; ironically ending up on the shelves of many of its biggest detractors. I guess that's fandom for you...


Links: