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 X-Men 3
 Critic's Rating
   [D+]
 Date Posted
   28th May, 2006
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Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen
Director: Brett Ratner

"X-Men: The Last Stand" or "X-Men 3" or, even, "X3" fails because it is an ill-conceived product. I say product and not film because that's what it really is a money grabbing attempt by one Avi Arad, CEO-President of Marvel Studios which controls the X-Men property, and distributor 20th Century Fox. We're talking about a possible case-study for anyone interested in joining the Hollywood machine in which profit comes before art; where product placement and lucrative merchandising deals supersede the merit of artistic achievement.

Rushed into production, "X3" comes hot on the heels of "X-Men 2" released less than three years ago. But unlike its two predecessors, this third and (hopefully) last part in the formidable franchise lacks the thematic sophistication that made those earlier films special. The comic-book genre is an easy one to fuck up. "X3" should be considered as an excellent text-book example of the difficulty in translating a teeming world of comic superheroes with the language of cinema. Transpose this struggle in the context of a studio sanctioned entertainment extravaganza and the recipe for a guaranteed disaster becomes evident. Your only sure bet would be to a director with a subversive imagination who can perform the successful marriage of comic book and film. But director-for-hire Brett Ratner is not that kind of man. He was brought in at the eleventh hour when Bryan Singer (who helmed both "X-Men" and "X2") decided to accept the challenge of doing the upcoming "Superman Returns" first. You should also know Singer has maintained in all interviews that had 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios waited for him to complete that film, he would have returned to do "X-Men 3." When Singer left so did most of his production staff, including composer and editor John Ottman, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, writers Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, and production designer Guy Dyas. Deprived of such talent, "X3" has suffered greatly.

The film begins in the past. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) who are not enemies at the time visit a young Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to induct her into their School for Gifted. Jean Grey will grow up to become the Dark Phoenix, a sinister uncontrollable force that can destroy precious life and expensive furniture with a mere thought (the film reminds us that everyone is a Class-3 mutant, and Grey is the only Class-5 mutant on the planet). Bryan Singer had set up this story arc in "X2," and "X3" at least attempts to pay it off. But wait there's another story running parallel to this: a "cure" for mutancy has been discovered. Mutants now have the choice to retain their uniqueness even as it alienates them or give it up and become truly human. Magneto opposes the cure and is hell-bent on eradicating this medical breakthrough at any cost to the film's special effects budget. Xavier, on the other hand, preaches a peaceful resolution. And this is where writers Simon Kinberg ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Zak Penn ("Incident at Loch Ness") fail miserably. They've attempted to appease the comic's fans by telling the complex Dark Phoenix and mutant cure stories; at the same time they've designed the story structure for a wider audience. The film drives itself on narrative alone and through blistering exposition; this leaves no room for fleshing out the dozen or so characters that are integral to the plot. So when the action heats up and major characters are killed off we could care less.

Unlike its two predecessors, "X3" not only lacks ingenuity but it has illusions of grandeur: my, my it wants to be taken seriously! In our present geo-political climate, I guess it's only fashionable to make something with a social conscience. But misplaced goodwill notwithstanding, a ten-year old with basic knowledge of world history can figure out the bombastic use of metaphors here. But forgive me for I digress - what I'd really love to find out is how they got away with a blue fur-ball (The Beast played by Kelsey Grammar) going from Colin Powell to Yoda all in a single take. If someone's making notes, can I see a movie about that please? - Adnan Khan

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