Tuesday, May 30, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand Thoughts

**** SPOILERS ****

I was able to catch X-Men: The Last Stand at a Sunday Matinee during the opening weekend. While I was somewhat lukewarm about the first and second installments of X-Men, I still found them enjoyable films that stood up to repeat viewings. Trailers for the third, however, grabbed my attention. My only disappointment was that the third didn't last longer.

Most objections to the 3rd installment of the X-Men franchise center around fans of the comic book and the film's lack of adherence to the comic book story of its characters. As has been stated on other sites, comic books movies shouldn't necessarily stick to the source material just as novels rarely follow the exact sequence of events of the book. The reason? They are different mediums. For instance, what would have happened to the Fellowship of the Ring had Peter Jackson included Tom Bombadil? Many Tolkein fans would have been pleased, but the rest? I would argue that people would have left the theater and asked for their money back. Peter Jackson's work, not Tolkein's, helped me push my way through the Bombadil chapter.

Comic fans also praise the work done by Bryan Singer in the first two films. That praise is, in my opinion, distorted. While I will grant fans that the Magneto backstory and Wolverine introduction were extremely well done, everything beyond those two pieces of the two previous movies fell short of or matched what was found in X-Men: The Last Stand.

There were cheesy lines just like the new installment. Example? "You're a dick." Wolverine to Cyclops proving his identity. Need I go on?

Both movies had the same hyperfocus on Wolverine and the love triangle with Cyclops and Jean. Don't get me wrong, I like Wolverine...I'm just saying those same distortions of time allotted to characters existed in the previous two movies causing other stories like Rogue and Iceman's relationship to take a back seat.

Both movies introduced mutants with little to no backstory who mainly served to advance action sequences or plotlines. Sabertooth and Toad qualify in the first. Deathstrike and Jason in the second.

The other knock on X-Men: The Last Stand deals with the story. Fans of the comic and critics alike tell us that there is no story and that this is all about action. I disagree. The fact is that there's a much deeper story here than there has been before. The problem for most is that it asks questions and doesn't spell out the answers in big letters written in crayon.

All of the films have dealt with fear and hatred of a minority by the majority. They also touched on government decisions toward threats, real or perceived, and some of the moral and ethical issues involved in addressing those threats. Where this film goes a step further is in asking, what would happen if the minority had the chance to become a member of the majority? The Human Stain is an interesting movie that takes a look at this topic in more depth.

The movie complicates the issue further through Xavier's discussion of Jean and her split personality Phoenix. In a conversation with Wolverine, the Professor discusses his psychic work to build walls between Jean and Phoenix because Phoenix was too powerful, the only class 5 mutant he ever found. Because of his own fear and sense of responsibility to others, the Professor "cures" Phoenix by caging her in Jean's mind. When thinking of the government's action to weaponize the cure, is it really any different than Xavier's action to cage Phoenix, one he attempts to repeat without hesitation upon learning that Phoenix has been unleashed?

Adding even more depth to the story, Xavier makes a decision on a moral/ethical question posed to his students at the beginning of the movie. The question deals with the responsibility of great power. Magneto and Phoenix, in Xavier's opinion, wield it without any sense of responsbility or greater good. However, Xavier uses his power in a way that makes us question his own sense of responsibility.

Make sure you stay after the credits to understand.

Now, would I have liked a longer movie? Unequivocally, yes. Did I think some of the dialog was stupid? Yes. Regardless, though, it was a solid action movie with a story that prompts some interesting discussions.



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