Friday, May 26, 2006

X-Men III: The Cherry Ride (sort-of) Review

I am a geek at heart, and although I do my best to deny it, a movie like "X-Men III: The Last Stand" comes along and I'm basically wetting my pants in anticipation. I grew up reading X-Men comics (my collection, sitting in boxes in the basement of my parent's house, is worth a few thousand bucks, I believe) and while I haven't read a comic in years, I still get excited about all this crap.

To make a long story shorter, when we discovered that we wouldn't have to wait a whole workday to see the movie (like for the first two X-Men movies, which I saw opening night) but could go to the midnight showing, there wasn't even a debate (well, there was a small debate about which theater to go to, but anyways). Plus, I'd never been to a midnight showing for anything in my life, and I figured this was probably my last shot.

It wasn't until Richard and I were standing there in the lobby at 11:15pm, watching girls dressed as Rogues, another girl with a red fleece cape, surrounded by guys with bad fashion and hygiene, listening in to a conversation happening behind us in line about which of the X-Men spinoff teams -- New Mutants, X-Factor or Xcalibur -- was the best (hello -- New Mutants, duh!) did I realize the uncomfortable truth that O My God, I am a thirty-something man who has willingly chosen to forgo sleep until 2 in the morning to wait in line for an hour with utter freaks to watch a movie about superheroes. And that, my friends, is a sad and sobering realization.

One thing that is great about the X-Men franchise has been the fact that, although there have always been lots of opportunities to screw a good thing up ("Daredevil" anyone? "Fantastic Four" [see photo below]?), Bryan Singer and his crew have done a good job. I won't really go into a lot of specifics (or any spoilers) about this third installment, but but overall I really liked it. On the 1-10 scale, I'd put it around an 7.5 (whereas the first one was a 7 and the second one an 8). Not as good as the last one, but generally speaking not bad at all.

Normally I tend to get hyper-critical about movies where I have a certain expectation level, but this time I set aside the flaws (and there are several - the overwrought dialogue, too many characters introduced but then given nothing to do, Wolverine's haircut) and sat back and enjoyed it. A few other bad/good thoughts:

  • Bad: Cyclops, and the actor that plays him (James Marsden) once again got screwed. I'm sure that when James signed on to the project years ago he thought, "Cool - I get to play a major character in what will surely be major blockbuster hits and I'll finally become famous." Unlike in the comics, the movie version of Cyclops is a major pussy. Is it possible for an actor to become less famous for being in a movie? Well, that certainly is the case for poor James.
  • Good: I didn't realize it until the opening sequence but now it totally makes sense: Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) were gay lovers. It explains a lot.
  • Good: Halle Barry finally gets more than a few lines of dialogue in this one, which is good. She basically kicks ass. And has good hair. (Although I still hate the fact that they miraculously got rid of her Kenyan accent between the first and second movie.)
  • Bad: Yet despite Halle having more lines, this was basically the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Magneto show, as they were the only two characters who had anything substantative to do, and that is a shame.
  • Bad: The Beast, played by Kelsey Grammer, is basically "Frasier" in a blue furry suit. I like Kelsey and was originally psyched he was cast as the Beast, but now think it was a horrible choice.
  • Bad: Bryan Singer (director of the first two) has a better command of character nuance than this new director does.
  • Bad: The movie clocks in at about 2 hours, but they should have made it longer -- even by 15 minutes -- and spent a little more time on character development.
  • Good: I knew the basic plot going into it, but I was surprised at some of the twists (ie a few major characters die and/or otherwise disappear).
  • Good: When you go see it, be sure to stay until after the credits roll. There's a prologue.
  • Bad: Everyone's aged in this one: Wolverine looks old, Jean Grey looks old, Ian McKellen looks really old. Then Richard pointed out "It's because they ARE old. Most all the leads are played by people in their forties. Or older." A sad reality -- they're all getting too old to star in superhero movies. You know what else is a sad reality? That I'm too old to be going to the midnight showings of them.*

UPDATE: Oh, and I totally forgot about this nugget: There's a scene involving the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge, with a shot of a group of asian tourists taking their photo in front of the Bridge right as it goes under attack. Not only did it do nothing for the movie, but isn't that -- to quote from "Avenue Q" -- a little but racist? Well, maybe not racist but at least very racially insensitive??

On a side note, they also showed a preview for the new "Omen" remake, which opens on 6.6.6. After the preview, I heard a woman sitting behind me say, "Uh-uh. I ain't going out of the house that day. Lots of CRAZIES going out on that day."

Below is a photo of Jessica Alba, who played Fantastic Girl (ed. - it is actually Invisible Girl, thanks Prashant) in last summer's Fantastic Four movie. Jessica Alba has nothing to do with X-Men III, but it was about a year ago to the date that I "met"** Jessica Alba in a shoe store in London. And since Fantastic Four and X-Men are both from Marvel Comics, there's, like, a total connection.

* Having said that, "Superman" looks bitchin cool and I wouldn't mind staying up late to see that one. Maybe one last time...

** And by "met" I of course mean "looked her in the eye, got intimidated, and basically ran screaming out of the store."


Greggie said... didnt take pictures of these freaks?

Prashant Sridharan said...

I'm basically going to out myself as a comic book nerd now...

1. Bryan Singer is indeed a superior director to Brett Ratner, no question about it. But, since the X-Men franchise was originally created as a metaphor for the racial strife of the 60s and has now become a metaphor for gay rights, Bryan (who is gay) had a much better grasp on how to nuance those characters since the story was basically an extension of his own inner conflict. I haven't seen the film yet (going at 2 this afternoon), but I suspect Ratner doesn't quite do the subtext justice.

2. It's not "Fantastic Girl", it's "Invisible Girl" (or "Invisible Woman", if you prefer). Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, The Thing, and The Human Torch. Fantastic Four, by the way, was always my personal favorite comic book and I found the film to be an absolute travesty. I totally dug the Baxter Building, and on my first trip to NYC as a kid, I kept looking around for it. I think it would be awesome to have a skyscraper with a big number "4" on top. And, I always wanted to be Johnny Storm and was actually very happy with both Chris Evans's casting and performance. Johnny Storm is basically a cocky bastard...just like me! :)

3. Superman Returns is absolutely going to be amazing. First, Bryan has never filmed a bad movie...ever. Second, because superhero movies always end up with the good guy beating the bad guy, the villain is always the most interesting character (see Jack Nicholson's Joker, Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin, Ian McKellan's Magneto, etc). Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor is absolutely inspired casting. The only other person I would have chosen was John Malkovich. Lastly, my one concern with Superman is whether or not Brandon Routh can pull off Superman. I know he's going to do an amazing job on Clark Kent (which is harder), but he's a 20-something kid and looks like'll be hard for me to take him seriously as the most powerful (and arguably, most important and well known) superhero in the comic book pantheon.

Cherry Ride said...

Prashant - totally agree with you on all fronts. I too am a bit concerned that this Brandon Routh guy has the "star quality" or charisma needed to pull off Superman.

And thanks for the "Invisible Girl" correction - as I was typing it didn't sound right, and I should have known.

Prashant Sridharan said...

It should be further noted that I am willing to watch Jessica Alba on screen doing anything, up to and including tying her shoes for five straight hours. She is the finest woman on the planet, apologies to Angelina Jolie.

Sarah said...

Well...I too had that wet pants anticipation - going to see it on opening night with the boys and considered it worth the weight - can't really remember the other 2 to compare it too! But BUGGER! did not stick around for after the credits....grrr! What was with winged boy - hot bod like that deserved more camera time! I am suspecting that there will be a 4th movie but hope they return to other director. Re Magneto and Xavier at the begining...I must have been too distracted by my choc top cos I think I missed something! Also saw Omen trailer and looks good. Go see Slither!

Prashant Sridharan said...

Wing boy is "Angel", who was always my favorite X-Men character. I think he has hollow bones (like birds, theoretically), keen eye sight, and, of course, really big wings. I'm pretty sure he's a fictional character, though in my universe it's hard to tell.

Bryan Singer said he'd do X3, but only after Superman Returns. Sadly, the producer of X3 is a complete nincompoop and underfunded and rushed the movie through production. The end result: shitty movie with record-breaking weekend gross and a bona fide hit.

Is there any wonder that this is the same country that elected a D-average fuckwit as its President?