The Last Stand, Except for the Sequel

Despite generating a surprising number of comments with last week's burning question (thanks to Kate for the suggestion), we didn't actually go see X-Men III until yesterday afternoon. Short verdict: Not quite as bad as I was led to believe.

The longer version is either on Kate's LiveJournal, or below the fold.

As lots of people have said, the fundamental problem with this movie is that it really wanted to be two different movies. The Phoenix plot deserved a movie all its own (at least based on the number of comic books and Saturday morning cartoons it took up previously), and the mutant cure/ Angel plotline would've worked to carry a second film. As it is, both stories are highly compressed, in a way that doesn't do either any good.

Of course, expanding either of them might require the viewer to actually pay attention to the alleged explanations of the two scenarios, which might not be a good idea. Both of them went by very fast, but sounded idiotic even by the standards of movies based on comic books.

There's probably been too much attention lavished on the silly tactics at the end of the movie, which really are very silly. The sad thing is, it wouldn't've taken much to make it make a little bit more sense-- for example, the bridge stunt would've been OK if Magneto's entire mutant army hadn't been standing on the bridge with him. If they had needed the bridge to the mainland to bring huge numbers of mutants over, then it would've been less dumb. I'm not particularly distressed about the "the pawns go first" line, which has generated a surprising amount of comment in Kate's post, because it's clear from the first movie that he's Not a Nice Person, and willing to sacrifice other people (mutants included) to get what he wants.

Of course, the other fundamental problem with the movie is not so much the movie's fault as it is a problem with stories involving multiple superheroes-- the power imbalance between characters is extreme, and it's kind of hard to make it make sense. On the one hand, you've got Jean Grey/ Phoenix, who can trash whole cities with her brain, and Magneto, who can do improbable things to objects containing metal, and Storm, who can control the weather. On the other hand, you've got Wolverine, who's really good at hand-to-hand combat. Given the ability to shred matter by thinking about it, or shoot lightning bolts and create tornadoes, why is it that the guy with a funny haircut and a metal skeleton is the chief ass-kicker?

This is what leads to awkward plot elements like Jean/ Phoenix just haging around in an old-fashioned dress looking ominous for the last third of the movie. She doesn't do anything because if she did anything that made sense, the movie would be over too quickly. Ditto Magneto and the bridge thing-- since he doesn't actually need it as a bridge, why not just drop it on the middle of the island, and trash the whole complex that way? Because if he used his abilities to their full potential, there's no way the lame superpowers of the heroes could save the day.

Of course, I've never been big on superhero comics, anyway, so take the above with a grain of salt.

In the end, the movie did fulfill the primary obligation of a Summer Movie, and provide a large number of nifty explosions. But it wasn't nearly as good as the first two.


More like this

The key thing you're missing is that in comic books, everyone's powers work along two dimensions:

1. Actual power
2. Character/charisma

So you get guys like Captain America who are basically just kinda strong and kinda fast, but are nevertheless major figures; and you get characters like Molecule Man, whose superpower is that he can do anything he wants WITH MOLECULES and is therefore basically a demigod, but is a shlub so basically sucks a lot.

Wolverine has tons of charisma, so he gets a major force multiplier to his actual powers.

Mike: My take on that is that certain characters seem to have "mojo" for a power. (Not to be confused with Longshot's nemesis!) Their overt powers seem weak, but they nevertheless seem to have disproportionate survivability and effectiveness. Classic examples would be Cyclops and Jubilee (actually, several of the New Mutants).

Note, however, that Wolvie and Captain America both do have enhanced strength, speed and durability! Wolvie has enhanced senses and his mutant healing factor, plus his bones are laced with adamantium, defined in the Marvel Universe as unbreakable. Basically, he could go through a meat grinder and recover, while the meat-grinder would be scrap. Similarly, his claws can cut through *any* natural material and most unnatural ones. Captain America has his super-serum enhancements, plus his equipment, notably his unique shield. His uniform includes some armor, and he can use a variety of weapons. (Not to mention he's backed by the resources of the Avengers! As the GURPS rules point out, wealth can act like a super-power....)

Also, on the comics side of things, some characters actually use their *brains*! For example, Beast isn't just a brawler, he does research and invents stuff. Kitty (in recent years) is a computer expert. Jean Gray isn't just about firepower -- her and Xavier's telepathy provided the X-men with a *most* useful comm-net. Sometimes she does medical work too. The movie completely blew off all of that, in favor of the firefights.

By David Harmon (not verified) on 04 Jun 2006 #permalink

Best blog post about xmen III I've read - at least, it sums things up just how I felt about it. Moved too quickly, should have been two movies (Like Batman Begins, which was brilliant in the first half, but the 2nd half should have been a different movie), and the mutants didn't use their power.

As nasty a fellow as Magneto is, he's not stupid. An irl Magneto would have hidden on the shoreline, picked up the golden gate bridge by himself without bringing all the other mutants into it, and just dropped it on alcatraz. Repeatedly. Problem solved. An IRL angry Jean Grey would have probably just nuked all of San Francisco.

Still, it was fun to watch.

By Hello World (not verified) on 05 Jun 2006 #permalink

The key thing you're missing is that in comic books, everyone's powers work along two dimensions:

1. Actual power
2. Character/charisma

No, I get that part, I just think it's stupid. I'm more willing to roll with it when the power imbalance is between hero and villain-- the whole "triumph against impossible odds" thing-- but it's really thrown into sharp and stupid relief in superhero ensemble pieces.

But again, I'm really not a superhero comic guy.

"As nasty a fellow as Magneto is, he's not stupid. An irl Magneto would have hidden on the shoreline, picked up the golden gate bridge by himself without bringing all the other mutants into it, and just dropped it on alcatraz. Repeatedly. "

People keep saying this, and it's just wrong, because the next step is, "and then he gets showered with Cure needles from snipers in outbuildings". Remember, as portrayed, the bridge lift was a major strain for him -- that's presumably why he had to go to the middle of the bridge, and bring along some muscle to hold off interference while he concentrated. And he's way too smart to drop his own precious butt into the middle of an enemy fortress, when he doesn't know what they've got waiting for him. Much smarter to hang out at the edge of the fight, in a sheltered position. Then he can focus on defending himself and occasionally throwing stuff, while his flunkies take the risks. And Jean Grey isn't fighting effectively, because she's non compos mentis. Magneto knows this, and isn't about to depend on her!

By David Harmon (not verified) on 05 Jun 2006 #permalink

I'm gonna have to back Koz on that.

My review is here and I think Chad and I had relatively similar ultimate satisfaction levels even though I am a superhero comics fan.

For the record, though, I thought the bridge was pretty stupid. I can think of dozens of better (and more Magneto-esque) plans to carry out that assault.