I saw X-Men 3: The Last Stand on Saturday, and I was disappointed. If you haven't seen it but plan to, skip on to the last paragraph. I'm going to be dealing in SPOILERS for a little while.
At the end of X-Men 2, Singer sets up the Dark Phoenix storyline, which is probably the X-Men story that resonates most with fans. With the final image of that movie (the shadow of a phoenix-like shape gliding across the water) 20th Century Fox promised a major payoff later on. Well, 20th Century Fox and film auteur of the first order, Brett Ratner, give us the payoff to the Dark Phoenix saga right away in the second sequel, and man did they play us all for suckers. As it turns out, they were never really behind this franchise, and that apathy/disdain rears its ugly head all through this movie. For instance: how does Jean Gray return from her watery grave? Well, she just shows up. She lures her boyfriend, Scott, to the lake where she "died", and then he blasts the lake with his eye beams because she's in his head making him feel all funny. And then she just appears. (I guess she just needed him to boil some lake water before she could rise from the dead. What?) Questions like, "Where had she been?" and "Why didn't she show up before?" and "Why did the eye beams do the trick to bring her back?" are never answered, and nor do you get the sense that they care those questions don't get answered. Oh yeah, and then she kills Scott. Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops, AKA the annoying, but necessary leader of this group of superheroes is killed off in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I was beginning to see that I was not the comic-book geek 20th Century Fox was making this movie for.
X-Men 3: The Last Stand is to the X-Men franchise what Batman Forever was to the Batman franchise -- a movie that makes me think about what a real X-Men movie would look like. The kind of movie that could resurrect and reinvent the franchise the way Batman Begins did, by embracing the comics and treating the source material with respect and, what's more, genuine affection. How long do we have to wait for an X-Men reboot, really? Can't we just have Christopher Nolan come in and make an X-Men movie after he's done with the next Batman movie? Or what's Peter Jackson doing after The Lovely Bones? (deep sigh)
All of this Sturm and Drang is not to say that X-Men 3 was an awful, irredeemable film. There were things they did in this movie that I liked. I liked Kelsey Grammar as Beast. That was some smart, fearless casting, and it paid off. They casted for character and not for marquee value, and it worked brilliantly. I liked the spectacle of the Golden Gate Bridge sequence. I also liked... actually, I think that may be it. What I didn't like was the new caste system they created in this film to classify the power-levels of mutants. In the comics, did the mutants ever think of each other by their class number? If they did, I don't remember it. So what, is Wolverine a Class 2 because he just heals fast? I also didn't like that, yet again, Magneto was villain numero uno. (Yes, Jean Gray/Phoenix was a "villain" in the movie, but not in the classical sense. And besides, they made her an enforcer for Magneto. Terrible.) The X-Men have a vast retinue of villains that would be amazing to see on-screen (the Hellfire Club, the Genosha project, the Sentinels, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, etc.), but nope: we get Magneto and the US government to team up again. I still don't like how only a few of these characters get to look anything like their comic-book counterparts. The Wolverine I know and love wears a mask that is fun to draw. Colossus is big and his metal has striations, and Juggernaut is beyond huge. (If you're not going to require Colossus to act, than why not just get that huge dude from Gladiator to play him? He's tall and ripped like crazy. Also: the only way to faithfully depict Juggernaut on-screen is to animate him like Ang Lee did in Hulk. That's expensive, sure, but when you can be assured a 100 million opening weekend, domestic, you can afford it.) And aren't there about a thousand mutants the fans would rather see than the guy with the porcupine body and the guy who throws bone-knives that he makes with his arms? How about Gambit? How about Longshot, Jubilee, Cannonball, Psylocke, Bishop, Forge, or frickin' Havok? But, with a 200 million dollar budget, we have to settle with just Beast, and a barely-present Angel. (Deep sigh)
Oh well. I don't mean to present the X-Men comic books I read in my youth as great literature, or even really and truly worth getting upset about when the film versions of those pulpy, fantastical storylines don't turn out quite right. But when I was younger, I dreamed of the day when these characters would have their adventures writ large on the silver screen. And now that that day has arrived, it's extremely disappointing to see the person (and the studio) entrusted with bringing these characters into the multiplex do so with so little apparent respect for either the source material or the audience. Anyway. I guess disappointments like X-Men 3 make you appreciate films like Batman Begins and the Spider Man movies all the more. Here's hoping they get X-Men 4 right.
(Also: an X-Men 3-related question for Heath. When, in the film, Juggernaut says, "I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" is that a nod to that YouTube video you linked to that has those kids doing VO on an old episode of the animated X-Men series?)
And finally, on a totally unrelated subject, Gore Gore Gore. Everyone's talking about him as a dark horse candidate in 2008. Talk about setting things right -- how brilliant would it be to have George W. Bush shake Al Gore's hand on the dais at the Inaugural, and say, "Congratulations, Mr. President," and then watch Gore set about fixing some of the crap Bush has done over the last 8 years, during which Gore should have been in the White House anyhow. Very brilliant, I say. Anywho, Andrew Sullivan has the centrist conservative perspective on him here. Nixon's stunning resurgence in '68 after his defeat in '60 is being used as the template for a Gore comeback, so it's not actually impossible. The only real question is this: will he do it? Will he subject himself to the notion of possibly losing another presidential election? He'll have to be both brave and masochistic if he says yes, but I hope he does.