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Ratner weakens trilogy with final chapter

Sean Sweany | Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hollywood producers usually stick to and exploit the adage of not having enough of a good thing. In the case of “X-Men: The Last Stand” (“X3”), producers may have changed the adage entirely – “You can’t have enough of something that used to be good, so long as it makes money.”

A disappointing third act to a promising comic book series, the “X3” DVD fails to deliver in almost every aspect. This begins with the film itself, which is directed by Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour,” “Red Dragon”). Ratner took over the series from the director of the first two X-Men films, Bryan Singer, who left to direct “Superman Returns.” Unfortunately, the decision to hire Ratner turned out to be a step in the wrong direction and greatly impacted the film.

“X3” follows the Marvel Comics mutants Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) as they grapple with a newly discovered cure for mutation. The implications this stirs up cause their enemy, Magneto (Ian McKellan), to begin a war over the possible eradication of all mutants.

This war pits mutants and humans against each other in a typical “fight to the death” epic battle of good against evil. The special effects here and in other large scenes are impressive and shine as one of the few bright spots of the movie. The visual scope of Ratner’s movie certainly does not lack imagination.

Unfortunately, the rest of Ratner’s film fails to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it. “X3” has a complicated plot that relies heavily on prior knowledge of the previous “X-Men” movies. Additionally, many new mutant characters from the comic books are introduced and integrated into the “X-Men” universe. However, a 104-minute runtime does not help either of these causes.

The plot ends up becoming too convoluted to follow, and the overabundance of characters means that no single mutant can have enough screen time to display emotion or character growth. This is especially true for main characters Wolverine and Storm.

In addition to their paltry screen time, Berry and Jackman suffer from poor direction from Ratner and too often seem forced to spew out corny clichés and one-liners. In effect, they take several steps backwards from the character arcs they displayed in the first two movies.

Other characters like the villain Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), who are arguably more interesting than many of the new mutants, are completely shoved to the side for the sake of introducing as many characters as possible.

In addition, the entire film – from the cinematography and script to costuming straight out of “Rent” – seems like it’s trying to emulate a poor Broadway musical.

In other words, everything here is too over the top, lacking any genuine sense or subtlety that should be present in a film. This appears to be part of the reason why “X3,” in spite of earning $445 million worldwide, was still viewed as a massive underachievement.

Perhaps due to the poor quality of the film, but more likely because of the film’s tepid reception in theaters, the rest of the materials on the “X3” DVD are underwhelming.

For dedicated fans, a director’s commentary provides interesting tidbits of information, but items like these do not usually impress the masses. Deleted scenes and three alternate endings fill out the meager offering of special features and make for a disappointing DVD release.

Not surprisingly, the end of “X-Men: The Last Stand” leaves open the possibility for more sequels and prequels. Hollywood producers seem to want more of what has now, thanks to a poor third film and poorer DVD, become a bad thing.

Time will tell if the X-Men series can regain its balance and stand tall once more.