Thursday, June 01, 2006

Xs and Os

Geek Council Thursday, in memoriam!

Saw X-Men: The Last Stand yesterday and...


If you've seen it, read on. If not...well, as Prof. Xavier hissed, "I warned you."

Unlike many other geeks, I am not disgusted with the departure from the source material, nor do I care if they wear costumes with masks or not. I care about consistency, characters and their relationships, logic (within the world of the movie), some kick-ass sfx and action sequences, and good writing.

X-Men: The Last Stand did have some spectacular action sequences. And there were some nice character moments. Juggernaut was fun entertainment. And Sir Ian McKellen's Magneto is sublime, as always. In fact, he's even more villainous and cold-hearted than ever.

But. It was a flimsy movie. Good for some 'splosions, some cute scenes and cool shots, but nowhere near reaching its full potential. It tries to do too much and cram too many things into an hour and forty-five minutes. And in doing so, it fails to do much of anything.

Had they just stuck to ONE conflict (Magneto's brotherhood, the mutant cure, Phoenix...), they would have had more than enough for a compelling movie. Instead, the film makers try "a little bit of this" and "a little bit of that" and come up with a bland and tepid crock o' mutants.

And I don't blame Brett Ratner, who I think actually did a nice job. No, I blame the writers. From start to finish, it was just lazy writing, a paint-by-numbers and hack-it-out script, moving from action point A to action point B, insert movie star mugging scene here, some sort of muddled goals, throw the geeks a few bones (Hi, Moira MacTaggart!), and wrap it up in an adamantium bow. I'm sure this script had more hands in it than Nicole Richie, but there's no excuse for such poor dialogue and wasted opportunities on this high-profile a franchise movie.

It was an entertaining diversion when it could have been a thrilling, multi-layered and complex blockbuster.

The most egregious sin was their treatment of Scott Summers. Now, the last two movies have certainly given him short shrift, turning him into little more than a whiny dick...but his treatment in this movie? An unceremonious death within the first 15 minutes?! And the characters barely even care? WTF?! Just proves how inconsequential Cyclops has been to these movies that he could be so callously discarded, with nary a blip on the mutants' radar.

Surely, the first X-Man deserves better.

Even worse, he was and is Jean's anchor, one third of the volatile Logan-Jean-Scott love triangle. At the heart of the Dark Phoenix Saga, is their love story. Scott's unbreakable will and his willingness to stand by Jean, even in the face of complete destruction. To eradicate that dramatic tension is inexcusable. It reveals that the writers did not know how to write his character and had no idea what to do with him in this movie, so they killed him off.

I don't care that they didn't stick religiously to the original comic books. But they didn't even stick to the themes, ignoring the very things that made the stories resonate so powerfully in the first place.

I think of the final scene between Logan and Jean, when he finally tells her he loves her and then pops his claws, killing her. Imagine how much more powerful the ending would have been if the struggle was between Scott trying to do everything in his power to save Jean and keep her alive...and Wolverine, forced to do the only thing he knows will set her free. Imagine if it came down to Scott and Logan - both in love with Jean - having to choose. Scott, ultimately, could not kill her out of his passionate love for her but Logan...struggling with his own rage, knowing what it's like to lose control, can and does kill her. Because of his passionate love for her. Now, THAT'S a love triangle. And both of those characters would have to bear the burden. Scott, for not being able to let her go and Logan, for being able to do the one thing he's best at.

Was it a fun movie? I enjoyed good chunks of it. But like the zombie-Jean Grey/Phoenix of the movie, it was hollow; all joy, passion, anger, and rage. It could have used a little more substance and heart to give this pretty shell a soul.