X3

“X-Men” was probably the only reason I kept reading comic books past age 12. I lucked into the seminal run of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne in the early 1980’s. The crucial story of their relatively short partnership was “Dark Phoenix,” which has since become a major comics touchstone. Without getting into laborious specifics, the story involved a major character being overwhelmed by her own power and becoming (for lack of a better word) a villain.

The just-released movie, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is a toned-down riff on the Dark Phoenix story. And despite all manner of problems during the movie’s production, it is probably the best comic book movie that I’ve ever seen (and trust me, I’ve seen most of them). I won’t go into specifics here because (a) I don’t want to spoil the movie, and (b) I’d sound very silly if I tried, but it’s an outstanding piece of entertainment, and I say that as somebody who walked into the theater with decidedly low expectations. The three “X-Men” movies are, despite all reasonable expectations, the only films I can think of that all improved from the original, to the sequel, to the sequel’s sequel. I know hardly anybody is going to believe this about a summer comic book popcorn movie, but “X3” boasts a remarkably nuanced script where almost every character has a logical motivation far beyond, “He’s evil because he’s the villain,” or, “He’s good because he’s the hero.”

If I were to pare down my personal reaction to “X3,” it would go something like this: “I wouldn’t have done it the way they did it. But what they did is still one hell of a good movie.” Would I have preferred to see what Claremont wrote and Byrne drew, some 25 years ago? You bet. But that doesn’t mean that what the creators of “The Last Stand” actually did produce isn’t well worth your $8-$10. Heckuva flick. Check it out.

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33 Responses to “X3”

  1. John Says:

    yeah I agree, I really got into this one. First two I could take or leave, but 3 was excellent.

  2. Alex Sloat Says:

    I agree with you about the movie – very well-done, and an improvement on its predecessors, which is certainly both rare and nice. That said, I’ll nitpick slightly about your comment that all the characters have proper motivations, because there was one scene in the movie that totally blew that for me.

    Magneto’s character has always been one of my favourite villains, mostly because he’s really just a good guy who takes the wrong approach to solving his problems. He’s too inclined to direct action, and to “Damn the torpedoes, fuill speed ahead!” approaches that wind up with him ignoring a whole lot of dead innocents to get the larger goal accomplished. That said, when you look at his character’s history, it makes perfect sense – he’s a member of an oppressed minority unwilling to place his faith in his rights being defended by the goodwill of the majority(perfectly logical for a Holocaust survivor), and who seeks to ensure that he has the ability to protect himself and his group whether others want him to be able to or not.

    SPOILER ALERT!

    Given that, why the hell did he throw away Mystique like a used Kleenex when she had just taken a cure-dart for him? This is a friend and long-time ally who just literally took a bullet for him, and his response is to gratefully say “You saved me!” and then spit on her. WTF? This is not an evil man(cold and calculating, yes, but not evil) and yet he’s so startlingly disloyal to his longest-serving ally that she immediately turns tail and rats on him. I’d be tempted to say that it was part of a plan(given what they found when they raided his camp), but there was no indication of that being anything more than him reacting to her switching sides. The writers may be vindicated in the DVD deleted scenes, but for now, I have to say that that was startlingly out of character, and it really irritated me.

    That said, I agree that the rest of the movie was excellent, and better than the vast majority of comic movies on the market(of the ones I’ve seen, I think only Batman Begins was close to being on par with it), but I feel the need to nitpick about that.

  3. Kathy Says:

    Better than the two Spidey movies?

    Really?

  4. John Says:

    Alex,
    Having not seen the movie, but read the comics long after I’d stopped living with my parents.
    Could Magneto’s throwing away Mystique be due to him viewing her as only “human” after the event. His hate for humanity stronger than any bonds of loyalty.

  5. Gaucho Says:

    Without giving anything away, I would add one more thing: Make sure you stay until the end of the credits.

  6. dave Says:

    I agree with Collier here, there’s things I would have done differently, but I think it was still a very well-done movie. There’s a few things that will irk the diehards, but all-in-all worth the money (and wait, IMHO).

  7. Hucbald Says:

    What Gaucho said: Stay until the end of the credits for the final brief scene, or you’ll miss the “set-up” for X4.

    I liked it, but I really liked Sin City in the DVD version better. It actually LOOKS like a comic book. They tried to do that with Dick Tracy years ago, but not nearly as well, IMO (Then, of course, Warren Beaty did a suck-ass job as Dick).

    I want a movie of Robot Fighter; a comic book I liked when I was a kid in the mid-60’s! LOL!

  8. Yogimus Says:

    http://yogimus.livejournal.com/180166.html?mode=reply

    ^I had the exact opposite take on the movie. It seemed to to be a poor mashup of random ideas, connected with frail threads.

  9. Sam Says:

    GRAND SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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    Nuanced script? Maybe for the first two thirds of the movie. By the ridiculous final third, they turned Magneto into a complete caricature who had nothing to do with the Magneto of the first two movies. A champion of mutants suddenly sends scores of them into the line of fire as unnecessary cannon fodder, later JOKING about their deaths? Being surprised by plastic syringe-firing guns when you were SHOT AT with just such a device hours earlier?

    And even worse, abandoning Mystique due to her loss of powers is a nonsensical reaction from Magneto – even the nazis, who gleefully murdered all inferiors, including those born with disabilities, didn’t execute their war heroes after they lost a limb and became unable to fight.

    The only way his behavior makes sense is if you forget about continuity and look at the movie as a ham-handed allegory of the gay rights movement – gay separatists would likely oust any one of their members who was somehow “cured” of homosexuality and therefore became hetero. The Magneto of the first two movies would not abandon Mystique forthwith, without even trying to reverse her condition.

    The movie was technically superb and mildly entertaining, but most certainly did not improve on the first two. It’d be about equal to the first one, if they hadn’t completely turned one of the most three-dimensional villains in film (Magneto) into a nonconsistent plot device.

  10. BC Monkey Says:

    (Spoiler territory)

    X2 was better. I Enjoyed X3while watching it, and afterwards when I reflect on the movie, it starts to fall apart.

    I have no problem with Magneto’s betrayal of Mystique. To me it fits in perfectly with his character. He simply has no value for humans, and a mutant that became human might as well be dead. Much in the same way Michael Shaivo viewed his wife once she was crippled.

    The ordering of mutants into the guns of the army was a bit more troubling, especially when given his powers and his lieutenants he could have had the guns destroyed earlier. That just didn’t make sense. The hand of the writer was clearly visible whitting the army down to a size the X-men could conceivably fight.

    A couple other missteps- the music for the funeral scenes was just wrong. Completely wrong mood.

    I loved the final fights taking down Juggernaut and Magneto. Wonderfully done applications of brains over brute power.

    Jean Grey as Phoenix: Asides from the confrontation with Xavier, was she not just a placeholder with no role other than to stand there mute? There was so much potential in her story, but it was just lost in the momentum of Magneto’s plot.

    Wolverine’s pants in the final confrontation with Jean- isn’t that denim tough? His flesh distintigrates but not his jeans! (Got to love PG movies!)

    The move needed another hour to deal with the ambitious agenda it had set itself. It’s a shame it wasn’t given.

    I enjoyed it, but I wanted so much more. Bring on X4!

  11. Casey Tompkins Says:

    Argh. Had to jump across posts to avoid spoilers!

    First I have to say there’s no ethical difference between a “good guy” who does bad things (Magneto has killed a fair number of folks by now) and a “bad guy.” This is just another example of “but their intentions are good” defense. Ecoterrorists may “mean well,” but that doesn’t give them the right to threaten scientists or cause millions of dollars of damage to private property.

    Actually I just wanted to comment on something Will said in his post: Dark Phoenix was not ,per se overwhelmed by her own power. She was corrupted by Mastermind. Bit of a difference.

    And, yes, I am that much of a geek. I collected nearly all the Byrne/Claremont run, including the original Dark Phoenix series.

  12. Patrick Phillips` Says:

    Personally, I give X3 a B. By comparison, X1 got a B+ and X2 an A.

    Essentially, X3 can be broken in two halves. The first half is
    primarily about characters. The second half is a big super power fight with lots of special effects.

    In my opinion, the first half of the movie is as good as the previous films. But the second half has some problems in terms of story-telling, dialog, pacing, and characterization. The dichotomy between the two halves of the movie is kind of strange since the director (Brett Ratner) is better known for his action films: in X3, he did better with the stuff that supposedly wasn’t his forte.

    But no matter what, the scene where Kitty punked the Juggernaut was worth the $8.50.

  13. Yogimus Says:

    Ya, shame the jug ain’t a mutant.

  14. The Retropolitan Says:

    I liked it a lot, much more than I had expected given some of the early reviews. I think X2 was probably a better film, but X3 takes the cake in pure popcorn entertainment. It was a little silly, but a lot of fun.

  15. Disillusionist Says:

    Saw it. Liked it a lot. I was pleasantly surprised by X1, really, really liked X2 (which is still my favorite, but by a narrow margin), but enjoyed this one thoroughly.

    SPOILER WARNING!!! (I don’t normally do this, but I feel compelled to respond to a couple of previous posts).

    As far as Magneto joking about cannon fodder, 1) They weren’t being killed, they were being transformed into non-mutants. 2) Going from a single-shot handgun with an anti-mutant virus to hundreds of rapid-fire all-plastic automatic weapons is a pretty big jump in a really short time, and 3) Magneto has shown he is perfectly willing to kill off mutants previously if he has a need to: See his attempt to use Rogue in X1, which will end her life, or the fact that he leaves all the X-men to die at the end of X2.

    And yes, seeing Kitty take on Juggernaut was definitely worth the $9.25.

    Now I have to go see it again to catch the scene at the end of the credits.

  16. Caliban Darklock Says:

    My wife hated it. Loved the first two, hated this one. All kinds of crappy happened in this one.

    Me, I liked it, because all kinds of crappy was SUPPOSED to happen in this one. I agree, though, it seems like a huge gay rights metaphor.

    Gays essentially *are* mutants, or so they say: they’re born this way, they can’t help it, and they just have to figure out how to live with it. Of course, somewhere along the line I missed the comic series detailing the origins and adventures of anonymous-sex-in-the public-toilet-man, but apparently this is classified as a mutant power. I would never have guessed. It’s probably class 2.

    Hey, it’s better than that guy in Dazzler who had the mutant power to be ignored.

    And clearly, as would only be sensible, Logan buys pants at the same store Bruce Banner does. (He just prefers not to wear purple.)

  17. Steve Skubinna Says:

    Think I’ll skip X3, mainly because I got fed up with Magneto in the first one and didn’t warm to him in the second.

    He’s an asshole, pure and simple. Not evil, just a dickhead. His solution to not being trusted by the humans he’s always trying to exterminate (some humans just hold a grudge, I guess) is to slaughter everyone, human or mutant. And referring back to his childhood in the extermination camps is supposed to lend a human element to this sneering nihilist?

  18. DRB Says:

    Haven’t seen it yet, really looking forward to it based on the post and comments here.

    But I have to admit, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it’s better than Spiderman 2, Batman Begins, or the original Superman with Christopher Reeve. Because those three movies are as good as it can possibly get.

  19. thenewguy Says:

    I loved X3, but the reaction of my friends (a hearty mix of X-fans and non-comic fans) was mixed.

    I think X3 had the mutant on mutant action I desired.

    The flashback to Charles and Magneto working together was great.

    And though some characters had little screen time, see, e.g., Rogue, Angel, their characters motivations are great. With Rogue seeing her reactions to Bobby potentially liking another girl and Rogue’s choice regarding her powers along with Angels’ flip-flopping on taking the cure, were excellent character developments.

    And I loved the mutant on mutant fighting.

  20. Steven Den Beste Says:

    Ace thought it sucked.

    And Brian Tiemann thought it was all a big politically-correct allegory.

  21. Joshua Says:

    Saw it twice (including the scene after the end credits). Wasn’t disappointed at all.

    (Some spoilers follow.)

    It’s a close call as to being as good as X2, but the trilogy still went out on a high note (assuming this is the last “group” X-Men movie, as has been speculated, although there’s supposedly a Wolverine “solo” movie already in the works, and possibly Storm and/or even Magneto movies too, and the post-end-credits scene doesn’t necessarily rule out either possibility).

    The only things I didn’t like about X3 were that certain mutants on both sides went under-utilized (Multiple Man, for example, did his trick “in anger” exactly once and was never seen again), and that there’s never a definite resolution to the cure storyline. (The lab is destroyed but the X-Men rescue both Worthington and Leech; does Worthington continue his research, abandon it, or have the X-Men take it over?)

    Interestingly, X3 was released the day before the 69th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge (which Magneto rips in half to get to Alcatraz).

  22. denise Says:

    I agree with BC Monkey that X3 is more enjoyable while watching, but suffers upon further reflection.

    Anyway, I liked it, but not enough to see it again, and we didn’t stay for all the end credits. Could someone relay what the final scene is (with spoiler warning of course)?

  23. Joshua Says:

    OK Denise… (spoiler warning for the rest of you!)

    V
    V
    V
    V
    V

    The scene lasts only 15 seconds or so. There’s a badly injured guy lying in a hospital bed. There’s a semi-transparent plastic mask covering his face so we can’t clearly see it, but when a nurse comes by to check on him, he says “Good morning” to her… in Patrick Stewart’s (Prof. Xavier’s) voice. To remove all doubt, the last thing we see is the nurse replying “Charles?”

    It’ll be quite interesting to find out how he managed to avoid being shredded by Phoenix, even after by all appearances, he didn’t avoid it.

  24. Robert Bidinotto Says:

    Better than “Batman Begins”?

    What are you people inhaling?

    X1 and especially X2 were better, for one overriding reason: characterization. They focused on a small number of characters, and you got to know them intimately, and care about them.

    By contrast, X3 was a goddamned United Nations of characters, way too many to explore any one of them in any depth. Its success depended on whatever feelings for the characters audience members had developed in the first two outings.

    But that’s cheating. A truly good film has to stand on its own. And on its own, how does X3 stack up?

    Imagine yourself introduced to the X-Men characters by seeing this one first. Can you honestly say that its characterizations, on their own, would have grabbed you?

  25. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) Says:

    I saw last night and had three major plot-complaints;

    1. Magneto’s abandonment of Mystique made no sense as presented. As did his “pawn”-contempt for his followers. A sign to the audience that using (abusing) his powers lead him into contempt, corrupting his ideals. If Magneto had said to Mystique, “I’m sorry my dear, but you can not follow where we must tread”, it would have made sense; and she still could have ratted him out

    2. Other than it’s “showy”, why use the Golden Gate Bridge when you just need transprt for a few hundred? He could have levatated a ferry-boat or even an aircraft carrier, and not conveniently left an avenue for the military for follow them to the island.

    3. And finally, he drops the end of the bridge onto the look-out tower in braod daylight and suddenly it’s the middle of the night when they step-off the end of the bridge to assualt the science labs. That’s a 6-8 hour time-gap, when it shoud have been only a moment or two.

  26. Joshua Says:

    To respond to Ted B:

    1) Magneto wouldn’t be the first would-be revolutionary to devolve into a mere megalomaniac demagogue. This may have been an intentional development on the screenwriters’ part.

    2) Magneto moved the north end of the bridge. IIRC the Presidio and most of the other military facilities in the Bay Area are off to the south, so the access from the north wouldn’t have done them much good. Besides, it’s not as though the Army could get any transport vehicles for reinforcements anywhere near Magneto anyway, for obvious reasons.

    3) The attack on the bridge happened near sundown, so the time gap was actually only about an hour or so, but I noticed it too.

    BTW I have an idea about what’s going on in the post-credits scene. (Stop reading here to avoid spoilers.)

    V
    V
    V
    V
    V

    Early on in the movie, Prof. Xavier played a video for his students of a mutant born without a conscious mind, and started to discuss the ethics of transferring the consciousness of a dying man into that person. My theory is that that’s exactly what Xavier did, just before Phoenix shredded his body. What remains unexplained is how this other guy suddenly acquired Xavier’s voice.

  27. denise Says:

    Thanks, Joshua.

  28. TrustButVerify Says:

    Whenever comic geeks like myself would gather and movies came up a year or two ago, we would either complain about the Matrix Revolutions or speculate about the X-Men franchise. Eventually we would come to a common agreement: X2 veered away from the Right Track in terms of progression of villains. X1 started logically enough with Magneto and and the Brotherhood. X2 should have featured the Sentinels, and X3 would rightfully have capped it all off by adding Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, or some equally appropriate “end boss”.
    With that, I am somewhat dissappointed with the continuing reliance on Magneto as a Big Bad Guy but pleased to see that the Sentinels may show up after all.

    Win some, loose some. And if we have a Juggernaut, where’s Black Tom?

  29. Alex Sloat Says:

    Re Magneto hating all humans – I never got that from him. Yes, he has a definate belief in mutant superiority, and he’s totally paranoid about humans deciding to oppress mutants as an undesitrable minority. The fact that he reacts as strongly to these as he does is what makes him a villain. I never said he was a good guy, just that he was a well-thought-out bad guy, which is all I ask – far, far too many movies have villains with either “I am evil!” or “I am insane!” as their motives, and seeing one that doesn’t use either of those hoary cliches to explain its bad guy is a bonus in my mind.

    Digressions aside, he went from being an understandable bad guy towards dumb-cliche zone with a couple of his actions, and that’s what pissed me off. I’ve never read the comics, so maybe we just have to blame the guys who made the first two for this, but I always thought of Magneto as someone I could appreciate as an enemy, and I lost a lot of that feeling in 3. Hence my complaint.

    Re the Golden Gate Bridge – don’t begrudge the director his CGI. Plot and characterization are great things, but I’ll take those with a great whacking side of awesome special effects when I can get it 😉

    Re comparisons to other movies(and my comment that it was better than Batman Begins), I’ll just say that the biggest beef I had with them was that I simply didn’t like a lot of the characters. Spidermans 1 and 2 were by far the worst for this – I know that they were both great movies in some abstract sense, but I couldn’t get past my depths of loathing for the characters(and the only romance subplot in the history of cinema worse than the one in the Star Wars prequels) to enjoy the movies. Batman Begins was a whole lot better – to be honest, I think I sold it short, it is on par with X3, if not a bit better – but I still had complaints about characters that just weren’t likable. After that, I haven’t seen a whole lot of comic movies(Batman Returns, Fantastic Four, a couple other dumb ones I can’t remember), but they generally haven’t been greatly impressive.

  30. richard mcenroe Says:

    Did X3 have anything half as good as Morgan Freeman’s beautifully sarcastic “Gosh, Mr. Wayne, I certainly don’t have any idea what a rich white boy needs with all this body armor and high-tech combat vehicles and stuff, nope, not me, here let me show you this neat rocket launcher…” vibe?

  31. Dan Says:

    Sam:

    “Being surprised by plastic syringe-firing guns when you were SHOT AT with just such a device hours earlier”

    The gun that was fired at Magneto (and hit Mystique) wasn’t all-plastic. Remember the scene shortly after that where he hovered the gun while talking to Dark Phoenix, and commented that he could manipulate the metal in it but she could do whatever she wanted?

    So it made perfect sense for him to be surprised by the guns being all-plastic, because the only one he’d seen before wasn’t.

    As for Magneto’s callous attitude towards the cannon-fodder mutants and the humanified Mystique, his actions in the first two movies established that he had no qualms or guilt about sacrificing mutants for “the greater good”, and no concern whatsoever for the lives of human beings. This portrayal of Magneto is consistent with some of the comics and inconsistent with others (Marvel’s X-titles not being known for consistency).

  32. Mark Says:

    Wow, all this speculation into the motives of Magneto.

    To be honest, I don’t read any of the marvel titles any more, but did collect them back in the 80’s. In my opinion the quality of the writing just faded over time, and too many shortcuts were taken by some of the people responsible for writing good character development and conflict.

    And that’s probably my biggest beef with X3. Visually its a great movie, exciting and does a great job showing you the different powers of the various mutants. As for story… well..

    It starts good, we see the initial problems of this “cure” for mutants and the awakening of Jean Grey as an amoral quasi-goddess. Add in the old romantic subplot between Rogue and Iceman, and the conflicts between Wolverine and any authority and you have lots of possibilies for character grown and development. And you see it for the first part of the movie, but then things broke down. Its like the writer didn’t know how to tie up the lose ends in one neat package, and went for the big special effects extravaganza to get out of the situation. (wow… sounds like George Lucas in Star Bores 1, 2 and 3)

    Now as for Magneto walking away from Mystique, that didn’t surprise me at all. Magneto has always had a strong feeling of superiority over humans. That came out in the comics many times. Even when he agreed to take over Xavier’s academy he eventually upset the students enough that they rebelled and forced him to leave.
    Yhat same attitude explains to a point his attitude in the initial wave attack against the army, but that one is clearly partly a device by the director to soak up mutants until the sides are closer to even. In the comics Magneto rarely travelled with weaker mutants and usually had a small team of high powered mutants to work with when he did gather helpers. But its clear the writers thought it would be more impressive to have all these unknown mutants charge in to soak up the cure darts until Magneto has Arclight destroy the guns.

    I liked this movie, and wouldn’t be against seeing an X4, if they get better writing. Sadly I expect the writing to be no better next time. Its too easy now to substitute special effects for good writing.

  33. ATM Says:

    Magneto was clearly not just a good guy. And I note that he is a perfect fit for someone like Ian McKlellan, who recently said it would be fine to repress speech rights of religious people to protect gay rights.

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