Woe is Ratner. Seriously, this guy gets so much flack for being a hack, but is he really all that bad? I mean, in a world of Uwe Bolls, Paul W.S. Andersons, and Renny Harlins, Brett Ratner looks like freakin’ Martin Scorcese by comparison, and, while I’m not exactly a huge fan of the Rush Hour franchise (for which “the Rat” is best known for) it’s hardly his fault that Chris Tucker’s voice makes my wisdom teeth ache. So when Bryan Singer defected over to Warner Brothers to make the Superman, Brett Ratner was literally called in last minute to helm the third (and perhaps final) film in the X-Men franchise. The internet was instantly buzzing with anti-Ratner sentiment, and fanboys made up their minds to hate this film whether they liked it or not. I’m a bit of a liberal fanboy, myself, and have been disappointed by so many comics-to-film adaptations that I’m a pretty easy sell; just give me something entertaining, well-made, and don’t completely bastardize the property you’re working from, and I’ll be A-okay. X-3 met the aforementioned criteria, and I had a great time with it. Some of the people I saw the film with? Well, not so much.
I think the biggest problem with X-Men 3: The Last Stand is the fact that it uses bits and pieces of the much-loved Phoenix Saga from the comic book, but never really fully embraces said storyline. Of course, were it to even attempt to do that complicated (and long-running) story arc any sort of real justice, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and have to be told over several films. It would also require that the film mythology be somewhat scrapped to make room for the comic mythology, which involved interstellar travels, a gigantic universal war, and a bunch of people from a planet in which everyone dressed as though they were at a Renaissance Faire.
In the end, the Phoenix Saga served the same purpose on film as it did in print; to bring back a popular character for at least one more appearance. Sure it wasn’t as deep or as involving as the source material, but it didn’t need to be. All it was meant to do was provide a somewhat compelling plot point, some dramatic tension, and a nice bit of closure, and, in that regard, its inclusion was a success. Personally, I liked the Dark Phoenix bits, and felt that Ratner did a great job bringing them to life. I also liked the interaction between Jean/Phoenix and Logan, and think that this film offered both of the characters some of their most emotionally effective moments in the series. People complained about Jean/Phoenix not getting enough to do or say, but, as far as I could tell, most of the movie focused on her and Logan. So much so that it was at the expense of other characters, and that is where my main problems with X-3 lay.
Why bother introducing Archangel if his only purpose is to jump out a window, disappear for three quarters of the film, and then reappear for a laughable rescue sequence? The film opens promisingly, with a flashback to him as a child trying to cut off his own wings, and it seems as though we are going to get this new, meaty character (much like the last film’s addition of Night Crawler). Instead we are introduced to a seemingly endless roster of second rate baddies, an underused Juggernaut, and a smattering of new X-Men, including Kelsey Grammar’s Beast and Emily Page’s Kitty Pryde. None of these characters get enough screen time for us to learn anything about them, so it appears as though Ratner and company are just tossing them out there for the sake of making this the most mutant-packed installment yet. It’s one thing to add characters that way, but it’s entirely something else to take them away, and old favorites receive very unceremonious sendoffs here (which I won’t spoil suffice it to say that these are important players in the X universe and deserved better).
There’s just something missing from The Last Stand, as it doesn’t only feel rushed; it feels unfinished. It seems as though there’s thirty or so minutes of film sitting in a tin somewhere that somebody forgot to edit into the final product, but, as the extras on Fox’s DVD release of the film point out, the only things that were really missing here were time and money. Ratner insists that what you see is what was intended to be released all along, but then goes back and discusses other ideas that never came to fruition due to scheduling conflicts or budgetary restraints. There are also a few deleted scenes (with commentary) on the DVD that, in my mind, would have fleshed out the film a little more, and I couldn’t see the sense of cutting them. Ratner seems just as puzzled, and questions his own motives behind removing them. We are also treated to some alternate endings (one of which features Wolverine revisiting the bar in which we first saw him fighting in the original film) as well as the obligatory making-of featurettes. It’s a decent set overall, but a two-disc edition is an inevitability, so, unless you’re a hardcore fan of this one, you may want to give it a few months and save your pennies for the Ultra-Super-Duper Special Edition.
In the end, I feel Ratner still delivered an entertaining film that, at least in my mind, is every bit as good as the first outing (seriously, has anyone watched that one lately?) but not nearly in the same league as the excellent X-2:United.