Post-Mortem and tentative fixes: X3

x-men-the-last-stand-53d146171312c

So I’ve gotten somewhat out of order for my nostalgia trip through Hugh Jackman’s X-men films, just finished X-men 3 the last stand which of all the movies stands out as the most frustratingly poor.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the character develop of Wolverine in X-3 is a little at odds with the rest of his stories, but hoo boy the whole movies is worthy of a re-write, honestly if there was a practice of rebooting just one particular movie  I would love to see this one. Part of the problem was a director shift – Bryan Singer one of the main names associated with X-men (who did X1, 2, and Days of Future Past, and also Apocalypse [although people didn’t like that]) for some reason moved away from the project and Brett Ratner stepped in with a rushed schedule and even more rushed script.

I’m not going to try and identify everything bad about this film because there is only such much time in the world – but here are some key overaching problems and wishful thinking ‘fixes’.

Character Soup

X3 is brimming with characters. Its a tough gig with an X-men film the source material being itself packed with  a massive variety of super-powers and characters behind them which is why I think the more successful films reduce some characters to bare bones (i.e. all the evil mutants in X1 with almost no speaking lines) or virtual cameos (Quicksilver in Days of Future Past). But with X3 the problem isn’t so much the sheer number of characters, rather that the attempt to address all of them with screen-time results in a mish-mash movie with no central MC. Wolverine maintained the central role in X1 and 2, and I believe in X3 he was supposed to (based on some of the first and last shots being focused on him) but he really doesn’t get that much screen time and his character arc doesn’t really gel with the story that well – as mentioned in that earlier post the main arc for Wolverine is whether he will accept being a team player or continue to be a loner. One of the many problems with this is the movie never makes it feel like Wolverine will solve any problems with the overarching tension of the film just that it would be nice.

Anyway a tentative fix would be a rather wholesale chopping of most character arcs including:

  • Love interest between Shadowcat and Iceman is reduced to bare-bones, rather than requiring several scenes witnessed by Rogue before she heads off to get cured
  • Angel is cut out of the movie, honestly the pointlessness of the character
  • Beasts various journeys around the white house are cut, instead he is introduced when he comes back to the mansion
  • Actually a little more focus on Xavier. One of the problems with X3 is the Professor is pretty much a dick the whole time, he dismisses Cyclops grief over Jeam, when he suggests Storm takes over as leader one day it comes across as abrasive, he basically tells Wolverine a scumbag like him has no right to judge, and he tried to control Jean like a angry ineffectual parent – this whole segment had under realized gold in it, there was much potential in Xavier revealing that he had meddled with Jean’s mind in earlier years and generally being seen as more flawed than before but it was all too heavy handed in the film.

Finally Wolvy would get an arc worthy of his coolness. Rather than making him a general jerk who doesn’t want to help the X-men (honestly he tells Cyclops “maybe its time we moved on” not only being a terrible grief counselor but awkwardly reminding Cyclops that he had a thing for Jean). I think it would have been more powerful to show Wolverine struggling with her death, compelling him to put barriers up to his friends. He could have been shown to be an excellent teacher and team member practically, but shut off emotionally. This also would have made Jean’s reappearance more relevant to the character arc too.

Melo thy name is drama

One the big problems with this film is rather than creating proper tension the storyline relies on characters making a big deal about things to try and push the plot forward. Examples include Storm confronting Wolverine about going after Jean (even when the X-men are basically hanging around at the mansion not going anything anyway) and in general everyone’s reaction to the mutant cure plot.

Don’t misunderstand, I think its a strong plot point that fits with general themes of the overall show. But the way its portrayed in the film becomes somewhat sublime and ridiculous, for example Magneto uses it to rally his Brotherhood of Mutants army which makes sense, but then decides the best plan is to literally attack the facility where the cure is head-on. Now I try not to be a stickler for practical details but its presented as destroying the source of the cure as a necessary step towards the mutant army being unstoppable, however there are a few problems: Ok yes the cure does provide a powerful weapon against mutants, but the US actually has some other really powerful weapons they could bring to bear against a relatively small group of mutants. Sure their powers are scary but they still need to eat and sleep and I’m pretty sure the government would have some more strategies beyond waiting for the X-men to help.

And of course Jean Grey/Phoenix. Shoe-horned into a movie about a mutant cure and not once is it considered that she would be the ideal candidate. Other than Magneto suggesting it to bad-mouth Xavier no one in the film seems to work out that the cure might be handy in dealing with an out of control super-mutant.

Again the most annoying thing is there is a great opportunity missed in this film. The appearance of Jean could make a great justification for the cure to be released publicly. Jean could have also actually be given a character beyond annoyed little girl and remorseful adult. And the key tension could have been should the X-men use the cure on her, creating tension with the team and without as the government pressures mutants of certain power levels to be cured arbitrarily.

I don’t have more specific fixes other than to avoid ridiculous plot devices, like mutant prisoners being trapped on a moving truck in literal metal coffins as if this is somehow necessary or humane (even in tense US prisons) a porcupine mutant talking to others like he’s some kind of bad-ass and the whole killing Jean thing somehow leaving Wolverine happy and smiley as the camera pans out on the school.

On the plus side I have Days of Future Past next – the literal fixer movie for X3

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