When it was announced that Bryan Singer had abandoned X-Men: The Last Stand in favour of Superman Returns, I was a bit uneasy. When it was then announced that Brett Ratner, who Singer had replaced, was to direct the X-Men film, I was uneasier still. When it was announced that Halle Berry was only returning if she received a bigger part, I worried some more. Finally, when it was announced that Vinnie Jones was going to star, I lost all hope.
When Ratner began work on this film, I can only assume that he took Singer’s rough notes and idle sketches, believed them to be the final product, and filmed them. It’s a strange experience — the actors, sets and score are all basically the same — and yet it’s all just a little off. Characters come and go at speed, lines are delivered awkwardly (Halle Berry amply demonstrating why she didn’t get a larger part in the last two films), the plot is a mish-mash of at least two stories adapted from the comics. It feels like a bad impersonation by Ratner of Singer’s style; an impersonation that poorly mimics the wild, obvious gestures rather than the subtle facial tics.
So far as the plot goes, it feels as if a decision was made early on to follow the ‘Jean Grey back from the dead but as a super-powerful nasty’ story, but then later, after Famke Janssen had already signed on, the decision was made to instead follow the ‘humans find a ‘cure’ for being a mutant’ story.
The upshot of this is that Jean Grey does return, she does turn into a super-powerful nasty…but doesn’t really do anything after that. She’s too powerful for the story to accomodate her, so after killing a couple of her old friends — one of whom is deemed so insignificant that about an hour has passed before anyone even concludes that he’s probably dead — and signing up with Magneto, she simply loiters in the background, politely waiting for her turn. During the climax of the film when everyone is fighting everyone else, she’s just there at the back, looking leggy and vaguely goth. Which…is actually quite hot, come to think of it, but in the context of the film it’s nonsensical.
Don’t you know who I am?
The film also serves as a good example of how pandering to the fans can only get you so far, with a long list of ‘hi-then-bye’ appearances. The most notable instance of this is the introduction of Angel, who gets barely ten minutes of screen-time despite featuring prominently in pre-publicity, but he isn’t alone; many others turn up as part of Magneto’s army, only to be quickly dispatched moments after we’ve had a look at their mutant ability. It’s soulless stuff, a parade of minor personalities lining up only to be knocked down.
Possibly the worst decision made was including Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut. Saddled with some appalling lines (“Don’t you know who I am? I’m Juggernaut, bitch!”) and a ridiculous fake stomach, his presence here is grating and embarrassing. Conversely, Kelsey Grammer as Beast is excellent — he fits the role well and only once did I think of Frasier. There can’t be many actors that can pull of a line like “Oh my stars and garters!”, but Grammer is one of them.
And why did…
I found this to be fairly difficult to write, because every time I started writing, it degenerated into a list of nit-picks and plot holes and was making me feel cheap and nerd-like. But it’s so difficult not to, and every conversation I’ve had with other people about the film has become just that — why did X not fight Y, and why did Y do that instead of that, and why was it not ok to do this at one end of the film but ok later on. The film simply fails on every level to hold up to a moment’s scrutiny.
Superman Returns had just better be worth it, that’s all I’m saying.