Tuesday, February 06, 2007

x-3 (spoilers)

I finally saw "X-3" last night, and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. I had enough time to lower my expectations to the point where I could be amused at how awful it was.

The movie revisits the story of Dark Phoenix, starting out twenty years ago where Erich and Charles visit the home of a young Jean Grey. In the first two movies, we learned that Jean was telekinetic and that her power was growing. Here we find out that as a young girl her power was virtually unlimited. (We later discover that Charles erected psychic barriers in Jean's mind, telepathically creating a repressed personality called the Phoenix.)

The next flashback is of Warren W. Worthington III, the Marvel character with the worst case of alliteration, more commonly known as Angel. Ten years ago he found wings growing out of his shoulder blades and tried to cut them off in the bathroom.

Fast forward to the present. The X-men are playing a "Days of Future Past" scenario in the Danger Room, Professor X is having an ethics discussion with some of his students, and Scott and Logan are both trying to deal with Jean's death at the end of the last movie. It's harder for Scott, though, because it turns out that Jean is still alive and speaking to him telephatically from the bottom of the lake where she is alive, inside a cocoon of telekinetic energy.

Scott goes to Jean, finds her alive, they have that Phoenix moment from the comics where she telekinetically contains his optic blasts, and then something happens. When the Storm and Logan go later, they find a bunch of things floating around in mid-air, including Scott's glasses. It eventually turns out that Phoenix destroyed Scott.

In the midst of all this, it turns out that Worthington Labs has discovered a "cure" for the mutant gene that will turn mutants into regular, nonpowered humans. This cure is derived from a careful study of a mutant similar to the 1980s comics character Leech, who had the ability to suppress the powers of other mutants. Warren's father tries to use the cure on his son, but Angel flies away.

Kelsey Grammar shows up as Hank McCoy, the U.S. Secretary of Mutant Affairs. He's bright blue and painful to look at. His main function in the movie appears to be to act as an intermediary between the X-men and the U.S. government so each group knows what the other has discovered.

The Morlocks show up, expressing mutant pride and their refusal to be "cured," and join Magneto. They free Mystique, who had been captured by the government, along with Juggernaut and Jamie Maddox. A guard fires the cure at Magneto, but Mystique gets in the way and is turned into a regular human. He leaves her there because, as she is no longer a mutant, he no longer has any interest in her.

Logan discovers that Charles placed the psychic barriers in Jean's mind, and they both discover that the barriers are down. Increasingly it is Phoenix who is in control, not Jean and in what I thought was an interesting departure from the comics, they revisit the love triangle and reveal that Phoenix, the repressed side of Jean, was the one who loves Logan. Amazingly, this actually becomes relevant.

Magneto and Professor X, with their attendants, both try to get Jean to join them. She actually telekinetically flays the professor alive and blasts him into dust before leaving with Magneto, who is massing an army of mutants to destroy Worthington Labs and the cure for the mutant gene. After that, pretty much all she does is stand around and try to look imposing. (Personally, I thought she looked more like Natalie Portman did throughout "Attack of the Clones"; i.e., she had a look that screamed, "Why did I sign a three-movie contract?")

Things finally come to a head when Magneto steals the Golden Gate Bridge to get his army-size Brotherhood of Mutants to Worthington Labs, which is under military protection in anticipation of the attack. The troops there are all armed with plastic weapons that will fire doses of the cure in plastic containers.

The X-men -- Logan, Storm, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus and the Beast -- arrive and the fight begins. There's a nice scene that shows how everyone uses their powers to get down to the ground alive, there's a clever bit where Kitty out-thinks Juggernaut, and there's a totally pathetic scene where Angel shows up and saves his father from being dropped to his death.

When it becomes evident that there's no other way to survive, the X-men actually use the cure to stop Magneto. I was surprised by that. And then, with Phoenix killing everyone around them and whipping up a maelstrom of debris, water, earth and bits of disintegrated people, Logan closes in on her. She keeps flaying him alive, but of course he heals -- even his pants heal! -- and gets close enough to explain that he's not there because he'd die for the others, but because he'd die for her. And then he kills her.

Despite some potentially great scenes like that one, this movie really sucked. The first X-men movie was character driven. Audiences cared what happened to Logan and to Rogue, and audiences were intrigued by the interactions among the main characters.

This movie had a glut of (ahem) new mutants who had virtually no bearing on the plot, such as Colossus, Leech and Angel. Others, such as Beast, could have been replaced with a conventional relationship between the X-men and the government.

It was also loaded with subplots that had virtually no bearing on the movie. Rogue and Iceman have been an item for the past two movies; here they added a flirtation between him and Kitty Pryde that added nothing consequential to the story, except that it triggered another subplot where Rogue wanted to be cured -- only we never really saw much evidence of a struggle beyond the obvious surface stuff, and it only got a total two minutes screen time, tops.

Angel's presence in the movie was utterly pointless, since a cure could have been developed for any reason and had the same effect on the story, and even Leech was useless as a character.

The closest thing the movie had to a theme was power -- Jean is power incarnate, humans feel so powerless, Mystique loses her power, Rogue wants to lose her power, Storm finds it an insult that their power is seen as needing a cure, Magneto is only interested in mutants with power -- but aside from a couple good quotes, there's no message here, either.

My wife and I were talking this morning about how it could have been a better movie, and we generally concluded that the director and screenwriters should have eliminated the mutants who existed only as plot functions, like Angel, Leech, the Beast, and probably the Morlocks as well; have the cure come from somewhere else, like perhaps Forge, who is himself a mutant; and surprise everybody by having a nonpowered Mystique be the one who ends up neutralizing Magneto with an injection of the cure.

It's a shame, really. "X-men" wasn't a great movie, but it was at least decent. This one was easily the worst of the three, and it wouldn't have been that hard to make it better.

No comments: