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Review: X-Men 3

Just saw X-Men 3. God, what a great movie. I thought X-Men 1 was a great movie, and I also felt it was *just* on the good side of "too much action", and I also felt that X-Men 2 had just a tad too little story (so had just been nudged across the too little story/too much action line), X-Men 3 is fantastic. With this movie I don't care how the action/story balance is, because it was interleaved so well that it worked beautifully. The direction was noticeably different this time, though. It had a slightly more comicbook-y feel, but not in a bad way. I just noticed it because it was a characteristic quality of No. 1 and No. 2. It also had lots of great little moments that developed the characters well, and some rather obvious romantic subplots that I saw coming a mile away. Then again, they had enough else to make things work just fine. If you haven't seen it yet, and if you liked 1 and 2, go and watch 3. It's great. Oh, and one thing: After the Magneto moment and the closing credits, stay in the theatre and make sure they don't turn off the projector. There's an important scene at the end.

If you haven't seen it, don't read the rest of this review before you've seen it. I'm gonna recklessly spoiler everything and you really don't want that. Okay?

Spoilers ahead

This is a quite clever adaptation of the Phoenix storyline from the 70ies. As was to be expected, they took out the whole aliens and Scott-Summers'-Family-In-Space storyline as well as the whole prophetic angle. Instead, they gave us the angle of Phoenix as Jean's repressed subconscious, as we had it sort of with Xavier in the "Onslaught" storyline in the early 00s plus some nice helpings of "Children of the Atom".

A nice surprise twist in this storyline was that Jean as expected rises from the dead, but instead Scott and the Professor die. The Professor died a couple of times in X-Men history, but I can't recall whether Scott ever got killed (except for that horrible, horrible "The Twelve" storyline where Apocalypse took over his body a couple years ago, where it was completely obvious Scott would be back in a matter of months), so this was a nice surprise for the comic book readers.

I also liked the use of hinting and foreshadowing. While the romance scenes telegraphed their punches and it was pretty obvious (though not in line with the comic) that Logan would kill Jean, the way Xavier's way to cheat death was hinted at and other moments worked nicely.

Finally, there were dozens of fun little scenes and character moments that made me laugh out loud. And not just the obvious Stan Lee cameo in the first couple minutes, the nods to the fans by having people like Trask, the Sentinel in the opening scene, Jamie Madrox, Psylocke in the church scene, or Hank's typical upside-down introduction. The moment Kitty tricks the Juggernaut was 100% the Kitty Pryde we learned to love in the Claremont era, the way Logan dispatches of the guy whose limbs grow back (a fantastic opponent for Logan if ever there was one, and 1000 times better than Sabretooth), or Mystique's hilarious attempts at weakening the guards' resolve, and her mean, fighting words when in the guise of the kid.

We also got to see Raven Darkholme for the first time, and got a glimpse at her past -- I'd love to see them use her some more for the whole Nightcrawler/Rogue triangle -- as well as her relationship to Eric. Eric in particular was interesting. He was uncompromising to the least, even when it came to Mystique (after all, he'd have destroyed all he'd worked for if he'd done any different). I constantly expected him to pull the Adamantium out of Logan.

And that was another great moment, how Logan pulled the typical cliche "I learned from the opening scene" moment, giving it that decidedly Logan twist. It was the best way to utterly destroy Magneto, and every death for Magneto will henceforth be measured against this. Well, if it wasn't for that small Magneto scene at the end.

It was also wonderful to see the different takes on things that had already been done: Xavier's revival has both the questionable ethics Charles showed at various times (be it the recent "Deadly Genesis" stories in the comics, the Ultimate X-Men Xavier, or the Claremont-era "Good Magneto" storyline), as well as still being quite similar to his actual revival after the Brood infection before the Phoenix storyline. And Rogues' quest for a cure, going to that institute like she did a couple years ago in the comics (I never found out what became of that plot in the comics, anybody have a link or a clue? Or at least a book name and issue number?), combined with the current "cure" and "civil war" stories...

I don't think it was a good idea to bring back Xavier that quickly, but I can see how they'd want to keep Patrick Stewart with the show, and after all, with him in that other body they have an opportunity for switching actors if he wants out. Whatever happens, I hope for a fourth part. I'm intrigued how they'll resolve the whole death of Scott and Jean issue, and how Storm will react once Xavier returns. And hopefully they'll carry on the dubious Xavier. It worked beautifully for Xi'an in X-Men 2099, and as long as they keep him sympathetic, it'll be a great dilemma. And anyway, I want to see this series go on until they give us at least the Askani'son, Apocalypse and Mr. Sinister. I know many people hate that, but I just loved that era.

PS - Almost forgot: Halle Berry did a surprisingly good job on Storm, considering she is unable to act. I'm not sure the hair is an improvement, but then I'm one of the guys who would have wanted someone more like Grace Jones for Storm, and not someone who looks so American for an African like her. Someone who looks dangerous even before you know she can fry you with lightning. But I guess someone saw her horrible DC movie and eradicated all the corny one-liners she would have been given, and if you just take the movie Storm at face value, even Berry can act her.

PPS - Hank McCoy was great, too. Not as funny as I would have hoped from my memories of him from the 90ies and the initial '62 run, but he was still spot-on. Kelsey Grammer, you're fantastic! Let's hope they'll have more Hank in X4 ... Especially the thoughtful-quips-and-twenty-six-syllable-words-or-more Hank.

PPPS - One more thing to mention about the initial scene with the Sentinel head: it is a shameless yank at the chain of long-time fans. I really thought they were going to do "Days of Future Past". It was a huge surprise to me, I mean, so far they'd stayed away of the more scifi-ish elements like space, time travel etc. But as a Danger Room sequence, it worked beautifully to inform Wolverine's end manoeuvre and was a fun nod to us fans. In general, I had the feeling where X1 and X2 were mostly concerned with translating the X-Men effectively to the big screen, X3 was an attempt at making a good movie while simultaneously giving us comic book readers a couple twists and turns we wouldn't have expected.

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
Ruth Less writes:
I like it too, even though I'm not actually a fan, but if there have to comic adaptations, then they should be just like this. :-) I'm not aware of all those parallel storylines, but leaving out some of the _really_ crazy stuff and names like "Marvel Girl" (*giggle*), significantly increases a movie's quality. ;-) I missed some of the insider gags and didn't recognize Stan Lee, who was it? And I still don't like Halle Berry as Storm, for similar reasons than you. She looks more like "oh we need another cute sexy girly for the ratings, just give her a wig". And all of Magneto's mutants looked like goths, how very subtle... :-p The sad thing is only, in comics books, I stop caring whether somebody dies or not -- they keep coming back like yo-yos. :-( I didn't even grasp that Scott died, because we didn't see anything (no body etc). For me, he's just on vacation at the lake... I totally did not understand the part how Xavier survived. The name Moira in the end rang a vague bell, but I don't think she was a mutant, was she his wife or colleague?
Uli Kusterer writes:
Stan Lee was the guy with the garden hose watering his lawn at the very beginning of the movie when they visit Jean the first time. And actually, that Scott may not be dead is something I like as well. There's probably a reason why they didn't show him heroically getting killed and instead just showed his visor and that's it. Though Jean's reaction kind of hinted at Scott being dead, but maybe he just rejected her, or there were two Jean's (Phoenix and the real one) one of which he went off with, and they're heading for bringing back the real one *and* the "dead" one when they do the Askani storyline or whatever... Though that would kinda cheapen Wolverine's fight to reach Jean... but they *could* make it work if they're careful. The way how Xavier survived was in the initial scene where Moira first shows up. She shows us the guy on the sickbed and says he's a mutant with no brain function, and whether it'd be ethical to save someone else by transferring their mind into his body. Moira is the Scottish (Irish?) woman who hung out with Sean "Banshee" Cassidy on Muir Island. She's a human scientist who used to hang out with Eric and Charles way back when. She's another one of those nice bones they threw us continuity-obsessed fanboys :-)
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