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Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) 
30th-May-2006 12:29 am
Astonishing X-Men
We all owe Joel Schumacher a bit of an apology.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ben Foster, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart

Directed by: Brett Ratner

We've had a review from someone who enjoyed the earlier two films but is otherwise not a fan, we've had a review from someone who didn't care about the X-Men at all. Here's a review from an 18 year fan of the X-Men.

That's right, I've been reading the X-Men going on 18 years now. The fandom died down a bit a few years ago, but the picked up again once Joss Whedon started writing Astonishing X-Men. I don't know if many can imagine what it's like to follow something every month for most of your life and then have a movie like this come along, since I can't think of anything else that continues along for that long. Books don't. TV shows don't. Just comics.

Not that it has made me an impossible-to-please obsessive when it comes to X-Men movies. I recognise that changes need to be made in order to adapt one medium to another and merge 45 years of history into 3 movies. I accepted the changes made by Bryan Singer and company in the first two films, and found them to be enjoyable movies, faithful to the spirit of the comics. Which proved it possible to make good-to-great movies about the X-Men, and, as X2 was a better film than X-Men, it proved that even better films were to come.

Unfortunately, as time progressed, the principles involved in the original two films became less and less enthusiastic with the franchise. Singer left to go film Superman Returns, Halle Berry begged off the film, disappointed with Storm's lack of involvement in the series (she changed her mind after getting assurances that her role would increase), James Marsden followed Singer and wanted out of his contract (but was unable to do so), Alan Cumming chose not to return as Nightcrawler. Directors were named and replaced, and writers kept piling up. As the film progressed, things didn't look positive for the second sequel, and I felt the same trepidation toward seeing it that I had six years ago before the release of the first film.

Because of these issues, The Last Stand was necessary going to be a difficult film to make. The lack of interest in most of the cast to continue the series (save Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen, both of whom are hoping to continue their characters in spin-off films) meant that this looked to be the final film in the franchise. But, the previous two films left two major storylines dangling that each required their own film-- the final battle between the X-Men and Magneto over the relationship between mutants and humans, and the cinematic telling of the greatest X-Men story of all-time, The Dark Phoenix Saga (set up in X2: X-Men United). Perhaps an incredibly talented storyteller could combine the two into one film, coaxing disinterested actors into giving it one last go. We'll never know, because this one was directed Brett Ratner, the legendary genius behind Rush Hour 1 and 2.

I held out hope that perhaps Ratner had a good film in him, since the material is so strong. Foolish, foolish hope. It is possible that Ratner peaked with Money Talks. Cause I HATED this movie. HATED. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATED. It enraged me. It insulted me. It affected my mood afterward, and my ability to sleep.

Major reasons for my utter, complete, and deep-felt hatred of this movie are incredibly spoiler-filled, so I can't get into them here. Luckily, the movie is so terrible that I can talk about its myriad of flaws without getting into spoilers. Ratner exhibits the attention span of gnat with this film, bouncing from scene to scene with the speed of a music video throughout. Major moments are given no weight or resonance, as both would require the scene to play out for more than the 52 seconds allotted. Character development is non-existent. For the most part, the actors are disengaged and disinterested. New characters function merely as gimmicks and plot contrivances. The dialogue is juvenile, the action is unimaginative, and the plot simply doesn't work.

If you love big, dumb action movies, then you should get some enjoyment out of the movie. The frenetic editing and big explosions certainly don't make the film boring. Also, Jackman still provides a great Wolverine (although the dialogue makes him less great this time around) and McKellen is solid as usual. Finally, on the positive side, there were a couple of fun geek-out moments.

But if you are a fan of these characters, I honestly can't see how you can be anything but insulted by how they are presented and treated. Which leads me to the question of whether this is the worst comic book movie I've seen. I'll have to allow that Batman & Robin was worse, but I hate The Last Stand more. It exhibits no understanding of the characters, or why they work, and only a rudimentary understanding of the basics of storytelling for the cinematic medium. The movie is a spit in the face for anyone who ever invested time or passion into the X-Men and their universe, and if I ever ran into Brett Ratner, I think I'd have to kick him in the nuts... then ask him if he could grow them back.


Astonishing X-Men - "Gifted"
X-Men (2000)
X-Men: Phoenix - Endsong
30th-May-2006 07:00 am (UTC)
OK, so, you seem to be well-read re the comics.

I am determined to read the original comics involving the Phoenix and the Dark Phoenix.

I'm twenty-three now, and when I was a little boy -- you know, around eight to twelve or so -- I was really, really into the X-Men. I had all the figurines, I watched the animated series, all that. I loved the Phoenix. She was my favorite character. Around the neighborhood, all my friends and I would play X-men. We'd "become" certain characters and duke it out. "I'm Iceman, and I just froze that tree so you can't get through!" "Oh, well, I'm Pyro, and I melted it!" You know, that sort of thing. I'd play around 'til I got bored; then I'd go, "I'm Phoenix! ZAP! I just destroyed the universe! Game over!"

So, the Phoenix and I have a long history together.

Here's the thing -- I really only know the story as it is told in the animated series. I was so excited to see Phoenix in this movie, but of course I was disappointed. The movie did help me to realize, though, that some of those stories that exist in our head, that we sort of made up, ought to stay that way, but nevertheless, I want to read these comics.

Do you know what series, numbers, etc. the Phoenix stuff is? I just need the main storylines, none of the ones in which she appears for a split-second scene or something like that. And do you know if they make trade paperback versions, etc? I found some things on amazon, but I have no idea what they are...

Thanks! :-)
30th-May-2006 07:03 am (UTC)
Err, by 'trade paperback version' I mean the things you can get for around 15 bucks that have a bunch of issues in them, not the format for chicklit or 'literary' endeavors common nowadays because it lets the publishers make more money than if they produced the book as a mass market...
30th-May-2006 07:48 am (UTC)
There is an excellent trade that collects the Dark Phoenix story of Claremont and Byrne. That would be the best place to start (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0785122133/sr=8-1/qid=1148973198/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-3066420-9765765?%5Fencoding=UTF8). It starts before Jean Grey goes all Dark Phoenix and carries through the story to the end. I'm not really sure about other trades, as I have other reprint issues covering every issue of Jean Grey as the Phoenix.

In the comics, Jean Grey AKA Marvel Girl becomes the Phoenix in Uncanny X-Men issue 101. She hangs around for a few issues as Xavier tries to figure out what's going on til 105, then shows glimpses of her new power levels throughout a space adventure with the Sh'iar and Starjammers in issues 105, 107-108. The X-Men have a few more battles, then in a huge battle with Magneto, Phoenix and Beast are separated from the rest of the team in Antarctica under a volcano, each believing the other group dead (112-114). She then becomes a background story, as it is believed that there are no more X-Men, and this is where the seeds are laid for her corruption into Dark Phoenix. Grey is reunited with the others around 125, kicking off the Proteus Saga from 126-128, showing off Phoenix's frightening new power levels and leading into the Dark Phoenix saga as featured in the trade.

Getting all these issues would be very difficult, and incredibly expensive. There are reprints of these issues out there in the form of Classic X-Men, that were printed in the 80s (these are the issues I have), that should be affordable and available. They start with issue 9 continuing til issue 33. That's the best alternate to TPBs on the books I can think of (they can be bought here: http://www.milehighcomics.com/cgi-bin/backissue.cgi?action=list&title=17292128602&publisher=MV&snumber=21). That breaks down every issue that Jean Grey as Phoenix appears in, until they resurrected Jean Grey later (which is reprinted in the Phoenix Rising TPB).

The cartoon was pretty faithful to the original comics, even copying some of the art. Characters had to be switched at times, but otherwise, it was pretty good.

Probably more info than you were looking for, but... I did say I was a huge X-Men geek.
30th-May-2006 09:27 am (UTC)
Hmm... I actually just rewatched the cartoon. It's good, but not as good as I remember it from when it first came out back in the 90s. Damn Memory and her incessant urge to make things better than they actually were!

It's not more info at all. When I get into something, I get into it REAL deep, so this is great. Let me make sure I get what you're saying.

If I wanted to read all the comics, starting from when Jean Grey first becomes Phoenix through the Dark "I'm crazy" Phoenix stuff, I'd have to read these alleged CLASSIC X-MEN comics, issues 9 through 33, and then the TPB ditty about the Dark Phoenix that's the first item you linked.

And what's this Phoenix Rising and Phoenix: Endsong stuff?
30th-May-2006 09:31 am (UTC)
Yes, CXM 9-33 (a couple may not have a Phoenix appearence, but most will), then the Dark Phoenix TPB. Phoenix Rising is years later, after Grey had been dead. It follows her resurrection, with the explanation given of the Phoenix Force and stuff. Phoenix: Endsong came out last year, and doesn't really mean much at all.
30th-May-2006 09:43 am (UTC)
Does anything happen re Grey-as-Phoenix in between the end of the Dark Phoenix TPB and the Phoenix Rising (which may or may not be available from amazon)?

And have you ordered from this Mile High website? It's legit?

And if I were to read the Dark Phoenix TPB without having read the CXM 9-33, would I be totally and utterly lost?
30th-May-2006 09:56 am (UTC)
Not Grey-as-Phoenix, but after her death, Scott Summers met and married Madeline Pryor, a redhead that bore an uncanny resemblance to Jean Grey, making some believe that she was the Phoenix reborn. This was dealt with in Uncanny X-Men 168-176 (X-Men Classic 72-79) and the From the Ashes TPB (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0871356155/sr=8-1/qid=1148982639/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-3066420-9765765?%5Fencoding=UTF8). Other than that, there are no appearences of Jean Grey between the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga and the Phoenix Rising stories, as she was dead. Very dead.

The Phoenix Rising trade is available from amazon, I believe they offer a deal if you buy it with Dark Phoenix.

I've used Mile High. They're the best comics site on the web and offer deals all the time. They say that they ship within a couple of days, but I had to wait longer because I'm in Canada. In the US, you should be fine.
30th-May-2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
Just as an FYI, I would use mycomicshop.com as they are much better than the over proced Mile High Comics (IMO).
30th-May-2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
Hey, you still exist!
31st-May-2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
Yeah I'm still around lurking :)

Work and buying a new home has cut into my free time significantly. I hate being mature.
31st-May-2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
Sounds pretty lame dude. Good to know you're still around though.
3rd-Jun-2006 02:29 am (UTC)
Stupid question.

The original Uncanny X-Men, the stuff that deals with Phoenix and all that jazz, were they in black and white or color?

Because I got the Dark Phoenix TPB, and it's in color, but at the back, there are copies of "original artwork," and it's in black and white. And there are TPB called Essential X-Men or something like that, and they're in black and white...

... so, which is it? :-)
3rd-Jun-2006 02:36 am (UTC)
They were in colour. The original artwork would be the John Byrne sketches before the inkers and colourist got in there (if I were really a crazy fan, I'd know who those are). The Essential X-Men series, along with all the Essential series, were printed in black and white to make them more affordable, and thus, aren't worth your time.
3rd-Jun-2006 02:44 am (UTC)
Psh. I don't do black and white. I'm attracted to things that sparkle. Color is a must. Heh.

However, these alleged Marvel Masterpiece editions seem to be in color...


Also, what on Earth are these?:



I'm sorry to keep pestering... I just know nobody else who likes this stuff and knows as much as you, and trying to do online searches for things like "X-men phoenix" or "where do I begin reading comics?" isn't very lucrative...
3rd-Jun-2006 02:48 am (UTC)
To answer my own question, a bit, it seems as if the first link is a story about Jean Grey's alternate-universe child, Rachel Summers, who gets (apparently) possessed by the alleged Phoenix Force, and the second link appears to be a porn masquerading under the title X-Men: Phoenix so all the stupid freaks who know nothing about anything will buy it, thinking they're getting Jean Grey, and instead are simply getting a bunch of naked women. Ew.
3rd-Jun-2006 03:38 am (UTC)
No worries about the inquiries, it's nice to put my wasted youth to good use.

To answer your questions, the Marvel Masterworks series are in colour, but that particular edition covers Giant Size X-Men #1 (the first appearance of the All-New, All-Different X-Men of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Banshee, Thunderbird, and Sunfire) to Uncanny X-Men 100, which you'll note is all pre-Phoenix stuff. In fact, most of it only includes Jean Grey (AKA Marvel Girl) as a supporting character, as she left the X-Men when the new members came (then was captured by Sentinels after a date with Cyclops, leading to her becoming the Phoenix in issue 101). They are all great reads, but not Phoenix-centric.

The first Phoenix mini does indeed deal with Rachel Summers, the child of Jean and Scott from an alternate dimension. She has her own Phoenix Force, given to her genetically from her mother. The series deals with her adventures in a different timeline as Mother Askani (there's a really complicated explanation for all of that, one that involves the almost-impossible-to-follow Summers family tree. It's so convoluted that even the comics themselves would poke fun of it). I think I have this mini-series, but can't really remember it. In any case, it's decades after the Dark Phoenix saga, and doesn't involve the Jean Grey incarnation at all, and is so non-essential that it doesn't deserve mentioning.

And, yes, I assume the other one is all porny and stuff, published in 2003 under Marvel's MAX line.
3rd-Jun-2006 06:35 am (UTC)
Well, I'm actually trying to get back into comics, and I'm trying to find out where to start. It's rather daunting; there's so much crap out there! And back when I was a kid and had over three thousand comics, I only read one series (Image's WildC.A.T.S.) and I'd read a comic here and there from the other series, but nothing long-winded. Really, for me at least, the X-men exist as cartoon characters, not comic ones, and I'm trying to remedy that, so I figure the start of the "new" X-men may be a good place to start? Of course, I could also pick up the second volume of the Masterpiece series, which would have the Phoenix as Jean stuff, I think...
3rd-Jun-2006 06:42 am (UTC)
Nope, volume two goes backwords to the original Stan Lee X-Men (as does volume three) of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel. Volume four does issues 122-131 (bring you a few issues into the trade you've already picked up), then five does the Dark Phoenix stuff.

One plus to the Classic X-Men (besides the fact that as reprints, they never really appreciated in value), is that for the first 40 issues or so, they had two stories in each issue. The first half would be the reprinted original story, and the second half was a new story written at the time of printing (80s), but set in the era of the first story (70s). These stories are mostly non-canonical, but still fun.
30th-May-2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, and you probably wouldn't be totally lost if you just read the Dark Phoenix trade. A bit lost at first, I suppose, but it was written in the era of Stan Lee-style writing, where the rule of thumb was to write every issue as though it could be a reader's first.

Oh, and while CXM 9 is the first appearence of Jean Grey as Phoenix, the adventure that sets it up takes place in CXM 6-8. And mbright220 says the mycomicshop.com is better than Mile High, so you may want to check that out (I've never used it, so I can't vouch for it).
30th-May-2006 08:39 am (UTC)
I thought Alan Cumming was one of the first to sign onto the film. I remember shortly after X2 him saying that he loved the character and had saigned on for the next. I may be mistaken, but I thought that they just didn't bring him back because they were stupid.
30th-May-2006 08:43 am (UTC)
Maybe his original signing was conditional to Singer's involvement. But I've heard that he didn't want to come back. Admittedly, news about comic book movies is always sketchy, but I remember reading that Cumming chose to not come back.
30th-May-2006 08:46 am (UTC)
I guess he changed his mind. I remember a HUGE deal being made about how he and the former Stamos had signed on already. It seemed to be true because it was in major publications with quotes from them-it wasn't just internet rumors......I tend to not trust the internet. Especially any "news" stories on IMDB.
30th-May-2006 09:29 am (UTC)
From what I hear in the grapevine, the problem was that Cummings hated putting on all that makeup, and the amount of onscreen time Nightcrawler had in X3 wasn't worth all the makeup, so they just wrote him out.

Of course, that's what Oscar-winner Halle Berry said at first, that she didn't want to be in it unless they gave her more onscreen time, and she came back. She did have one of the biggest roles, I suppose, and even that role is miniscule compared to a REAL leading roll in a movie. Talk about too many characters.
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