X-Men 3: The Last Stand

“X” marks the spot – and “X3” was supposed to mark the spot where a popular superhero movie franchise died. It turns out rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated. X-Men 3: The Last Stand, the latest and expected-to-be-not-so-greatest installment of the popular movie trilogy based on the even more popular comic book series is now available on DVD after a somewhat successful box office run earlier this year. And the verdict? It was great, in a so-so kind of way.

Many die hard fans of the mutant band of heroes were concerned about this latest chapter of spandex violence. They had good reason. The first two movies not only established a high bar to hit for the world of comic geekdom, and turned Hugh Jackman into a star – they also raised director Marc Singer to a level of reverence near equal to that of George Lucas (calm down geek, I said “near equal”). That was one of the causes for concern. Singer left for Superman pastures and left the reigns in the hands of a new director Brett Ratner. Brett directed Rush Hour, a funny action movie starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Comic geeks hate funny action movies. They like action movies with funny parts, and yes there is a difference.

Besides that, anyone like the first two Blade movies. Right – me too. Well the last movie, Blade 3: Trinity, was directed by a new guy. Anyone see that one? Me neither.

Add to that the fact that the movie looked too jam packed full of new characters (Anyone recovered from Batman and Robin yet?) and the internet rumors about multiple character deaths and you have concern in Nerdsville.

But alas, all is well in the land of capes and cowls. X3 was a pleasant surprise. Almost. It was a hit in some unexpected areas. First, it was darker. It had a more serious tone than either of the first two films. Unexpected? Yes. But darker is always better for hero fans who feel their heroes are never taken seriously enough. Second, action abounds in this action movie. There seem to be far more fights and Ratner makes good use of most of the numerous characters he introduces. Third, the special effects are both special and very effective. With today”s technology it gets harder to impress a movie audience, but Ratner uses the effects not only to visually “oooh” but to emotionally “aaaah” you at key moments throughout.

The bad? Wolverine gets his supposedly unbeatable tail beaten again. Anyone else tired of seeing this hero get his unbreakable tail broken off and handed to him in every movie? I mean c’mon in the first one Mystique is smacking on him, in X2 Lady Deathstrike is smackin” on him, and in this one Juggernaut is well – you’ll see. Also there is no Colossus versus Juggernaut fight. That alone is unforgivable. The fight between Pyro and Iceman make the entire movie forgivable anyway.

The DVD includes deleted scenes that portrayed Wolverine more as the warrior you might have expected. Too bad they didn’t make the cut.

All things considered, it carried the torch well. If you like the first two, chances are very high you’ll like this one at least as much, likely more. But be warned, this is not your father’s or your old comic books. The dark scenes in this movie are too dark for any children under the teen years, and unlike the stories most of us used to read, many heroes and villains at the end of this tale won’t be around for the next issue. Despite those things, this movie succeeded enough to all but guarantee one thing – there will be a next issue. Although if you watch the alternate endings segment of the DVD you get the idea it might be called Wolverine instead of X4.

Not saying that’s a bad thing, but if Jackman does go solo can we make sure he actually wins his next fight?

-Ken Fox