A new director delivers a new mutant adventure
The Story So Far...
I have enjoyed many of Ratner's films, but nothing he's done told me he had what it took to tackle the challenge and expectations, especially under the circumstances that saw him join the film. But, it's the X-Men, and the cast is essentially the same, so I was certainly going to give it a chance. That chance paid off as Ratner overcame the obstacles to pull together a high-energy, entertaining popcorn movie that was just as action-packed as its prequels. This film certainly doesn't have the same subtexts (for example, using mutant powers as a metaphor for homosexuality) or complexities of character, but if you just want to see a mega mutant melee, this is the right movie for you.
Picking up from the finale of the second film, X3 explores the effects of Jean Grey's (Famke Janssen) actions and what they have done to the team. They still call Xavier's school home, but something is off. When Cyclops (James Marsden) takes off to cope with his pain and some odd thoughts in his head, it begins to reveal just what happened at the end of the second film. Another plot, featuring the introduction of Angel, the winged mutant, sees a "cure" for mutant powers developed, which creates a rift among the superpowered, some of whom want the drugs. Of course, the supervillain Magneto (Ian McKellan) sees this as a threat to his species, and forms a brotherhood of mutants in an effort to stop the cure's production. Along the way, his path crosses with that of Jean Grey's story, creating a double-barrel case of trouble for the X-Men.
While a scene in which Xavier and Magneto argue to gain control of Jean Grey's powers is as dramatic, compelling and visually exciting as anything in the trilogy, the majority of the film comes off as answers in search of questions, as big action scenes without much motivation or reason are linked together by scenes desperately attempting to explaining them. There's no arguing that the displays of superpowers aren't examples of great action filmmaking, but cohesive it's not. It's Ratner's inexperience with quiet, emotional scenes and the screenwriters' seemingy apparent lack of interest in such moments that robs X3 of the power the other X films have, with the exception of Angel's emotional first apearance. The Rogue/Iceman love story, which could have anchored the film the way the Iceman/Pyro story did in X2, is given half-hearted treatment, and there's nothing nearly as earnest as the "coming out" scene in X2.
On the acting side of the ledger, most of the recurring cast is going through the motions established in the previous movies, though Hugh Jackman manages to still command the screen without doing anything all that different. Ellen Page (Hard Candy) is a nice addition as Kitty Pride, playing the part of the rookie with the right amount of insecurity, while the supervillains seem to get the most fun, showing a wide range of powers and looks. Only Vinnie Jones, in a thankless role as the musclebound Juggernaut, and Halle Barry, as the team leader and comedic lightning-rod Storm, will want to leave this film off their resume, as neither advanced their causes as actors. It's amazing how the character of Storm simply doesn't work well, but considering it's been two directors and a host of writers so far and just one actress, it might just be her fault.
It may sound like I'm slamming this film, and I will admit I displayed the trademark behavior of the frustrated filmgoer--making fun of the film while it played--but I definitely enjoyed X3 as mindless entertainment. It's simply a guilty pleasure, but after the first two films, this movie should have aspired to be more than that. That's the film's biggest sin: it's not a Bryan Singer film, it's a Brett Ratner film. Other than that, it's a good time.
The menus offer a choice to watch the film, select scenes, adjust languages and check out the special features. Language options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES tracks and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, while subtitles are available in English and Spanish, along with closed captioning.
(Update: For the Collector's Edition release, we received a final retail version, so the anamorphic widescreen video wasn't affected by the watermarks put on screener copies of X3. The image is uniformly high in quality, with excellent color, a top-notch level of detail and none of the digital artifacts seen in the previous version. The high-energy action scenes, like the training missions in the Danger Room show none of the problems seen before. There's also no dirt or damage present. The only downside at all is some softness in the transfer, though that may have been present in the original film.)
What they got right is the sound, with is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES. While the 5.1 track is very good, delivering an enveloping soundfield that makes good use of the sides and rear speakers, via panning and solid mixing, it's the DTS track that makes this movie the most fun to listen to. This is an action blockbuster, first and foremost, and that means an all-out aural assault via every speaker, as the fight scenes fill the room with rich, deep sound effects and music. Turn up your system, hope the neighbors aren't home and feel the rumble of the bass and the you-are-there experience.
The remainder of the extras is made up of almost 10 minutes of deleted scenes, which really should be called extended/alternate takes, because that's just what they are. Some of them, like the longer fight scenes, are interesting due to the increased mayhem, but they are mostly superfluous, as the movie overdoes many of these moments already. These scenes can be viewed as a group or individually, with or without commentary, by Ratner, Penn and Kinberg. Some are so short they don't get to say much, while others see the trio just chatting. Also in here are a trio of alternate endings, parts of which ended up in the final film, and one that serves as a set-up for a sequel.
Also on the disc are two X3 trailers, a "24" trailer, three trailers for other Fox Marvel films, and two previews of upcoming Fox projects. A trailer for "A Night at the Museum" is joined by an animatic from "The Simpsons Movie."
The Bottom Line