Long enough after X2 for the X Mansion to be rebuilt, things are looking up for the magnificent mutants. Magneto is on the run, there’s a mutant in the cabinet, and Jean Grey is dead. Or is she…?
Coming off the back of the very successful X2, things looked good for this film. The third part of a trilogy focused on the idea of a war brewing doesn’t have to do all the scene setting and explanation, it just has to bring things to a head with the best action and the best drama. We’ve been with these characters for two films, and they all have awesome superpowers (except Cyclops). Pretty hard to get wrong, right? Wrong. With Bryan Singer gone, we’re left with a clumsy, mangled mutant mess.
While part two developed its characters and succeeded thanks to the forced co-operation between hero and villain, X3 takes a stonking step back. We’re still left wondering why the genius intellects of the powerful Magneto and Xavier choose to surround themselves with dullards who are by far their intellectual inferiors. Halle Berry’s storm becomes the heir apparent to Xavier, in spite of having no leadership capability at all. This is reportedly because Berry demanded a bigger role in the film, presumably because she realised how badly she embarrassed herself in the first two. She has also developed a passion and enthusiasm we haven’t seen before, characteristics that are completely at odds with the flat, boring character we’ve grown to love.
When Cyclops (James Marsden) returns to the place of Jean’s death, he goes missing, presumed dead. The X Men never actually try and work out how he died, or where his body is. They just find his glasses and assume he popped his clogs. I like the idea he’s wandering around the forest bumping into trees, but none of the characters give it more than a few seconds thought, presumably because the writers know no-one cares about him. But compared to the new characters in this film, Cyclops feels a masterpiece in screenwriting.
But he’s not the only character that faces the chop in this film. We lose so many old characters it feels more like Axe Men. When it starts out, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) has been taken into custody. We don’t know how this happened and it bears no relevance to the plot other than to allow for a scene where Magneto rescues her from a mutant prison, in what is the worst scene in any of the films. Not the X Men films. It’s the worst scene in any film, ever, and now I will explain why.
The mutant prison is in the back of a lorry. It’s explained that this is because they know Magneto will come looking for her so a moving prison will help them “stay one step ahead”. Except this is ridiculous. If you know Magneto is coming to get her, why keep her in a metal prison? If I wanted to keep out a supervillain, whose superpower is manipulating metal, who is CALLED Magneto, I don’t think I’d use a metal box. If they’d put her in a garden shed it would have been more secure. Lorries can’t even contain chickens. Why not use that plastic prison from last film? The answer is because they wanted to show Magneto smashing up a lorry.
So then he enters the lorry and finds Mystique. Pyro (Aaron Stanford) then reads out a list of mutants and their powers like he’s telling Magneto what’s in all the dishes at an Indian takeaway. Magneto recruits them without asking them any questions at all about their past, or, indeed, whether they want to join him. And his new band of disposable henchmen has arrived. In this fray, Mystique, who finally got developed in X2, gets cruelly robbed of her powers and abandoned by Magneto, in favour of a guy who can multiply himself and Vinnie Jones in a plant pot. It’s like a metaphor for how Bryan Singer abandoned the audience in favour of Brett Ratner.
Jones plays Juggernaut, who takes on the role of the muscle. He’s basically Bane, and by that I mean crap Batman and Robin Bane, not The Dark Knight Rises Bane. His handful of lines are painfully delivered, and he speaks so little you wonder if they tried to remove him from the film in post production and couldn’t even get that right. Kelsey Grammer is here in blue as Beast, and Ben Foster plays Angel, the son of the guy who came up with a mutant cure, neither of whom are given anything to do and feel completely irrelevant. Foster actually only has one scene where he interacts with any of the main characters, leaving us wondering why he was in it at all.
Magento spends the whole film gathering an army with unconvincing ease, while the X Men worry about Jean Grey. Wolverine then gives a clichéd speech about Cyclops not having died for nothing, then they all fight in a poorly conceived, uninspired action sequence so we can get the damn thing over and go home.
There are some good ideas here. Having a mutant politician like Beast could have worked, so could the whole Jean Grey as supermutant thing, and I think the idea of a cure for mutants raises some really interesting questions, but once assembled in an unenthusiastic, uninspired way the only question it raises it why they didn’t get a better director.