The downside to reviewing movies for Metro is that I only get about 300 words per piece — enough to discuss a couple of performances, address a key metaphor, if there is one, and maybe hint at the plot. The idea of placing a film in its proper context, well, that’s kind of a pipe dream.
For example: I’m working on my X-Men: The Final Stand review, and it occurs to me that the mutant superhero franchise is a perfect mirror of the original Star Wars trilogy. The first movie had a certain ragged quality, but it was energetic and impressive; then, the incredible sequel took the series to a whole new level of dramatic resonance and emotional impact. And the third film … well, the third film recycles a lot of elements from the previous pictures (a political standoff here, an exploited young mutant there, a climactic confrontation on an American landmark), while the new stuff seems sort of slapped in and illogical — the product of someone’s marketing instincts, rather than an organic evolution of the script.
Because we’re fond of the characters, we put up with a lot of it; the spin I’ve been hearing, and to which I myself have probably contributed, is “wow, it’s a Brett Ratner movie that doesn’t suck.” And it’s certainly true that Ratner doesn’t crap all over the world so lovingly established by Bryan Singer in the first two films. But he doesn’t honor the logic of the movies, either, slapping in stuff from the comics that actively works against the characters as they’ve been defined in the previous films. (Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier may be a lot of things, but he’s never been short-tempered; when he snapped at someone early in the picture, I started wondering whether he’d been impersonated by Mystique.)
The sudden alterations of key character traits — mainly so we can get Jean Grey to hook up with Magneto’s evil Brotherhood, and stand around looking all veiny in the final reels — brings to mind Lucas’ desperate rewriting of the Skywalker family tree in Jedi: “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.” Suddenly, Obi-Wan goes from a kindly mentor into an equivocating dick, telling Luke that the truth about his heritage comes down to what the meaning of “your father he is” is. It’s not as stupid as making the Force a blood disorder, but still. It just says Lucas doesn’t care about the emotional stuff; he just wants to get the talking stuff out of the way so we can move on to the next big special effect.
Ratner’s the same. I think Singer would have forced a couple of additional script drafts, or worked with the actors to shape the performances into something that felt more consistent, and worked to support the big action scenes, rather than push against them. The great thing about Singer’s X-films is that the dialogue and character development has always felt more important than the action scenes; the conversations in X-Men: The Final Stand had me feeling that Ratner was sitting behind the camera, knee bouncing restlessly, until he could call cut.