Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Third Time’s a charm for X-Men

Movie fans are quick to point out that sequels are rarely as good as the film that imitated the series. Moreso, the third film in the series is usually a severe downturn in the franchise’s quality. It is a rare event then that a series will actually improve with each installment.

X-Men is one such franchise. This despite a change in the director’s chair (Bryan Singer left for Superman Returns and Brett Ratner succeeds him).

The first X-Men film was a groundbreaking event in comic book-to-film transitions. Instead of bringing the audience into the world of the superheroes, Instead the paradigm shift was to bring the superheroes into our world.

The second X-Men film is widely credited as being better than it’s predecessor. My personal opinion is that the climactic action was included a plot hole that allowed for the death of X-man Jean Grey, which was totally avoidable given the resources of the characters involved.

Fortunately all is forgiven in the resolution found in the third film.

X-Men 3 begins with flashbacks to the first time Professor Xavier meets Jean and also introduces a new mutant, Warren Worthington III, as the mutant son of a successful industrialist, embarrassed to tell his father he is a mutant.

Jean’s lover, Cyclops travels to the site of Jean’s death to find her miraculously alive.

Meanwhile Worthington’s father introduces a “cure” for the mutant gene. This is the core plot of the film and along which sides are drawn. On one side Magneto and his brotherhood seek to destroy the “cure” and its human developers.

Standing in their way are the X-Men with furry blue addition, Beast (Kelsey Grammer).

The wildcard in this match up is Jean Grey, who has been resurrected with a magnificent increase in power.

The movie is paced quite well, and even though two principle characters are killed off in the first half of the movie, it sets up a great emotional monologue for Haley Berry (Storm) to show off her Oscar-wining acting. Patrick Stewart ( Professor Xavier) and Ian McKellen (Magneto), offer the most acting experience and the best performances, followed by Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Haley Berry who are the clear stars, and with just cause. Berry for her Oscar and Jackman because Wolverine is clearly the favorite mutant among long-time X-fans.

The rest of the cast, while young, provides passable performances that help to movie along the plot rather than drag you into the mire of teeny-bopper soap opera sub plots.

In the end the movie is very high quality. Not only as a summer popcorn muncher, but as a gripping story that draws the viewer into the climactic final battle. I for one found myself on the edge of my seat anticipating the final showdown. It was worth it.

X-men 3 is a great film, satisfying long-time X-men comic fans as well as fans introduced to mutants exclusively through the movies.

Oh, and a little hint. When you see this movie, sit through the credits!

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