Oh Bryan Singer, how do I love you? Let me count the ways. The Usual Suspects. X2. Apt Pupil . Just kidding. Not even Bryan Singer's wife likes Apt Pupil. But his work with the franchise was nothing short of remarkable. When you play with Comic Book Fire, you risk being burned by an annoying overly critical fanbase. You could for example use the first era Cyclops costume instead of the third era costume, angering fans who prefer the X-men's "cartoonish" phase. Or whatever. The point is that the first two X-men movies were pretty doggone decent. I was not much of a fan of the first one, but the second is in my top 5 comic book movies of all time (the rest of the list, in no order, is Batman Begins, Batman (Tim Burton, not Burt Ward), a spot reserved for Dick Tracy, and Spiderman 2. and I lied. Spiderman 2 is the best of the bunch IMHO).
Mr. Singer departed the X-men franchise so that he could revive the Superman one. Kudos for that. From the trailers, it looks fantastic. But in the place of Singer for the third installment of our favorite mutant heroes in walks Brett Ratner. I was not as down on this choice as some on various messageboards for a couple reasons. Firstly, I kind of thought Rush Hour was pretty decent for what it was- a serviceable buddy movie. Secondly, Red Dragon was good- certainly a better Lecter installment than Ridley Scott's overwrought Hannibal.
The series' third installment has a pretty decent premise. A "mutant cure" is being developed, with implications for mutants and humans alike. For some, like Magneto's Brotherhood, the cure threatens the specter of a mutant genocide. For others, like the X-Men, the cure is seen as one of many options that exist in the world for mutants- neither good nor bad, but a choice that can be made. For humans, this cure offers the promise to cure their fear of the "mutant other" for good.
We are introduced to a few new mutants- the Beast (played by Kelsey Grammar) who is blessed with a refined and tactful manner, along with a furry blue animalistic skin. Magneto has new henchmen as well, including a woman who can sense mutant powers and move like The Flash. Jean Grey, who is thought to have died in the last episode, returns in this film. I'm not spoiling anything, it happens really fast into the movie.
The movie builds towards a climactic conflict between humans and the two mutant factions who will fight for control over the young boy who harbors the secret of the mutant cure. In the process Jean Grey is revealed to have gone crazy and evil, and some characters who featured prominently in the last two movies have their roles reduced or eliminated.
There are some pluses. There are a couple spectacular visuals, including one involving a prison convoy and another involving the Golden Gate bridge. But there is nothing as iconic and amazing as the scene in X2 where Magneto escaped from his plastic prison. Still, Ratner can direct an action sequence and you will not find that the story moves slowly. This in part could be because the movie is rather short, a quick 90 minutes or so. Ian McKellen's performance is also excellent. At this point, I would watch a movie called "Ian McKellen acts like a refined badass and talks shit while playing chess with old people in the park". He hams it up with admirable flair.
The minuses are several. Firstly, Mr. Ratner must have sold his character development soul to the devil for a delicious sandwich and an ear for predictable lame dialogue. The worst line is definitely an exchange early on between Wolverine and Cyclops that I'll let you "discover" for yourself. The only saving grace is that when young Bobby (Iceman) is finally able to make love to his girlfriend Rogue (Anna Paquin, who is talented and terminally underused) we are spared a truly horrific Eugene O'Neill reference. The movie also more prominently than past films features Halle Berry's storm character. The Oscar she won for Monsters Ball should probably be taken away for her plain and uninspired performance in this movie. She is really mailing it in.
Overall, if you were ever hardcore into X-Men, this movie will probably anger and dissapoint you. If you are interested in a summer popcorn flick, than this is serviceable. I am probably less hard on this movie than I should be because it was my first summer flick this year, the theater was packed, I had a big thing of popcorn and a giant soda, and the action sequences were well constructed enough that I found myself rooting for the heroes. So much so that I would certainly reccomend this film heartily if they managed to kill the film's writers, who are responsible for the parts of this movie that just don't work.