Tuesday, March 20, 2007

X-Men III The Last Stand

Okay, right from the outset for those that wonder, this is not the best of the X-Men series, I still hold that honor out for X-Men II, but, it is still a very good movie, I believe better than the first.

This wonderful cast brings the comic to life and while some who love the comic won’t be as thrilled as they could be about the movie, it is a movie well worth the telling and well worth the time.

Ralph Winter one of the producers for the X-Men series along with other films like The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Planet of the Apes, the upcoming highly anticipated Ted Dekker story, Three and numerous others has as a part of his intent, the telling of spiritual themes, specifically related to Christianity in his movies. While The Last Stand is not as powerful in this way as X-Men II, it still has as a part of it’s underlying themes, the concept of forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice and ultimate love. Recently on CBN with Scott Ross Winter spoke in detail about his faith.

Winter who once thought he would become a pastor was once actually a youth ministry found his niche in his first successful film, Star Trek II The Wrath of Kahn. That success has continued on with a few missteps along the way but overall, making great strides from one film to the next. Winter, and his work has definitely become a factor worth noticing among many Christians, and non Christians alike in the world of making film.

Winter has been open about part of the Christian themes he wants to see displayed in the X-Men series. “I’m part of the development process of those stories, and I think you will find some of those values in there in terms of tolerance and how we treat each other and who the hero is and what he values, what he fights for.”

Winter also understands the importance of telling a good story, but even more importantly so, telling a good story from a Christian perspective. When asked about this he replied, “Well, how come we, as Christians, don’t tell stories that we’re so fascinated by? “It’s got to have a happy ending; it can’t be dark. It’s got to be happy. And I’m not sure what the subtext is. It’s got to be obvious.” I don’t think we know our audience. Well, Jesus’ stories resonates with everyone whether you’re a Christian or not. We have to learn about telling original and interesting stories.”

X-III accomplishes the purpose set out by Winter and others. We have a great continuation that has as a part of its message appropriate and moral themes. Themes exist in the film that resonates about acceptance, love and forgiveness.

The general premise of the movie is that a cure has been found for the mutants. In the film, the mutants are challenged with who they are, how they accept themselves, and how they go about bringing about change where they are seen as valuable. It is a struggle that virtually all people, inwardly and outwardly face and battle. In some way, we all realize that in some strange way we ourselves are mutants.

I was impressed upon watching the story as to the method of how we go bringing about social and societal change. We see in some ways two roads to the same goal. One goal that takes a no prisoners approach, including the harm it may bring to innocents along the way, and another that looks at concepts of tolerance, while at the same time fighting in love for the things you believe in. We see one group of mutants led by Magneto that takes on the approach at bringing about change at the expense of whoever gets in the way. Then we see the effort to bring about change by Xavier and those who follow him at the expense of love and caring for the individual. This struggle in X-Men III The Last Stand reminded me in part of the struggle that existed in the Civil Rights movement between the early days of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., one approach drastically different than the other but with the same intent.

On a technical perspective, this film was fun to watch. The acting was top notch and a great ensemble. I must state that Hugh Jackman continues to get better as Wolverine, and I was especially impressed with Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I was concerned when I heard he got the part, but must say, he did a great job and I hope this isn’t the last we see him in this role.

There are enough story line twists, and loops to keep you along on the ride, and if anything the length of the movie is too short as we leave wanting more. That isn’t a bad place to be though, leaving wanting more. While most people leave the theater in that state of mind, truth is, they leave too early.

Several years ago on Hollywood Jesus I coined the term hepiloguej. It stands for something significant that takes place after the credits. This has been used in such movies in the past as Pirates of the Caribbean, Dodgeball, Austin Powers and many others. Well, while only brief, there is a significant story twist that takes place in the hepiloguej in X-Men III The Last Stand. I have been to screenings with other reviewers who leave the theater early and I loose respect for them for this. Leaving early in X-Men III The Last Stand will have you missing out on quite possibly the most significant hepiloguej in a long time.

There are some things in this film that didn’t work at times. There are plot holes that may or may not be answered in future films, then there are some effects that could have been done a little better. Overall though, this was a fun, movie going experience. It has caused me to get out the old X-Men I and II DVD’s to watch and refresh with. I will likely see it again before the end of the summer, and believe it will have legs to endure the movie rush that is about to begin.

What does the future hold for Winter in his movie making experience? Hopefully things are as he states: “I think we have to come up with an example or model or a paradigm of the kinds of movies that we, as Christians, will be proud of that will begin to infect the rest of the culture. I want to help figure out what that looks like. End of the Spear is one model. There’s a bunch of other models out there. I think there might be some newer models, and I want to investigate those and figure out what those look like. How we get those made to get the culture thinking in a new way about who Jesus is.”

On a scale of 1-10, while not the best of the series, it is still a fantastic movie, much better than the Fantastic Four in fact. I would say at least twice as good for a score of 8.

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