Fanboys all over the world were known to have gnashed their teeth and clenched their fists in frustration when the architect of the previous two big-hitting X MEN feature films, Bryan Singer, swapped the slinky black leotards of the world? most famous mutants for the even slinkier blue and reds of the Man of Steel for the forthcoming eagerly-awaited SUPERMAN reboot. The news that unexceptional journeyman director Brett Ratner was taking over duties on this third X instalment almost led to spontaneous combustion in the geek community. Cries of ?orst X MEN film ever?echoed around the world before a frame had even been shot. So here we are then, X MEN 3 has arrived and, contrary to all anorak expectations, it? actually a pretty decent film.

I have to admit that I?e never been an enormous fan of the X MEN in either their comic book or feature film incarnations. The original 1960s comic strip seemed to be a lame watered-down version of more interesting superhero groups and the previous films, loud and proud as they were, left be a bit cold because I can? help thinking that superhero movies, essentially, should be a lot of fun (for example, I much preferred FANTASTIC FOUR to BATMAN BEGINS) and the X MEN series, with its constant obsessions with the tortured Wolverine (Jackman) and his quest for the truth about his origins and its recurring themes of alienation and acceptance, just seemed a bit too angsty and heavy-handed. The films also seemed to concentrate on the mutants and their plight to the exclusion of any real human involvement which made the characters even more distanced and divorced from the real world. So while X MEN 3 moves on from concentrating of Wolverine? plight and concentrates a bit more on its story ?scientists have located a gene within a young boy which can ?ure?mutation ?it then creates a whole new slew of problems by loading the screen up with far too many characters, far too many of whom just aren? allowed room to breathe and develop due to the film? relatively-brief running time(just under two hours).

Here we have a film that? just groaning under the weight of all its characters ?and as a consequence many of them are sidelined. The previously-integral Rogue (Anna Paquin) has just a handful of scenes, Cyclops (Marsden) disappears in the first twenty minutes, newcomer the Beast (the excellent Kelsey Grammar) could have done with a lot more screentime and even Jackman? Wolverine, central as he is to the resolution of the main threat, is relegated to little more than a shouty heavy. Halle Berry, who? been a bit critical of the material she? had to work with previously in her role as weather-controlling Storm, steps up to the plate here and has a much meatier role, which the actress is clearly relishing in. But with Patrick Stewart? Charles Xavier absent for much of the film (just stick around to the end of the closing credits!) it? left to Ian McKellan to deliver the heavyweight thesping and he does it with style here, chewing up the scenery is every scene, particularly in the splendid final act where the story and the action really kick in and all Hell breaks loose on Alcatraz.

Considering the movie? relatively-brief production period, it? amazing that the film is as slick and spectacular as it is and while there? the odd action set-piece dotted about the film it? at the end that the visual effects really kick in as Magneto (McKellan) uses his powers to literally lift the Golden Gate Bridge from its moorings and transport it across the Bay so he can use it to launch his attack on the medical institute on Alcatraz. Here the X Men come into their own and we finally see them use their awesome powers to their fullest. Even the dreadful Vinnie Jones, who looks frankly ludicrous in his padded Juggernaut suit, gets to shine in the final battle sequence.

But ultimately there? just too much going on and too many characters shuffled off to one side for the film to engage as much as it might like to. The developing character of Angel has much promise but his conflict with his politican father, ashamed of the fact that his son is sprouting wings, is largely unresolved and it? only towards the end of the film when Janssen? transformed Phoenix character is really able to let rip with the devastating ?and quite nasty ?powers she? suddenly been imbued with. It? a strong finale and the film, despite being subtitled THE LAST STAND has an uplifting conclusion that suggests there? plenty of life left in this enjoyable franchise.

X MEN 3 is a movie that the purists will probably insist on having some issues with but as a popcorn blockbuster it? hugely entertaining.]]>

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