Slashing Brett Ratner to ribbons has become something of a gleeful Hollywood blood sport. And, to be fair, it’s entirely deserved. An odd creature who seems to get work because he brims with bonhomie and has the heart (and art) of a 13-year-old boy, Ratner has committed his share of crimes against cinema — most notably Red Dragon, that utterly inexcusable remake of Michael Mann’s Manhunter. So it is not without trepidation that I confirm the bizarre rumor that circulated around the release of X-Men 3. The movie is actually…good.
It’s a surprise that lingers on DVD. As established by the nation’s leading cape-and-tights auteur — Bryan Singer, who zipped off to make the limp Superman Returns instead — the X franchise proves a sturdy pop confection in less capable hands. And why not? It’s still bursting with high-end talent (stars Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen all return). It still boasts one of the best conceits of any comic-book adaptation. And Ratner, to his great credit, just gets out of the way and lets the mutants do their thing. Which, in this case, means fighting a pitched battle against the humans and one another after a ”cure” for mutation is discovered. Magneto (McKellen) bends metal and forms an antihuman resistance. The Professor (Stewart) preaches calm. Those nasty Wolverine claws are bared and newbies with an assortment of tasty powers — Beast! Porcupine man! — make their appearances.
Watching X3 at home (and given the success of Prison Break), it’s hard not to wonder whether Hollywood’s favorite punching bag wasn’t made to be a television producer; the smaller format is a balm for the more regrettable Ratnerian touches. His love of the hack one-liner — for example, ”Charles always wanted to build bridges,” Magneto chuckles while doing a number on the Golden Gate in San Francisco — plays much better on the same screen that has such hit shows as, say, Two and a Half Men. (Think about it: On bad sitcoms, characters often come off as comic-book figures anyway.) And his high-gloss, cartoony action — the hallmark of his Rush Hour films — doesn’t seem nearly as cheesy when compressed to fit your living room. The DVD extras may be negligible, just a few cruddy deleted scenes and a couple of commentary tracks that end up being outshined by a sneak peek at the new Simpsons movie. Yet all but the most cranky of superfans should find The Last Stand a worthy addition to any X-library.
Oh, and one last tip: If you do decide to throw this one on your Netflix queue, do yourself a favor. Stick around and watch through the end credits. You won’t regret it.