by Stella Papamichael, published on September 27, 2006[/i]|
With Superman Returns on his plate, director Bryan Singer handed the reigns of the X-Men franchise to Brett Ratner. He delivered a "tidy but uninspiring" Last Stand in the trilogy where the mutants revolt to protect their kind from extinction. Although it got a lukewarm reception from critics, the paying public lapped up the superhero exploits of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Ian McKellen. Hitting an estimated gross of $235m, it earned more than the previous two films combined.
[b]Stand And Be Counted
Spread across two discs, the extras for The Last Stand focus mainly on the technical achievements of Ratner and co. Naturally there's also a chance to review the journey so far in the documentary Evolution Of A Trilogy. For instance, producer Avi Arad says that X2 offered a chance to bring "new dimension to Wolverine" while Ratner talks up the fact that X3 takes place "on a much bigger canvas". There's more hype about how much "bigger and better" this film is in studio-slick featurette The Excitement Continues. It's a shame there isn't more input from the writers on the daunting task of bringing the story to a neat conclusion and to the satisfaction of pernickety comicbook fans.
On the upside, Ratner is very open about the happenings on set and invites cameras to follow him around for 40-minutes worth of Production Diaries. As well as finalising preparations for the final battle sequence, there are conversations about smaller issues like blocking a simple dialogue scene, all of it putting across the epic nature of Ratner's undertaking. He handles the challenge with good humour although there are shades of David Brent in his tendency to crack lame jokes between the serious business of getting people to bow to his will...
An alternative ending featuring Rogue (Anna Paquin) is included among 12 deleted scenes. These give an idea of how much the script altered while filming. For example a scene where Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) tests the strength of her powers exists in the final cut, but instead of telekinetically separating the components of a gun, she moulds a tin can into a mini atom bomb. In a featurette on Editing (in the Vignettes menu) it's revealed that this was done using CGI.
Anatomy Of X
In the Vignettes section you will also find featurettes on costume, makeup, weapons and Halle Berry learning to fly on a wire. ("You take your brave pills and just go up there!" she insists.) Another menu titled Blogs includes four more glimpses behind the scenes. Ratner takes us on a brief tour of the Vancouver set while comic book creator Stan Lee prepares for his cameo as "waterhose man" - who, by the way, is not a superhero! Perhaps the most detailed look at the varying stages of production is Anatomy Of A Scene, deconstructing the sequence where Magneto (Ian McKellen) causes havoc on The Golden Gate Bridge. Computer animated storyboards helped Ratner to figure out the logistics and that finished animatic is presented along with 19 others in a separate menu.
Kinberg and Penn finally talk about their contributions in a commentary with Ratner. The latter explains that he came aboard the project with one question: "What has Bryan Singer not been able to accomplish?" The answer was a depiction of the Danger Room where the mutants train for battle. Kinberg and Penn explain how they were finally able to incorporate this into the plot and make it "pay off" in the last act. In an alternative commentary, the producers express gratification with this bit of storytelling and indeed spend most of the time heaping praise on the filmmakers. Essentially this track is a superfluous layer of hype.
Supplementing the bonus discs are two galleries showcasing the concept art, models and storyboards and a section of text-based character profiles. X-Men devotees may feel cheated by scant reference to the source material, but there's still enough here to keep casual fans rooted to the sofa like Magneto on metal.
Rating: 4 out of 5