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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Brett Ratner Destroys the X-Men

Who is Brett Ratner? No, he's not some newfangled mutant with incredibly deadly powers, unless you count the ability to defeat insomnia as a mutant power. Why, he's the director of X-Men III: The Last Stand, that's who! You know this because he slaps his name in big letters right at the end of the film, just so everyone knows who to blame.

He's also the director of the magnum opuses Rush Hour I and Rush Hour II, noted for Chris Tucker's amazing performance as Jackie Chan's annoying second banana. These are the films where Jackie always has a look on his face that says, "What the hell are we doing here? Why couldn't Sammo Hung have directed this crap? He'd at least make it funny. Can I kick Brett? Can we put that in the outtakes?? Chris, go annoy Brett!"

Ratner is also the director of the "masterful" (and I mean that with complete sarcasm, just in case you didn't notice) Madonna: The Video Collection. Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles step aside! Madonna? Who needs Citizen Kane when we could be watching sleazy ripoffs of 50's musical dance routines with a stereotypical gay subtext that makes Cruising look like a GLAAD public service announcement.

Why am I so completely miffed with Mr. Ratner? Well, at the risk of sounding like a comic book geek (I assure you, I was cured decades ago), let's just say that the director of the latest installment of one of comicdom's most beloved groups might as well go around wearing a t-shirt with the words "I don't give a damn about the [expletive deleted] X-Men, I'm just here for the huge sums of money!! Somebody pay me now or I'll make Wolverine into a lambada instructor!!"

I won't give away the plot, which has about as much to do with the actual comic series as Hamlet has to do with SpongeBob SquarePants. In short, Ratner and the screenwriters, Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn (Whose combined names are an anagram for "Nos gremi Zinnbe Kanpk", which is Hungarian for "Quality is not our bag, baby!") decided to jettison a well-known and beloved storyline for a plot that looks as though it were cobbled together in 20 minutes between bong hits.

In addition, the writing, the direction, the ambience, the "jenesequa" -however that may be spelled in the actual French-, the mood, the tone, and the pacing of the film were just slightly beneath that of a short opus depicting a swarm of flies' conquest of a steaming pile of cow dung (See the Cannes Film Festival).

The special effects were quite good though, if you can accept that they were utilized to utterly destroy everything that Marvel Comics worked for in that series. Stan Lee and Chris Claremont, were the cameos worth it? What's next, John Byrne sells Ratner his first born for a chance to draw the film poster? Marvel digs up Jack Kirby's bones and puts them in a prominent corner of the screen next to the Coca-Cola product placement?

Add to that some very blatant continuity errors, such as night falling on the city of San Francisco faster than it takes Tom Cruise to sound like a nutjob in a television interview (official average time: 2.47 seconds), and you have the kind of performance that would have gotten a director shot in the grand, if cynical, old days of the studio system.

Louis B. Mayer, were he still alive, would have eaten Ratner's liver with fava beans for that kind of work, and done the awful impression of Anthony Hopkins sucking his teeth, even though he would have never seen the movie in his lifetime. (Ironically, Ratner directed Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon...meaning the irony would not be lost on Brettkins.) Irving Thalberg would have beaten him to a pulp with an old riding crop, just to let him know he was back in the 30's and that's how we did things back then you sorry bastard. Then he would have fired him...rehired him to give him a flimsy shred of hope, and then fired him again...twice.

Finally, I won't give away the ending, but there's the slightest, lamest hint of a sequel...which leads us to the question: "What part of 'The Last Stand' does Bretty Ratner not understand?

I suspect it's the part about not getting another fat cheque for turning in a film that a piece of Limburger cheese could have directed with more aplomb.

Yes, I am vexed. It's one thing when Hollywood takes something people enjoy and does it poorly, it's quite another when they take something people enjoy and crap all over it with glee.

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