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Feature: X-Men 3

Lining up for battle

Will Brett Ratner’s take on the X franchise, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, kill or cure the comic-book genre?

Since X-Men was released in 2000, our cinema screens have been awash with superheroes. Director Bryan Singer’s hugely successful reinvention of the genre did away with the camptastic approach to previous superhero flicks such as the dire Batman and Robin and the forgettable Captain America movie. Here was a superhero film where character (not caricature) was important and where actors were allowed to act rather than just being made to stand around in rubber suits looking embarrassed. In taking the story of the X Men as seriously as the writers and the scores of fans that the comics had garnered over the years, Singer was onto a winner.

Before you could say ‘Kapow’, acclaimed director Ang Lee was taking on Hulk and just about every other character in the Marvel archives was being optioned for a movie based on their heroic exploits. A 2003 sequel to X-Men, X2 or X-Men United as it was known in the US, improved on the original with a bigger budget and demonstrated Singer’s continued commitment to delving deeper into the characters’ psychologies. With the first two instalments of the series having pleased both rabid X-Fans and casual cinema-goers alike, a third episode to the franchise seemed inevitable.

It came as a shock to many, however, not least of all 20th Century Fox, that Bryan Singer would not be directing X-Men: The Last Stand. Although he was all set to direct and co-write the third film, the Usual Suspects director had received an offer from Warner Bros that he felt he could not refuse. Superman Returns had been going through production hell at the studio with original director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) having left the project, followed by his replacement McG (Charlie’s Angels). While Singer seemed to be extremely passionate about the X-Men series, the lure of bringing the Man of Steel back to the big screen proved to be too much and soon he was heading for Warner’s studios in Australia with key members of the X-Men production staff in tow.

Losing the director was quite a blow for the X-Men series, but losing cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, writers Dan Harris and Mike Dougherty and production designer Guy Dyas left the film in a serious tailspin. 20th Century Fox reacted quickly to Singer’s departure, hiring British director Matthew Vaughn to helm the third film. Vaughan had just directed crime thriller Layer Cake and was said to be hugely enthusiastic about directing an X-Men movie.

Vaughn was soon deeply involved with the production and even imported old pal Vinnie Jones (Vaughn produced Jones’s acting début Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) to appear in the movie. Unfortunately, Vaughn made a shock departure from the production just nine weeks before filming was to begin, citing family problems. At the time, producer and Marvel head honcho Avi Arad stated, "This is not a case of creative differences. This is a personal decision by Matthew, and I can tell you that he is heartbroken. He loved this material, and he wanted to make this film."

Creative differences or not, X-Men: The Last Stand was now in serious jeopardy…

Read the full feature when you buy
Film Review (Apr)

Image © Visual Imagination Ltd, X-Men 3 © Marvel Enterprises/20th Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Apr), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Apr)
#668, April 2006
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