X-Men III: Disappointing to Comic Book Fans

So, I am going to fully reveal my inner-geek today and let you know that I am, indeed, the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons.” Actually, I do not collect them anymore, although I do still read them from time to time. I used to be an all-out comic book collector. I went to conventions. I bought an X-Men #1 and got it signed by Stan Lee. I had over a thousand of them before I finally stopped. Of course, one of my favorite titles to collect and read was X-Men. I loved those stories. I loved the characters. It was a powerfully written tale and title and it struck home with me. As such, I had very high hopes for “X-Men III: The Last Stand” and the handling of the “Dark Phoenix” saga from the comic books. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

I know, it shouldn’t be fair to compare the movies to the comic books. The story of Jean Grey, the telekinetic girl who falls in love with fellow X-Man Scott Summers (Cyclops) and then becomes a being so powerful she cannot control it, was a very long involved tale covering many months. In order to tell the story the way it was told in the comics you would need about five movies and introduce a whole range of characters that would make a panel-by-panel telling of the story impossible. I know this, but I was still expecting something more and I didn’t get it and I am very disappointed because I was really looking forward to this movie.

In the comics, Jean Grey and the X-Men end up nearly plummeting to Earth after defeating the mutant-destroying robots known as The Sentinels who were on an orbiting satellite at the time. After destroying them and the satellite they were forced to jump into a space shuttle and head for home. They realized that the shuttle’s shielding had been damaged and that anyone left in the cockpit would absorb a lethal dose of radiation. Brave Jean Grey decided to stay up there while the rest sought shelter. When the shuttle crashed Jean Grey emerged from the water as the immensely powerful “Phoenix.” As Phoenix Jean Grey possessed infinite power and could telekinetically manipulate the molecular structure of objects. The power was also too much for her to control, as we soon found out.

At the same time, Jean Grey and Scott Summers finally seemed to be consummating their long-running romance. Marriage appeared to be in the cards. Then, interference from a villain known as “Mastermind” manipulated Jean into giving into her darker half and she became “Dark Phoenix.” In her quest for power and energy Dark Phoenix destroyed a sun and obliterated an entire planet, thus killing billions. The X-Men managed to get Jean to gain control of herself only to have the entire team transported to the moon where a race known as the Shi’ar put Jean and the X-Men up on trial for her crimes as Dark Phoenix. The Shi’ar and X-Men engaged in battle, Jean Grey lost her grip on her power and became Dark Phoenix again. Realizing she could never maintain the absolute control she would need not to become evil again she chose to kill herself and died in the arms of her lover, Scott. It was gut-wrenching, tear-inducing and heart-breaking and one of the finest comic book storylines every written.

Now comes the movie version. A cure for the mutant gene is being produced from an enzyme secreted by another mutant. Fans of the comics will know this mutant as “Leech.” A debate rages over whether or not mutants should actually want to be cured. Is what they can do really a disease? Magneto seems to think mutants are the next step in evolution. Needless to say, he disagrees with the idea of a “cure.”

While Magneto begins to gather an army, Jean Grey comes erupting out of the lake that covered her at the end of “X2.” She is now “Dark Phoenix.” Despite some impressive shows of power, I never got the feeling that this Dark Phoenix could cause a star to go super-nova and destroy an entire planet or galaxy. Her eyes get dark and her skin gets gray and her veins pop out and she creates a lot of wind, however. She joins with Magneto.

Magneto has never been as powerful in the movies as he is in the comic books. In the comic books Magneto can do more than move metal around. He can generate magnetic energy from his fingertips and other energy along the electro-magnetic spectrum. However, in this movie, Magneto comes close to being as powerful as he is in the comics than has been represented before. The scene where he uproots the entire Golden Gate bridge is rather impressive.

Other mutant characters are introduced very quickly and then not given much to do. Fans of the comics can be on the lookout for Angel, Beast, Callisto, Arc-Light and Madrox the Multiple Man. They also bring in the character Juggernaut and then ruin him by just making him a mutant.

In the comics Cain Marko, the man who would become Juggernaut, was the step-brother of Charles Xavier. An abused boy who turned his anger at his father against his step-brother, Cain becomes bitter and violent man. When he learns his step-brother can read minds he becomes hateful of his brother. Eventually he becomes a mercenary and while on his travels stumbles upon a mystical ruby that endows him with the powers of an unstoppable Juggernaut. He then tries to use his nearly-limitless strength to gain his deluded revenge against his step-brother. Much more interesting, at least to me, than just turning him into another mutant with a bad attitude.

There is a lot of action in this movie. The special effects are first rate. However, the entire experience just left me wanting more. I wanted to feel the heart-break and gut-wrenching feelings I felt when I read those comic books all those many years ago. Instead they kill off beloved characters who were never killed off in the comics and they turn characters I always liked (like Madrox) into villains.

Rumors are this may be the last X-Men movie. Given how crowded the theater was at the showing I was at, I doubt this. Given the ending of this movie, I also doubt that is the case. Still, I kind of hope if there is a next one they take the time to appreciate the original story-lines a bit more and treat some of the characters with a bit more respect than they did this time around.

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