We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
A cure for mutation sparks war between mutantkind and humanity. Starring Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen, directed by Brett Ratner
Whether the director of the first two X-Men films Bryan Singer was jumped or pushed from X-Men: The Last Stand is unclear. All we know is that he was eventually replaced by director Brett Ratner (Red Dragon) and scriptwriter Simon Kinberg (xXx: State Of The Union, Mr And Mrs Smith). To a successful, thought-provoking superhero series, they have brought misogyny, bombast and an over-compensating machismo that smacks of a pair of privileged frat-boys who've been given a movie career for their 21st birthday.
At the end of X2, Jean Grey was drowned while saving her colleagues. In the Marvel comic, the X-Men are renowned for their high mortality rate, none more so than Jean Grey, who has died three times. Her resurrection as an all-powerful mutant called Phoenix forms one of the plots on hand here, along with an arbitrary selection of other plots, such as a cure for the mutant X-gene, some teen romance and the urgent need to meet a quota of Dell product placement.
In the comic, Phoenix was an all-powerful, planet-eating entity. Here, she is reimagined as an all-powerful man-eating vagina dentata. Phoenix - she comes back from the dead and boy is she horny! Having gulped back one lover, she sets her rampant scary sexuality loose on Wolverine (Jackman) and only his mutant-healing factor saves him from her soul-sucking, all-consuming privates.
The sense that the X-Men have been reimagined as avatars playing out some hack's sexual dysfunction is only confirmed by the appearance of Vinnie Jones, Hollywood's village idiot, who sticks out like an enormous erection. With his round steel helmet and veiny prosthetic body suit, he is an enormous cockney cock. His mutant ability means that once he gets going, he can't stop. Do you see what they did there? Even worse, the filmmakers are aware of Jones' phallic qualities, and his character is dismissed as a "dickhead". It must have seemed funny back when they were chugging from the keg.
The humour here is vintage Roger Moore, with arse-deflating puns delivered as action sequence pay-offs. When Magneto (McKellen, frantically bailing out the ham) drops the Golden Gate Bridge on a bunch of soldiers, he guffaws about building bridges with humanity. Clearly, while the rest of the audience were writhing in pain during Joel Schumacher's franchise-killing Batman & Robin, Brett Ratner and Simon Kinberg were taking notes, as the spirit of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr Freeze and his ice-inspired puns flits in and out of the script.
For a film about a new species, it may be fitting that X Men: The Last Stand lacks humanity. The filmmakers have described it as more emotional, presumably just because characters die, but it is actually entirely unaffecting. Then there is creepy way the women are treated: let's put Phoenix's voracious man-eater aside for a moment, and consider the way we are asked to relish the sight of Rebecca Romijn quivering naked and helpless at our feet. Later, even the President Of America will get in on the act, noting with some satisfaction that "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".
The whole mutant/human metaphor is about having sympathy for the outsider, for the kids who happen to be a little bit different. All hacks leave their thumbprints, spittle and psychological flaws in their work, and the watermark of Brett Ratner's soul visible here indicates he is more sympathetic to the bully than the bullied. Although he is operating within the palette set down by Bryan Singer and his production staff, it is instructive to see how quickly the wheels come off the film, how briskly one's investment in these characters is dispatched, how swiftly one makes one's exit from the auditorium after the two hundred million dollar calamity is over.
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