“X-Men” was probably the only reason I kept reading comic books past age 12. I lucked into the seminal run of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne in the early 1980′s. The crucial story of their relatively short partnership was “Dark Phoenix,” which has since become a major comics touchstone. Without getting into laborious specifics, the story involved a major character being overwhelmed by her own power and becoming (for lack of a better word) a villain.
The just-released movie, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is a toned-down riff on the Dark Phoenix story. And despite all manner of problems during the movie’s production, it is probably the best comic book movie that I’ve ever seen (and trust me, I’ve seen most of them). I won’t go into specifics here because (a) I don’t want to spoil the movie, and (b) I’d sound very silly if I tried, but it’s an outstanding piece of entertainment, and I say that as somebody who walked into the theater with decidedly low expectations. The three “X-Men” movies are, despite all reasonable expectations, the only films I can think of that all improved from the original, to the sequel, to the sequel’s sequel. I know hardly anybody is going to believe this about a summer comic book popcorn movie, but “X3″ boasts a remarkably nuanced script where almost every character has a logical motivation far beyond, “He’s evil because he’s the villain,” or, “He’s good because he’s the hero.”
If I were to pare down my personal reaction to “X3,” it would go something like this: “I wouldn’t have done it the way they did it. But what they did is still one hell of a good movie.” Would I have preferred to see what Claremont wrote and Byrne drew, some 25 years ago? You bet. But that doesn’t mean that what the creators of “The Last Stand” actually did produce isn’t well worth your $8-$10. Heckuva flick. Check it out.