'X-Men' Fails to X-cite

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Action movies aren't doing well this summer. It could be Hollywood's new formula: No story, no plot … just action, all of the time.

"Mission: Impossible III" was all Tom Cruise, all the time. I liked it. It got good reviews. It's not a flop, but it is a big box office disappointment.

Then came the big budget "Poseidon" remake. Five minutes into the movie, the boat sinks. Nine minutes into the movie, the movie sinks.

Now, we turn to "X-Men: The Last Stand," the third and allegedly the last in the series, and let's hope so. Three's hardly a charm.

The first two "X-Men" -- excellent films, huge hits -- were about vulnerability and being different. That's why they resonated with such huge teenage audiences.

At the Xavier School, hence "X-Men," a kindly Patrick Stewart teaches a generation of mutant children to use their genetic differences for good and to fight the insanity of prejudice.

At Xavier, you won't be judged by the length of your fingernails (like Hugh Jackman's Wolverine) or the color of your skin (a blue and furry Kelsey Grammar joins the cast as "Beast"). Here, each mutant is different and appreciated for those differences.

In the first two films, relationships are very important. In "X-Men 2" there's a beautiful scene between Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). They're teenagers with a big teenaged crush, but one of Rogue's mutant powers is the ability to absorb all the energy from anyone she so much as touches. She can't kiss Iceman, she might kill him. But her powers also allow her to feel his icy breathe in a special way that leads to a sweet, romantic interlude.

"X-Men 3" has no time for moments like that, and quickly falls into the same trap as "M:I:3" and "Poseidon." It's all action, all effects, all the time. Ian McKellen and his ill-dressed cohorts declare war on humans, who have a new medical treatment to turn mutants into regular people.

McKellen is once again Magneto, the mutant who can move metal, and this time out, he uproots the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the films best executed special effects.

The CGI is indeed magical. But watching this, I thought maybe we've seen too much magic. Maybe what we really need, even in summer action movies, isn't to see magic, but to feel emotion. Grade B-

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