Whenever I come across a Brett Ratner-related news item (i.e., his latest non-opus), the image of 10,000 teeth-gnashing fanboys immediately comes to mind. The latest news is that Ratner and his producing partners, Bernie Goldman and Ryan Kavanaugh, have acquired The Brothers Grimm: Snow White (in 3D, of course), what Deadline calls "an edgy re-imagining of the German folk tale written by Melissa Wallack." Ratner promised to bring Snow White back to her roots, switching out Walt Disney's miners for robbers, adding a dragon, "edginess" (whatever that means), and comedy. All good fodder for the Ratner-haters in the movie blogosphere. Why, though? Bashing Ratner, especially after his ill-fated involvement in the X-Men: The Last Stand after the departure of Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, has always left me perplexed. Hear me out.

By no means am I suggesting that a close appraisal of Ratner's filmography (the non-French word for "oeuvre") will reveal a heretofore unacknowledged genius filmmaker (it happens, just not here). As a director, Ratner has had a relatively undistinguished, unmemorable career, at least artistically. Canny or lucky when it comes to selecting film projects to direct, the box office take from his films, especially the Rush Hour franchise (please, let's not call it a trilogy) have made him, for better or for worse, a Hollywood player. Outside of the Rush Hour franchise, Ratner's directed exactly two box-office hits, Red Dragon, the second adaptation of Thomas Harris' Hannibal-related novel (inferior to Michael Mann's 1986 adaptation), and X-Men: The Last Stand four years ago.
Ratner's other, less-than-memorable directorial efforts include Money Talks, a dry run for Rush Hour a year later (both starred the shrill Chris Tucker), The Family Man, a Christmas-themed, Nicolas Cage-starrer released ten years ago, and After the Sunset, a low-wattage heist film released in 2004 to indifferent critics, notable primarily for its A- and B-list cast (e.g., Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, and Don Cheadle). Certainly not an auteur, but also unworthy of anything except a shoulder shrug. The fanboy hatred, unsurprisingly, stems from his decision to direct X-Men: The Last Stand after the departure of Bryan Singer and his X2: X-Men United screenwriters, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. There, however, Ratner was nothing more than a work-for-hire director, a "hack' by the dictionary's definition (seriously, look it up).

When Ratner stepped in at the end of August in 2005, the release date (summer 2006) for X-Men: The Last Stand was set in adamantium. The screenplay was already written and pre-production was already under way. Ratner wasn't even 20th-Century Fox's first choice (or second choice, after Singer). Matthew Vaughan (next summer's X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, Stardust, Layer Cake) initially took the directing reins, but left before production began. Outside of moving the Golden Gate Bridge sequence to the climax, Ratner had little influence on the final screenplay and, therefore, deserved little blame for X-Men: The Last Stand's perceived flaws or shortcomings (I'd classify it as disappointingly mediocre rather than heart-crushingly abysmal as others have).

Those flaws or shortcomings? A screenplay that relegated Jean Grey's promised Phoenix storyline to co-equal or secondary status with the far less compelling "mutant cure" storyline borrowed from Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, Cyclops's early exit, Professor Xavier's diminished screen time, the addition of too many mutants (meant, presumably as fan service) at the expense of established characters, and Ratner's direction, a step down or two (or more, depending on who you ask) from Singer. For what it's worth, X-Men: The Last Stand has a 57% score on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 58 on Metacritic. Assuming you set aside the fallacy involved (from authority); the numbers fall in the mediocre range, not the abysmal one.

All of which leads up back to wondering why, if Ratner has limited responsibility for X-Men: The Last Stand, film and comic fan(boys) have continually treated Ratner with derision and contempt and greeted announcements of his latest efforts, whether producing, directing, or both, with negativity (not to mention hyperbole).

Okay, so that wasn't much of a defense of Ratner, but hey, at least I gave it a shot. That has to count for something.

So what do you think? Was I too kind to Ratner? Does he deserve all the fanboy rage and scorn directed his way since X-Men: The Last Stand came out four long years ago? Should he be prohibited from ever directing again? Or do you think fanboys just love to pile on? Do you want to see a Rush Hour 4? If so, why? Seriously, why? And last, can't we all get along?
categories Cinematical