Cars at Hoyts, Broadway.

I couldn’t work up any real enthusiasm about going to see Cars, but in the end I enjoyed it far more than I had expected.

My lack of interest was less to do with the fact that it was about cars, and more because it seemed like a standard version of the conceited-loudmouth-meets-innocent-countryfolk-and-becomes-a-nicer-person plot. I’m not actually a big fan of this plot. (When I said this to Michael, his response was “What about Pride and Prejudice?”, but I don’t think that’s quite the same – Darcy is not changed by the innocent Meryton villagers (who aren’t particularly innocent anyway), but rather by Elizabeth’s intelligence and wit and willingness to say what she thinks of him. So it’s not really the same.)

But Cars does have exactly the redeemed-by-innocents plot, so I was all set to dislike it. And for the most part, there wasn’t really a lot to it. But the thing that made the difference – at least for me – was that there were a few brief moments in the early part of the film, where you saw that maybe there was a nice person underneath Lightning’s unpleasant exterior. I thought the opening (black screen, with him focusing for the race) was quite strong, and also the brief second when he realised that he didn’t actually have any friends. But the one that I really liked was the bit when you saw him back at the dirt track, trying over and over and over again to take the corner properly. To me, it showed that he wasn’t just about the glory of winning – he really did have a passion for doing it as well as he possibly could (even though at this stage he didn’t respond well to constructive criticism).

A lot of the quirky characters didn’t really do it for me – for the most part, I found them only mildly amusing, and rather one-note. Though I did enjoy Luigi and Guido (even though I have to admit they were also rather one-note), and I thought Doc Hudson was really good. I was a bit disappointed with Sally: I thought maybe she could have had a bit more bite, particularly in the earlier parts of the film.

Naturally, the animation was just superb. Pixar gets better and better with every film. And in spite of the fact that much of it was predictable, I did find the final race sequence very exciting and dramatic, and quite moving at times.

I’m a little conflicted about the ending of the film. Yes, it was nice, and sweet, and wonderful, and really the only possible ending. And yet … in the real world, what are the chances that a small town, been bypassed by the Interstate, would actually get a new lease of life? Pretty remote, I’d have thought. So while I could be happy for the characters in the film, it had the added (unintentional, I’m sure) effect of making me sad for the fact that it would not actually happen in real life.

X-Men: The Last Stand at Hoyts, Broadway

While I quite enjoyed X-Men: The Last Stand, it wasn’t up to the standard of the previous two X-Men films. It was definitely action at the expense of character. This doesn’t put it in the same league as Mission: Impossible III, which I really didn’t enjoy that much – I thought the action sequences in X-Men: The Last Stand were better, and while the character development was underdone, it wasn’t the same one-man-show as M:i:III.

X-Men: The Last Stand really did have the potential to be a strong, character-driven film. There were some powerful storylines, and some really good moments, but none of them were developed as far as they could – should – have been. Maybe it’s partly that there were too many characters, but I think it’s also that Brett Ratner was more interested in directing a (good) action film, than in dealing with characters’ doubts and uncertainties and life-changing decisions.

Thus, Rogue, Jean and Wolverine all had really interesting stories going on, that were just criminally under-explored. I was a bit puzzled by Storm – I gather Halle Berry demanded a bigger part before agreeing to do the film, and she certainly seemed to have more screen time than in the previous two, but I thought her character was fundamentally uninteresting. Yes, as leader of the team she was technically more important, but from a character point of view I thought the actor had more to work with in the first two films.

The other character who bothered me – in fact, who absolutely infuriated me – was Professor X. He was so self-rightous in his defence of what he had done to Jean. Even when he said it was the lesser of two evils, he didn’t seem to acknowledge that what he did was terrible. I think he needed to demonstrate a bit more empathy towards her, or at least to have given a sense that it was a difficult decision that he agonised over. But he never seemed to show the slightest regret over his actions, or to wonder whether, if he had tried harder, he might have found a better solution. He was behaving much more like Captain Janeway than Captain Picard – and Janeway was one of the reasons I stopped watching Star Trek: Voyager.

Having been warned beforehand, we stayed right to the end of the closing credits, and it was certainly one of the best after-the-credits sequences I’ve ever seen. It was so obviously prefigured in the content of the film, and yet at the same time I completely didn’t expect it.

Overall, though, the film was a disappointment. It could have been much worse, but it could also have been an awful lot better. Our main reaction on leaving the cinema was to think Bryan Singer had better have done a good job with Superman Returns to justify abandoning the X-Men series. (Actually, I am so late on writing up X-Men: The Last Stand that we have already seen Superman Returns, and he did, indeed, do a good job. I’ll try to get to it later this weekend.)