X-Men: The Last Stand

x-men 3In the last decade one genre has returned from almost certain death to become one of Hollywood’s most lucrative sources of income. That genre is that of the superhero, or comic book genre as it is most commonly referred to as. Several franchises have been successfully established within this revived genre, some standouts would be the ‘Spider-Man’ movies, ‘Batman’ reboot and the ‘Blade’ trilogy. In the midst of all of those, one franchise has stood out from all the others by taking the focus of the comic book film away from being only on a few key characters and onto an entire team of heroes. This set of movies is none other than the ‘X-Men’ franchise.

After two highly successful trips to the box office with “X-Men” and “X2: X-Men United”, both with Bryan Singer at the helm, the third film “X-Men: The Last Stand” would feature a new director. For the third entry in the series, director Brett Ratner (“Red Dragon”) took over for Bryan Singer, who left the series to direct “Superman Returns”. The decision to have Brett Ratner at the helm of such a high profile movie that was to serve as the supposed final chapter in the popular superhero trilogy, caused many a fan to become uneasy. This was caused in part by the fact that Ratner had at one point been picked by Warner Brothers to direct the newest ‘Superman’ movie; however, before much progress could be made he dropped out of the film. So, with a new director onboard that had little to no obvious experience in dealing with elaborate visual effects (not to mention the fact that he couldn’t handle one hero let alone a team), and the success of a franchise on the line, one question remained. “Could this latest chapter in the ‘X-Men’ series hope to succeed when it seemed that so many factors were working against it?”

“X-Men: The Last Stand” begins with the creation of a new ‘cure’ for the mutant gene, allowing those born with powers to choose whether they wanted to remain mutants or take the cure and become normal human beings. This ‘cure’ quickly becomes the focus for the mutant race, and serves as the potential catalyst to spark an all-out war that has been brewing between Magneto’s (Sir Ian McKellan) ‘Brotherhood of Mutants’ and Professor Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) X-Men. With mutantkind divided as to which side to choose, the battle lines are quickly being drawn, and the final battle is about to begin!

Screenwriter Zak Penn (“xXx: State of the Union”), taking over for departing writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris (who also jumped ship to work on “Superman Returns”), chose wisely (in my opinion) to not focus on a story dealing solely with the ‘cure’ for mutants. Granted the cure story arc was interesting and provided some very captivating moments between key characters as some felt the cure was a blessing, while others felt it was just another way for humans to oppress the mutants even further. With that being said, I don’t feel that this storyline would have been able to sustain the film throughout its entire duration. With that in mind I feel confident in stating that the film greatly benefited from the intermixing of the incredibly popular Phoenix story arc from the comic books. The Phoenix plotline, just as it did in the comics, provided some very intense moments within the story, along with numerous opportunities for the characters to explore how they feel about Jean’s miraculous resurrection and her newly unleashed awesome power. This proved especially true for Hugh Jackman’s character Wolverine, as he now finds the woman he loves may be a threat to everything else he holds dear.

Many detractors of this film felt that the movie lacked in substance, and that the film would have been better served had it focused solely on Jean Grey becoming the Phoenix. I agree that the film probably would have been even better had it dealt even more, if not solely on Jean’s manifestation into the Phoenix. However I must disagree with the first sentiment about the lack of substance. This film was the final act (or at least it appears to be) in a trilogy, meaning that in some way it ties into events that occurred in the previous two films. Therefore, this film is intended more as a means of tying up any and all remaining loose ends left over from its predecessors, while at the same time expanding somewhat on what had been laid out prior to this entry. In the case of “X-Men: The Last Stand”, the film’s story was focused on exploring what happened to Jean in the closing moments of “X2”, unleashing the war that had been brewing between the two opposing sides of the mutant race, and introducing us to the concept of a cure for mutants. If you ask me, those three aspects of the story provided plenty of substance for this film to draw from, and it did so in a satisfying way that didn’t come off as overly bloated and complicated like some third film’s in a trilogy have of late (for example, “The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”).

The cast, as they have been in the previous installments, was still as great as ever; except for a couple of exceptions. Actresses Halle Berry and Anna Paquin appeared to struggle with their characters for some reason in this film. Both of their performances varied between good to being just flat and disinterested in nature. I will say that aside from her performance in “X2”, Halle has been inconsistent with her interpretation of the X-Man known as Storm; however, by this point one would have hoped that she would have figured the character out by now. As for Anna Paquin, I don’t really know what the problem was; perhaps it was her character’s arc in this film and her insecurity about being a mutant becoming more apparent given the newly discovered cure. Whatever the case may be, she clearly struggled to find a groove in her surprisingly small amount of screen time, given that the character was much more involved in the previous two films, and in the end she delivered what could possibly be classified as the most uninspired performance in the film. Like I said, aside from these two, the remainder of the returning cast members continued to deliver solid performances, even when relegated to little more than a cameo appearance (I’m referring to James Marsden’s character Cyclops).

Joining the returning members, the film featured several newcomers to the series, such as Kelsey Grammer (Beast), Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut) and Ben Foster (Angel), all of whom fit right in, as if they’d been members of the cast since the very first movie. Now, I for one never would have picked Kelsey Grammer (TV’s “Fraiser”) to embody the X-Man known as the Beast. Sure he could handle the intellectual dialogue and would sound genuine in doing so, but I wouldn’t have thought of him as being all that physical of an actor. However, there he was in some of the fight sequences right in there with the other X-Men, and holding his own without any trouble at all. It’s just one more example of how some of the casting choices in Hollywood never cease to amaze me in how spot on they are, despite all appearances to the contrary. Next we have soccer player turned actor Vinnie Jones (“Gone in 60 Seconds”) offering up his portrayal of the powerhouse mutant known as Juggernaut. Juggernaut pretty much did in this film exactly what the character is known for in the comics, essentially decimate anything and everything in his path. The only major difference between the two mediums is that there was no mention ever made to the character being the half-brother to Charles Xavier. Aside from that Vinnie’s performance was as good as expected for an actor playing a character that isn’t known for being all that much of a thinker or having any real depth to him.

Last but not least, we have actor Ben Foster as the mutant known as Warren Worthington III, a.k.a. Angel. The only thing you can say about Ben, other than the fact that he pretty much knocks every performance out of the park, is that he is a true chameleon when it comes to his appearance and presentation from role to role. In one movie he’ll have long black hair and an extremely bad attitude (“Hostage”), then he’ll have scraggly red hair, a plethora of piercings, and a heart of gold (“The Punisher”), or he will be a clean cut, blonde heir to a massive fortune as he is in this film. It’s amazing to me to see just how diverse Ben has proven to be in various movies, and each performance is always unique from the one before it. This is one actor who I believe will go down as one of the best and most talented of his generation.

The action scenes in this film are the most intense out of all the ‘X-Men’ movies. Everything is so exciting and fast-paced that you feel like you have to see the movie more than once to fully take it all in. Going hand-in-hand with the action, the special effects work is also the best out of the franchise. Not that the visuals in the first two movies were anything to look down upon. In this film there is one sequence alone, involving the Golden Gate Bridge, that is worth the price of purchasing this movie.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” isn’t a perfect movie by any means; however, it completely ties up all loose ends while still delivering to us a pulse-pounding battle that had been teased at for the last two films. Despite all the bad press this film has received among some fans, critics and so on, I personally found this installment to be just as entertaining as the first film, and a fitting end to the series.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and sensuality.

1 thought on “X-Men: The Last Stand”

  1. I agree with just about everything you said. I do think some of the acting fell short of my expectations, and as tends to happen for me in trilogies, I did not like this one as much as the first two. I liked the focus on the team of X-Men in the first two movies better than the focus on Jean Gray in this one. Contrary to what the “detractors” you mention say, I would not have liked this movie had it focused entirely on her transformation into the Phoenix. It may have held together better, but my fascination with this trilogy had been on the team. I like the relationship between the characters and the idea that superheroes can function as a group, distinguishing them from the Batmen, Supermen, and Spidermen of the superhero world. I do think it’s a good movie, and I do think it’s a film well worth purchasing, if only to complete the trilogy. I love X-Men, and despite a relative disappointment with this one, it was fun, worth the movie ticket, and worth the DVD price tag.

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