X-Men: The Last Stand

Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Ian McKellen as Eric Lensherr/Magneto
Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix
Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue
Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast
Rebecca Romijn as Raven Darkholme/Mystique
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Vinnie Jones as Cain Marko/Juggernaut
Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce/Pyro
Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier
Ben Foster as Warren Worthington III/Angel
Dania Ramirez as Callisto
Olivia Williams as Dr. Moira MacTaggart

Directed by Brett Ratner

Summary:
The last chapter in a trilogy should be the biggest and the best, and it’s disappointing that this one never really achieves its full potential.

Story:
Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and his mutant superteam of X-Men once again take on Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in a battle that has repercussions for all mutants, when the government offers a “cure” for mutations that may be a blessing to some, but an attack on mutantdom as a whole.

Analysis:
(Note: Minor spoilers for this movie and the previous one may be included.)

There’s little question in my mind that “X2: X-Men United” was one of the best translations of a comic book onto the movie screen, and quite a step up from Bryan Singer’s introduction of the characters three years earlier. Because of this, there are probably more expectations for “X-Men: The Last Stand” than any sequel could possibly endure, let alone a director trying to step into Singer’s shoes.

That be as it may, the plot for the third movie is loosely based on the classic “Dark Phoenix” storyline with bits from a hodgepodge of sources that creates a strange chicken and egg scenario. While the comics have slowly morphed to more closely resemble the movies, the screenwriters then turn around and cherry-pick bits from the recent comic books: the “cure” storyline is taken from Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men,” the Iceman/Kitty Pryde/Rogue love triangle is taken from recent issues of “Ultimate X-Men,” and the relationship between Wolverine and Jean Grey is similar to how Grant Morrison explored it in “New X-Men.”

The big problem is that like in the comic books, the number of mutants have gotten out of control, and there’s no way that all of them could possibly get the amount of screen time or focus they deserve. Because of that, they all get their moments and then are quickly discarded or forgotten. The worst of these is Colossus, who has a slightly bigger role than the last movie though still lacks any personality, and Multiple Man, who is little more than a cool gimmick.

Of course, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is still the driving force of the movie, but with his origins being explored in the previous movie, it doesn’t leave much more to add to the character except for him to react to Jean Grey’s return from her watery grave. Most of the quips that made Jackman so much fun in the role are gone. It’s also hard not to be disappointed at some of the missed opportunities like when Magneto and Wolverine face off. True comic fans will expect to see the Adamantium ripped out of Wolvie’s body; instead, he’s just thrown around.

Halle Berry negotiated herself a much larger role, but frankly, it might have been a mistake to have appeased her. Storm just isn’t particularly impressive, with her powers enhanced to allow her the power to spin like a tornado. Likewise, those who’ve followed the developments of Bobby Drake AKA Iceman since his cameo in the first movie will be expecting a lot more him. While we do get to see him ice-up, expectations of elaborate ice slides should be laid to rest, and even a fire vs. ice showdown against Aaron Stanford’s Pyro comes too late in the game.

Then there’s the new mutants: Ben Foster’s Warren Worthington AKA Angel, a mutant with beautiful wings, is introduced in a grisly flashback where he’s trying to saw them off. Years later, his rich father has developed a chemical formula to “cure” mutations, but Warren isn’t having any of that. This subplot has many possibilities but like so many of them, it’s never resolved in a satisfying manner, making this one of the first and only times this year I wished a movie were longer to deal with these issues.

Kelsey Grammer, TV’s “Frasier,” dons a ridiculous looking blue pelt to become Dr. Hank McCoy, the Secretary of Mutant Affairs–”Beast” to his mutant pals. By the time we actually see him in action, it involves the same cheesy wirework that looks so bad in so many other superhero movies. Maybe this is a fanboyish quibble, but the look of Vinnie Jones’ Juggernaut and how his powers are used isn’t so great either. In the comics, he’s an enormous behemoth, a wall of a man, who can slowly tear everything down in his path. This Juggernaut isn’t as big, and he runs through walls at super-speed, which just isn’t the same thing. Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde probably comes the closest to living up to her comic potential, though her part is so small.

At times, the movie seems like those interlude issues of the comic that popped up after every big event, where the characters deal with their feelings about what happened. It’s good reading, not so much when you’re expecting a lot of action, and the writing really isn’t up to snuff, mostly made up of lines that sound foolish when said aloud. Considering how tight the writing was in the last movie, it’s a serious step back for the franchise.

Then there are the deaths and the mutants “cured,” which I won’t reveal. At the end of “X2,” a character supposedly killed was given hope for new life. Of course, she’s back, but then another key character is disposed of off-camera and then quickly forgotten, while another gets a glorious death before an obvious out is inserted after the credits. Just knowing that these mutants may be no more makes it hard to enjoy the movie, while disproving the old adage of comic book characters not truly being dead unless you see the body. Still, when someone important dies in a movie, you should be forced to feel something, and even these prominent deaths don’t elicit any sort of emotion.

That’s not to say that the movie is completely terrible, the best parts of the film being when Magneto and Phoenix let loose with their powers, which gives the stunt and effects department a chance to do the same. One has to imagine that given more time in post-production would have allowed these scenes to be even more refined.

It’s not entirely the fault of new director Brett Ratner, who did a decent job pulling together a complex movie with a big cast in far less time than any director should have, although it’s easy to see where corners were cut. The movie also lacks the general sense of style that Singer brought to the table, and the dark and serious nature of the story could have been greatly helped with a few lighter moments, which Ratner should

The Bottom Line:
Fans of the first two movies will probably want to see what happens with the characters they’ve grown to love, but with the exception of a few action-packed effects-laden set pieces, they’re likely to be disappointed at this mediocre step back that doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the previous movie.

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