Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

X-Men: The Last Stand

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
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

Special Features:
Commentary by: Director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn

Commentary by: Producers Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, and Ralph Winter

Deleted scenes

Three alternate endings with optional commentary

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Running Time: 104 Minutes

Synopsis:
A short time after "X2," the world is rocked by the unveiling of a new medicine that is designed to cure mutants. This sends shockwaves through the mutant community as various mutants receive the news differently. Some see it as salvation and a way to be 'normal'. Others see it as deeply offensive and a way for humans to control mutants. This prompts Magneto and the Brotherhood to step up their terrorist activities and only the X-Men can stand in their way.

Meanwhile, the X-Men face their own crisis. Jean Grey, thought to be killed in the last film, is resurrected, but in a terrifying new form. Despite almost unlimited power, she suffers from a split personality that only Professor Charles Xavier can control. However, her darker more primal side, called Phoenix, has emerged and wreaks havoc. What will happen when Cyclops, Xavier, and Wolverine try to come to her aid? And what will happen when Magneto attempts to sway her to his cause?

"X-Men: The Last Stand" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language.

The Movie:
I'll admit that when I first heard that Bryan Singer was leaving the "X-Men" films, I was very worried. I didn't think anyone could match the quality he had on "X2." And while I found I was correct about "X-Men: The Last Stand," it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. In fact, it ends up being a decent popcorn flick. It lacks the depth, quality, and emotion of Singer's film, but it's still entertaining.

X-Men comic fans are going to enjoy this movie on a different level than your typical moviegoer. We finally get to see Colossus and Wolverine execute the Fastball Special. We finally see the Danger Room. Favorite mutants like Angel, Beast, Juggernaut, Callisto, and Multiple Man are introduced. Beast even says his trademark line, "Oh my stars and garters!" Moria McTaggert gets a little screen time and a Sentinel even makes a brief appearance. Look for a cameo by Stan Lee and Chris Claremont, too. There's a lot here to make comic fans happy. The plot is also based loosely on Joss Whedon's recent Astonishing X-Men run involving the mutant cure.

But where "X-Men: The Last Stand" really delivers is on the action. While we got to see Wolverine briefly go berserk in "X2," he really goes nuts in this film. A scene where he takes on a several evil mutants in the woods is quite impressive. He also gets into heated battle in the big finale and slices and dices many bad guys. I particularly liked one scene where his flesh is ripped away and you see his adamantium skeleton underneath. But Wolverine isn't the only one that gets action. There's a fantastic chase between Juggernaut and Kitty Pryde. Her phasing powers are used to great effect. We also finally see a payoff in the battle between Iceman and Pyro. Storm finally uses her full weather powers and gets into a battle with Callisto in two separate rounds. Then, of course, there's Magneto using his powers over metal to devastating effect. A scene where he crushes an occupied car like a tin can is stunningly brutal. In short, it's the action that really makes "X-Men: The Last Stand" worth viewing.

Amazingly, almost all of the original cast returns for this sequel. As you might expect, their performances are still good. Hugh Jackman makes a great leading man as Wolverine. Patrick Stewart is still the perfect choice for Xavier. (A scene where he and Magneto are digitally made younger is stunning and one of the most impressive uses of CG effects that I've seen in quite some time.) Halle Berry is a little wooden as Storm, but she's still fun to watch in action. Shawn Ashmore really steps up as Iceman. But where most of the attention should go is to the new cast. Ellen Page is fantastic as Kitty Pryde. She brings youthfulness to the cast that really helps connect the older X-Men with the students. Her powers are quite cool, too. Vinnie Jones makes a fun Juggernaut as well. He's tough and occasionally provides some comic relief with his brief lines. Then there's Kelsey Grammer as Beast. He's a great choice for the role and he fits the personality of the character perfectly. My only hang up was that he was maybe a little too recognizable whereas almost everyone else was an unknown. In any case, he did a pretty good job with the character.

Brett Ratner had a tremendous challenge with this film. He had to follow up Bryan Singer, he had to wrap up the series, and he had to do it in an incredibly short amount of time. All that being considered, I think he did a good job. He matched the look of the previous films and I think the feel of them line up well together. While he did have some problems here and there, overall it was a good effort by Ratner. I think with more time he could have done a better job with the script.

On a side note, stay until the end of the credits in order to see the final fate of one of the main characters.

I saw one reviewer say that this is the "Return of the Jedi" of the "X-Men" trilogy. That perfectly describes my feelings towards "X-Men: The Last Stand." "Return of the Jedi" had some undeniably cool elements like Jabba the Hutt, the speeder bike chase, the Emperor, and the final space battle. Then again, it had incredibly stupid moments like a burping Sarlaac, Luke and Leia being siblings, Boba Fett going out like a chump, and the Ewoks. Well, "X-Men: The Last Stand" has its fair share of problems, too.

First of all, characters die left and right. It's done for shock value and little more. And unfortunately when they do die, it's not in the most satisfying manner. I can't go into details without giving away spoilers, but suffice it to say that I didn't think the characters got very good sendoffs. I also felt that a number of characters were completely wasted. Angel looked fantastic and was a very intriguing character, but he's barely used at all towards the end of the film. A subplot between Angel and his father also gets completely thrown aside. The same goes for Rogue. She's barely in the movie and the love triangle between Kitty, Iceman and her is not played up to its full potential. Fans of Cyclops are also going to be really upset with how he's handled in this movie. In short, I think they tried to stuff too many characters into this film and the end result was that many fan favorites got short changed.

I was also disappointed with how the Phoenix was handled. Famke Janssen's transformation from heroine to villain doesn't feel very natural and when she does transform, her performance is rather stiff. I liked the dark effects they used to make her scary and intimidating, but the rest of the time she really just stares into space. One scene where she tries to seduce Wolverine is fantastic, but it's one of the only times that she shows any emotion. The end result is that the Phoenix isn't handled to her full potential.

There are also parts of the story that seem disjointed or just plain illogical. For example, Worthington Labs in located on Alcatraz Island. Why would a medical research facility be built on a national park? The only logical answer is because it would look cool to have Magneto rip out the Golden Gate Bridge and have it span there. Then the characters seem to jump between the East Coast and San Francisco as if they were walking across the street. Iceman and Wolverine go back and forth multiple times. It doesn't help matters in the finale when dawn and evening seem to get mixed up. I suppose this is nitpicking, but it was definitely noticeable.

On a final note, the ending of the film seemed quite abrupt. We see one character doing something, then suddenly the screen goes black and Ratner's name pops up. It was not really a smooth ending.

The Extras:
This review covers the Widescreen version of the DVD (which is the same as the Fullscreen). However, there's a Collector's Edition that includes a new X-Men comic written by Stan Lee. If you're a comic fan, you'll want to check it out. There's also a Wal-Mart 2 pack that includes two 'making of' specials from the Fox Movie Channel.

The bonus features are light on this DVD, so expect to see some super-mutated version in the future. There are no effects featurettes, interviews with cast and crew, or any other behind the scenes goodies. An interesting note is that apparently some DVDs were shipped with 10 or so deleted scenes, other copies with around 21 deleted scenes. The extra deleted scenes were reportedly mistakenly included on some copies but were intended for the later special edition. If you got them, you might be lucky. We'll see how this plays out. Here are the bonus features that you will find:

Commentaries: You'll find your standard commentaries on this DVD. One is by Director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. The other is by Producers Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, and Ralph Winter. The Ratner/Penn/Kinberg commentary is pretty good as they delve deeply into the comics, what was cut out of the script, etc. I would have liked to have heard from the actors, though.

Deleted scenes – I happened to have a copy of the DVD with 21 deleted scenes. Some were rather mundane like Beast growling at Wolverine or Juggernaut busting through a wall and saying, "Here's Juggy!". Others were a lot more interesting. There is an extended version of the fight at Jean Grey's house that is a bit more violent and intense. Wolverine actually jabs his claws into Juggernaut's arm, then later fries him with electricity channeled through his skeleton from Storm. Another alternate scene shows Jean Grey blasting the mutant camp with her powers rather than threatening Magneto with the needles. A lot of the notable deletions made the characters a bit more heroic and less violent and gritty. One scene shows Beast breaking a guy's neck. Another scene shows Iceman freezing a guy and Colossus hitting him to pieces. I hated to see those scenes go. Yet another scene shows Iceman and Kitty actually kissing, thus giving Rogue a lot more reason to be jealous and making Kitty seem like a brazen hussy. Well, maybe not that bad, but it's easy to see the cuts were made to soften our heroes.

Three alternate endings with optional commentary – The three alternate endings aren't quite as dramatic as you would hope. One shows Wolverine returning to the bar from the first movie and having a beer with the bartender. A second ending shows Rogue returned, but still with her powers intact. The final ending simply shows Beast and Storm welcoming students back to school.

The Bottom Line:
"X-Men: The Last Stand" isn't the sequel that we had all been hoping for, but it's not all bad either. If you go in looking for a popcorn flick and little more, you shouldn't be disappointed.

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