X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg and Zack Penn
Cast: Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Ben Foster, Kelsey Grammer, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Vinnie Jones, James Marsden, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, Dania Ramirez, Rebecca Romijn, Aaron Stanford, and Patrick Stewart


© Copyright 20th Century Fox

© Copyright 20th Century Fox

X-Men: The Last Stand is like a teenager from MTV’s Laguna Beach. It’s pretty but too shallow to be involving; it talks too much, even though it’s got little to say; and the people responsible for it should learn that throwing loads of money at something isn’t enough to make it any good. The difference, of course, is that there’s still an off chance the kids from Laguna Beach are just going through a phase and at least one of the Laurens will grow up to be a worthwhile human being. That’s the advantage of being alive. The third X-Men movie, on the other hand, is so devoid of life it’ll never be thought of as interesting.

X-Men: The Last Stand is like an episode of the old Freddy’s Nightmares series. Two tales are awkwardly presented as one, based on the most tenuous connections. One tells of a controversial “cure” that suppresses mutation. The other deals with the return of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and her transformation into the deadly Phoenix as she loses control of her telekinetic powers. The first premise provides an obvious solution to the second, but the film keeps the two threads strangely independent. Though they share a few locations, each subplot has its own themes, stakes, and even characters. Only the series’ antagonist, Magneto (Ian McKellen), and the reluctant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) actively participate in both. The other characters are often found standing idly in the background, politely waiting for the movie to get back to them.

X-Men: The Last Stand is like CNN’s Crossfire. Issues are raised; accusations are thrown around; but genuine discussion is quickly discarded in favour of outlandish fights. Consider the movie’s mutant cure storyline, in which Storm (Halle Berry) reproaches Wolverine for not taking a firmer stand and scolds Rogue (Anna Paquin) for even asking about the cure. You’d figure she’d be more understanding of her student, whose mutation denies her physical human contact, but Storm is a woman of integrity, and integrity means bullying others with your ideals. The X-Men soon find themselves at odds with Magneto, who views the cure as an act of war against mutantkind. As in the comic book, links are made to contemporary forms of intolerance, and I enjoyed the opening scene with Angel (Ben Foster), meant to parallel homosexual adolescence. Unfortunately, the film is more interested in punching things. In the end, the bad guys are defeated, but little else is actually resolved.

X-Men: The Last stand is like an episode of 24. It’s full of gratuitous deaths and reversals, but it’s hard to get excited when the protagonists themselves don’t have time to care. Shocking revelations abound as Jean Grey, driven mad by her powers, betrays the X-Men and finds her way to Magneto, who means to exploit her newfound penchant for destruction. Though several major characters are killed, only one is mourned before the end of the storyline. As a result, the heroes and villains, who are constantly switching allegiances, come off as morbidly insensitive egomaniacs with attention deficit disorder, and the audience is left wondering why we should root for any of them. Now, in fairness, the X-Men do mourn their fallen comrades during the film’s final montage, in which two people stand in a graveyard for about twelve seconds. Incidentally, the burial plot is situated less than forty meters from the school veranda, so the students know what to expect if they don’t toe the line.

© Copyright 20th Century Fox

© Copyright 20th Century Fox

X-Men: The Last Stand is like a Japanese cartoon. It’s completely undecipherable unless you’re already obsessed with the franchise. The third X-Men movie is filled with references for long-time fans, but no effort is made to properly integrate these elements into the story. Take, for example, an early scene in which the X-Men battle a giant Sentinel robot from the comics as part of their training. It’s unclear what the team is meant to learn from this exercise. Is Mechagodzilla expected to attack the school? I’m also puzzled by Callisto (Dania Ramirez), Magneto’s new general, whose name I got from the website because it’s never mentioned in the film. Her powers allow her to exclaim things like, “I sense a class five mutant!” How a mutant with bird wings can be rated on the same scale as one who shoots spikes from his arms is never revealed, nor how many experience points either would need to evolve into a Pikachu.

X-Men: The Last Stand is like the final season of a series that’s gone on too long. The older characters have lost their spark; the new ones introduced have little depth; and the only reason we’re still paying attention is because we like what’s come before. If Wolverine were a student, he’d be in the remedial class. The character’s grown so stagnant he spends the entire film re-enacting bits from the previous instalments. Just how many times is Storm going to lecture him on teamwork before they order a brain scan? The only thing that’s changed is his bond with Rogue, whom he largely ignores throughout the movie. Then again, everyone seems to have lost interest in the poor girl. She’s been replaced by a younger model called Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), who’s given a pivotal role in the final battle, even though her only discernible personality trait is that she might enjoy skating. I feel sorry for Rogue. She’s the Rudy Huxtable of the Xavier Institute.

X-Men: The Last Stand is like watching bad television. It’s relatively harmless, though some believe it’ll rot your brain; it doesn’t entertain so much as it passes the time; and it should be blindingly obvious at this point that I’d rather discuss something else. The difference, of course, is that the third and allegedly final chapter of the X-Men film saga cost over $150 million to make, and I couldn’t even change the channel.

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