The Last Stand
When we first
see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in X-Men: The Last Stand,
he nonchalantly strides through an apocalyptic battlefield.
Perhaps it's too soon for a last stand, but then director
Brett Ratner has never been great at pacing.
proves a forte of Ratner. This third installment in the
X-Men series (I refuse to acknowledge it as merely
a trilogy) has great fight scenes and cool demonstrations
of mutant powers gone amok. Finally, Fox opened the pocket
books and let this franchise have the budget it needed.
Many many mutants
demonstrate their powers, including the Multiple Man, Jamie
Madrox (Eric Dane), who is many many mutants in one. Colossus
(Daniel Cudmore) gets to armor up more than once and
deliver the fastball special a couple of times to boot.
Fans know what I mean.
for all that action, though, the studio has a director that
can't quite string the quiet moments together to get from
explosion to explosion. Those quiet moments, or what some
call actual storytelling, have been the hallmark of the
first two films, and obviously a strength of Bryan Singer.
of that can be blamed on a very unwieldy overloaded plot.
In a way, Ratner had his hands tied by the
second film, which very clearly set up a return of Jean
Grey (Famke Jannsen). Then Singer's original replacement
Matthew Vaughn went about casting certain key actors such
as Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut
(because no one else could be) and the excellent Beast Kelsey
Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn could not be content there, developing
a story that involves the mutant cure from Joss Whedon's
Astonishing X-Men, pieces of the "Dark Phoenix Saga,"
the Morlocks (in a huge stretch) and even more nods to "Days
of Future Past." If you're not a fan of the comics and your
head spins from these references, know that it's almost
as frustrating for those of us who do know what I'm
a result, characters bulge out of the seams of the plot,
and often fall right out. Two main characters disappear
for about twenty minutes each without anyone in the movie
noticing. Fairly recognizable faces show up, such as Ben
Foster as the Angel and Olivia Williams as Dr. Moira MacTaggart,
only to have about a dozen lines between them.
the Angel proves germane to the plot; MacTaggart seems just
dropped in to prove how much continuity Ratner and his screenwriters
It gets so bad
that one character goes through two thirds of the movie
without being named or demonstrating any power beyond slightly
creepy androgyny. When Arclight (Omahyra) finally gets named
and used, it's just a silly moment, because her presence
has been distracting for so long.
many nameless, in a movie with such a devastating personal
dilemma. With the "mutant cure" at its heart, most of the
characters should have had quiet moments of reflection,
but there's just no time.
the isolated Rogue (Anna Paquin) would be tempted, but if
rumors are true, Ratner shot two possible outcomes for her
- which means that what could have been a gripping character
arc ended up just being an editing coin toss. No one ever
seems too troubled, either, that the X-Men arguing loudest
against the cure are the ones that can easily pass for human.
Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been set up for his hard-line
response, the character seems somehow flattened by the whirling
plot, especially odd after the first scene really hammers
home the idea that he and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)
had been best friends.
This isn't to
say that the performances are bad. Those that do get focus
come off well enough. Clearly, Halle Berry was holding back
in the previous two films because the part of Storm just
wasn't big enough, and now it is. Jackman has charisma to
spare, though for some reason, his Wolverine looks more
cartoonish than before.
That seems to
be a conscious stylistic choice on Ratner's part. In this
movie, the X-Men aren't just pretty confident in their powers;
those powers are on par with how they'd be portrayed in
comics. In addition to the expansive Colossus moments, Iceman
(Shawn Ashmore) finally comes into his own, as believability-defying
as it is. And just wait until you see the Beast go into
I'll admit I
had a soft spot for the blue-furred mutant going into this
film. Casting Grammer marks the closest I will ever come
to being an X-Man myself. Despite his not being a comic
book reader, Grammer does play the role right, and may be
the only actor alive who has a hope of getting away with
saying, "oh, my stars and garters" without derision.
As always, Stewart
and McKellen make grand foils, though Ratner never really
lets them cut loose. The opening scene digitally youthens
them twenty years, and though it's a little off now, McKellen
is right. By the time the studio gets around to that rumored
Magneto and Xavier prequel, the technology will have improved
enough that these veteran actors should get to play themselves
as much younger men.
But why go for
a prequel? Even in Ratner's hands, X-Men is a watchable
fun franchise, though it twice aimed higher. Keep it going.
Don't cut the budget, just cut down on the scope of the
plot a bit and we could be seeing mutants for a long, long
is no last stand, nor even a last gasp. It's just lost the
pretense of being serious.
with Tom DeSanto (the first film)
with Bryan Singer (X2)