X-Men: The Last Stand Review
The rollercoaster summer season hits the up-slope again (seriously Tom and Audrey, was that supposed to be entertainment?) with this third, but maybe not final, installment of the comic book mutant saga. If you haven’t seen the first two, forget about it.
As was strongly hinted at the end of X2, Jean Grey (Janssen) is back from her watery grave at the bottom of Alkali Lake – but she’s not the same sexy scientist she was before she went for a swim. We learn that when Professor Xavier (Stewart) took her in twenty years earlier, he realised she had a dual personality. As Jean, she had moderate telekinetic and telepathic abilities – as Phoenix, her powers are almost limitless, but uncontrollable, making her a danger to everyone. Naturally, Magneto (McKellen) wants a bit of her.
The key plotline concerns the development of a serum that is seen as the cure for mutation. Many feel that being a mutant isn’t a disease, whereas Rogue (Paquin) wants to know where to sign, given that she’s suffering desperately from lack of human contact, especially with Bobby (Ashmore), who starts to looks like he might prefer a girlfriend who won’t mummify him for a snog. With the cure going into mass production and certain mutant factions believing it’s only a matter of time before it stops being voluntary, Magneto sets out to destroy the source. Where will the X-Men stand?
Fears abounded that the departure of Bryan Singer and the appointment of the, shall we say, less sophisticated Ratner as director were going to be irretrievably detrimental to the series. While these concerns are not entirely unfounded, Ratner does a more than capable job, particularly during the frequent, and very impressive, special effects sequences. His handling isn’t perfect mind you – action he can do, but some of the big emotional scenes (and there are several) are sorely in need of a more graceful touch, while an early death is so bungled that we’re not even sure it happened.
While lacking the overall scope and depth of the sensational X2, it’s probably a step up from the tentative first film. Being so action oriented, the story does take a bit of a back seat on occasions, especially given the sub 100 minutes running time, but character isn’t sacrificed even if some faces fail to register. New characters range from “why are they there?” (Angel) to “why haven’t they been in from the start?” (Grammer’s Beast is a terrific amalgam of Frasier and the Hulk). Some feel as though they’ve been introduced arbitrarily because the script called for their particular ability (Rogue’s love rival Kitty can walk through walls). Of the old hands, Berry’s Storm gets the biggest hike in screen time and character development, although the mysteries behind Logan’s (Jackman) past look as though they’ll have to wait for the Wolverine spin-off.
What X3 does finally deliver is something that we’ve only been drip fed until now – mutants kicking the ever loving shit out of each other on a massive scale. The Alcatraz set climactic showdown is a freakshow rumble of seismic proportions that gives everyone the chance to really mix it up, even if it does end a few mutant careers. X-Men: The Last Stand is a fitting end to the trilogy and a very good film. Bryan Singer might have made it a great one.
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