Title: X-Men: The Last Stand
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn (based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, & Len Wein)
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Jensen, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, James Marsden
Release Date: May 26, 2006
MPAA: Rated PG-13
With the latest X-Men movie coming out in theaters in less than two weeks in the form of The Wolverine, I thought it would be fitting to take a look another entry in the X-Men film franchise. Comic Attack’s own Andrew Hudson wrote a review for X-Men: First Class and former staff-writer “The Movie Lady” covered X-Men, X2: X-Men United, & X-Men Origins: Wolverine. So, we’re left with the daunting task of sitting through and actually critiquing … X-Men: The Last Stand.
X-Men: The Last Stand picks up shortly after the events of X2: X-Men United (a title almost as bad as Die Hard 2: Die Harder), with our cast of heroes mourning the loss of Jean Grey, and our villains rallying together as they learn that the US Government as developed a drug that they’re using as a “cure” for the “mutant problem”. Jean comes back in the form of the villainous Phoenix, a being of pure instinct and emotion who, if not controlled, has the potential to destroy the world. The X-Men work to try to stop her while Magneto and his army try to manipulate her into becoming their ultimate weapon. In the end, it doesn’t work out as either side had hoped for. Aside from the main plot there are a few sub-plots including Iceman and Rogue’s strenuous relationship, Angel’s difficult relationship with his father (who is also providing funding for the “cure”), & the political turmoil between human and mutant representatives. The problem is, with so many plots, and a cast of over two-dozen characters and run-time of less than two hours, the film is spread entirely too thin and nothing gets the development it needs. If this film had been about half an hour longer and each of these plots expounded upon, it could have been so much better, and more importantly it could have been the epic conclusion to a trilogy that it was meant to be.
The acting in this film is a bit of a let down, from nearly half of the main cast. Veteran thespians like Ian McKellen (Magneto) & Patrick Stewart (Xavier) give rather terrific performances most of the time, Stewart phoning it in during his scene with Jackman after Jean’s escape and McKellen overdoing it when he and Xavier confront Jean. Meanwhile, other cast members from Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), and generally all of the minor characters deliever some of the worst performances of their careers, ranging from completely phoned-in to completely melodramatic (Jackman and Berry at times being guilty of both). A few standout performances come from Kelsey Grammer (Beast), Famke Jensen (Jean), Rebecca Romijn (Mystique), Ben Foster (Angel) & James Marsden (Cyclops) who deliver quite remarkably emotional and enthusiastic performances throughout.
While on the subject of the cast, there comes another problem, the characters themselves. While not necessarily a problem for anyone who isn’t a fan of the source material, this critic is a stickler for accurate portrayals. And all of the films minor characters, while generally entertaining, just aren’t accurate to their comic book counterparts. The biggest offender in the film is Callisto. She looks and acts nothing like the character she’s based on and has none of the correct powers. They just created a new character and slapped another character’s name on it. A good example of this rather avoidable misstep can be seen with the character of Quill (who isn’t really Quill). Here we have a character who never gets named but is automatically recognizable by fans as Quill, until the credits roll and his name is revealed as Kid Omega, a character who is nothing like the one in the film. It’s as if the filmmakers and studio just didn’t care about the decisions they made. And that is the key problem with a lot of the issues plaguing this film.
One should take time to address the visuals of the film which run the gamut from terrific to lousy. For instance, the make-up and prosthetic effects used for Beast are wonderful, whereas the hair design for Wolverine is abysmal. One might think hair is a nit-picky sort of complaint, but not if you’re familiar with the character. His hair should be greasy and messy (like it is in the first film) as it helps identify him as the scruffy loner, wherein this film his hair is perfectly styled and quaffed. Other visuals that just register as mediocre come from Iceman’s skin at the end of the film and more noticeably Colossus’ skin which just looks cheap compared to how it looked in X2. However, a serious point of praise goes to the effects team for their work on Angel’s wings, as both the practical and CGI shots look spectacular. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Angel’s flying scenes, which leads to the last complaint for visuals: the wire-work. All of the wire-work in this film is rather terrible, and whenever anyone takes to the air it all just smacks of made-for-TV effects work, and considering this films budget, that’s inexcusable.
The best element of the visual effects in this film comes from one scene. Not only is the scene itself, a flashback wherein Xavier and Magneto meet a young Jean for the first time, one of the best scenes in the film, the digital make-up effects utilized to make Xavier and Magneto look 20 years younger is absolutely outstanding. It should be noted that the second best use of visual effects (both practical and CGI) is the scene where Magneto rips the Golden Gate Bridge in half to use to transport his army to Alcatraz Island.
It may seem like this review is all over the place, and well that’s because the film in question is. This film is a wild rollercoaster of good and bad, highs and lows, randomly throwing the plot and characterization for a loop. Its good moments are very good, but its bad moments are just outstandingly bad. Unfortunately the good moments aren’t given enough time to shine. Actors that do well with their roles aren’t given enough screen-time, and actors who aren’t performing as well as they should are given too much. Characters are mishandled, interesting plot-points are thrown under the bus in favor of slam-bang action and explosions, and the few characters and storylines handled well aren’t given enough focus. Overall, there’s just far too much going on in this film with not enough effort given to adequately fleshing out all of the films elements as there should have been.
Based loosely on X-Men stories “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Gifted”, X-Men: The Last Stand tries to tell the story of Jean Grey’s resurrection and tragic death while also telling the story of a “cure” for the mutant gene and the political and philosophical turmoil brought about by its creation. Neither stories get told with any degree of success; furthermore the whole film just feels rushed and underdeveloped. this film gets a 5 out of 10.