X-Men 3: The Last Stand Review

by samseescinema (sammeriam AT comcast DOT net)
May 26th, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand
reviewed by Sam Osborn of www.samseescinema.com

rating: 2.5 out of 4

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart
Screenplay: Zak Penn, Simon Kinberg
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (sequences of action and violence)
As the X-Men series enters its final chapter, it reminds me a little of the series finale for a long-running serial drama on primetime network television. Main characters have to be buried and memorialized at tired funerals, unalterable twists put to a plot never to be picked up again, and a volley of answers laid into the patchwork of secrets and questions the previous episodes presented. But as in all series finales, there are too many answers that must be handled with directorial TLC and not enough time to fit them all in. So, often answers are plopped in front of us or sloppily dealt with, leaving the taste of Matrix Revolutions in our mouths. But this isn't the main fault line cracking up The Last Stand; the X-Men just aren't as fun as they used to be.

The formula hasn't much changed since the last time mutants populated your box office, but it seems the talky-talk side of the X-Men story has worn thin. The previous two talked quite enough, grinding the film to a halt to inject a dose of story when necessary; but then the film was smart enough to ramp back up the excitement and continue with its Juggernaut blast of superhero action. The X-Men puppeteers should have by now realized we don't come to these pictures for their intellectual draw. There's no thickening of emotional binds we have to the mutants with each iteration of the X-Men tale. But Director Brett Ratner and his drove of technical assistants trudge on through a screenplay fattened by an overstretched storyline that draws such transparent parallels to racism, generalization, and most of the recent political issues that call for picketers. And Screenwriters Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg continue X-Men's tradition of chunky character development, with generous dips into a sour sauce of conventional storytelling. The X-Men movies have never been adept at handling story, but more than make up for it with tremendous set-pieces of comic book action. Does anyone remember the opening sequence in X2 with Nightcrawler? That scene alone was worth price of admission. There's nothing to match that excitement here, and we're left with many solemn discussions on the future of Mutanity (like humanity, see?).
The story itself continues the tug-of-war struggle between Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) as they fight to harness the power of the mutant population. Here they're fighting for control of Leech (Cameron Bright), a mutant whose power is to rob fellow mutants of their supernatural abilities, turning them back into ho-hum humans. The government has harnessed Leech's power and formed a vaccine to "cure" the mutant race. Dr. Xavier and Magneto have different opinions on the subject, and now fight on different sides of an inevitable war between Mutants and Humans. Spicing up things is Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), whose powerful dual personality, Phoenix, has become unstoppable in a mood swingy, pre-menstrual sort of way.
There are new characters, like Beast (Kelsey Grammar), representing the Mutant race in the White House, Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), which is pretty self-explanatory, Kitty (Ellen Page), who can walk through walls and Angel (Ben Foster), who's sprouted feathery, white wings. The filmmakers have gotten progressively more whimsical with their mutants, springing dozens of other characters with fascinating abilities. But only in the final climactic scenes do their powers get put to use. For all its explosive excitement and impressive CGI images, this final battlefield sequence is the only true action scene in the entire film. The rest of the film's action leads up to this ending, refusing to participate in any of the set-piece thrills the previous two films contained. This results in a pitiful downplay of some more intriguing characters, especially the potentially-iconic Angel.

Although The Last Stand plunks down as many answers as its 104 minute running length allows, if you stay through the end credits, you'll be treated to the most tantalizing of cliffhangers. At the midnight screening last night, as the cliffhanger moment was revealed, people shouted "What are they doing?! It's over!" My friend leaned out and said, "They're making money, people. They're making money."


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