X-Men: The Last Stand

Directed By: Brett Ratner

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, and Patrick Stewart

"Don't let it control you."
-Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart)

Between 2005 and 2007, we didn't have the greatest comic book movies hitting theaters across the globe.  Admittedly, we did have Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins in '05.  However, we also had films like Fantastic Four, Spider-Man 3, and X-Men: The Last Stand.  Because of his misguided decision to direct Superman Returns, Bryan Singer left the X-Men franchise to take his stab at bringing the Man of Steel to the big screen.  We all know how that went for him.  As for the X-Men series, we were left with Brett Ratner in the director's chair.  Ratner is good for buddy comedies like Rush Hour, but he doesn't do terribly well when it comes to comic book films.  X-Men: The Last Stand is enough to prove this.

Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) has just developed a cure to the mutant gene, and it's causing a lot of panic within the mutant community.  Once this cure is announced and made available to the public, Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), the Secretary of Mutant Affairs, is trying to take control of the situation.  Meanwhile, Magneto (Ian McKellen) is at large and organizing his brotherhood to fight for the mutant cause and against the insidious notion that a mutation is a disease that can be cured.  He's ready to attack Alcatraz, an island in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge where the cure is housed.  Because of this, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his X-Men once again must stand up against Magneto and his efforts to wage war against the rest of mankind even though several of them are conflicted about the cure as well.

While a storm brews within the nation as a result of the cure, Scott/Cyclops (James Marsden) could care less.  He just can't stop grieving his beloved Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  It's so bad that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has had to step in Scott's place in teaching the children.  Professor X has even asked Storm (Halle Berry) to possibly take his place running his school for mutants one day as opposed to Scott.  Cyclops’s downward spiral reaches a trough when he starts to hear Jean's voice in his head and decides to go to Alkali Lake where he actually encounters a resurrected Jean.  Soon after, Professor X sends Wolverine and Storm to Alkali Lake as well to find out what happened to Scott.  They don't find Scott, but they do find Jean.  Given that she's a Class 5 mutant with virtually unlimited potential, the Professor is not too surprised.  What concerns him more is whether the Jean they've found is the one they all know and love or the beast he's caged for so many years who doesn't know how to control her powers.  If the beast is loose, it could spell doom for men and mutants alike.

As the closing chapter in the original trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand serves as a potent rebuke of the old adage that the best defense is a good offense.  With Brett Ratner now at the helm, the trilogy loses the singular directorial vision that has driven the films thus far.  This means that this third film has a starkly different tone than that of its predecessors.  This means that Ratner takes the series in the wrong direction by forcing things into the plot that go against what's been established in X-Men and X2.  With his focus on the endgame storyline of the movie, Ratner tries to divert our attention from these realities, but he fails.  X-Men: The Last Stand does not live up to its predecessors.

X-Men: The Last Stand is a drastically darker sci-fi thriller relative to the first two films.  That's a good thing and a bad thing.  Given that this is the final installment in the original trilogy and the climax of both the war between men and mutants and the Phoenix storyline, it needs to have that darker tone.  The end is here.  However, Ratner takes the film in this direction a bit too much at times, to the extent that it doesn't feel like it's part of the trilogy that Bryan Singer started.

When Bryan Singer left to direct Superman Returns, he took James Marsden with him.  As Cyclops, Marsden has a minor role at best in this third film.  The problem with this is that Ratner is forced to make a 180 on many of the things Singer established over the course of the first two films.  For example, the romance between Wolverine and Jean must take flight again.  After Jean makes her choice in X2, Scott, everything is undone upon the arrival of the Phoenix.  Jean chooses Wolverine all over again.  There are many more instances of this.  This example is actually quite indicative of a larger problem in the film whereby Ratner goes in the completely opposite direction from where Singer was taking the series in the first two films.  His relentless focus on the conclusion of the trilogy can't mask these poor creative decisions though he’s not entirely to blame for some of them.

While X-Men: The Last Stand has its flaws, this doesn't mean that the film is not enjoyable blockbuster fare.  It just means that Brett Ratner doesn't match the standard that Bryan Singer set in the prior two films of the franchise.  That being said, Ratner's cast does deliver the goods in terms of entertaining performances.  The old cast members mostly bring their best to the film once again.  Whether we're talking about Hugh Jackman's lovesick Wolverine, Ian McKellen's warmongering Magneto, or Halle Berry's willful Storm, we get the same characters we know and love.  Famke Janssen's racy interpretation of the Phoenix is a little annoying though.  I'm also not a big fan of Anna Paquin's interpretation of Rogue in this one.

In terms of the new characters, Kelsey Grammer and Ellen Page certainly make their marks on X-Men: The Last Stand.  For his part as Hank McCoy, Grammer delivers a fun performance on the whole.  Grammer gives McCoy the stately demeanor of a diplomat while also letting him "beast" when the time calls for it.  He also trades a few amusing barbs with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.  As Kitty Pryde, Ellen Page doesn't have a character with particularly awesome abilities, but she has a character with a lot of heart.  Running through walls isn't particularly a thrilling gift.  However, Page brings a great deal to the film as one serious underdog when it counts.

The special effects in the film are fairly impressive as well.  Obviously, Magneto's moment to shine at the Golden Gate Bridge is something we had never quite seen on the big screen before.  It's something that required top notch effects.  After all, moving a bridge is new territory for just about any movie.  Interestingly enough, there's actually something in the film that outdoes this insanely expensive scene.  At the beginning of the movie, Ratner delves into Professor X and Magneto's first encounter with Jean Grey.  To pull off this scene, Ratner employed some aging effects (a fairly new technology at the time) to make elder actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look light years younger.  That is something quite novel.

X-Men: The Last Stand has its flaws, but it's an enjoyable film overall.  Brett Ratner clearly misses the mark in quite a few instances.  That being said, this final installment in the X-Men trilogy still earns a 0.06% rating.  The cast is already in sync after several films together, and it's difficult to fully undermine this.  Have a few rounds of beer as you either join the brotherhood or take a stand.  Stick around for a post-credits clip.  Sometime down the road, it might help you understand some of the creative decisions made by Bryan Singer for X-Men: Days of Future Past.