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May 30, 2006 > X-Men: The Last Stand: A Film Review by Jeremy Inman

X-Men: The Last Stand: A Film Review by Jeremy Inman

Rated: PG-13

Brett Ratner and crew should be commended. Following the franchise established by previous X-Men director Bryan Singer, the man who recreated comic book movies on the big screen, is no easy task. Still, Ratner was able to effectively maintain the tone and style of the first two films while successfully giving both comic book fans and casual audiences something to marvel at and enjoy, even if only for one hour and forty-four minutes.

That having been said, X-Men: The Last Stand is a great comic book movie, however definitely the worst of the three "X" films. With a short runtime for such a big movie, there is little time to develop anything but the basic narrative of the film, sketchy as it is. Gone is the intricate subtext and focused character development of the first two films; replaced by a plot which instead, tells its story through brief but intense drama and frenzied action.

The plot of Last Stand revolves around the creation of a mutant "cure," a voluntary treatment which rids mutants of their over-active x-gene, effectively making them human. A war begins to brew as opposing views polarize the mutant populace, with Magneto at one extreme and the fragmented X-Men at the other, desperately trying to stave off catastrophe.

In the mix as well, is a powerful but familiar entity, the Phoenix, recently resurrected and now evil X-Man Jean Grey. In the comic book, the Phoenix was a powerful cosmic entity which possessed Jean, causing her to destroy countless galaxies and loved ones. The explanation in the film is more terrestrial, relegating the Phoenix to a split personality resulting from Jean's inability to control her immense abilities. While this downplays the importance of the Phoenix, a major role in the comics, it's just one example of the approach the film appropriately takes to the original comic book stories: finding balance between pleasing comic book fans who expect accuracy (like myself, and I had plenty of nerd moments), and the average movie-goer, for whom aliens, magic, and mutants would be far too much to swallow.

At this point in the franchise, the familiar characters from the first two films are well enough established that the actors likely did not need much direction from Ratner. What results are characters that are still fun and enjoyable, but limited in terms of dimension or narrative arc. They each make some difficult decisions, but nothing that takes them any further than in previous films. Newcomers include Kelsey Grammer (in a brilliant casting decision) as the intellectual, blue-furred Beast and U.S. Secretary of Mutant Affairs and Vinnie Jones as the massive Juggernaut, whose mutant ability renders him unstoppable once he builds momentum.

Juggernaut, like the Phoenix, is another character modified for film. In the comics, not only is he not a mutant - he gains his unique abilities from the magical Gem of Cyttorak, which I'm almost embarrassed to admit having known... almost. - but he hates mutants. He wants nothing more than to kill his "mutie" brother and founder of the X-Men, Charles Xavier.

Other new characters include the underused Multiple Man, who can replicate himself instantaneously, the equally underused Colossus, who made a brief appearance in the second film and still didn't get enough screen time (probably due to special effects costs of producing his shiny metal armor exterior), Kitty Pride, who can "phase" through solid objects, and the winged wonder, Warren Worthington III, known in the comics as Angel. In addition to these cool new characters, a host of weak henchmen with worthless abilities were added to inexplicably follow Magneto. They include Arclight, who can clap really loud, Psylocke, who in the comic book is a powerful psychic but in the film can blend in with walls, and Kid Omega, who, get this, can produce spikes from any part of his body. Yeah, spikes just like a porcupine.

The worst part is that these leather-clad losers stand around during the whole film desperately trying to look awesome. And they got more screen time than Colossus, who actually is awesome.

Despite disappointments, the major problem with the film is its short runtime. The action and drama were topnotch, the characters believable and enjoyable, and the story surprisingly true to a number of those straight out of the comics both recent and classic, but with no time for development or even casual exploration. The main plot doesn't take time to wrap up cleanly, leaving fans of the comics and of the movies wanting just a little bit more.

 
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