X-Men: The Last Stand – Movie Review

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What is it with sci-fi and trilogies? And why do they end so poorly? Matrix Revolutions was confusing and a bit of CGI overkill (not to mention rainy!). Aliens3 was so poorly received that they tried to compensate with Alien:Resurrection (oops!). Even Return of the Jedi was a bit over the top with its golden bikinis and yub-yubbing ewoks (and we won’t even discuss how George Lucas tried to compensate.) So I can’t say that I’m disappointed with X-Men: The Last Stand, the let down is to be expected for a trilogy wrap-up. Being as the X-Men are one of my favourite fictional groups, I can tolerate a lot to see them given life on the big screen. I can tolerate the bad dialogue, overly-earnest acting, and even the fragmented plot. However, I wish that director Brett Ratner (Bryan Singer, who directed the first two installments left to help Superman return) had been able to tell a story rather than gather-up a collection of clips.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of this trilogy, the overall arc is that there is a new “breed” of humans who have evolved special abilities (some read minds, some control weather, some freeze air, and many are strong and can fight). The good ones get together as the X-Men and the bad ones become the Brotherhood. As society learns about these “mutants” they have to deal with the prejudice and fear that society feels towards them. The X-Men’s leader, Professor X, wants them to peacefully co-exist with normal humans. The Brotherhood is led by Magneto who prefers to think that mutants should dominate the normal humans by any means necessary. In the third movie, both sides face the ramifications of a potential cure that would make mutants normal, and the return of a powerful mutant who must choose sides for herself. In interviews, the actors all seem to make this sound like an important message-movie—trust me, it’s not.

There were a lot of special effects—each special power presented an opportunity for more CGI. While it was exciting to see all the mutants with their powers, those effects were not enough of a distraction from the poorly strung-together character scenes. There were also too many characters for me to know where the story was trying to focus. Sadly, it seems like the “George Lucas effect” was in place as many normally excellent actors gave tepid, almost cheesy performances even as they were trying to emote or be somber. Finally, the climactic confrontation between both sides of the mutant divide was riddled with “what they could have done better” gaps.

OK, now stand back while I geek-out a bit. As a fan of the comic books, I feel like they really squandered the best X-Men story arc ever – the Dark Phoenix saga. They used its basic premise to bring back Jean Grey (who died in the second movie) but left out so many of the events that made her turn to the dark side (who didn’t want to see the Hellfire Club on screen, eh?), and also many of the reasons why she was so powerful. As a character point, they even omitted her ultimately redemptive act of self-sacrifice. The reasoning for all those aspects given by the movie were not nearly as interesting as the original story. This movie also has a high body count. By eliminating a number of the main characters, they effectively squashed any future opportunity of using the many stories that those characters were involved in for future movies (maybe this is the last X-Men film after all–but I think dollars will decide otherwise).

I would recommend this movie for anyone who enjoyed the first two of the series because there’s a lot of the same kind of action and obviously many of the same characters. You get to see what becomes of each one. If you haven’t seen the other two, you should save your money. As a film in its own right, I think that there are many flaws with this one—if it had been the first of the three instead of the last, I doubt that the X-Men movie franchise would have been as successful. It might have met a League of Extraordinary Gentleman-style death instead. I want to blame director Brett Ratner for its failures. I don’t know if the flaws are really his fault or maybe the studio had too much input and chopped the story to bits, but if Ratner’s mutant power had been good storytelling rather than partying with Hollywood starlets (at least that’s what the media tells me he does), the X-Men’s last stand against the trilogy curse might have been victorious. As it was: 3 out of 5.

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