X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (Alternate Review)
THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING (3 out of 5 Rating)!
Prior to release, X-Men: The Last Stand was known more for its tumultuous development problems and lack of a director than for the anticipation of what was once the new darling film franchise of the summer blockbuster season. With the departure of series creator Bryan Singer and the decline of an offer to direct by up-and-comer Matthew Vaughn, speculation was high that the final choice of Brett Ratner to direct would spell doom for the X-Men film franchise. While rumors of the third film’s demise may be greatly exaggerated, X-Men: The Last Stand is a semi-successful sequel that doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first two X-Men movies.
Reprising their roles from the first two films, the group of super-human mutants Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry), and Cyclops (James Marsden) struggle onward to protect mutants and humans alike after the tragic loss of their beloved teammate Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Arriving at Xavier’s mansion, Secretary of Mutant Affairs Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammar) gravely informs the X-Men that a drug company has discovered a method to suppress mutation and strip mutants of their super-human powers. Reacting with unbridled defiance, fierce mutant leader Magneto (Ian McKellen) swiftly moves to insure mutant superiority by rescuing the captured Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and building an army with which to control the source of the cure, a mutation-negating child named Leech (Cameron Bright).
It would only be fair to say that Bryan Singer is missed in this third film. X-Men: The Last Stand does lack the accomplished production design, vibrant cinematography, and polished character driven stories that were strong elements in the two previous efforts directed by Singer. However, Ratner has to be given due credit for creating a better than average sequel. What Last Stand may lack from previous franchise installments it compensates with some risky character choices, a clever story, and some of the best effects-laden action you’re likely to see this year. Stylistically, the film starts off with the now-familiar cerebro marquee and includes the expected prologue before the film pushes into the main story. The characters, both old and new, are setup with near consistent aplomb allowing the story to easily integrate into the current narrative flow of the X-films.
There is a good deal to find entertaining in Ratner’s version of X-Men. The script for Last Stand treats the established characters faithfully, from the development of the infamous Cyclops/Jean/Wolverine love triangle to smaller stories like the relationship between Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). The film is strongest when doing action and tension. Fans will enjoy numerous mutant showdowns, from a fire-and-ice battle between Iceman and former X-student-turned-villain Pyro (Aaron Stanford) to a deliciously destructive chase between young mutant Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and brawling bruiser Juggernaut (the always enjoyable Vinnie Jones). Where the film falters is with the introduction of one too many mutants as in the case of the charismatic but underused Callisto (Dania Ramirez) to the barely necessary inclusion of Warren Worthington (Ben Foster). The film tries to accomplish a great deal in one movie and while success is often achieved even with a trim 104 minute running time, it is clear that there is more happening onscreen than the film can ultimately support.
There can be little doubt X-Men: The Last Stand indeed stands as the weakest of the three X-Men films, yet the movie does bring more to the franchise than its status as a sequel. For good or ill, director Brett Ratner has put his own stamp on the X-Men film fable, creating a third film that largely meshes well with the two preceding films and features a story with lasting consequences for the cast of characters. While Last Stand is a very bleak X-Men film that leaves the viewer feeling more sombre than satisfied, Ratner and company are to be commended for taking risks that result in a better than expected film delivering the goods a modest serving more than it fails.
A worthy yet flawed close to the first X-Men trilogy, notable for entertaining action and finality over the character and style of the first films.
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