X-Men: The Last Stand @ 30 September 2006 02:51 PM
The Last stand was always going to be a strange film to watch, what with the seriesí original director, Bryan Singer effectively switching places with Bret Ratner in order to direct the soon to be released Superman Returns, it seemed like the unique thinking mans 'super hero moviesí had taken a pretty substantial blow. From the reactions of fans, it would have been easy to predict a huge calamity befalling the series. The truth is, predictably, far less severe a situation than the rabid legions of fanboys had predicted. The Last Stand is a wholly enjoyable action movie, although it does have its weaknesses.

The third film in the trilogy, deals with the pretty interesting idea that a ďcureĒ has been discovered by Worthington Labs, a huge pharmaceutical company. Seen by many as a saving grace from their perceived affliction, the cure is offered to mutants across the country. Of course, the militant Brotherhood of Mutants lead by Magneto (Ian McKellen) see the cure as a means by which mutants will be exterminated by force rather than offered the choice of giving up their powers. Caught in the middle are, as always, the X-Men. The film also deals with the reincarnation of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) as The Phoenix - an event so concreted in Marvel lore as a true classic that it simply had to be attempted; while in terms of narrative this takes a backseat to the plot of the cure, it certainly drives character development throughout, particularly that of Jean herself and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as the previously developed romance between the two is finally concluded.

It is somewhat ironic that characterisation is at once The Last Standís greatest strength and greatest weakness. With regards to The Phoenix, everyone directly involved with the plot gets really interesting: Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) finally gets elevated beyond the role of a bald Gandalf and really becomes a better, and considerably darker character, with the film going into the interesting question of what the moral obligations and rights of the greatest telepath on earth are. The script also goes into more depth with regards to Xavierís relationship with Magneto in a pretty cool sequence at the start of the film in which Stewart and McKellen are digitally de-aged by 20 years as they discover a young Jean Grey. Unfortunately, like a lot of the film, Xavierís screen time is cut short and it left me wanting more.

Jean Grey is also plays a great part in the film. Although The Phoenix spends a rather unfortunate amount of time looking pensive and mysterious, when we do actually see Jansen really work with the character things do get very, very cool. It should also be noted that her CGI sequences are utterly brilliant. All sorts of super powered telekinesis kicks off and it looks amazing. Great stuff.

Another great character is The Beast (Kelsey Grammer). It turns out that his addition to the cast is as a pretty major character, taking the role of a government cabinet member attempting to deal with the politics created by the arrival of the mutant cure and later taking up sides with the X-Men. Despite some initial concerns over the makeup used (maybe itís the fur, but Nightcrawler and Mystique both look better as fellow blue mutants) Grammer plays the part to perfection. Itís very reminiscent of the same character in the classic 90's cartoon show, which wins brownie points from fans and myself alike. Thereís also a great scene in which Beast comes into close proximity with the boy responsible for the source of the cure and is able to see what he would look like as a normal human, an issue that has often been at the core of Beasts character. Unfortunately, that pretty much ends the great characterisation as it comes to a juddering halt due to the problem with 'The Last Stand' in that it simply cannot go into great detail over every other new character. The greatest victim here is, unfortunately, Angel, serving little purpose than as motivation for his father making the cure for mutation, Angel gets a great intro before being rudely written almost out of existence for the rest of the film. This was a pretty big mistake on behalf of the production team as what there is at the start of the film for Angel is actually really quite good but he becomes so ultimately pointless, like so many minor characters, that you just stop caring and concentrate on the more established characters. Needless to say, I found Ratner to be desperately lacking in this department, especially considering how well Singer did in the first two movies, both of which introduced a plethora of new characters with considerable finesse and skill.

However, where The Last Stand stumbles with character development, it is immensely sure footed with action scenes. Adopting a distinctly more comic like feel, the film really does have some very impressive scenes, all incredibly cool. One of my favourites was Vinnie Jones as The Juggernaut, involved in a race with new X Man Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page). As she phases through walls to their mutual goal, The Juggernaut simply head butts his way through the solid concrete without breaking stride. Itís all very impressive to take in. The film also features an anticipated grudge match between Iceman and Pyro, which is good but short lived, which is a shame as they both have excellent powers and whatís shown is impressive.

The Last Stand emerges from a potentially troublesome development as a highly entertaining summer movie. The action is great, and when it hits home with the new material it has some really good stuff going on. Unfortunately, it also feels like it should be another hour longer. Thereís simply too much going on for it to really feel as coherent and, ultimately, as enjoyable as the previous two X-Men films. Not one to be missed all the same, especially for the fans of the series.
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