X-Men: The Last Stand starring Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry
Warning: Major Spoilers!
The final part of the original X-Men trilogy. So many times the third film in a series has been a let-down/the weakest of the three/okay but nowhere near as good as the first two (Jurassic Park III, Alien 3, the Godfather Part III etc.) and the Last Stand was all of the above. Which is a shame, as it could have been so much better…
I’ve done many superhero reviews so far, but this is the first overtly negative one. For a long time i put off watching this entry in the x-men franchise (along with Origins: Wolverine) because of their abysmally poor reputation. It was actually okay – i was never bored, Storm (Berry) was far more involved than in previous films, Kelsey Grammer was good as Beast, Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) storyline was rather touching… and now I’ve run out of positives – so if you like this film I’d stop reading here!
On the surface it seems similar enough to the two previous films, with an ethical plot about whether mutants can fit into human society or whether they should be ‘cured’ of their ‘disease’. The problem is that this is very familiar ground (the mutant registration plotline in the first film touched upon the same ideas) and that the film’s subplot would have made a far better main story. The subplot in question is Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) resurrection/rebirth as Phoenix, who possesses all of her more dangerous powers that Professor Xavier (Stewart) has been secretly locking away for years, and is thus now both pyschopathic and the most powerful mutant on the planet. This should have been the main plot, but the Fox executives refused to let such a dark storyline be the main plot of a summer blockbuster. Their stupidity is now evident – the Dark Knight trilogy (amongst other superhero films) were very dark films and were praised for it while still being successful blockbusters. Also the entire discrimination/cure plotline is frankly just as grim and dark as the Phoenix plot would have been! This stupidity meant the Phoenix storyline didn’t get the screentime or treatment it deserved (rather like venom’s inclusion in Spiderman 3 – another idiotic decision made by executives rather than producers or scriptwriters). Jean’s transformation into the Phoenix isn’t well explained, and she spends most of the second half of the film watching Magneto’s (McKellen) plan unfold without doing much to drive it forward.
This is just one problem the film has. The other major one is it’s director, Brett Ratner (cursed be his name). It isn’t quite the Michael Bay level of style over substance (which annoyingly works – meaning we keep getting awful transformers movies) instead it’s flat. No atmosphere, no visual flourishes, NOTHING! Magneto f***ing moves the Golden Gate Bridge for heaven’s sake! And it feels ordinary! A spectacular sequence that should be the film’s highlight is reduced to a slightly cool moment because of Ratner’s flat direction (and John Powell’s lacklustre score it has to be said – probably his least effective soundtrack which adds almost nothing to the film – if only they’d hired Hans Zimmer…). This combined lack of good direction/soundtrack rears it’s ugly head constantly.
The film is full of moments that should have had a massive impact on the audience: Cyclops’ death early on (why off screen FFS!), Mystique losing her powers when saving Magneto, the Phoenix murdering Xavier, Wolverine (Jackman) reluctantly killing Jean to save everyone… every single one fell flat. Only when Beast cured Magneto did i feel any emotion (a minor sense of triumph/irony). You can also tell a film isn’t good when you have Vinnie Jones wandering around shouting ‘I’m the Juggernaut, B*tch!’, which is far more hilarious than threatening. However the acting performances (in general) aren’t bad and the plot is actually pretty good – this film is a failure not because it’s terrible but because it’s a monumental wasted opportunity.
Overall a lack of atmosphere, good direction and tight scripting means this is the worst entry in the main x-men films. The real shame is that it didn’t have to be like this. There should have been another way…
Rating: 2.5 out of 5