X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romjin, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Ellen Page, Bill Duke and Big Chris.
Directed by Brett Ratner.
I saw X-Men: The Last Stand at the gloriously restored Pic Theater ((I’m taking some liberty with the word “gloriously” here. There was a fire at the Pic a couple of years after I graduated from high school, and the theater was closed for a while. I don’t believe the theater was modernized at all during its renovation/restoration/repair; the theater is almost entirely unchanged since I saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula there three times back in 1992, except that the balcony is now closed.)) in Hancock, Michigan with my wife and two of my siblings.
The Pic is a very humble theater, a single-screen relic with no stadium seating, digital projector or THX-certified surround sound. Across the Portage Canal, the Pic’s sister theater, the Lode, now sports three screens and, up the hill at the Copper Country Mall, Carmike Cinema has five. None of these theaters rival the Cinemark or Regal multi-plexes scattered across northeast Ohio, but the Pic is the last place I would have expected to see the first of the so-called summer blockbusters.
As it turns out, the venue in which X-Men: The Last Stand was playing was the least of my worries. Like an unstoppable juggernaut, the creative forces behind the film had trampled the franchise underfoot leaving only devastation and ruin in their path. If only Bryan Singer hadn’t been too busy directing Brandon Routh’s spit-curl in Superman Returns, maybe he could have spared me this pain.
If you’d rather have X-Men: The Last Stand spoiled for you the old-fashioned way—in a theater, by Brett Ratner and company—then you may not want to continue reading. ((If you do go this route, you’ll want to stick around for the zinger after the end credits.))
Let’s take the simplest things first: Storm controls the weather. Her cape billows out, allowing her to float on powerful updrafts. At her whim, lightning arcs from the clouds high above to strike Toad atop the Statue of Liberty in X-Men and the temperature in the duplicate Cerebro built by William Stryker drops to freezing in X2: X-Men United. Storm controls the weather, she is not a manifestation of the weather. Yet, in X-Men: The Last Stand, Storm shoots lightning from her fingers and whirls like a tornado as she soars across the sky. ((Storm: The Ride is guaranteed to induce vomiting at Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando later this year.))
Storm isn’t the only X-Man whose mutant abilities are vastly different than they were in previous installments: Jean Grey returns as The Phoenix, the mental barriers erected by Professor Xavier when she was a teenager now shattered making her more powerful than any other mutant; her telekinesis so potent that she can literally disintegrate a human being with a thought. Professor X falls victim to this new ability as does Cyclops, along with several other mutants.
Oddly enough, tough guy Wolverine seems to be the only person impacted by the demise of his colleagues. He breaks down in sobs after Professor X dies, the only wet eye in the house; Storm may as well have been portrayed by a cardboard cutout of Halle Berry for all the emotion she showed.
This lack of depth isn’t limited to just Storm, either. Apart from an awkward side-plot involving Iceman, Shadowcat and Rogue (which serves largely to keep Rogue out of the final battle), there’s really no character development in X-Men: The Last Stand. Characters like Colossus, who played a very small role in X2, use their powers more prominently but aren’t given personalities. Some characters are so poorly developed and presented that the only way to identify their comic book counterparts is by reading the end credits.
To make matters worse, characters whose personalities were fleshed out in the first two movies are either killed off early, relegated to minor plotlines, or go completely against their established roles. Whatever else he may be, Magneto has always been imbued with a sense of honor. He respects Charles Xavier and they often interact like the old friends they are. Yet, when Magneto’s most loyal lieutenant, Mystique, sacrifices her mutant abilities to save his, the master of magnetism shows no loyalty whatsoever, turning his back on her immediately. As much as Magneto may despise the homo sapiens who persecute mutantkind, it is unfathomable to me that he would simply abandon Mystique in those circumstances.
Then there’s the plain sloppy stuff: When assaulting Worthington Laboratories (creators of the mutant anti-body) on Alcatraz Island, Magneto uses his power to tear the Golden Gate Bridge from its foundations and move it across the bay, creating a span from San Francisco to the island that his brotherhood can easily cross. The sight of the Golden Gate Bridge floating across the bay in broad daylight is spectacular, but the instant Magneto drops the span on Alcatraz, it is as though the sun has been blotted from the sky. Suddenly it is darkest night. Why? Probably because the huge mutant battle that ensues was cheaper or easier to pull off in the dark. Whatever the reason, the instantaneous transition is just bad filmmaking.
Lest I make the movie sound utterly without merit, I should mention that there are a few very cool moments in X-Men: The Last Stand. Juggernaut’s pursuit of Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat through Alcatraz was very well done, as was Magneto’s assault on the convoy transporting Mystique, Juggernaut and Jamie Madrox/Multiple Man. Perhaps the best fan boy moment is the sequence at the very beginning, in which the X-Men are fighting some unknown foe. Wolverine and Colossus develop the Fastball Special (though they do not give it the name) familiar to comic book readers, and the foe turns out to be an enormous robotic Sentinel, though we only see its decapitated head. Finally, it is revealed that the entire battle took place in the Danger Room (or as Laura put it, the X-Men’s holodeck). Alas, the Sentinel is only a teaser, and does not appear anywhere else in the movie, though Bill Duke’s character is named Trask, and it is Bolivar Trask who created the Sentinels in the comic books. ((No, I didn’t have to look any of that up.))
So, I was disappointed with X-Men: The Last Stand. I didn’t feel it lived up to either of its predecessors, especially X2: X-Men United. I don’t know if Bryan Singer (who also co-wrote the first two movies) would have made a better movie, but I can’t believe he would have made it any worse.