X-Men: The Last Stand

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X-Men: The Last Stand
Review (6/10)
(By Rich Cline)

With the departure of Bryan Singer, there was no way this film would live up to the first two. But at least Ratner knows how to handle both action and drama on screen, even if subtlety and substance fall by the wayside.

As American society continues to cope with its emerging mutant population, a scientist develops a serum that reverts mutant DNA. Professor Xavier (Stewart) worries that this implies mutants in need of a cure; Magneto (McKellen) takes this as a declaration of all-out war. Meanwhile, the government's Secretary for Mutant Affairs, a blue beast-like man (Grammer), is looking for a diplomatic solution. But there are secret agendas, and it's going to get messy. Especially when Jean Grey (Janssen) is reborn as Phoenix, with devastating powers even she can't control.

Ratner is very good at pacing, and this film launches like a rocket, with a vicious tone that lets us know anything can happen. It's a big action-effects movie, rather than X2's character-based thriller. This makes it feel rather shallow, with obvious dialog and unsubtle camera work that play up the moral questions: Is it cowardice to want to fit in? Is it unreasonable to fight back? These are great issues, although the film approaches them without much passion; when it tries to get emotional, it feels forced.

Performances are strong throughout the sprawling cast. Only a handful of characters emerge from the fray--Grammer is especially effective, and there's more development for Janssen and McKellen, and also Jackman's Wolverine and Berry's Storm. But there's a sense that the plot is ripping the guts out of the franchise. It's all-out carnage, as beloved characters are obliterated and the bad guys turn out to be far more charismatic and focussed than the heroes.

It also feels like a fanboy fantasy, indulging in big, ludicrous action-effects sequences (surely there are easier ways to get to Alcatraz). But there are moments when it springs brilliantly to life, forcing characters to make some very difficult decisions. Combined with the gripping story, this insight continues to mark this as one of the most grown-up comic book movie series ever made.


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