X-Men: The Last Stand

Reviewed by James Lynch

The X-Men, comic books’ most powerful oppressed minority, return to the big screen in X-Men: The Last Stand. This movie, likely the last of an unofficial trilogy of films, shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of the previous films.

The team/school of X-Men has the same members as last time, plus several new characters, but the focus remains Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the tough loner with a heart of gold and growing sense of responsibility. The best addition is the Beast, a.k.a. Hank McCoy (wonderfully played by Kelsey Grammar), whose furry blue muscular body belies his intelligence and role as ambassador between humans and mutants. Original X-Man Angel (Ben Foster) finally appears, providing the most uplifting visual image for mutants.

The Last Stand has three threats facing our heroes. The first is societal: a chemical injection that removes all traces of mutation from a person. (“They’re calling it a cure,” the Beast observes gravely.) This inspires mixed reactions from the mutant community: Some, like Storm (Halle Berry), feel there’s nothing wrong with being a mutant and so nothing to cure. Others, like Rogue (Anna Paquin), see it as a chance to be normal, to finally fit in and interact with others. Far too soon, though, the cure is used as against mutants; the film has the wonderful oxymoron “cure weapon.”

The second threat is Magneto (Ian McKellen), who sees the cure as a doorway to extermination and uses it to recruit a mutant army. Magneto remains the violent military leader to the peaceful coexistence put forth by Charles Xanier (Patrick Stewart), though during the movie Magneto proves fanatical, willing to destroy or discard anyone – human or mutant – who gets in his way.

The final, possibly deadliest threat, is from the X-Men’s lost teammate. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) appeared to die in the last movie, but she’s back – with a vengeance. Phoenix, Jean Grey’s alternate personality, is now in charge. This personality has almost incalculable power; it also knows to restraint, exercising desires and wrath without hesitation.

As with the previous movies, the plight of mutants symbolizes the plight of minorities, be they racial (during questioning, the mutant Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) says “I don't answer to my slave name”) or of homosexuality (whether a cure for a genetic condition is moral). X-Men: The Last Stand also matches its philosophy with action, as the mutants fight and battle through their obstacles. Comic book fans also get to see many of their favorite imagines face-offs done in live action: Iceman vs. Pyro! Storm vs. Callisto! Kitty Pryde vs. Juggernaut! Okay, so maybe no one imagined that last one… New director Brett Ratner fills the film with action aplenty. And there are some incredible surprises: Anyone who expects this story to follow the comics is in for several unexpected events!

Alas, there are plenty of flaws to go around. Most characters are little more than their powers, resulting in cool-but-superficial roles instead of real character development. There is a desire to squeeze in as many heroes and villains from the comic books, resulting in numerous “blink and you’ll miss them” cameos of characters who do nothing but stand there while the camera pans over them. And while the plot has plenty of surprises, it also has some massive plot holes dug for the purpose of handing the audience another action series.

While Hugh Jackman may be starring in Wolverine-focused movies, X-Men: The Last Stand is likely to be the last movie featuring all the X-Men. It’s a decent end to this trilogy, flaws and all. (And be sure to stick around through the credits for an extra scene.)

Overall Grade: B+

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