I’ve been a huge fan of the franchise since the beginning, I adored the first installment (which most critics didn’t) and absolutely went gaga over X2, but this last installment, X-Men: The Last Stand, left me feeling cold and disheartened. I almost didn’t write this review, primarily because I came away from the experience not caring one way or the other, I neither liked, nor disliked this film and that makes for the hardest reviews of all to write.
It’s just there in all its glorious blandness, it seemed like no one involved in the production really cared what was going on around them – which is amazing because all of the elements that Bryan Singer left in place for the new director Brett Ratner is still in place.
Almost the entire cast (only Nightcrawler seems to be missing) and crew from the first two films reprise their roles including leads Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Halle Berry (Ororo Munroe/Storm), Ian McKellen (Eric Lensherr/Magneto), Famke Janssen (Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix), Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier), and my personal favorite who has absolutely nothing to do in this film, Anna Paquin (Marie/Rogue) as well as about 7 other major characters from the last two films. Not only does the script fail to find anything for the LARGE number of primary characters, but then it adds a bunch more who are only in the film because it’s who fanboys would like to see like the incredibly lame Cain Marko/Juggernaut (played by Vinnie Jones), Angel (Ben Foster) and numerous others.
As I said, one of the main problems with this film is the incredible cast bloat. There are just too many characters (at least 15) to try and squeeze into a film that only runs 90 minutes. It means no one really gets enough time to shine or for you to really sink your teeth into – one of the main story lines that everyone was looking forward to seeing – The Dark Phoenix saga, felt tacked on and like an after thought.
In the subplot to the movie, Jean Grey returns from her watery grave a changed woman. The experience opened up her dark side (whom she called Phoenix) that Xavier had placed a mind block on. Once the Phoenix was unleashed onto the world she started by killing both her husband and her mentor. At that point in the film, I was like, yeah, Dark Phoenix may like be like the comic book or animated tv series versions (I mean there’s no Shi’ar or Skrulls involved – thank goodness) but she’s bad ass. But then she literally just stands there and watches everything that’s going around her for the next 40 minutes, after awhile I wanted to scream – “Raise a fist, do something!!” Whether it was something more evil or saving someone, or god forbid, whine; I wanted her to just do SOMETHING.
The weighty main themes of alienation, discrimination, responsibility and the sense of fear still resonate in the 3rd film, but it’s cheap production values and lame directorial efforts by Ratner makes it hard to connect with anything going on screen.
The film opens with a nice little touching flashback scene that shows Xavier and Magneto recruiting a young Jean Grey to the school. The opening felt pointless and tacked on – even if it was the very first scene in the film. It then jumps to the near future where we get to see the X-Men training in their holographic danger room.
The entire futuristic setting and destruction looked amazingly cheesy especially when the Sentinels (giant Robots the government create to hunt mutants down) appear. You never see them, just a cloud of smoke and some laser beams, and eventually a large severed robot head. It seemed weird because if you don’t know anything about the comic books or the old animated television series, this scene wouldn’t make any sense – other than, they have their own holodeck. X-fans have been waiting for the last two films to see this and it was handled as just a low-budget throw away.
Another example of Ratner’s lame, half assed direction comes during the climatic battle sequence, where Magneto rips of the Golden Gate Bridge and moves it to Alcatraz so he and the brotherhood could invade. The SFX used looked unfinished, but worse, the entire incident occurs during the day, then once the bridge lands it cuts to Magneto and it’s all of a sudden night time. It was really jarring and completely ruins the moment. But I will say that Storm (Halle Barry) kicked butt in her fight with the speed/blink lady.
Cinematographers Philippe Rousselot and Dante Spinotti give the film a real washed out, bland look to it. Everything about this film feels like it was rushed and other SFX’s shots were very spotty, like the X-Men’s cool jet that I loved in the first two looked really crappy in this. It looked like the shots weren’t complete and the plane in one shot had the blue-screen jaggies.
I’d like to scream, for the first time ever, that Ratner, “Raped my childhood!” But honestly, nothing I saw leading up to this installment lead me to believe that it would be any good, and I had resigned myself to that fact, but a part of me still hoped that X-Men: The Last Stand would go out with a bang and not this whimper. Like I said at the beginning of this review, I neither liked, nor disliked this movie it just felt weightless, bland, like I wasn’t watching a movie at all. I gave the first movie an A-, the second one an A+, but this one – eh, I’ll go with a D.
Final Grade D
EM Review by
originally posted 5/27/06