9/24/12

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND - REVIEW



After director Bryan Singer did his best to introduce Marvel’s team of multi-talented mutants to the world and develop their story further in a superior, if still somewhat restrained, second instalment, he eventually chose to leave the franchise opting for a chance to direct 2006’s Superman Returns instead.
This was a blow to the series which, after that, underwent several changes in directors and cast members even threatened to leave the franchise. In the end, Brett Ratner, mostly known at the time for giving us the Rush Hour movies, took the job and completed a film which had already gone through a lot of messy rewrites. Not an easy feat, in all fairness.
X-Men: The Last Stand is one of those comic-book movie adaptations that gets a handful of things right but drops the ball on 90% of everything else.
X-Men lacked the scale it should have had and its plot revolved around the usual doomsday machine cliché. The sequel provided us with a bigger film, more villains, more X-Men and a better plot altogether. This third film gets the scale perfectly right as we're shown impressive action sequences where entire houses are lifted off the ground telepathically, the Golden Gate Bridge is ripped off its hinges and literally relocated towards Alcatraz and we finally get a glimpse of a “Danger Room” simulation. The Dark Phoenix story arc finally comes to its epic conclusion and, on top of that, Magneto plans his full-blown attack on humans who claim having discovered a cure to mutancy.
All this should have been enough to turn The Last Stand into easily the best of the trilogy and one of the most satisfying comic-book films out there and yet there is something off about this second sequel. For one thing, the script is a mess. Too many things are going on and the priorities throughout the film are all over the place. Take the death of Cyclops, for example. This is essentially the team-leader, an integral part of the Dark Phoenix plot and yet he only appears in what is nothing more than a cameo before he is killed off-camera and never seen again. Perhaps James Marsden was also too busy shooting Superman Returns? 
Major characters we all know and love are discarded like old milk: Rogue (Anna Paquin, now mostly known for her role in True Blood) is left with an irrelevant love triangle subplot, Nightcrawler (originally played by Alan Cumming) is simply absent and Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier is blown to smithereens in a weirdly shocking turn of events (which the film then tries to fix in an uninspired post-credits sequence). It’s like the film wanted to tell that “cure” story with the epic humans vs mutants vs X-Men battle at the end but the Dark Phoenix plotline, which was hinted at from the very beginning, got in the way somehow when in fact the latter could have easily held up an entire film on its own.
Too many cooks spoil the broth? It sure looks like it.
The script for The Last Stand really is mostly to blame here: too busy, too many ideas, too rushed, confused. Old characters are misrepresented or forgotten, new characters are introduced but only given fleeting moments to work with and in the end it leaves almost everyone dissatisfied. Yes the big-budget action sequences are a lot of fun and admittedly very well done but one wishes they had been used to decorate a much smarter, more well-crafted film.
The cast, with the obvious exception of Vinnie Jones’ Juggernaut (one of the great miscasts in comic-book movie history), does well enough considering and who knew that Kelsey Grammer would turn out to be the perfect choice to play Hank McCoy (Beast)?
In the end, Bryan Singer’s sudden departure from the franchise certainly didn’t help a film which was far from being fully thought-out from the get go. There are worse X-Men films out there but this one sadly falls short of its predecessors.
A disappointing, if big and entertaining, end to an otherwise strong Marvel trilogy.

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