X Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Directed by: Brett Ratner | 103 minutes | action, thriller, fantasy, science fiction | Actors: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Rebecca Romijn, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Elliot Page, Ben Foster, Aaron Stanford, Olivia Williams, Shohreh Aghdashloo, James Marsden, Cameron Bright, Daniel Cudmore, Vinnie Jones, Michael Murphy, Eric Dane, Dania Ramirez, Andrew Abud, Cayden Boyd, Bill Duke, Bryce Hodgson, Shauna Kain, James Leard, Doug Lennox, Ken Leung, Mei Melançon, Tanya Newbould, Omahyra, Aaron Pearl, Luke Pohl, Haley Ramm, Josef Sommer, Connor Widdows, Kea Wong, Desiree Zurowski, Denis Corbett
Twenty years ago: a car hits a house with the name on the letterbox: “Grey”. The car door opens, we see a close-up of two legs stepping out of the car, then the camera lifts to reveal the face of… Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). He is walking! And in addition, aided by special software, he looks a lot younger than we know him. The same goes for his buddy Magneto (Ian McKellen) who gets out of the car with him on his way to the home of a very young, but combative, Jean Grey. It’s great to see these two actors going out together as former friends. They go to Gray together because, as Xavier says, “this one is special”. And she is. When Magneto questions her powers, she briefly shows an impressive example of her ability by floating large objects in the environment. The only problem is that she is rebellious and uncontrolled or thoughtless in the use of her powers. Xavier therefore wants to take her under his wing at his special school, while Magneto believes that no restrictions should be imposed on her, and that it is better for her to go with him. This disagreement is at the root of the conflict between Xavier and Magneto and the formation of the various groups of mutants under their leadership.
The opening scene with Jean Gray just described will be replayed in breathtaking fashion later in the film with the same players. Because, yes, it will come as a surprise to few, Jean Grey, or “our own” Famke Janssen, will return as the unpredictable natural force Dark Phoenix. So she survived that gigantic load of water she got over her at the end of ‘X-Men 2’ – which is explained a bit hazy by Xavier. Her darker, wilder side, which had been suppressed by Xavier all along, has also been released. And she enjoys this freedom to the fullest. In a scene mirroring her encounter with Wolverine from the first film, she transforms into an almost animal, sexual being. Wolverine agrees to this, but, unfortunately for him, has to conclude that this is not normal behavior, and therefore has to intervene. Janssen can finally let loose by playing someone with a dangerous edge. Especially when she later resists Xavier trying to enter her mind, she impresses with her intensity.
This should actually be her film, but unfortunately she is kept on the sidelines for quite a long time, only to be used again, quite literally, towards the end of the film. The same goes for the character Archangel, who, like Jean, is introduced before the opening titles. The winged mutant seems to play an important role, but in the end turns out to be nothing more than a footnote, just like the majority of the mutants in the film. Now we also understand how James Marsden, who plays Cyclops, had time for both this film and the new ‘Superman’: his character is hardly used. And what about Anna Paquin as Rogue, the character with whom the viewer has endured so much in the previous films? Rogue’s dilemma is perhaps the most interesting substantive element of the entire film, but she doesn’t appear on screen for much longer than five minutes. Her problem is that she can’t touch her boyfriend, and therefore would prefer to be freed from her powers, even though these are part of her identity. And with the “cure” that has appeared, this seems to be a real possibility. This consideration, however, is hardly explored, although it does recur a few times, such as in a subtle moment when Beast (Kelsey Grammar) sees his large blue claw turn into a normal hand when he meets the boy Leech (Cameron Bright), a sort of anti-mutant and the source of the “medicine”, shake hands.
A big problem is also that (because of this) the plot point that drives the film, and the reason for the climactic attack of Magneto and his “Brotherhood” on Alcatraz – namely the drug that would eventually allow humans to “treat” mutants against their will. – contains little dramatic charge. So it’s understandable that Magneto wants it, but on the part of the government, and the X-Men, it doesn’t seem worth it to put so many lives on the line. The whole battle for the drug now seems little more than an excuse for a large-scale battle. Just as a spectacular scene with a floating bridge seems like an excuse for showing impressive effects and action.
This action is fine, by the way, with great scenes like the one already mentioned with the Golden Gate bridge, and nice confrontations between the good guys and the bad guys. Storm shows off some new tricks, including a tornado effect, Pyro battles it out with Iceman, and Wolverine puts his claws into a tough, big thorn-shooting opponent. He also has a very funny encounter with a mutant whose limbs keep growing back after he cuts them off. Humor is also a factor that keeps the film alive. Sometimes we see little visual gags, such as a student walking by Xavier’s school with a giant television under his arm, or a fat mutant who, during a speech, wants to sit between a few people in the audience and just do that for a moment. into a slimmer version of itself. Also liked is the scene where Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) chases Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page), who can walk through walls without damage. Juggernaut can do this too, but in his own way. When Kitty has just had a wall, Juggernaut rams a hole in it with his unstoppable bulky body, and so throughout the building.
These are entertaining moments, and ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ has enough of these scenes, well done in their own right, to keep the viewer interested for a long time. Director Brett Ratner shows he has a nice feeling for the X-Men universe, and clearly has fun with the characters. That’s why it’s so frustrating that we as viewers can’t care more about the story or the characters, who barely get individual attention. Beast, played by a perfectly cast Kelsey Grammer, is an interesting addition, but he doesn’t really add much to the story. And the already mentioned Kitty Pryde is suddenly included in the X-men team without any explanation. The mutants who join Magneto’s Brotherhood are introduced to us only through their special powers (often comically), after which they disappear into the rest of the heap. The familiar faces don’t fare much better. Storm gets a bigger role this time, but Halle Berry lacks persuasiveness in her leadership moments within the group. McKellen and Stewart do what they can with the sometimes clumsy dialogue, and at least give it some class, but they can’t take the film to a higher level either. No more than the never-disappointing Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who again throws out one-liners, bites his cigar, and throws himself full of dedication into his fights.
‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ is certainly not a bad film. He only lacks a meaningful driving force in terms of content, and characters that leave a (deeper) impression on us and the characters around them. Characters drop or are added over the course of the story, without anyone seeming to notice or pay much attention to them. A little more real reflection or drama would have been welcome. Unfortunately, the whole is now no more than the sum of its parts. What’s left is a fairly entertaining popcorn movie.