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Review: 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 hit a house with the name on the letterbox: “Gray”. The door of the car opens, we see a close-up of two legs stepping out of the car, then the camera rises to reveal the face of… Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). He is walking! And besides that, he looks a lot younger than we know him, helped by special software. The same goes for his buddy Magneto (Ian McKellen) who gets out of the car with him on his way to the house of a very young, but combative, Jean Gray. 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 shows an impressive example of her ability to float 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 thinks that she should not be restricted, and that she should therefore go with him. This disagreement is at the root of the conflict between Xavier and Magneto and the formation of the different groups of mutants under their leadership.

The just described opening scene with Jean Gray will be breathtakingly replayed later in the film with the same players. Because, yes, it will come as a surprise to few, Jean Gray, or “our own” Famke Janssen, returns as the unpredictable force of nature Dark Phoenix. So she survived that gigantic load of water that she got over her at the end of “X-men 2” – which is explained a little hazy by Xavier. Her dark, wilder side, which had been suppressed by Xavier all this time, has also been released. And she enjoys this freedom to the fullest. In a scene that mirrors her encounter with Wolverine from the first film, she transforms into an almost animal, sexual creature. Wolverine goes into this, but, unfortunately for him, has to conclude that this is not normal behavior, and must therefore intervene. Janssen can finally go wild 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 most of the mutants in the film. Now we also understand how James Marsden, who plays Cyclops, had time for both this movie and the new “Superman”: his character is barely involved. And what about as Rogue, the character with whom the viewer has already endured so much in the previous films? Rogue’s dilemma is perhaps the most interesting content element of the entire film, but she doesn’t appear on screen for much longer than five minutes. Her problem is that she cannot touch her boyfriend, so she would prefer to be free of her powers, even if they belong to her identity. And with the “cure” that has appeared, this seems to be a real possibility. However, this consideration is hardly explored, although it does recur a few times, such as in a subtle moment when Beast (Kelsey Grammar) suddenly sees his big blue claw change into a normal hand when he sees the little boy Leech (Cameron Bright), a sort of anti-mutant and source of the “medicine”, shakes hands.

A big problem, too, is that (because of this) the plot point that drives the movie, and the reason for the climactic attack of Magneto and his “Brotherhood” on Alcatraz – namely, the drug that could eventually allow humans to “treat” mutants against their will. – has 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

putting so many lives on the line. The whole fight for the drug now seems little more than an excuse for a full-scale fight. Just as a spectacular scene with a floating bridge seems like an excuse for showing impressive effects and action.

This action is, by the way, okay, with big scenes like the one with the Golden Gate bridge already mentioned, 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 turns 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 movie alive. Sometimes we see small visual gags, such as a student walking past Xavier’s school with a mega-sized television under his arm, or a fat mutant, who wants to sit among a few people in the audience during a speech and just do that. into a leaner version of itself. Also liked is the scene where Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) chases Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page), who, without damage, can walk through walls. Juggernaut can do this too, but in his own way. When Kitty has just had a wall, Juggernaut with his unstoppable unwieldy body rams a hole in it and so around the building.

These are entertaining moments, and “X-Men: The Last Stand” has enough of these kinds of, well-accomplished scenes in itself to keep the viewer interested for a long time. Director Brett Ratner shows that he has a good feeling for the X-Men universe, and clearly has fun with the characters. That is why it is so frustrating that we as viewers cannot care a bit more about the story or the characters, who hardly receive any individual attention. Beast, played by a perfectly cast Kelsey Grammer, is an interesting addition, but he doesn’t really know how to 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 by their special power (often in a comical way), before disappearing into the rest of the heap. The familiar faces don’t sail much better. Storm takes on a bigger role this time, but Halle Berry lacks convincing in her leadership moments within the group. McKellen and Stewart do what they can with the sometimes clumsy dialogue, and at least give the whole thing some class, but they also cannot take the film to the next level. Just like the never-disappointing Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who throws out one-liners as usual, bites his cigar, and throws himself into his fights with complete dedication.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” is certainly not a bad movie. He only lacks a substantively meaningful driving force, and characters that leave a (deeper) impression on us and the characters around them. Characters are dropped or added in the course of the story without anyone appearing to notice or pay much attention to them. More real reflection or would have been welcome. Unfortunately, the whole is now no more than the sum of its parts. What remains is a fairly entertaining popcorn movie.

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