Monday, August 27, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand is the third and final X-Men film in the original trilogy, released in 2006. Instead of being directed by Bryan Singer like the first two films, it was directed by Brett Ratner.
X-Men: The Last Stand
At the time of this film's release, it was much maligned by fans. I think this is due, in large part, to a sense of betrayal when Singer jumped ship for Superman. Ratner was a hasty choice and the story does seem to suffer slightly with a substitute director being tossed onto the project at the last moment.

Perhaps the biggest criticism of this film that is justified is that it adds to many new mutants to the mix without fully developing any of them. The Beast, Archangel, Juggernaut, Multiple Man, Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, Kid Omega, and Leech (among many others) are all new characters introduced in this film. Additionally, other characters that previously had minor roles such as Kitty Pryde and Colossus rise to prominence. Meanwhile, the mutant Nightcrawler (from the second movie) is summarily dumped without a mention.

This gives the film an overly-full feeling that gives you small glimpses into many characters but not allowing the audience to invest emotionally into any one of them. Honestly, I didn't even know Psylocke was in this film until I read the credits (she's never mentioned by name to my knowledge and doesn't demonstrate her signature psy-blades). Some of the new mutants such as Kid Omega just seemed silly - he can extend quills from his face which just seems like a worthless power when fighting, say, Wolverine or Storm. Multiple Man misses the climax of the film altogether. Archangel is the character that best exemplifies this aspect of the film. The audience is given an emotional introduction to a teenage Warren as a kid shaving off his own wings but then he pretty much disappears from the film. He saves his father from falling and quickly exits stage left.

But I find that there's a lot to love about this film.

First and foremost is the gutsiness of it. No holds were barred in this movie and the status quo certainly wasn't returned! At the beginning of the first film there are only three X-Men - Jean, Cyclops, and Storm (with the Professor as well) and the only two villains to carry through all three films are Mystique and Magneto. By the end of this film, Jean and Cyclops are dead (for good), the Professor is dead (but apparently comes back), Rogue is powerless, Magneto is all-but powerless, Mystique is powerless. In a successful franchise such as the X-Men, this type of bold change is all but unheard of. To unspoiled audience, these shocks are genuinely shocking, something that is all too rare in the movies these days.

This film also has a strong number of truly memorable scenes. When Storm and Wolverine go to investigate at Alkali Lake, the heavy fog and randomly floating rocks set a tense tone. Magneto's "rescue" of Mystique is brutal and shows how the character has evolved (in the first movie he spares cops while here he kills them without a thought). When Mystique is depowered, revealing the beautiful Rebecca Romijn, he turns his back and says it is a shame because, "She was so beautiful." Ouch! When Wolverine kills Jean it is a truly emotional moment.

Then there's the Danger Room sequence. This scene just screams to fanboys, "We're here to make you happy!" In one short scene we are give the Sentinels, the Danger Room, and the Fastball Special - all of which hadn't made themselves onto film before. There are a number of other geek-moments in the film such as when Iceman fully realizes his powers in full-on Iceman mode.

As far as acting, I'd say that Kelsey Grammer as the Beast, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Famke Janssen as the Phoenix, and Ian McKellen as Magneto all turn in great performances. Grammer was a natural choice for the Beast - his voice is perfect. Jackman shows emotional range in a number of touching moments including his final talk with Rogue. Janssen, however, rises head and heals above her compatriots and puts in her best performance in the series and solidifies her status as a Sci-Fi babe. While certainly CGI enhanced, when she slides back and forth between the Phoenix and Jean personalities, you can see the struggle for control on her face. And Ian McKellen puts in another brilliantly subtle and nuanced performance, illustrated best when he laments the murder of the Professor that he had allowed to happen.

At the end of the day, X-Men: The Last Stand is a film of great ambition. It would have been a stronger film had it pared down the cast of characters a bit but I applaud the fact that is strove to end the trilogy with a bang.

1LR REVIEW - 15 out of 20! It's a Hit!

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