X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Sometime after the end of the last film and the loss of Jean Grey, Scott (Cyclops) is still in mourning. When he begins to hear her voice in his head, he feels compelled to return to the place where she died. Is what he finds there the woman he loves, or something else?

Meanwhile, the mutant world is thrown into confusion by the discovery of a "cure," which could enable mutants to become ordinary human beings. Whilst individuals wrestle with a choice, which could change their lives forever, Magneto, fearing that mutants will soon be changed against their will, declares war.

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This third cinematic instalment in the X-Men saga deals, like the first two, with pretty big issues - cultural antagonism, the treatment of the mentally ill, the difficulty in balancing political and personal concerns. Unfortunately, it lacks the fine balance of the earlier films.

The first half is all talk, alienating much of the audience. The latter half is all running around shouting and throwing burning cars. Caught up in this, several of the major characters behave in ways that seem inconsistent with what we've come to know of them, and these changes often fail to make sense. What was once a strong character-driven story seems to have surrendered its characters to the demands of the action and too many complex concerns are resolved by blowing things up. A lot of the scenes seem stilted, or rushed, and there are very few memorable lines. Brett Ratner's direction lacks the confidence and flair which Bryan Singer brought to the project and the many changes, which the production team went through whilst the film was being made, are evident in what seems like a patchwork of good ideas crudely stitched together and yet still full of holes.

Fans of the comics who have been looking forward to seeing new mutants will not be disappointed. Kelsey Grammer acquits himself surprisingly well as furry blue Secretary of State Beast. Daniel Cudmore makes an impressive, if inexpressive, Colossus. Vinnie Jones hams it up as Juggernaut and there's more for youngsters Shadowcat and Pyro to do, with a long awaited fight between Pyro and the young Iceman. We get to see dramatic action from Angel in a script, which deftly works around having to expose us to his famously dull personality. The closer involvement of Marvel has perhaps contributed to the action sequences, which look as if they've been lifted straight from the pages of the comics.

The film is at its strongest in its presentation of one-on-one mutant fights, of which there are quite a number. Less impressive are the big overblown psychokinetic displays, which have a tendency to come off looking like bad album covers. In league with this are a Brotherhood of Mutants, whom we can recognise as the bad guys, because they wear a lot of black. The moral ambiguity of the story is squandered with a succession of moments of random nastiness from characters robbed of both depth and intelligence. It's a shame to see such a fine cast working with material like this, though they do their best to save it and enjoy many small successes. Anna Paquin is particularly good as Rogue, torn between loyalty to the family she has found and the simple pleasures which might await her if she gives up her mutant powers and identity.

A bad X-Men film is, of course, not necessarily a bad film. As action movies go, this has a lot to recommend it. The return of Jean Gray is elegantly handled, helping to build up a real sense of threat. Once the story gets going, it bounces along at a fierce pace, with plenty to keep the viewer's attention. There's a terrific stunt from Magneto, which references classic disaster movies. The special effects are impressive, and the intensity of the story is quickened by an awareness that there's no guarantee everyone will get out alive.

If you liked the first two X-Men films, you'll probably enjoy this. If you do, remember to stay in your seat until the end of the credits for the final twist.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2006
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X-Men: The Last Stand packshot
The mutants battle over a manmade 'cure' for their condition.
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Read more X-Men: The Last Stand reviews:

Chris Brooks ****1/2
John Gallagher ****1/2
Chris ****1/2
Leanne McGrath ***1/2
Iain Macleod ***

Director: Brett Ratner

Writer: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones

Year: 2006

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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X-Men
X-Men 2
X-Men Origins: Wolverine