Thursday, June 01, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, Storm, Phoenix, Mystique, Rogue, Angel, Beast, Colossus, Juggernaut...confused yet? If so, it might be a good idea to watch 2000's X-Men, and 2003's X-Men 2 before you head out to X-Men: The Last Stand, the third (and final?) film in the popular franchise. While entertaining enough if you're mutant-savvy, the film packs the story of over 10 lead characters into just an hour and a half, and those who wouldn't know the difference between an "Iceman" and a "Pyro" could get lost. It might also help to take along your own "comic geek" - as mine came in awfully handy!

The plot concerns the discovery of a so-called "cure" for mutant DNA, which worries Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the leader of the X-Men, who wants to promote tolerance and acceptance between mutants and humans; and downright repulses his old enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen), who believes mutants need to obliterate homo sapiens before they themselves are wiped out. It's time for the mutants to take a stand - with whom will they side?

The film's second storyline is the return of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), apparently killed off at the end of X2, but back here as her "alternate personality" the Phoenix, with telepathic and telekinetic powers greater than any other living mutant. The fight to save her from herself occupies most of Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) time onscreen.

The first two X-Men films were smart sassy takes on what could have been just another superhero cash-in. This had much to do with director Bryan Singer, and the inspired casting of British greats Stewart and McKellen as old-friends-turned-enemies Xavier and Magneto, and Jackman as Wolverine. Those three return in X3, but sadly Singer does not, and his absence is as plain as Halle Berry's acting (meow!). While the first two films balanced great action set-pieces with the emotional development and motivations of their characters, the third film's script just races along, and new director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), is unable to retain that happy medium. For example, Janssen's Jean Grey/Phoenix is supposed to be a tortured psychic, but at certain points she just looks like she's dressed for a goth club and popped a couple of Mogadons. Rattner gives a cursory nod to ethical issues raised by the genetic cure - such as is it wrong to want to make yourself "normal" - but focuses most of his energy on good old-fashioned wham bam CGI effects, such as a spectacular re-positioning of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nevertheless, a "not-quite-as-good" X-Men film is still better than much of the fare on offer at the multiplexes, and there are some great moments - most featuring Jackman and McKellen, who truly are the best two reasons for seeing these films.

X-Men: The Last Stand has been described as the last in the series, but the wonderfully open ending leaves a tantalising hint of more to come. Make sure you stay until the end of the credits!


Comic Mummy said...

Natalie, your reviews ROCK! I laughed out loud in the Omen review ("Bad Antichrist!") and thought your X-Men 3 one was spot on. I'm only bummed now I didn't stay for the end credits!!

Keep going - great stuff.

Girl Clumsy said...

Aw, thanks Comic Mummy!

I appreciate any and all feedback, and in fact am hoping to get some good film/theatre discussions going on. Maybe I need to be a bit more controversial in my reviews to encourage some spirited debate!

Cheers, Natalie.