X-Men: The Last Stand review by Mike Long

I haven't been near a comic book in over ten years, so what I'm about to describe may not happen today, but it occurred every once in a while when I was a comic reader. Specific artists and writers would work on a particular title for several issues in a row (usually developing a story arc from beginning to end). However, there would be times when, for whatever reason, an issue would appear, in the middle of a storyline, that came from a different writer or artist. While this may seem benign, it could be disconcerting to open your favorite comic and have it look or read completely differently. This is the same feeling that I got when I watched X-Men: The Last Stand. This movie had a jarring effect and didn't feel connected to the first two films in the trilogy.

(SPOILER WARNING: I can't describe the events of X-Men: The Last Stand without discussing the finale of X-Men 2, so if you haven't seen that film, proceed with caution.) As X-Men: The Last Stand opens, the members of the X-Men are still dealing with the recent events in their lives. With Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) having died during the battle at Alkalide Lake, both Scott Summers AKA Cyclops (James Marsden), who was Jean’s boyfriend, and Logan AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who secretly pined for Jean, are attempting to cope with the loss. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is working to keep his school for young mutants calm and at status quo.

Things are further shaken-up when it’s announced that pharmaceutical giant Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) (who’s own son is a mutant) has developed a “cure” for mutants. Professor Xavier and his colleagues are disturbed and frightened by this, despite the fact that a mutant, Hank McCoy AKA Beast (Kelsey Grammer), is an advisor to the President. Meanwhile, this announcement brings Magneto (Ian McKellen) out of hiding. He rallies a group of angry mutants and convinces them that they must fight back. The X-Men feel torn between stopping Magneto and defending the humans who hate and misunderstand them. Things are further complicated by the fact that Jean Grey has seemingly returned from the dead...but she doesn’t seem like her old self.

As mentioned above, X-Men: The Last Stand has the feel of a totally new group coming in and taking over a beloved comic book. And that’s not surprising, as there are many new players behind the camera. But it feels as if the editors were out of the building and this new creative team was able to do whatever they wanted, because the makers of X-Men: The Last Stand take the majesty and grandeur of the first two films and throw them out the window. In its place, we get a confusing mess of a movie that has no respect for the “X-Men” comic book, the film series, or the fans, and also has no remorse over its actions.

There are so many problems with X-Men: The Last Stand, that I barely know where to start. I’ve never been a huge fan of director Brett Ratner, so it would be very easy to blame him for the problems here, but the script is riddled with issues. For starters, the movie throws too many new characters at the audience, and even long-time “X” fans may get confused. The problem with this new cadre of mutants, such as Colossus (who isn’t Russian here), Kitty Pryde, and Angel, is that we learn very little about them, save for their power. The film’s opening implies that Angel (played by Ben Foster, who is a great actor, but is miscast here) will be a major character, but he’s barely in the film. The finale involves hundreds of faceless “evil mutants” which mean nothing to the audience. The resurrection of Jean Grey is awkwardly handled and the implication that she’s become “Dark Phoenix” should only anger long-time fans of the comics. And despite the fact that I’ve been told that the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) is based on a newer generation of “X-Men” comics, the handling of the character is just silly. My favorite snafu is the fact that we are told that a character is dead and we never get any hint that the X-Men investigated this allegation. The fact that Halle Berry demanded more screen time is evident as Storm is in many scenes where she just stands around doing nothing.

While these problems imply that X-Men: The Last Stand is a film of dubious quality, it’s the reckless manner of the movie which bothers me. The title implies that this film is the last chapter of a trilogy. However, this movie would have been better suited as the second chapter, as it leaves so many questions left unanswered. This technique is quite frustrating and very unsatisfying. There’s also the fact that so many characters (apparently) die in this film. (Any comic fan knows that anyone can be brought back to life at any time, but even by that standard, there are a lot of deaths in this movie.) Don’t get too attached to any of the mutants here, because you never know who’s going to survive the film. This may sound odd, but I think that it was quite presumptuous of X-Men: The Last Stand to make so many definitive plot points concerning characters which die or have their powers altered. Despite the fact that this movie bills itself as The Last Stand, fans know that there should (and probably will be) more X-Men films in the future and this simply means that some poor screenwriter will have to undo all of the damage done by this movie.

Historically, the third chapter in a film trilogy comes across as weak, but X-Men: The Last Stand is an unadulterated turn for the worst. The movie tries to hard to work in homages to the comic books while neglecting the storyline of the film. The story is muddled and the inclusion of way too many characters means that some of them are simply warm bodies instead of whole entities. The ending is a let down and it simply paves the way for an apology instead of a sequel. Casual fans may find this one appealing, but as someone who began admiring the “X-Men” over 20 years ago, I was insulted by this movie.

X-Men: The Last Stand mutates onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two (actually three) separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks very good, as the picture is sharp and clear. There is a very fine sheen of grain in some exterior shots, but otherwise there is no grain and no defects from the source material. The image is very well-balanced and even during the dark scenes, the action is visible. The colors are very good, most notably the deep blue of Beast’s fur. I noticed some mild artifacting at times, and the image was somewhat soft in some shots, but otherwise the transfer was solid. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital EX 5.1 audio track and a DTS ES 6.1 track. As one would expect, both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. Each track delivers superior stereo effects, surround sound action, and subwoofer thumps. The DTS track was somewhat clearer, but either way, the audio is very good and heightens the film’s action scenes.

The X-Men: The Last Stand is surprisingly bereft of extras. There are a pair of AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features director Brett Ratner, and co-writers Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg. This is an interesting talk as the three not only talk about the film’s production, but they also discuss why certain elements were added to the film, most notably those which were taken directly from the comics. They discuss the challenge of having homages to the comics while making a film suitable for non-fans. (They failed.) The second commentary features producers Avi Arad, Ralph Winter, and Lauren Shuler Donner. This chat isn’t as intriguing as there are many silent gaps and the trio speak mainly to the film’s production, ie locations, budget considerations, and casting. The DVD contains 13 DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with optional commentary from Ratner, Penn, and Kinberg. The scenes total about 10 minutes. Many of these scenes are actually alternate or extended scenes. There are three “Alternate Endings”, 2 of which alter minor details from the finished film and 1 which adds a new detail concerning the fate of one character. The extras are finished off with 2 TRAILERS. X-Men: The Last Stand is also available in a DVD set which includes a comic book, but no additional extras.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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