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X-Men: The Last Stand

Rewatched this on DVD after seeing it at the movies and my opinion hasn't changed.

I liked:

  • Kelsey Grammer, who lends authority, humour and (no pun intended) humanity to the gravitas of Ian McKellan and compassionate leadership of Patrick Stewart. There's a scene in the final battle where Logan spots the mutant cure darts, and the camera cuts away to a reaction shot of Hank McCoy and you know exactly what he's thinking - all the more impressive because his thoughts are mixed. And who else could have made the classic Beast line "Oh my stars and garters" work as wonderfully as Grammer? I had my doubts about "Frasier" as the Beast, but these were quickly dispelled.
  • A lot of the new actors are strong - unsurprising when you have calibre players like Anthony Heald and Shohreh Aghdashloo in throwaway parts, but newcomers like Cayden Boyd as the young Warren Worthington (make that "relative" newcomers - the guy has 18 imdb credits!) or Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde (in the absence of a 15-year old Natalie Portman who really would have been perfect ten years ago) also acquit themselves nicely.
  • Storm and Cyclops, given the short shrift in the prequels, have - not necessarily more screentime, but certainly better screentime. James Marsden gets a chance to show some intensity before being blasted into the DC Universe and Halle Berry actually doesn't embarrass herself, unlike her previous flat X-outings, though her eulogy for Xavier was - like much of the acting - too overt for my taste ... but more on that later.
  • The Logan/Marie relationship was nicely, if briefly, carried over from the prequels.
  • Xavier was a darker, more manipulative player in this film - his actions morally ambiguous, which Patrick Stewart wisely chose to let speak for themselves rather than playing an edgy subtext.
  • The movie raises some interesting ethical questions and resolves some of them in an unexpected (for a mainstream superhero story) way. If mutanthood ("mutantity"?!?) really is an allegory for homosexuality - among other traits that might make one feel like an outsider - then it's not exactly politically correct for one of the main characters to choose to get "cured". But Rogue's decision makes for a more realistic and certainly more interesting ending.
  • Similarly, I liked the movie's willingness to make major changes and the general grand sweep of its events. In this respect it does feel like the conclusion of a trilogy, as Ratner intended.
  • I really liked the manifestation of Phoenix's powers during the confrontation in the Grey house and the final battle, and the eerie after effects at the lake. With one notable exception.
  • Chris Claremont's cameo was appreciated - he's certainly the most deserving of the comics' creators to get a tip of the hat (even more so than Stan Lee) given how much the movies owed to his stories and characters.
  • I totally believed the actor playing Mrs Grey gave birth to Famke Janssen!

I disliked:

  • Brett Ratner moves the film along at such a pace that it never gets bogged down or boring, but also, he never gives it the time to fully realise the emotional moments.
  • There is a lack of resonance generally. Even the most intense scenes, like the confrontation between Jean and Xavier, are ultimatelly more "interesting" than emotionally engaging. And I felt no sense of loss after Xavier's (ostensibly) death or even Jean's, which I chalk up to too-overt acting by Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman. Wolverine shouldn't do as much weeping as he did in this movie, even if he has to kill the love of his life.
  • Some of the dialogue was too obvious. One example: Mystique tells the guard that she will kill him personally. Then, a few minutes later, when she does she says "I told you so." Did we really have to hear her say it? A satisfied smile would have done nicely.
  • I did not like the retconning of Jean Grey's backstory. Making young Jean inherently unstable and casting the Phoenix as a rather shallow incarnation of Jean's multiple personality disorder lacked subtlety. Though it didn't offend me as much as the retconning Marvel did when X-Factor came out, which led me to write my one and only letter to Marvel, even generating a response - albeit a one-liner - by then-editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, something I respected him for considering I criticised both his editorial decisions and his writing (Secret Wars anyone?) in the letter.
  • I wanted to see more internal conflict in Jean as a result of the corruption that the Phoenix's near-absolute power caused. There was some of that in the writing and in the acting. Janssen did a good job with what she had, but there wasn't enough of it. It occurs to me that even in Claremont's classic arc Jean's turmoil isn't as subtle or dramatic as it could be. But Phoenix's death quickly assumed such mythic proportions that it deserved a full-on operatic, rip-out-your-heart-and-leave-it-beating-on-the-cinema-seat treatment. What we got was okay: Wolverine's healing power combating Phoenix's molecular disintegration made for a good visual. (Maybe it was implausible given the extent of power she manifested earlier, but then maybe she was holding back because it was him.) But I would have liked to have seen Jean directly decide to take her own life, as she did in Uncanny X-Men #137, than to leave it to Logan to skewer her.
  • Why didn't Logan bring up his suspicions about Scott to the others? The glasses prety much gave what happened away.
  • I suspect trimming the running time to under 100 minutes led to some big cuts, which could explain some (minor) continuity issues. For instance, in the bridge scene (which was very cool) - it was day one second, and night the next.
  • There was no Phoenix effect!!! No firebird!!! Aaarrgh!!!! Buffy's "Dark Willow" arc took its essential character beats from the Dark Phoenix storyline. And it would seem that X-Men 3 repaid the favour by basing its design aesthetic on Alyson Hannigan's makeup from season six. In other words, this Phoenix turns black-eyed and veiny. Which is wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. Phoenix. Firebird. Phoenix. Firebird. Phoenix. Firebird. Get it??? (Yeah, yeah, the resurrection thing too. But firebird, okay? Firebird!)

I'm no Bryan Singer fangeek. I thought the first X-Men movie was only average and was excited by the second more for what it set up (ie Dark Phoenix) than for what it was, even though it was a decent picture, and certainly a major improvement on X1. But I can't help but agree with the majority of fans (if not general public) that Singer would have done a better job in concluding the trilogy he began. While I didn't mind - in the context of the movie that we got - how Phoenix became like the Queen on the chess board that never moves from her place - imparting a sense of impending escalation while the pawns, and mid-range pieces fall, I feel strongly that the fate of the Phoenix would have had more impact if it was the A-story rather than the B-story. And the idea of Sigourney Weaver as Emma Frost - reportedly Singer's choice of villain - is one of those casting choices that's just inspired, given that Diana Rigg is pushing 70 these days.

Overall, The Last Stand is a mixed success. It worked well for what it was - a popcorn movie, but it could have been much more. It could have been a movie that hit the gut and the heart as much as it did the eyeballs. Something that I think Singer aimed for in Superman Returns, and only partly succeeded at; but at least he had loftier aspirations. X-Men 3 aimed low, and hit. So naturally it became the highest-grossing of the three movies and soundly trounced Superman's take. Go figure.

Oh, and I liked the brief glimpse of "Days of Future Past" (and, of course, liked seeing the Danger Room) ... but would love to see an entire movie set around this (other) classic storyline. Maybe X-4?

Comments (3)

Ellen Page was even better in Hard Candy, hah.

And yeah, I think I agree with most of your opinions, I actually enjoyed this more than Superman Returns.

Looked up Hard Candy - sounds interesting. Will put it on the to-see list, thanks!

AdamJ:

Nice review! I enjoyed the first and second films (the first one more actually), but have yet to see this one. I might just go rent it out.
Beast was my favourite character from the cartoon series and I've always been a bit of a fan of Kelsey Grammer (though I don't watch Frasier) so I never had any doubts with his Beast portrayal. I always thought he was perfect for the part from day one and was quite surprised (and glad!) he was eventually chosen to play the character.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 12, 2006 9:32 AM.

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