|X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Anna Paquin, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, Ben Foster, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, James Marsden, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Cameron Bright
Director: Brett Ratner
Nothing says “it’s over” quite like Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” a film so comfortable with being the (supposed) final installment of the comic franchise that major characters are disposed of with the snap of a finger, sometimes even offscreen. This still doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of a sequel (20th Century Fox never turns down the chance to make a quick buck), but if this really is the last X-Men film, then the series has been put to rest in style. Ratner’s take on the Marvel supergroup may differ slightly from director Bryan Singer’s vision, but the film never fails to entertain on the summer movie level. It’s got top-notch action, an amazing ensemble cast, and most importantly, enough surprises to keep even the most loyal fanboys on their toes.
Following the altruistic death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) at the end of “X2: X-Men United,” you’d think that more people would be broken up over her absence, but only Cyclops (James Marsden) continues to mourn the loss. Meanwhile, as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) adopt their new roles as team leaders, the U.S. government announces its plans to release a newly discovered “cure” for the mutant race. Complements of research scientist Warren Worthington II – whose own son, Angel (Ben Foster), is the product of genetic mutation – the cure offers many mutants, like Rogue (Anna Paquin) and fan favorite Beast (Kelsey Grammar), the chance at a normal life. Never one to miss out on a chance to proclaim his superiority, however, Magneto (Ian McKellen) hops back into action to recruit an army of mutants dedicated to preventing their abolition. Meanwhile, as a civil war breaks out, Jean Grey rises from the ashes more powerful than before as the hyperviolent Dark Phoenix.
Practically ripped from the pages of Joss Whedon’s short run on “The Astonishing X-Men,” the cure storyline is one of the X-universe’s most intriguing chronicles yet. It’s a shame, really, that it had to split screen time with the film’s other major plotline – the Dark Phoenix Saga – for which the latter suffers greatly. In fact, aside from Jean Grey’s rebirth and her incredibly brief relationship with Wolverine, there’s not much development on that particular front. It’s also been dramatically misrepresented. The famous comic book storyline (written by Chris Claremont) involved the alien abduction of Jean Grey (which unlocked her full potential) and even climaxed with the destruction of a planet. This isn’t the way it happens in the film, and instead of a planet, well, let’s just that she destroys something much more significant.
And because the Dark Phoenix hardly sees any character development (this is her story), it only spells trouble for the rest of the cast. Jackman headlines the film once again as Wolverine, and even Berry has been given a more prominent role this time around, but all of the younger students (played by Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Daniel Cudmore and X-newcomer Ellen Page) have been relegated to smaller roles. The newer characters are even worse off, and while mutants like Angel (Foster), Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Multiple Man (Eric Dane) and Calisto (Dania Ramirez) have all had much larger roles in the comics and cartoon series before this, they get little more than a few lines each. The one exception to this rule is Kelsey Grammar as the blue-furred Beast, who gets a relatively meaty part as the Secretary of Mutant Affairs. And while fans may never get over the tacky makeup job (it’s very, um, blue), there’s no denying that – much like Stewart to Professor X – Grammer was born for this role.
The film isn’t a complete washout, though. It’s actually very representative of what Singer achieved while working on the first two films, mostly because Ratner jumped on board so late into pre-production that he couldn’t have made that big of an impact. It’s hard to imagine that he did much more than decide where to put the camera during filming, but some of Singer’s flair is certainly missing from the final product. That's not to say that the movie is horrible, or even that Ratner is a hack. In fact, “X-Men: The Last Stand” could actually be considered superior to the first installment, and it’s nice to see that Ratner took some risks along the way. Of course, this doesn’t mean that certain characters may not return (as a secret coda following the credits will prove), but if Fox knows what’s best, they’ll keep the remaining X-Men on lockdown for good.
Only weeks before the release of this single-disc DVD, Brett Ratner announced that a two-disc special edition of the film was on its way, so what exactly is the point of this one? Sure, you can listen to two audio commentaries (the first by director Ratner and writers Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, and the other by producers Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter) and surf the thirteen alternate/extended/deleted scenes (two of which feature Magneto with a beard and without one – ooh, exciting!), but why bother when a much more superior disc will be arriving in stores just in time for Christmas? I guess there is one plus to renting the disc: you can check out a sneak peek of an unfinished scene for the new “Simpsons” movie.