|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 Bryan Singer’s vision, but the film never fails to entertain on the summer movie level. It boasts top-notch action, an excellent 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 subplot is one of the X-universe’s more intriguing storylines to date. It’s just a shame 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 by Chris Claremont involved the alien abduction of Jean Grey and even climaxed with the destruction of a planet. It happens a little differently in the film, and instead of planet, well, let’s just say that she destroys something much more significant.
But this is essentially Dark Phoenix's story, and the fact that even she doesn't get much character development only spells trouble for the rest of the cast. Jackman turns in yet another solid performance as Wolverine, and 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 much smaller roles. Magneto's newest henchman are treated even worse, with Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Multiple Man (Eric Dane) and Calisto (Dania Ramirez) given even less to do compared to their heroic counterparts. The only exception 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, just like Stewart as Professor X, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
Despite its many problems, the film isn’t a complete disaster. Ratner jumped on board so late into pre-production that Singer's DNA still bleeds through into the final product, mainly due to the returning cast, who are seasoned pros at this whole superhero thing by now. In fact, while it may be a step down in quality from "X2," "The Last Stand" is pretty much on par with the original installment. Some fans aren't going to be very happy with the treatment of certain characters' fates, but as anyone that reads comic books knows all too well, no one stays dead forever... except Uncle Ben.
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 13 deleted scenes, but why bother when a much more superior disc will be arriving in stores in time for Christmas?