A ‘cure’ for mutation has been discovered. There are those mutants in the world that believes that they would be better off if they were just normal people, and are literally lining up in the streets to be cured. Other mutants believe that there is nothing wrong with them and the so called ‘cure’ is an offence to who they are.
X-Men led to a revival of the superhero genre, and X-Men 2 raised the bar with a superior storyline, the introduction of several new mutants, and the Brotherhood of Mutants having to fight with the X-Men against Stryker’s forces. Changes to the established formula from the original film I always like, but unfortunately the momentum from the previous films has sadly run out with this instalment.
So what is going on with the mutants this time around??
X-Men: The Last Stand begins 20 years ago when Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Steward and Ian McKellen returning to their roles) during a time when they are visiting a promising new student for Xavier’s school named Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). She is a very powerful telepath but lacks the necessary control her potentially dark powers require.
Back in the present (which is the not too distant future) Xavier is concerned by Scott aka Cyclops’s (James Marsden) overwhelming grief and heartbreak after the death of his beloved wife Jean at the end of X-Men 2. She has been gone for years and yet he simply cannot seem to get over her loss and move on with his life. Meanwhile Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy (Kelsey Grammer) learns that a ‘cure’ has been created using a mutant named Jimmy whose mutation is that he cancels out the mutations in others. So the mutants of the world can be cured like their mutations are nothing more than diseases that need to be eradicated. Of course, to some mutants who are afraid of their powers and what they can do like Rogue (Anna Paquin) struggles with whether to take the cure or not, and others like Magneto view the existence of a cure as an affront to everything that makes a mutant unique.
In his mind Scott hears a message from Jean and heads off to Alkali Lake, and discovers Jean lying on the shore. The pair kiss and her eyes suddenly burn with energy. Sensing something is wrong Xavier sends Wolverine and Storm (Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry) to the Lake but all they find is an unconscious Jean and Scott’s glasses with no other traces of him.
Magneto leads an assault on a transport truck that is holding prisoners Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), Multiple-Man (Eric Dane) and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). During the escape a guard attempts to fire a weapon at Magneto but Mystique throws herself into the path of the projectile. Before Magneto’s stunned eyes Mystique reverts to a human appearance, and they realise that the cure has been made into a weapon. Using the weapon as a symbol that humans are forcing the cure on mutants who don’t give up their powers willingly and Magneto uses it to unite likeminded mutants who hate the government for coming up with a cure and treating them like they are some kind of genetic mistake that can now be fixed.
Jean, having been consumed by Phoenix persona, escapes the X-Mansion and joins with Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants.
The X-Men are forced to fight once more as Magneto and the powerful Phoenix attack the facility in which Jimmy is being held in order to stop more of the cure being developed and used against them.
I think I am going to call this tread: Tired Trinity Syndrome and what I mean by that is it seems to be a rarity that any franchise can maintain its momentum, developing story, and keep its characters interesting into its third film. The Blade films followed this pattern, as did the Christopher Nolan Batman films, and so did the Beverly Hills Cop movies (to name but a few). I don’t know why but for some reason the second sequel doesn’t really seem to make the effort of the original two, perhaps this is because there is already a loyal fanbase so the filmmakers don’t feel like they need to invest as much energy in an established film series.
X-Men: The Last Stand was the first film to not be directed by Bryan Singer (who had left to direct Superman Returns and took X2 screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty and composer / editor John Ottman with him). Brett Ratner takes over the helm of directing. The key cast members once again return, however, Nightcrawler is absent. His absence in the film is not explained during the film but was apparently due to actor Alan Cumming’s reluctance to endure the extensive make-up process to film what would essentially be a cameo role. His absence is explained in the movie-tie-in game which is set between the events of X-Men 2 and The Last Stand. The character of Scott played by James Marsden, appears but it is heavily implied that he is killed by Jean, although, this happens off screen so it is not confirmed either way. Marsden therefore also just basically has a cameo role as he does not appear in the film after his brief appearance at the beginning.
The Last Stand falls short of its predecessors in a couple of ways. Several of the main cast are killed off during the film but their deaths are given such little focus, and the rest of the characters move forward so easily, that their deaths seem to be largely pointless. We have seen these characters grow in two films and to unceremoniously kill them off is a real shame that carries almost no weight. The death of Jean Grey at the end of X-Men 2 was given far more weight than any death in this film. Previous cast members that were very important in the other films have been dropped into the background so they might as well not have appeared at all. Rogue (Anna Paquin) was so important in X-Men, yet here she is barely seen and when she is, she is struggling with her decision about whether or not to take the cure.
Wolverine once more takes centre stage and his desire to rescue Jean is one of the main focuses of the film.
Kelsey Grammer is good Beast, but like a lot of the other characters, he is just of there and really doesn’t make much of an impact.
When the final battle comes it involves the Brotherhood taking up arms against the X-Men who are once again trying to protect Jimmy before Magneto and his followers can kill him to prevent more of the cure being developed. The sequence where Magneto rips the Golden Gate Bridge apart and uses it to move his followers to Alcatraz where the cure has been developed it impressive, but ultimately pointless because he could have simply put his followers in a boat and sailed to the island. The humans present are equipped with the plastic guns loaded with darts containing the cure but ultimately none of them can do much against the Brotherhood meaning the X-Men have to make the final stand (see why they called it “The Last Stand” – clever right??).
They build up the idea of Jean Grey being this all powerful mutant but she doesn’t really do much other than stand there whilst the majority of the final battle is happening, and when she does finally unleash her powers, Wolverine is forced to choose between trying to save the woman he loves and stopping the Phoenix from killing hundreds of innocent people. Sadly the audience won’t really care what happens as director Ratner does not take the time to engage his audience with the emotional turmoil of the characters.
Unfortunately X-Men: The Last Stand is nowhere near as good as its predecessors and is nothing more than an average film that fails to live up to the standard set by its own franchise.
Like the atrocious Alien3, X-Men: The Last Stand cannot hope to match up to the previous films that have come before it. Ultimately, whilst X-Men 2 did leave the possibility of further sequels open, the time and energy that was invested in those just hasn’t been done here. So whilst it is not as bad as some of the other films that have suffered from Tired Trinity Syndrome, it is still, overall a rather poor effort that can only be considered average.
Even though the film is at worst average I am still giving it a Thumbs Down, because it is just a very lazy effort and as a franchise with so many rich and interesting characters to choose from it is a real pity none of the filmmakers could be asked to make this a decent sequel.
6/10 - X-Men: The Last Stand leaves the door open for a potential sequel but if they are as lazy as this then it would be for the best if this franchise ends here.