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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

PG-13 104 minutes

Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

 · Hugh Jackman
 · Halle Berry
 · Ian McKellen
 · Famke Janssen
 · Anna Paquin

Review by Sean Kernan

Director Brett Ratner is a hack. That is the reputation he has earned over career of nine features including two Rush Hour films (and soon a third), Red Dragon, The Family Man and After The Sunset. Basic mainstream formula pictures that few would call innovative or relevant. Ratner is a mainstream showman who works only from studio approved genre templates.

His style is safe, conventional and boring. So it was quite understandable that when Ratner was hired to direct the third film in the X-Men series, X-Men The Last Stand, longtime fans gnashed their teeth and prayed to whatever mutant god that controls such matters that Ratner not be allowed to screw up the beloved franchise to much.

The fans prayers have been answered for the most part. Though X-Men The Last Stand has a plot holes you could drive a truck through and cringe inducing moments unsuitable to the franchise, Ratner has not screwed the thing up to bad. Actually it's not that bad at all.




X3 turns on the idea that a wealthy industrialist has discovered a cure for the mutant X gene. It's a revelation that rocks the burgeoning mutant community at a time when a tenative peace had come between mutants and humans. The President of the United States (Josef Summer) even has created a dept. of mutant affairs headed up by a mutant, Dr. Hank McCoy aka Beast (Kelsey Grammer). The cure while good for some mutants is a divisive and even deadly issue for others.

Standing against the cure is Magneto (Ian McKellen) who, with his brotherhood of mutants, including Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford), plans to use the cure as a rallying cry for mutants to renew the war against humanity.

Then there are our heroes the X-Men. Conflicted and confused, most are opposed to the idea that mutants are in need of a cure but against any kind of war with humanity, the X-Men are caught dead set in the middle.

In the midst of the controversy the X-Men face an even bigger crisis. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) thought dead after the last major X-Men conflict, is alive but she is no longer the Jean Grey the team once knew. Her near death experience has released her secondary personality known as the Phoenix, a being of unimaginable and uncontrollable power and rage.

With war on the horizon and Jean Grey an even greater danger than that war, X-Men The Last Stand is bursting at the seams with plot. Throw in the introductions and reintroductions of several long awaited X-Men characters and you can understand the herculean task Director Brett Ratner endured in making X-Men The Last Stand.

That X3 is as coherent as it is with all of that plot and so many characters is a credit to Ratner. Not that I can let him off the hook completely for the films many flaws but even the biggest Ratner hater out there must cut the guy some slack for the sheer massiveness of X-Men The Last Stand.

Where Ratner succeeds in X3 is in crafting some serious blockbuster action scenes. A fight with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) facing down Magneto's brotherhood, including Pyro and new members the super strong Juggernaut (a massively muscled up Vinny Jones) and empathic speed demon Callisto (Dania Ramirez), is terrific, fast paced action and a terrific lead up to the films most shocking moment.

The ending is the films strongest moment as Wolverine is forced to face off with Jean Grey/Phoenix as she prepares to destroy the entire planet. The scene is exciting and emotional incorporating massive special effects and the entwined histories of these two characters into one powerhouse scene.

Predominant amongst the films flaws are the younger X-Men, especially Shawn Ashmore as Iceman. The dewey eyed teenage Iceman is an emotional cypher who lacks power and presence. Iceman's main plot function is as the opposing element to Aaron Stanford's Pyro but since Stanford is also an underwhelming presence their time together onscreen is forgettable at best.

The less said about Iceman's romantic triangle subplot with Anna Paquin's Rogue and Ellen Page's Kitty Pride (the girl who can run through walls) the better.




I could go on for several more paragraphs picking apart the flaws of X-Men The Last Stand even though I honestly believe that the good outweighs the bad. Brett Ratner's work is not exactly a masters class in direction but it is competent and professional and even thrilling when it really needs to be. The performances of the leads Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry are as good as they have been in the first two films with Jackman's wit becoming more prominent each time out. His work here makes talk of a Wolverine stand alone franchise something to look forward to.

Kelsey Grammer cuts a surprisingly strong action hero figure as Beast. Fans of the comics have long looked forward to seeing the blue haired monster Dr. Hank McCoy with his unique combination of super strength, agility and erudite intelligence. Embodied by Kelsey Grammer, Beast has the gravitas of Dr. Frasier Crane combined with agility and strength of a classic comic book character.





If you can put aside the flaws and concentrate on the terrific performances and often exceptional action scenes and shocking surprises of X-Men The Last Stand you will have a great time. X-Men The Last Stand is big time summer blockbuster entertainment.

909 Words Published: 7 June 2006

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