X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

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X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Post  BoG on Tue Nov 11, 2014 1:05 am

The 1st pre-credits scene takes place 20 years earlier: a younger Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart, digitally made more youthful) - who can walk - and Magneto (Ian McKellen, also facially digitized), still on speaking terms here, have their first visit with an adolescent Jean Grey, who exhibits enormous mutant powers. The 2nd scene is 10 years later, introducing a young boy who is cutting off his wings and who would grow up to be the Angel (one of the original team in the comics). His father (Michael Murphy) is a rich industrialist who will eventually develop a "cure" for mutants.  That's the main plot of this one - the finale of a trilogy following X2 - that a drug can rid the world of mutants. Also, in this film, mutants are divided into 5 classes of power level, with 5 being the highest; until now, Magneto had been regarded as the known most powerful, level 4.

In the present - or "not too distant future" - we have our first glimpse of the movie version of the X-Men's Danger Room, a training arena which is like the holodecks on Star Trek TNG; this scene eerily anticipates the later X-Men:Days of Future Past (2014), as several members battle a Sentinel in a ruined city. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) & Storm (Halle Berry) have taken the lead as the main trainers and Xavier's top assistants since Cyclops (James Marsden) has fallen into severe depression over Jean Grey's death (in X2).  He zooms off on his motorcycle to revisit her place of doom and somehow awakens her from her resting place under the waters; she seems a bit different, though, unsettling, and promptly obliterates him (not shown, just suggested).  Here we have the dirty secret of Professor X and his relationship with his prized pupil, Jean (Famke Janssen), also known as the Phoenix. She has two sides to her personality; the bad side had been suppressed by Xavier over the years, but no longer. Unfortunately for all involved, the bad side is this "Class 5" mutant, with almost limitless power.

Cyclops is not the only victim, either, only the first. Next on Jean's, er, Phoenix's disintegration list is none other than Xavier.  Magneto, meanwhile, has been busy assembling his own mutant army, including big bruiser Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), as a response to this new cure. He lost his old partner Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to this drug when she was shot by one of these hypo guns, but seizes the opportunity to get Phoenix as the crown jewel of his new Brotherhood. It's questionable as to whether even he can control her, but the final big battle does soon occur off the shore of San Francisco. Magneto's target is a young boy mutant who nullifies the powers of other mutants and is kept on base at Alcatraz Island. The famous visual is of Magneto breaking the Golden Gate Bridge and using it as a pathway to the island (so that his army doesn't have to swim there). Phoenix actually stays out of the fracas as the X-Men throw down with Magneto's minions; the highlight here is Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) confronting Juggernaut.  But then, the army tries to shoot Phoenix with the hypo guns and all hell breaks loose.
This 3rd X-Men film is obviously more downbeat than the previous two, since the team loses 3 of its key members by the end; and, like adding salt to the wound, Jean Grey dies a 2nd time. I can understand if Wolverine and the others are depressed by the end.  It's also depressing for the audience, since there is no real upside to this conclusion (that only comes much later in the revised timeline and conclusion of X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, which finally seems to correct all the gruesome doings of this chapter).  Also, with the absence of director Bryan Singer (who elected to direct Superman Returns) and the substitution of Brett Ratner, the film lacks the elegance and finesse of the previous two films - expected due to Ratner's inexperience with the characters. Many of the early scenes have a slapdash, workmanlike tone to them, with the actors giving flat performances, as if just saying the lines to get it over with.  I just didn't have a feel for them like I did in the previous films, as if I was watching carbon copies of the real thing. The best acting is probably from Kelsey Grammer as the blue Beast a.k.a. Hank McCoy, who begins the film as a government suit and ends it as a warrior. But, old pros like Stewart as Prof. X seem a little lost here or uninterested; Stewart is mechanical in his matter-of-fact explanations of how he kept Jean under control, even as we question whether he did the right thing.
More than that, the overall negative tone of the film is almost nihilistic: Magneto and his team are supposedly rebelling against the government and are therefore righteous, but more & more as the film goes on they are all presented as these ruthless killers, with no regard for the lives of others. Pyro (Aaron Stanford), a young member who used to be part of Xavier's school, looked forward to killing Xavier himself for some reason. Juggernaut enjoys the thought of killing a small boy. In the final battle, one of Magneto's young lieutenants sadistically kills a female scientist.  Magneto himself has no qualms about sacrificing many of his recruits or "pawns" as he calls them. So, when Phoenix begins to obliterate everything near the end, turning people into dust, she is merely the sharpest expression of this nihilism, a force made real as if fueled by all the hatred these mutants carry within themselves. But, maybe I'm over-thinking it. This does have an edge over the other films in terms of spectacular mayhem, due to a much larger budget. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
X-Trivia: cameos by Stan Lee and Chris Claremont (seventies X-Men writer) as neighbors of Jean in the opening scenes; Xavier's walking in this scene is contradicted in later films which elaborate on his past, unless this was another brief period in which he found a way to walk again; Bill Duke plays Trask, head of Homeland Security; though he has the same name, he is no relation of Bolivar Trask, the famous developer of the Sentinels seen in X-Men: Days of Future Past; an after-credits scene in the end features Moira MacTaggert (Olivia Williams, revised as a character by another actress in X-Men:First Class) and the suggestion that Xavier managed to survive after all, even though this was a final film in a trilogy and there was no follow up to this - except Stewart's cameo at the end of The Wolverine (2013).
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