The Last X-Men - Maybe, Maybe Not?
So after two strong "X-Men" movies delivered impressively by director Bryan Singer, along rolls the third and maybe final movie in the franchise "X-Men: The Last Stand". But sadly Bryan Singer didn't roll along with it being replaced by Brett Ratner and the change of director means a very noticeable change in the style of the movie. Honestly "X-Men: The Last Stand" is not a bad movie and manages to carry on from "X-Men 2" to give it some continuity whilst introducing some new characters along with the return of familiar faces. But it feels different to the previous movies, the balance between storyline and action is not there causing "X-Men: The Last Stand" to feel more like an action movie than before, a bit of an outrageous one at that.
After discovering his son is a mutant a business man spends years developing a cure for the mutant strain. But when the government provide backing for it, it cause unrest between mutants as Magneto's (Ian McKellen - The Da Vinci Code) brotherhood fear that the cure will be inflicted upon them, whilst followers of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart - Conspiracy Theory) want the mutants to have the choice as to whether to take the cure or not.
The biggest issue I have with "X-Men: The Last Stand" is that whilst it has achieved the continuity which "X-Men 2" achieved and introduced a new storyline surrounding the mutant cure, the storyline pretty much plays second fiddle to the action, as the balance is very much out of kilter. Where as in the previous "X-Men" movies the action was used to emphasise a point in the storyline and to ramp up the excitement, this time round it feels like they have gone for overkill, trying to include so much action to make it exciting but at the detriment of the story, which ends up feeling like a filler between the action sequences. It also means that some of the action is not that exciting purely because we are treated to too much of it.
Leading on from this point is that this time round "X-Men: The Last Stand" feels less realistic than on previous outings. A strange comment for what is a sci-fi, super hero movie but in an attempt to make things bigger and better they have lost a little grip on reality. In a scene where Magneto manages to move the Golden Gate Bridge with his mutant power, it just feels ridiculous rather than exciting and very much out of character. It's this lack of grip on the X-Men Universe which actually spoils the movie giving it a sense that nothing is impossible for mutant powers. This is actually highlighted if you watch to the end of the credits where an extra scene appears which makes you question not only whether this is in fact the final "X-Men" movie and what were they thinking of including it.
Adding to the issues is that with introducing new characters as well as dispatching with a few which we have been introduced to in the previous movies, "X-Men: The Last Stand" lacks that strong lead to carry the movie. Yes Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is again central to much of the storyline but because his character turns into purely an action figure it doesn't have that same interest factor as before. To try and make up for this we do get a lot of new characters from Kitty Pryde who can pass through solid objects and Angel who's father is the businessman who creates the mutant cure, to name just two. But then these characters are never developed in the same way as the main characters were in the previous movies appearing when a scene necessitates the use of their mutant power and then disappearing again. A prime example of which is Vinnie Jones who plays the unstoppable Juggernaut who basically only shows up when something needs demolishing.
In some ways they have tried to give "X-Men: The Last Stand" a lead character that being Famke Janssen's Jean Grey, who having appeared to have died in "X-Men 2" returns but as her alter ego, so to speak, of the Dark Phoenix. We get an introduction sequence which goes back to when Jean was a girl and her immense powers were discovered by Charles Xavier and Magneto which although looks slightly weird is interesting. But then after that it doesn't work as the character isn't actually that well developed or in reality given much to do other than looking like a flame haired temptress. This actually maybe down to so many new characters being introduced that dwelling on one would have meant even more under use for the others.
What I also didn't like is that characters which in some ways I had grown an emotional attachment to in the previous movies were basically demoted to bit parts. The lovely Anna Paquin as Rogue gets barely any screen time and the wonderful Rebecca Romijn as Mystique who gets a little more screen time is still underused. There are others which suffer the same fate and although I can see that to progress new characters had to take over; I felt the wrong ones were being sidelined to make room for them.
The final negative when it comes to "X-Men: The Last Stand" and going back to the storyline is that it introduces themes and sub plots but then never uses them. A prime example of which is the mutant boy who is central to the cure and who both group of Mutants want to get hold off. It's a good idea but then it's left floating never explained as to what will happen if one of them actually gets their hands on him. The whole storyline feels under developed to allow for the action.
Now to what is good and despite the issues there is some good elements to "X-Men: The Last Stand". Most notable of these is that those characters which return and are central to the storyline are still well performed by their stars. Hugh Jackman still has the lead man presence as Wolverine whilst Magneto is still evil but with a touch of humanity about him which makes him the enemy but not a hateful one. Add to this Halle Berry as Storm who does get a bit more to do other than generating some extreme weather and of course Patrick Stewart who is always great as Charles Xavier.
Then there is the action, and although it sometimes borders on as well as passes, the unbelievable is still visually impressive. In a sequence which sees Wolverine and Storm taking the young students through their paces certainly achieves the adrenalin rush it was designed to achieve. As does a later scene which sees Juggernaut ploughing through wall after wall before being temporarily brought down by the power of Kitty Pryde. I just wish that director Brett Ratner had managed to find the right blend of action and storyline rather than favouring the big budget visual excitement to carry the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "X-Men: The Last Stand" in comparison to the previous X-Men movies is slightly lacking when it comes to the balance between storyline, characters and action. It just doesn't gel like before and certain aspects feel lacking such as a strong focus point and a grip on reality. But even so it's not a terrible movie, in fact it is enjoyable and well worth watching, it's just not in the same league as what went before.