Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
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Is there a title more redundant in cinema history than X-Men: The Last Stand? Two prequels and two spin-offs later, it seems even more ridiculous now than it did when first released. The film has aged just as poorly.
Picking up the pieces from X-Men 2, the third in the then trilogy finds out how Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) survived after she sacrificed herself for her team, holding off the flooding lake as the dam gave way.
The answer? The Phoenix, the dark mutant force hinted at during the final moments of X-2. The problem? This isn’t Bryan Singer’s series any more: this is Brett Ratner’s show. And that subtlety Singer gave his superhero blockbusters? That ain’t Brett’s style.
“The Phoenix – a pure character. All desire. And rage,” says Professor X (Patrick Stewart), as Jean comes back to life and seduces Cyclops – only to kill him mid-snog. It might sound good in theory, but in practice, she comes across as an angry vagina on legs. She soon mounts Wolverine in the Professor’s lab, an act more reminiscent of Famke’s famous Bond girl Xenia Onatopp than a possessed mutant scientist. It’s like watching a sequel to Teeth, but with more explosions.
That unsubtle streak runs right through the movie, digging up all of the previous subtext into bombastic sur-text. “Raven?” says an angry Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). “I don’t answer to my slave name any more…” Meanwhile, Halle Berry’s Storm looks on troubled, as clouds cover the sky. “I don’t have to be psychic to see that something’s bothering you,” comments Charles. Well, duh.
It’s a shame, because the material Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn give Ratner has a lot of promise: when not dealing with the angry vagina, the story introduces a full-scale “cure” for mutants, offering troubled characters such as Rogue the “normal” life they’ve always wanted or villains such as Magneto the risk of losing all their powers.
As people are treated, both voluntarily and involuntarily, relationships between the ensemble are changed dramatically, with more than a few fatalities. One moment between Ian McKellen’s metal-manipulator and Romijn’s shape-shifter carries genuine pathos. But while the familiar cast are as good as ever, the overblown approach gets in the way of the bigger emotions, a problem exacerbated by the swelling of the cast size. Ratner introduces Kelsey Grammar, who gives good eyebrows as thoughtful fur ball Beast, and Ellen Page as wall-running Kitty, who provides an interesting rival for Iceman Bobby’s affections. But then there’s Juggernaut, a lug-headed loudmouth who walks through walls too – literally. The man playing him? Vinnie Jones.
“I’m Juggernaut, bitch!” he shouts at one point. It makes you long for the simpler days when Storm was making jokes about toads struck by lightning.
As the whole thing escalates to stupid proportions, the big CGI set pieces – watch out for the Golden Gate Bridge – are visually stunning, but hollow. In any other action franchise, this could be mildly diverting popcorn fodder, but after the high standards set by Singer’s first two outings, X-Men 3 is notably below par. The sequel’s shallow stupidity is only underscored by an end credits twist that renders much of the storyline as irrelevant as the movie’s laughable moniker. The result is a mutated mess that makes you wish the title really was true after all.