Title: X-Men: The Last Stand
Release Date: May 26, 2006
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Brett Ratner
Release Format: Theatrical
Before I get into my personal feelings regarding X-Men: The Last Stand, allow me to discuss its troubled history. When he was still attached to direct this feature, Bryan Singer wanted to do his version of The Dark Phoenix Saga in the third film and hired screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty (2 of the X2: X-Men United writers) to pen a treatment. This seemed appropriate as the end of X2: X-Men United had hinted at that storyline anyway. The film was to feature the introduction of beloved X-Men character, Gambit, and would have seen The Hellfire Club as the main antagonists, who would have resurrected Jean Grey as The Dark Phoenix. Emma Frost of The Hellfire Club would be manipulating Jean’s mind and, much like the finished product, Magneto would seek to control her. Not only that, Singer had signed on Sigourney Weaver to play Emma Frost and Keanu Reeves to play Gambit. If those sound like two of the greatest casting decisions in history, that’s because they are. I can see them playing these parts in my dreams, it’s that amazing.
So, what went wrong? Well, an opportunity opened up for Singer as he was given the chance to develop Superman Returns and couldn’t pass it up. This led to him having to drop out of the director’s chair for the third X-Men film and was replaced by Hollywood’s most forgettable punchline, Brett Ratner. It only got worse as Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty left the project to pursue Superman Returns with Singer. This led to the studios hiring Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg to “write” the screenplay, which scrapped pretty much everything that Singer wanted, created countless plot holes in the series that would leave it problematic for years to come and pretty much ignored most of what was set-up (no matter how poorly) in the last film. In case you couldn’t figure it out, I hated X-Men: The Last Stand and to be honest, after seeing it again, my opinions on it haven’t really changed all that much. For all the people out there who complain about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I’m in the minority that thought and still thinks that X-Men: The Last Stand was far worse. Why? Well, let’s proceed. Spoilers Ahead.
Okay, first let me get the couple things I did like out of the way first because, believe me, there isn’t much. As far as Beast is concerned, Kelsey Grammar nails this role. The makeup on him is amazing and he embodies every characteristic of Hank McCoy perfectly. It’s not only a great performance, its one of the best performances in the entire series. He steals every scene he’s in and when I see him, I don’t see Kelsey Grammar playing Beast; I see Beast. So yeah, kudos to whoever made this casting happen because this was just glorious. Rarely does a comic book character come to life so beautifully but, I have to admit, X-Men: The Last Stand really nails him.
Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, I initially didn’t like but after a re-watch, she started to grow on me a bit. Not much is done with her character and she often feels shoehorned in for unnecessarily forced drama but regardless, I’ve grown to like this actress in the role. It was watching her in X-Men: Days Of Future Past and seeing how amazing she was in that film, that made me want to give her performance in this another shot and I’m glad I did. She does fine and, in all fairness, she does get the characteristics of Kitty Pryde down well. Her scene toward the end with Juggernaut and seeing her childlike nature come out was actually pretty funny. “I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch!” is the best line in the movie and, I’ll admit, I always liked that line. It was hilarious and I laughed at it hard.
My friends, that’s it, I got nothing else. Yeah, aside from Kelsey Grammar, Ellen Page and a single line from Juggernaut, there is absolutely nothing else I liked about X-Men: The Last Stand. I can’t even give the score praise because even John Ottman (the only person who should ever be allowed to score an X-Men movie) is gone this time around. The action is generic at best, the storyline is muddled and a spit in the face to the entire X-Men fanbase, characters I once enjoyed like Rogue and Storm are relegated to being useless and often annoying plot devices with almost no purpose to speak of and the continuity issues and plot holes generated by this film are just painful to witness. X-Men: The Last Stand is the very definition of an awful comic book movie and one of the worst sequels I have ever seen. But I’m sure you want to know why so let’s begin.
First, let us look at the story. Now, given how the last film ended with The Phoenix gloriously appearing in the water, you’d think that would be the primary focus, right? Wrong! Instead, The Phoenix is shamefully relegated to subplot status and the main story involves a mutant core; a story that we neither wanted or needed. When a pharmaceutical company develops a cure for mutants, there is a serious backlash from the mutant community. Magneto naturally believes that mutants are the cure to humanity and seeks to kill the source of the cure, a mutant (played by Cameron Bright) with the power to suppress the X-Gene. Meanwhile, the X-Men are facing their own problems. As their representative Hank McCoy (played brilliantly by Kelsey Grammar) tries to control the cure situation, Jean Grey mysteriously returns to life as The Dark Phoenix and Magneto seeks to control her in order to… I don’t know, win the “war” I guess. Also, Rogue goes back and forth as whether she wants the cure or not, Angel has “why won’t daddy love me” issues, Wolverine is conflicted between trying to save Jean and doing the right thing, Cyclops has insultingly sidelined again (and killed off) and Mystique doesn’t do a thing. So much is the supposed “plot” of X-Men: The Last Stand.
There is so much going on in X-Men: The Last Stand at once that it feels beyond clustered and, despite the obvious potential, none of it works because the writers failed to do one very important thing; make me care. The mutant cure story was an interesting (albeit completely unnecessary) concept but the end result of it relegates the entire plot to being completely pointless. Once Magneto moves that Chess Piece, it’s game over for the entire story. If Magneto’s powers work at the end, then the cure was only temporary, the mutants had nothing to worry about to begin with, all the tension was false to begin with and everyone who suffered and even died in the movie pretty much suffered for absolutely no reason. How did anyone look at this story for this film, read it and let it go into production?
The Phoenix Saga, however, gets the worst of it. Now, I will be fair, Famke Jensen does have a couple menacing acting moments as The Dark Phoenix but, for the most part, Brett Ratner just has her standing around, staring at people. When it comes to her playing this new entity, her character barely does a thing. Magneto has her on his side and claims he wants her to be exactly the way she was, “as nature intended” he tells her. Yet, when they finally do battle, she doesn’t do anything until the battle is already over? And the only reason she does anything at all is because a few dumb soldiers shoot at her? Where’s the sense in that? Magneto makes the claim that “In chess, the pawns go first,” but what sense does that make if you already have an ultimate weapon that can end this war in one foul swoop? You have a mutant that can literally turn everyone and everything around her into confetti (I’m not even kidding, she really does that and it’s as dumb as it sounds) and you’re sacrificing all these mutants that you claim to care about? Are you that frickin’ stupid? Gee, way to waste a good actress who could have potentially nailed this role.
It only gets more sickening you realize that, despite seeing the firebird in the last film in all of its glory, we don’t see it in this one because The Phoenix is not an entity, it’s Jean’s split-personality in this version and oh my god, to hell with this film. And please, don’t give the me the argument where “the studios couldn’t do aliens at the time.” We saw the firebird in the last film, and both Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and Spider-Man 3 would feature alien entities a mere year later. That’s not a good argument, it was never a good argument; please stop making it. So yeah, everyone who was looking forward to seeing Jean Grey go full-on Dark Phoenix in this film, prepare for one big disappointment.
Look at the picture above. You see how awesome that looks? See how amazing she could have looked if they had just done what Bryan Singer was already setting up? Well, too bad, it’s only fanart, guess we just need to keep dreaming. The fans deserved better and, while we’re on that subject, Famke Jensen deserved better; she deserved so much better. I know this because even when she’s just staring at people, she looks damn intimidating. She’s clearly giving it her all but the character is so terribly written, it’s hard to even enjoy that. Hell, she acted more like The Dark Phoenix in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters than she did in this film. It’s actually a bit sad how much X-Men: The Last Stand wastes her talents.
Speaking of wasted, isn’t it just so amazing how Rogue, one of the primary characters of the last two movies is not only turned into an insufferable annoyance, but is also pushed into the background for most most of the runtime. Brett Ratner gives her such little screentime and presence that I kept forgetting she was actually in the movie. To be fair, they do touch on something that did happen to her in the comics and the cartoon show; her debating whether she wants to be cured or not. The problem is, they don’t do it in an interesting way and the end result of it feels like such a massive betrayal of her character. There’s also a cheap, incredibly forced love triangle between Rogue, Iceman and Kitty Pryde. It’s an element forgotten about almost as soon as it appears because, when you get down to it, its just there to persuade Rogue to get the cure because she wants to please her man and be able to touch him. Never before has Rogue acted less like Rogue and even taking that fanboy gripe away, her barely being in the movie raises the question of why she’s even in the movie at all.
But Rogue isn’t the only forgettable thing X-Men: The Last Stand has to offer. Angel (played by Ben Foster), one of the original X-Men in the comics, is finally introduced in this film and his screentime amounts to a mere three minutes. No, I’m not joking, I counted it. He is in the movie for a total of three minutes and the movie plays him up like you’re actually supposed to care about him. Why? Why am I going to care about a character you just shoved on the screen for three minutes? Because he has “daddy doesn’t love me” issues? Because he was almost forced to receive the cure? Because his father created the cure? No, you can’t do that. If you want me to care about a character that you’re obviously trying to make important, then write a frickin’ character. Angel is reduced to being a forgettable cardboard cutout. He’s on all the advertising like he’s going to be a big deal and he doesn’t do anything but whine and save his dad from falling at the end. He might as well of not even been here.
Then we get to the big showdown we’d been waiting for between Iceman and Pyro. With their rivalry so well built up in the last film, surely we’ll have an explosive payoff with them here, right? If your answer is yes, clearly you have not been paying attention. Their fight lasts less than a minute and just revolves around them throwing single beams of fire and ice at each other until Iceman goes full Iceman (as seen in the picture above) and emerges victorious. Yeah, that was our big payoff between these two. The word that comes to mind is “Lame” but even that is giving this scene far too much credit. And speaking of Pyro, remember how the last film built up a more or less father/son-like relationship between Magneto and Pyro? Forget about it, it’s gone. In X-Men: The Last Stand, Pyro is reduced to being nothing more than another one Magneto’s lackey’s.
Then we have The Morlocks, a secret group of underground mutants being recruited by Magneto for muscle. These characters are ruined beyond repair in the film in both spirit and the fact that they get all of their powers wrong. Since when Callisto detect other mutants and their powers? That was Caliban’s power. Since when could Psylocke blend into the walls? That was Facade’s power. Since when does Kid Omega have spikes coming out of his face? That was Spike’s power. Did Brett Ratner even pick up a comic book before making this movie? That was Bryan Singer’s power… most of the time.
But probably the biggest kick in the groin was the way certain character deaths were portrayed in X-Men: The Last Stand. Just gonna say it, Cyclops being killed offscreen was probably the most disrespectful thing I have seen in this entire series (more so than Baraka-Pool for me). Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men. They killed him at the beginning of X-Men: The Last Stand off-screen and they barely even focused on him in the entire series. He always got the bad end of the stick. I understand the actor was leaving to co-star in Superman Returns with Bryan Singer, but the way it was handled was shameful. If you want to kill Cyclops off, you better earn it. This is not Jubilee; this is not Nightcrawler (whose absent in this film by the way); this isn’t some random grab-bag powers mutant; This is frickin’ Cyclops and he deserves your time and respect.
Then we have Professor X, who knowingly and willingly, of apparent sound mind and body, suppressed Jean’s powers against her will, resulting in the “Dark Jean” that we see in the film. I don’t care what the reasoning is, Professor X would never do this. This is more like something Magneto would do. Professor X helps mutants control and deal with their abilities, helping mutants come to grips with them. He would never try to suppress another mutant’s powers for his own peace of mind. Way to stab this character in the back, Brett Ratner. X-Men: The Last Stand only gets worse though because, well, Professor X is killed off as well. Why & How? Jean kills him with her split personality powers (I’m not calling it The Phoenix Force on principle) as he was trying to calm her down. This is a scene in general that still gets on my nerves to this day. Professor X’s death was where I officially gave up on this movie. Then again, that whole scene was terrible, filled with inconsistencies and horribly choreographed action. For example, Magneto tells Juggernaut (played by Vinnie Jones) not to let anyone in the house. When the action starts, the first thing Juggernaut does is throw Wolverine in the house. Consistency? What is that? It’s so nice to know that the first thing we see Jean do in this movie as the supposed “Dark Phoenix” is to lift up a house and kill the two lead X-Men. How much more disrespectful can you get?
Lastly, let’s just address the one character that everyone loves seeing, Wolverine. I didn’t mind Jackman’s performance in this film. Hell, I didn’t have a problem with many of the actors in X-Men: The Last Stand. Most of them are trying, at the very least, but the dialogue is so juvenile and bad that its hard to appreciate them. Hugh Jackman could play this role in his sleep at this point and the scene at the end with him and Jean was somewhat touching. However, it’s ruined on the grounds that it makes no sense. I mean, She can dismantle tanks, steel buildings and other mutants but she can’t turn Wolverine into confetti because he heals? If she breaks him into tiny pieces, there’s gonna be nothing for him to heal from. Brett Ratner, there is such a thing as common sense. Perhaps you should try to use it. Also, when the scene is over and we cut to the aftermath, Wolverine is just smiling and smoking a cigar like everything is cool. Yeah, he only just killed the woman he claimed to love but he’s perfectly fine after he straight up guts her. Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.
Overall, X-Men: The Last Stand has a mere few moments of merit but nothing that could possibly make this a good movie. It’s a film that tries so desperately to be epic that it just becomes a clustered mash of poor ideas. It is awful on just about every level. The score is lackluster at best, the story is convoluted and full of holes, Magneto is more like a mutant Hitler this time around rather than the hero of his own story, two of the best X-Men characters are killed off unceremoniously and even the actors, who are clearly trying, don’t get a real chance to shine this time. The way it wastes the talents of its actors are unforgivable and the treatment of The Dark Phoenix Saga in this movie and me sick to my stomach as a fan. Hell, even the effects aren’t that impressive. As a true X-Men fan, this movie is a sick joke and a blight on cinema. X-Men: The Last Stand did more damage to my cherished childhood memories than The Phantom Menace could ever have hoped to do. It’s not only the worst film in this series, it’s one of the worst comic book films ever made and it needs a kick in teeth. Brett Ratner, stay away from the X-Men series for as long as you live. You clearly don’t care about these characters or appreciate them.
- Characters – Both Beast and Kitty Pryde are portrayed well but other characters like Magneto, Professor X, Cyclops and The Dark Phoenix are butchered, almost beyond repair and some more literally than others.
- Cinematography – Generic at best. The action scenes aren’t that impressive and the effects are lame for the most part (Confetti? Really?). The only one that really stands out is Juggernaut chasing Kitty Pryde… although I still have no idea why he’d be knocked out by the wall if he had his helmet.
- Story – A boring blend of great X-Men stories, watered down for the big screen in the worst ways imaginable. There is so much happening that so little of it feels coherent.
- Actors – Kelsey Grammar and Ellen Page do admirable jobs. While I hated her character, Famke Jensen can pull off an intimidating stare… such a shame that that’s really all they had her do. The rest of the cast is fine but it feels like the dialogue has them sleepwalking through their roles most of the time.
- Kelsey Grammar As Beast
- Ellen Page As Kitty Pryde
- "I'm The Juggernaut, Bitch!"
- Lackluster Effects
- Bad And Inconsistant Direction
- The Butchering Of The Dark Phoenix Saga
- The Unneeded Mutant Cure Story
- Horrible Writing
- Countless Out Of Character Moments
- The Unnecessary And Unceremonious Deaths Of Professor X And Cyclops
- Angel Was Pointless
- The Final Climax Makes No Sense In Any Capacity
- Bad Payoff With Iceman And Pyro's Rivalry
- Rogue Was A Massive Annoyance And Really Had No Place In The Story
- Storm Never Shut Up
- ... I could go on, but I think you get the point.