“X-Men: The Last Stand” Is Impressive With A Small “i.”
Chalk it up to superhero burnout. Or maybe it’s special effects overkill. Is anyone else finding himself shrugging his shoulders after watching the latest $100 million comic book film extravaganza? There have been so many adaptations (and the obligatory sequels) that it’s become easy to be jaded.
So a film like “X-Men: The Last Stand” that does many things well– at the very least fulfilling the minimum requirements of its genre: Eye candy, action every 4.5 minutes, more eye candy, more action– can still leave a veteran movie fan impressed but unmoved. Satisfied, but not surprised.
So it is with this third, and allegedly final, installment of the popular “X-Men” series. This time, a team of scientists lead by Dr. Warren Worthington III (Michael Murphy) has found a “cure” that suppresses the mutant gene. Miracle aid for superhuman freaks? Or agenda-motivated racial cleansing? Each camp has its leader. Magneto (Ian McKellan) rallies the mutant rebels who feel threatened, while wheelchair-bound, mind-reading mutant Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) uses his core team to fight for a more diplomatic resolution.
His allies include the familiar mutants from the previous films: steel-clawed Wolverine, (hunkier-than-ever Hugh Jackman), weather manipulating Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), the mopey mutant with the killer touch, and the moody Cyclops (James Marsden), who’s still not over the death of girlfriend and Class-5 mega-mutant Jean Gray.
To no surprise for true X-Men fans, Gray returns– but now as the killer schizoid “Dark Phoenix.” This time, she sides with Magneto, who wants to use her unparalleled telekinetic powers to destroy anything that stands in his way. This includes the lab located at Alcatraz Island, where the cure is being developed, and which houses young mutant Jimmy (Cameron Bright), whose powers include a mysterious ability to diffuse any other mutant’s powers.
Three mutants make their noteworthy debut in this installment: the wall-busting Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), the winged Angel (Ben Foster), and a brilliantly cast Kelsey Grammer as the blue-haired, beefy Beast. (His alter-ego, Dr. Henry McCoy, works as a Mutant Affairs presidential advisor.) Thankfully, the infamously Indigo Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) continues her disappearing/reappearing act for some team-trading fun.
Director Brett Ratner (both “Rush Hour” movies, the underrated “The Family Man,” and the universally panned but occasionally interesting “After the Sunset”) doesn’t possess the storytelling ability of Bryan Singer. (Singer helmed the first two “X-Men” films but bolted to direct “Superman Returns.” We’ll see how that turned out on June 30.) Ratner allows his pictures to do the talking. Say what you will about the film’s uneven structure and lack of memorable one-liners, but Ratner’s acumen behind the camera speaks for itself. Visually, the film is never less than stunning.
Despite a couple of tender moments that are best left undisclosed, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is comic book flash with the ?lan of Chinese food. Pretty delicious while you’re wolfing it down, but half an hour later you’re hungry again.
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, and discreet nudity.