Apr 28, 2015

Review: X-Men: The Last Stand [X-Men 3: The Last Stand] (2006)

After the critical and box office successes of X-Men and X2, what was to be the final film (ha!) of Fox's X-Men film franchise was without a director or any writers. Bryan Singer as well as his writing buddies Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris decided to leave for Superman Returns and leave Fox scrambling. Not only trying to find a director and some writers, but there was also a lot of issues with actor availability which isn't that much of a surprise when you got a big ensemble cast like this.

Zak Penn who had been involved with the story for X-Men came back as a screenwriter and Simon Kinberg who was able to parlay his success with Mr. and Mrs. Smith also got in on the action. Interestingly enough, Matthew Vaughn was actually hired as director but eventually decided to step down. He'd eventually get his chance at an X-Men movie with X-Men: First Class five years later though. Who took his place instead was Brett Ratner of Prison Break and Rush Hour fame. Even though it mostly got mixed reception, X-Men: The Last Stand became the most financially successful X-Men movie yet.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Produced by: Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, etc.
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Music by: John Powell
Running time: 104 minutes
Production company: Donners' Company, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Twentieth Century Fox C.I.S., etc.
Country: United States, Canada, United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $210,000,000
Box office: $459,359,555 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ellen Page, Daniel Cudmore, Ben Foster, Michael Murphy, Dania Ramirez, Josef Sommer, Bill Duke, Eric Dane



With tension between humans and mutants still at an all-time high, the announcement that Worthington Labs had successfully developed a "cure" for mutants complicates things even further. Announced with a completely voluntary inoculation program, it's still a concerning development for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his school of mutants. Magneto (Ian McKellen) takes the news particularly hard and suspects that this cure will be weaponized to forcefully remove a mutant's abilities. This leads him to recruiting mutants for a war that he sees as inevitable and necessary.


It's really strange just how up and down X-Men: The Last Stand is. While it'll at times present some interesting ideas, a lot of what works seems to get drowned in jarring shocks and a whole lot of noise. Fitting in all the characters also seems to be more of a struggle this time around which is seriously disappointing after the two previous X-Men movies did such a good job at that. Well, for every other character not named Storm anyway. The Last Stand isn't all bad, but there are some pretty significant problems that kept me from being able to fully enjoy this "final" X-Men movie.

X-Men: The Last Stand is a combination of two X-Men comics (The Dark Phoenix Saga and Gifted) and I think the end result is alright. The main problem here is that at only 104 minutes, X-M:TLS packs itself into too small a box. There isn't enough time to develop these two storylines all that well and I think it's one of the reasons why characters like Rogue, Angel and Cyclops get so shortchanged. Funnily enough, Storm is the one who benefits the most here with an increased amount of screentime and actual character development which is a welcome change. 

The idea of an anti-mutant drug is a pretty cool idea and it creates a very slippery slope politically and morally for those who are controlling it. I also like how Rogue reacts to the existence of it as she has a particularly hard-to-live-with mutation. Like I said though, there's really not enough time given to her character in X-M:TLS. Her storyline which had a lot of potential ends up feeling much more underdeveloped than it could've been. Yeah there's a bit going on with her, Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), but it's pretty superficial overall. While I understand that packing in so many characters is difficult, X-Men and X2 did a far better job at balancing things out.

I also have to say that I was pretty disappointed with what the writers decided to do with Cyclops (James Marsden). For a character who always has glasses or goggle-things on, I always thought that Marsden did a pretty good job acting-wise. He doesn't get much of a chance to do that (Spoilers) with what happens to his character and that's too bad. Killing him off doesn't feel right at all. The fact that we get another major death later on is also problematic. I'm all for killing a major character if it's effective tool at creating some emotion, but two major characters being killed is overkill to me. Cyclop's death takes away from the death of Professor X's which was the only one that should've happened anyway. (End Spoilers)

Another big problem is that the action feels more cartoony than it was in X-Men and X2. X-Men could also be pretty cartoony, but as a whole it didn't take itself anywhere near as seriously as X-Men: The Last Stand does which makes a big difference. Some of Wolverine's action scenes in particular seemed a bit wonky in the editing department, especially when it came to him dispatching his enemies. While it would be nice to have Wolverine accomplishing what he has to do fluidly and cleanly, the effect is more jarring and rough instead. The entrance of the X-Men before the film's big finale is a pretty big sore point for me too as it looks like the kind of thing that might be cool in a comic, but comes off as pretty silly in a movie.

Probably my biggest issue of all in terms of action though is the final act. The main problem here is that the mutants that Magneto gathers are nothing more than faceless fodder who's deaths don't seem mean a whole lot. Pair that with a set that seems mostly empty despite attempts at dressing it up with special effects and you have a rather tepid climax that lacks any feeling of real danger or tension. It's a very disappointing finish compared to Bryan Singer's past two efforts.

What I'll say is that X-Men: The Last Stand isn't quite as bad as I remember it being the first time I watched it. Still, I felt like X2 had set a standard for what an X-Men movie should be like and it's clear to me that X-M:TLS is a step back. Brett Ratner seems more into showcasing advances in special effects than actually creating any real drama which he tries to substitute with jumbo shocks that fail when you put them all together. While I think that the combination of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Gifted is a great idea, there isn't enough time to explore everything as X-Men: The Last Stand seems very much like it was rushed out the door.



Related Reviews:

X-Men (2000)
X2 [X-Men 2: X-Men United] (2003)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) 
X-Men: First Class (2011) 
The Wolverine (2013)

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