Thursday, May 25, 2006


X-MEN: THE LAST STAND is the third installment in the wildly popular comic-book franchise. For anyone who doesn't know, the basic idea is that there are a bunch of people in the world who are mutants, with special psychic or physical abilities. These vary from the rubbish - Wolverine can extend knives from his knuckles - to the aweseome - Jean Grey/The Pheonix can atomise people. The world of "normal" people is understandably nervous at having such powerful people in its midst. The mutants react to this fear in one of two ways. The "good guys" try to control their powers and use them only in ethical ways. They are led by Professor Charles Xavier. But another group, led by Magneto, take a more Werner Herzog view of the world. They believe that the natural order of human-mutant relations is aggression and cruelty. The conflict between these two camps forms the back-bone of every X-MEN movie, usually triggered by some half-assed action on the part of well-meaning but feckless "normal" humans. In this case, the humans have isolated a child who carries a natural antibody to the X-gene. (Whatever. I have not read the comics - the "science" is a blur.) Close contact with the kid cures the mutation and the cure is free for all on a voluntary basis. The feckless part is where the government handily soups up some plastic guns with anti-body darts that disable mutants on impact. Nice.

As with any
X-MEN movie, THE LAST STAND is full of high quality action sequences. The final set-piece, where Magneto rips up the Golden Gate Bridge to form a path to the cure-centre on Alcatraz, is inspired. (Clearly, it would have just been easier to take a boat.) We also got some really fine acting from Sir Ian McKellan as Magneto, Anna Paquin as Rogue and Kelsey "Frasier" Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. The Beast. He's a sort of bright blue Chewbacca character who can kick butt while quoting Churchill. This may sound ridiculous but it is fantastic casting. When Grammer plays McCoy, who is a Secretary of State, he has real gravitas. I also want to mention the inspired casting of Cameron Bright as the anti-body kid, for want of a better phrase. That kid has these amazing eyes and a way of holding his gaze on a person that is unnerving. He is perfect for the role, just as he was petrifying in the Nicole Kidman supernatural thriller, BIRTH.

However, despite the great set pieces and some fine acting, I found
THE LAST STAND to be a deeply irritating viewing experience. Why? First, Halle Berry, who plays Storm, is so wooden as to make my coffee table look postively animated. When a close friend dies, her tears are less convincing that a contestant in Big Brother. Second, the script is really trite. Take for example two senior clinicians at the cure-lab on Alcatraz who watch Magneto's army rip up the frickin' Golden Gate Bridge and launch a volley of assaults on their lab. About ten minutes in, one turns to the other and says, "they're coming after us." No shit. Similarly, when Magento unleashes a great evil on to the defenders of the lab, he utters the words "what have I done?" in an entirely unconvincing and out-of-character volte face. More generally, while the script raises some interesting issues about who we class as "normal" and the implications of scientific cures for the "abnormal" - it does so in a really ham-fisted manner. Dear lord, to have Rebecca Romjin sit there dressed up as the mutant Mystique, telling her interrogater that she refuses to answer to her "slave name" Raven Darkholme.....

Third, feminists will no doubt be fuming at the final scene featuring Wolverine and Jean Grey. I cannot tell you why this makes me mad without giving away the plot, but suffice to say that those of you familiar with the etymology of the word hysteria, and the phrase la petite mort (thanks to Katya for correction on spelling), will know why this scene undercuts the PC-ness of having Halle Berry as the chief
X-MAN. Finally, the last scenes are completely opaque in their meaning. So the anti-body kid is now a student at Xavier's academy? Has he lost his power to de-X the X-men? We're never told. And as for the very last shot of Magneto, what the heck is that meant to mean?

All in all, the plot inconsistencies, bad acting*, suspect social politics and sheer silliness of the script made this the worst episode of the franchise for me. One wonders if it is coincidence that this is the only one of the three to have been
helmed by Brett Ratner (the guy behind those Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan Rush Hour movies). Now here's the weird thing. Ratner took over X MEN 3 after the director of the first two movies, Bryan Singer, dropped out to work on the "troubled" Superman movie. Weird thing is, Singer was taking over from....Brett Ratner. So, if Ratner managed to de-X the X-MEN movies, does that mean that the Bryan Singer SUPERMAN RETURNS is gonna kick ass? Stay tuned to find out....

X MEN 3 is open global release. *Amazingly, I am NOT referring to Vinnie Jones here. Vinnie is actually remarkably good in his role as the Juggernaut. Indeed, he has some of the funniest lines in the film. Which means that not only have I praised Vinnie Jones' comic timing in this review, but I have also, implicitly, claimed that so far this summer, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III is the block-buster viewing choice of the man of taste. Blimey.


  1. Excellent reviews. I've been reading them for some time now and agree with many of your statements.

    I am nervous about this movie for the Ratner directing. Not that the other X-Men films were amazing, but they are good fun. From the trailers, a friend of mine was saying that all the shots look like poses specifically to make the characters look cool which is lame. I just hope that the Beast factor can outwiegh the crappy Ratner factor.

    Just one thing to add(yes I'm a nerd like this): Wolverine's power is to heal rapidly. The claws were added because he can heal making him a sweet fighting machine.

    Keep up the great writing!

  2. Went and saw this last night. Wasn't bad, but I think the factI hadn't seen the second one wasn't helpful. Did you stay to the end of the credits to watch the 30 seconds of extra footage?

  3. @ Paul. I know, I know. Wolverine can self-heal. Does that mean W. can never die? It's not totally horrible but it's just not as good as X Men 1 or Spiderman - which for me is like the high water mark for comic book movies.

    @ Ali. Nix on the final 30 secs. What happened?

  4. You know the guy that was on the video Prof. X showed his pupils? The vegetable with "no consious mind". Well, the doctors comes into the room and his head turns and he says "Hello Moira" in Xavier's voice. Duh duh duhh!!!

  5. But I thoought they weren't gonna have an X4. And if they have one without Patrick Stewart it will suck. However, maybe they are setting up the Wolverine franchise....

  6. That's the rumour: Anna was saying it's a bit daft since all the X-Men movies were Wolverine films! But at least there's a shitload of Wolverine back stories they can adapt/plunder/butcher for future films.

  7. Either way, I surely hope they bring back Bryan Singer rather than sticking with Ratner

  8. By the way, the clip I was talking about at the end of the film is on You Tube ( but the quality's pretty shitty.

  9. X Men 3 was terrible. Ratner had no respect for any of the characters.

  10. By way of Ali D - here is a
    fun semi-explanation
    of why X-Men 3 has no narrative clarity and treats its characters like pick'n'mix!