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X-Men: The Last Stand (Mark's Take)

01/07/2006. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy X-Men: The Last Stand in the USA - or Buy X-Men: The Last Stand in the UK

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In this film Mark discovers that The X-Men face off against the Brotherhood of Mutants in a fracas over a government-sponsored cure for mutant-ness. Are mutants going to savour their special unique natures or are they going to try to be like the "normal" population. It could be an intriguing idea, but the film does not develop the issue in any detail. And this third instalment in the series does not stand well on its own as a film. Viewers who, like me, have only passing knowledge of the X-Men will find that they may be at rather a disadvantage.

Brett Ratner directs.

Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

I frequently identify some of my reviews that the reader should take with a grain of salt for one reason or another. Be aware reading this review that I have not been a regular comic book reader since I was in junior high. Sorry, but it is a fact. Half the audience I saw this film with could recognize all the superheroes and knew all their special powers and their histories. At my level of knowledge I am thinking to myself things like, "Oh, look, that guy has wings." I did see the two previous films in the series, but those were six and three years ago. But, hey, I do get some points because I was the only one in my row who recognized Stan Lee's cameo appearance (as the guy with the water hose).

The story starts back in the days that Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellen)) were still good buddies and trying to find and recruit super-mutants to their cause. They identify Jean Grey-- later Phoenix (played as an adult by a statuesque but static Famke Janssen)--as a promising telekinetic.

These mutants find all sorts of problems fitting in and finding acceptance in society. For example, the aforementioned guy with the wings is Warren Worthington III (Ben Foster) who has a hard time accepting his mutation and tries to pluck his wings. His father Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) cannot accept his son's differences either, and he will eventually discover a process to make mutants what society considers normal.

But do the mutants want this capability to make themselves like other people, or do they accept what they are already? (Can you see a parallel to homosexuality? Everyone else can.) This is the issue that divides the X-Men from the Brotherhood of Mutants. The problem with the script by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg is that rather than looking at the question in any depth, it simply repeats the question over and over in the spaces between the film's action scenes. The failure to explore this issue or any relevant issue in any completeness makes the film a self- important but superficial exercise with just a hint of pretentiousness.

With the government offering mutants a path to normality we see for the first time that there are lots of mutants who have been hiding super-powers across the country. Where they have been all this time, and where the mutants in other countries are is left to speculation. Maybe there are tens of thousands of super- mutants in this country. There certainly were lots in this film. Do you want to get an idea how many action heroes were needed for this one film? Kelsey Grammer gets to play a mutant super-action hero.

Kelsey Grammer, for gosh sakes! How desperate do you have to be to have Kelsey Grammer playing an action hero? This film has more little subplots than Wolverine can swing an adamantine steel claw at. There are love-triangles; there are mutants who want to leave Dr. Xavier's mutant school. The list goes on.

There seem to be plenty of inconsistencies in the film. Apparently mutant powers come from a special mutated gene. Presumably it causes changes in the person who has this mutation by the usual ways a gene works. Yet the effects, no matter what they were, can be totally nullified in seconds by contact with a chemical or even the touch of a hand. Science can't even cure a headache that fast. It seems to be more magic than science.

The mutant Juggernaut seems to be a character that can build up great momentum so he can slam through walls. Yet he jumps onto a floor without ever having any ill effects on the floor. Many cars are stuck on a bridge in daylight. They are still there on the bridge after night falls, but by then someone seems to have visited each car and turned on the headlights.

Hey, this is as good a place as any to say that I like the Marvel Comics Logo at the beginning of each Marvel Comics film. And it makes more sense than the leaky gun-barrel that we see at the beginning of each James Bond film.

Those who, like me, cannot immediately remember a wealth of data about Marvel Comic heroes will still enjoy some flash and excitement to watch here, but will frequently realize that there must be more going on than meets the eye. I rate X-MEN: THE LAST STAND a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. But where do they get these titles? A last stand is some group of people fighting to the last person like Custer at the Little Bighorn or the Spartans at Thermopylae.

There is no "last stand" in this film.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2006 Mark R. Leeper

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