As Bad As You Thought?: X-Men the Last Stand
If you are like me and grew up during the 90’s you know one thing; the X-Men are awesome. Though they be seen as freaks in their universe, we could not get enough of them from the cartoon series to the approximately gazillion different comic titles they starred in the X-Men were everywhere. Fans everywhere were blown away in 2000 when the unthinkable happened something long thought impossible by many; an actual live action X-Men movie hit the theater. The success of the movie can be chalked up to visionary director, Brian Singer, who distilled the X-Men down to the core elements of why the franchise worked. A few years later, he came back for X2: X-Men United, and it was even better than the first one, so naturally the studio wanted another one, but Singer instead chose to make a misguided attempt at bringing back the Superman film franchise instead. Needing a new director who could quickly make another X-Men movie (emphasis on quickly) they brought in flashy director extraordinaire, Brett Ratner. Film buffs instantly knew something was amiss with the studio going from the man who made such intelligent and critically acclaimed films as; Apt. Pupil and The Usual Suspects, to the guy who gave us a movie where Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker argued like a married couple. But he did what the studio asked and slapped together an X-Men movie as fast as he could, and when it came out it made a lot of money opening weekend because it rode on the success of the previous films, but the fans hated it. This third installment in the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand, paved the way for crapines in the X-flicks which was followed by the Wolverine solo movie, and it took the combined greatness of filmmakers Brian Singer and Matt Vaughn going back to the beginning to restore the franchise. Given that it set a precedent for suckinesss for an entire franchise I knew I had to review it. So here it is, X-Men: The Last Stand.
The movie opens with a nice car pulling into a nice neighborhood and stepping out of the car will surely give the audience the creeps; Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan, who through the wonders of special effects are made frighteningly young, to say it looks inhuman and unnatural is an understatement. They are there to meet a young Jean Grey and recruit her to the school and even though the film. Now you may say that, X-Men First Class completely contradicts this turn of events but, I’m okay with that simply because it will help people completely forget this train wreck of a movie. Young Jean decides to throw her weight around with her powers, for some reason that goes against character and disrupts life in the entire neighborhood including the yard work of her neighbors; comic book legends, Stan Lee, who created the X-Men and Chris Claremont who made the X-Men cool. After we see young Jean we go to the origins of a character X-Men fans will recognize as Warren Worthington III AKA Angel, a character in this movie played by the incredibly talented Ben Foster, and sadly is a character that gets completely wasted. Which leads into the opening credits.
After the credits we are treated to a scene from the world of Judgement day after the the machine led by Skynet declare war. We see lasers shooting and explosions, and Colossus turns one of his classmates into indestructible metal like he is to save her from debris…waitaminute that’s not his power. All the while a perturbed looking Wolverine looks on calmly. In order to save the day Wolverine and Colossus pull off their signature move, the Fastball Special, where Wolverine gets thrown at their opponent. Storm protests saying they need to work together, but what does it look like they’re doing. After Wolvie’s attack the severed head of a Sentinel falls to the ground and I can’t help but think why not use the Sentinels as the villains in this movie instead of Magneto, again! And people complain about Lex Luthor’s constant use in the Superman films. It is revealed that the whole ordeal was a training exercise set up by the training simulator, the Danger Room. But if Wolverine and Storm are supposed to be training the students how come they’re the ones doing all the work?
From there we go to haphazard attempts at character development, Rogue is upset because she can not touch her boyfriend, Iceman. And apparently Cyclops just kind of mopes around all day now that Jean Grey is seemingly dead from the events of the previous (and better movie). After that we finally get introduced to what is easily the best new addition to the movie, The Beast, played by the only man who can play him properly, Kelsey Grammar. The rest of the movie may be rubbish but that is spot on casting. He holds some kind of made up position in the President’s cabinet and is led to a meeting where it is revealed that in the pursuit of Magneto they have capture, Mystique. She was caught breaking into the FDA attempting to steal something that The Beast shudders at.
We go back to Xavier’s school where, the good professor is teaching a class, until he abruptly stops at the sight of an overcast sky and cancels class. Between cancelling class and all their instructors constantly going off to fight evil, how do the kids here learn anything? Shouldn’t the government shut down this kind of school? Anyways, we learn that Storm created these storm clouds because she is upset about…well…things. She gets a nice long scene where Professor X, tells her that even though Cyclops is the leader of the team and all he wants her to take over the school for him one day because….well we don’t get a real reason. Now let’s be honest here ever since the first film, Halle Berry has sucked in the role of Storm, frankly it is not the role she is cut out to play and Brian Singer was wise to keep her as just part of the ensemble. Word has it she used to pitch fits about not getting enough screen time in these movies thus limiting the spread of her suckiness, but where Singer stood firm, Ratner caved and made Storm way more central to the plot of this movie than she should have been.
The Beast shows up at the school and tells the rest of the team what Mystique was trying to steal, a cure for mutant powers. We learn that on Alcatraz Island the powerful Warren Worthington has set up a lab that mutants can go to lose there awesome powers.
In an old abandoned ornate church we find, Nightcrawler! Waitaminute no we don’t, despite being the coolest character of the previous movie, that religious mutant is not even mentioned in this movie. Instead what we find in a church in this movie, are mutants trying to figure out what to do about the cure, that is until Magneto shows up. The Master of Magnetism tells them to join his team and they do, that was easy enough. He even finds a mutant who can run fast AND sense other mutant’s powers AND locate other mutants, that’s convenient.
Going back to the good guys’ story arc, Beast goes to meet Leech, the source of the mutant cure, who makes the Beast lose his blue fur when he gets close even though that’s not Beast’s power. Cyclops goes on his own journey, and goes to Canada to the place where Jean perished, which is a long trip just to be morbid. As he pouts like an emo kid who found out his local Hot Topic closed, Jeam appears to him in burst of light because she’s a ghost. Not really, even people who had never read a comic in their life knew she would return with the Phoenix powers in this film. Her power level sets off a reaction that mutants all over feel. In response Wolverine and Storm go to see what happened and they get there ludicrously fast. Once at the lake they find tons of debris floating in the air and Cyclops glasses are among them. But who cares about their missing leader when their team member, Jean is lying unconscious on the ground. They take her back to the school where they learn that she has another personality, the Phoenix whom can easily take control of her. Oh and speaking of Cyclops, one of the most popular X-Men on the roster and the leader of the team, this is the last we see of him. Seriously why did they even put him in the movie if he doesn’t even get a good death scene.
Back at the mutant cure storyline (man this movie is already getting convoluted) Warren Worthington sits in his ridiculously lavish headquarters, even though earlier in the movie he was on Alcatraz Island. he decides the first patient to receive the cure is his own son, Angel. Even though the only thing about him we know is that earlier in the movie as a kid he tried to cut off his own wings, we can already predict what he does. That’s right he tells his dad to go screw himself and flies off.
Alright, back to the bad guy story line (this is getting silly) we get what is easily the part of the movie that will make X-fans shake their fists and curse the heavens. Magneto stops a truck carrying mutant prisoners and frees them, and of course they automatically join his side because they’re evil of course. The first one is Jamie Madrox known to fans as X-Force member, the Multiple Man, which makes no sense because in the comics he is a good guy who helps the government but on the filmmaker’s whim he is now a villain, and an annoying one at that. Next on the list is the great Juggernaut, who in the comics is a threat to the entire X-Men team by himself, physically due to his immense power and emotionally because of his relationship to Professor X; he is not a mutant but instead derives his power from a mystical source. But that does not matter because the film needs Magneto to have a one note henchman. It is during this scene that a dart loaded with the mutant cure hits Mystique taking away her mutant powers, thus we lose an awesome villain as Magneto’s greatest ally and instead we get two characters completely changed to be generic henchman. Now, I get that the previous films changed the ages and such of various characters, but they were at their core the same character, because each character on the team has their own following of fans because of who they are; this blatant changing of who the characters are makes no sense and does little to help the story besides give Magneto generic henchmen. The events of Magneto’s attack and the government’s response leads the Beast to resign from the Cabinet and rejoin the X-Men.
In the Xavier Mansion, Jean awakes from her coma and puts the moves on Wolverine. During the act of seducing Wolverine she sets the mood by going psycho-bitch and breaks down in tears and runs away. Magneto in his secret lair gets told by the girl with plot convenience power from the church tells him about the Phoenix.
Jean’s newfound powers inevitably leads both Magneto’s Brotherhood and the X-Men minus everybody but Wolverine and Storm to her old house to try and recruit her to their respective teams. But this leads to a battle between the two factions having it which leads to Xavier’s death and Phoenix joining Magneto, so now the X-Men are leaderless. And this leads to the horrible idea brought up at the movie’s beginning, Storm taking over the school and the team. After his short and incredibly insincere memorial service Iceman decides to comfort, Kitty Pryde by taking her ice skating. The guy has a girlfriend who can kill him with a simple touch and this is what he does, bold move Mr. Iceman. During this lull in the team they are joined by Angel who just kind of shows up and is given free room and board. But that’s the least of poor Wolverine’s concerns because Jean is psychically calling out to him and he is eager to find her. Given what she did to Cyclops this can’t be a good idea. Pyro through what I can only guess is the same magic transportation used by Storm and Wolverine at the beginning of the movie launches an attack on Alcatraz Island even though the rest of the movie’s action is taking place on the eastern seaboard. In the attack he has a nice confrontation with Iceman who also teleported from New York to California to find Rogue who has gone to get cured.
The attack by Pyro leads to an immediate response from the government (I kind of wish this movie would settle down and give the characters some time to flesh themselves out and all) and the voice of the great R Lee Ermey, but the man never actually shows up. Oh cruel film, how you tease me you get my hopes up and destroy them, what exactly is the point of Ermey’s disembodied voice being in the movie yelling instructions at soldiers? Operation Plastic Weapons fails horrible due to the fact that Madrox sacrificed himself to create a ruse for Magneto, man this guy is all about blind loyalty to the Master of Magnetism.
In an attempt to find Jean Wolverine goes out into the middle of the woods to Magneto’s camp where he has a ridiculously over the top fight scene with a couple of henchmen before stumbling across, Magneto giving a rousing speech to his crew. Now in the Lord of the Rings films, McKellan proved he could give a damn inspirational speech, which makes it all the more obvious with this speech that he’s just there for a paycheck. One has to wonder if he’s set up at a campsite in the middle of the forest of upstate New York, where is the awesome cave-like secret fortress he was in earlier?
But nonetheless, Magneto and his whole crew move across the continental US with…well they have mutant powers I’m sure that helped. Wolverine alerts the team to the dire situation and they immediately, get into their snazzy suits, I’m getting Batman & Robin, flashbacks. Wolverine, Storm, and some other characters who are less important to the film fly off to save the day. One of the joys of Singer’s X-Men flicks was the way he created utilized the ensemble cast to ensure everyone had their moment to shine, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman get so much screentime that they may as well change it from the X-Men to the Storm-Wolverine Men.
Back in California, Magneto gets his people to Alcatraz for some domestic terrorizing via ripping the Golden Gate Bridge apart and using it to float to the island. While an incredible vulgar display of power, he fails to realize that everyone else seemed to be taking the bus to the location, why couldn’t he? And in the tradition of the greatest bad movie of them all, Plan 9 From Outer Space, the time of day miraculously turns from day to night. The mutant hordes attack the base and the soldiers with plastic weapons fight back. it is the beginning of the epic conclusion except it looks incredibly small scale. This movie had a $210 million dollar budget according to Wikipedia, but you don’t really see it. As thing look dim, the X-Men show up in grandiose and over the top fashion with the cheapest looking effects possible, the cheapest of which is the technology which allows the Beast to attack in agile fashion, it looks hilariously fake.
During the battle Juggernaut and Kitty Pryde race each other to get to Leech first because he’s the source of the mutant cure, or something, and along the way we get the most infamous line of the movie.
“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch.”
The thing about putting internet memes and trends into movies is that it automatically dates your film. Especially considering that by the time the movie has come out the world has moved on to the next thing, which makes the film look like the equivalent of the middle aged guy using the phrase “dawg”. And if their gonna throw that in, why not have George Lucas put that kid who used the broom as a lightsabre in the next Star Wars movie…waitaminute, I just heard he digitally added that kid in, for the Super Deluxe Blu-Ray Edition, there’s no stopping that man. Back to the film, Kitty Pryde defeats Juggernaut by letting him run into a fiberglass wall. Now this is a guy who in the comics has traded blows with Colossus, the Hulk, and Thor; but in this film he is brought down by a wall; did Ratner read a single X-Men comic before making this movie?
The evil mutants attempt to throw Worthington off the roof to his death, because it would be too easy just to use their powers to kill him, or one of those little plastic guns all the soldiers have. But on his way down he is caught by Angel. And thus fulfills his only purpose in this movie, seriously this was a waste of ben Foster’s talent as an actor.
Back in the main fight we get more sill looking Kelsey Grammer as a mutant gymnast and Storm throwing poorly animated lightning bolts around until Magneto and Pyro have enough and start throwing flaming cars at everyone. Simple but hey it works. In order to stop them, Iceman and Pyro inevitably have it out, the result of which is Bobby Drake finally getting all iced up like his is in the comics, but the CGI is so bad, that it makes me regret ever wanting to see his powers at full level in the movies. The rest of the X-Men stab Magneto with a cure filled needle, leaving only Jean Grey who has done exactly, nothing in the whole ordeal. She goes crazy and vaporizes a bunch of people and things, to the complete apathy of the audience. Since Wolverine has his healing power he’s the only one who can get close to her. In order to stop such a powerful force of nature he is forced to…stab her with his claws. That’s it. It was that easy.
Back at the mansion in New York, Rogue, who’s entire character development in the film has been to look on in jealousy as her boyfriend flirted with Kitty Pryde returns having been cured of the power. The Beast is made a UN Ambassador and Magneto gets his powers back. The end. Usually after the climax of the story there is a period of falling action, but if there’s no explosions or fighting in a scene, Ratner has proven throughout the movie that he wants to hurry through it.
Was this movie as bad as I thought? Sort of. There were plot threads in the movie that could have been interesting like the X-Men dealing with the cure or Magneto’s return or the Dark Phoenix Saga, the problem is the fact that the ideas for like 4 or 5 different X-Men movies are tossed into the blender and no single story thread is given enough time to be meaningful to the viewer. And it doesn’t help that Brett Ratner directs with the finesse of and elephant on cocaine and any scene with no action is pushed through as quickly as possible. Also aiding in the terribleness of this movie is the mediocrity of the performances; I already covered Berry’s continued failure to bring Storm to life, but it is obvious that Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Patrick Stewart are just there to collect paychecks so they can move on to their next Shakespearean play that they are starring in. Hugh Jackman once again is great as Wolverine, and I’m sure he only put forth the effort so he could get studio support for his solo Wolverine project which was actually worse than this movie.