Director: Brett Ratner
Starring: Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language
X-Men 3 isn’t subtitled The Last Stand for nothing. This is the apocalyptic showdown that x-fans have been waiting for since the first film’s lackluster climax, and there are more adrenaline-inducing sequences here than in the first two movies combined. Unfortunately, more action means less drama, and the emotional heft that elevated the first two installments has all but disappeared. The script (by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn) puts everything at stake for our favorite mutant heroes–alliances are altered, lives are changed, and unthinkable tragedies abound. So why don’t we care?
Perhaps it’s because the franchise has a new director this time out. Brett Ratner (Red Dragon, Rush Hour) has taken the reigns from Bryan Singer, and rarely has such a distinction in quality been so obvious. With the same cast and a bigger budget, Ratner has failed to deliver the moving hero tale that Singer made look so easy. Twice. Yes, this script is heavier on action than the first two films, and it would be charitable to say that one simply can’t pack powerful drama into an action-packed blockbuster, but it would also be dishonest. James Cameron has made a career out of doing just that.
As this (supposedly final) installment begins, our team of heroes seems to be falling apart. As you may recall, Cyclops (James Marsden) lost his beloved Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) at the end of the last film, and he’s not handling it well. Rogue (Anna Paquin) is exasperated by her inability to touch others (particularly her boyfriend, Iceman), and Nightcrawler is simply gone, with no mention of what sent him scampering away. The only two team members with any gusto left in them are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry), and they’re left to deal with a bunch of inexperienced X-teens who may or may not have what it takes to be full-blown X-Men.
Meanwhile, science has developed a “cure” for the mutant gene, and are offering mutants a chance to be normal people. While this offends some mutants, it’s an tantalizing offer for those whose powers are more debilitating than impressive. As social pressure mounts, the mutant community erupts into a civil war. It is divided by those who want to destroy the cure and reign as gods among men, and the X-Men, who see peaceful co-existence as the answer.
The baddies are once again led by Magneto (Ian McKellen), whose power to manipulate metal is more useful than one might initially imagine. The wicked mutants, unfortunately, are a bland and boring lot who wear monochromatic leather, sport tattoos and wear punk-rock haircuts. The sole exception is Jean Grey, who has been mysteriously resurrected as the evil Phoenix. And when I say “evil,” I mean Evil. Not only is she more powerful than any other mutant, she is utterly soulless, and has no qualms about ruthlessly murdering her former friends and teammates.
The plot is nothing more than a framework for the action sequences, which are indeed spectacular, if somewhat non-sensical. If you’re looking for an all-out mutant smackdown, this might be your favorite film in the series. But if you enjoyed the juicy relational and ideological drama of the first two films, you’ll be disappointed. It’s rumored that Ratner is in the running to direct the upcoming Wolverine spinoff film. X-Men: The Last Stand is clear evidence that would be a mistake.