X-Men 3: The Last Stand - A Reassessment

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By steveconn - 1/24/2013
Directed by Brett Ratner

Rated PG-13

104 min.


So here it is, the supposed sign of Armageddon in the X-film pantheon, a horrific, empty monstrosity to wrap up the franchise Bryan Singer had built with such nuance and care, the black hole that James McAvoy and Fassbender had to help us all climb out of in the reboot “X-Men: First Class.” But, really, was it all that terrible? Compared to the ponderous, pretentious pace of Singer’s films, I remember X-3 actually having a feeling of life to it; colorful super humans angrily charging at each other, the Golden Gate Bridge being levitated through the air. Rather than a series of groggy philosophical arguments with a few bursts of action, Ratner’s entry makes the daring suggestion that summer comic book movies shouldn’t be Ingmar Bergman in costumes. Maybe they should actually be, (gulp) fun.

The main development this time around is the discovery of a cure for mutants, and the ramifications it has as viewed by the Elie Wiesel and Simon Wiesenthal of the mutant set, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen). That the movie tries to juggle this, an ever-growing ensemble, as well as two major storylines that the comic took years to resolve - "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past," for you non-fanboys - gives it points for effort, though the transformation of Famke Janssen (now looking nearly too old for such stuff) from hero Jean Grey to the Linda Blair-like Phoenix doesn't have the operatic power of the comic's slow build, and you have to wonder if the threat of a mutant cure as "final solution" isn't patently ridiculous.

After all, who wouldn't dig being able to glaze one's eyes over like a Greek statue and command the weather, or have unbreakable bones and a set of Ginsu knives in your hands? For others, it sounds like an actor's welcome relief. Patrick Stewart always played Professor X as if on quaaludes, and Ian McKellen is a touch too queen as Lord of the Evil Mutants (that purple number he wears in the opening must be somebody's idea of an in-joke). But Kelsey Grammer makes a kind of comeback as the heroic Beast - you get past the "Frasier Crane as the Cowardly Lion" image soon enough - and Hugh Jackman returning as Wolverine carries the movie with the swagger of someone who knows he has a solo picture deal waiting if the whole thing falls through.

The action sequences when they do erupt are still a fan's dream come true, and the plot's urgency allows ballsy character developments and grim turns like the deaths of Cyclops and Professor X that the regular comic would never dare spring on its readers. It's startling, but feels accurate.

There was also the charming idea of the studio wrapping up the series in a mere three movies. I remember feeling it seemed as if they were just getting started. While fantasy franchises like "Harry Potter" looked content to stick around until they’d wrung every last penny from the kiddies' allowance, and "Star Wars" wore out its bloated welcome well before staggering to the finish line (to say nothing of that current beast, “The Hobbit”), our group of outcast mutants always came off as CGI minimalists by comparison; a bolt of lightning here, a brief super-powered scuffle there, hardly testing an audience's patience as Halle, Hugh and the gang deal with a world they never made.

For years, comics insiders have said the form is on the verge of going the way of Vaudeville, what with the internet, Blackberries, hyperrealistic video games, and any number of distractions to erode a reader's ability to ingest (and attain an advanced literacy from, incidentally) the primitive charms of a comic book, and the transition to a movie-going public seems its next, if not last, evolutionary step for survival. Not only is "X-Men: The Last Stand" indeed a worthy entry into comic-book filmdom, it also acts as a metaphor for the future of its original medium. For our mutant heroes and the funny book industry in general, all bets are off.
Source: Stephen Conn
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6 Comments
jjk2814 - 1/24/2013, 2:20 PM
I'm with ya on the quality of action in X-Men 3, but I think there's very little outside of that to be said in its defense. Its fan-base and critical panning I think can be blamed on the change of tone from the previous two. I think you may be right that it was a more action-packed, fun approach but in any series that is loved or at least liked by a majority, changing the tone is almost always a death sentence.

But, I do agree that it doesn't deserve the level of loathing it gets. For me, it was just bloated and rushed, but enjoyable.
steveconn - 1/24/2013, 3:44 PM
Thanks for your input. To me Jackman getting thrown through several walls by the Juggernaut is far more memorable and thrilling than the jumbled, profound sub-plots Singer offered in X-2. Of all the comic movies of the early 2000s (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Dark Knight), the X-series was the one most in danger of falling into a coma.
KoonEl - 1/26/2013, 9:27 PM
The problem was killing Cyclops, killing Jean Gray, killing Professor X (sort of). People can handle characters getting killed in comics because they come back. It was too much all at once, plus it was marketed at the last one. If viewers thought that there were more movies coming maybe they could have accepted it. Also, Angel was far underused because they didn't seem to know what to do with him.

There were a lot of great things in the movie. First, the action was great. Second, Beast. Third, Mystique getting her powers taken away and Magneto's response.

Now what were the other problems? No real stakes in the end. It all came down to whether or not they killed the kid in the end. The first movie had the lives of thousands of people at stake. The second had the lives of the entire planet at stake. The third had one kid, that's it. It was all build-up to a poor showdown with nothing more than a glamorized protest.

They also butchered characters like the Juggernaut, Psylocke, and Multiple Man. But they focused too much time on the kid who'd power was porcupine face. I mean what was he gonna to get really close to someone and prick them? Lame.

Overall, it wasn't as bad as people make it out to be, but it wasn't as good as the previous two. People on here like to complain a lot for no reason. For example, anyone that says that Chris Nolan's Batman movies were bad shouldn't be taken seriously. You can have complaints, but to say they were bad is just stupid.

All in all, if they audience thought there was another installment coming where they could see more justice done to these characters this movie would have been better. Maybe having it end on a cliff hanger where we think the above mentioned characters are in danger, but don't know their fate. Like Empire Strikes Back: Luke loses the battle and his hand, Han is captured and taken away. If we didn't know the fate of the Professor and Scott, but had another movie that showed they survived it would have been better and more dramatic for me.
steveconn - 1/26/2013, 11:00 PM
But since the kid represented the source of curing mutant powers (a factor that presumably would eventually dry up with his death), didn't his life alone have world-changing ramifications? The stakes for all mutants who wanted to live a normal life seem pretty high to me.
ThunderKat - 1/27/2013, 10:04 AM
I agree that the action was a nice change. The story and plot were just not developed in an interesting manner. Grey becoming Phoenix didn't make sense. And her killing those closest to her made even less sense.
"X2" is the 'Empire' of the series due to the first being and dull in appearance, and the third being of an entirely different tempo and lacking in areas of storytelling.

I do like your review a lot despite our differences. I wish more people reviewed similarly.
cbmf20 - 1/29/2013, 3:06 AM
what was nice about the last one was even with many characters kicking the bucket it didn't feel like it was carrying baggage like the first 2.

the first one was all setup and that's fine it was good and focused on the political ramifications. and the second one chose to focus on the undetailed origin and past of wolverine which was mysterious and entertaining.

but the third felt like it was the first one to let loose a bit and let the characters you know have a go at each other.

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