Last Stand in Review
Like Jean Grey, I am of two minds with regard to X-Men: The Last Stand. As a long time comics reader, I saw all the source material being morphed, used and wasted to form the sausage that is this movie. And, like a good, well grilled sausage, it’s tasty but ultimately not necessarily good for you.
Sticking with the comic book fan perspective, it was terrific to see the Danger Room, hints of “Days of Future Past”, a Sentinel, more familiar mutants from Madrox to Callisto, and nice bits of business with the movie mutants we’ve gotten fond of. It was neat to see Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men storyline make it to screen (ironic considering Joss did an unfilmed draft of the first film) along with Dark Phoenix.
Also, as a comics fan, we know the source material and how the characters were originally handled and we see so many errors, missteps and wasted opportunities. Jean Grey a victim of MPD rather being possessed by a cosmic spirit that resurrected her after a noble sacrifice? The needless deaths of core characters?
Now, switch gears to being a film fan that liked the first two films and only knew of the X-Men as part of the pop zeitgeist. The movie doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. First of all, characters come and go without introduction, show up and then get dispatched without necessarily moving the story forward. The entire rescue of Mystique sequence is wholly unnecessary to the film unless it’s to show us what an unsympathetic bastard Magneto can be.
Magneto, with all his powers, his growing army, and his goal of homo superior being the majority race on Earth has to hide his army in the forest like Robin Hood? Callisto has some neat skills but is never named and seems to earn Magneto’s trust way too easily. And why is he showing any loyalty to just Mystique as opposed to any of the mutants he was allied with in the first two films? Also, why is Pyro suddenly his Number Two? He’s an impetuous, untrained, ahem, hothead.
Jean giving in the Phoenix side of her personality seems to radiate energy without purpose. She isn’t even seen to struggle with it until her hormones kick into gear. At no point does the audience understand if Phoenix-Jean wants something or is just raw, unchanneled power, proving Xavier right all along.
Which brings me to the debates between Xavier and Magneto. It’s become expected to see them debate the issues but this time it was done without any warmth, wit, charm or originality. It’s all arguments we’d heard before and don’t understand why they remain cordial when they both conveniently arrive to coax Phoenix-Jean to their side. Magneto is horribly handled from overly melodramatic at times all the way to sympathetic when he shows his concentration camp tattoo.
It’s plot over character in emphasis and the plot doesn’t hold up or make enough sense to make the audience care. Things make little sense such as how long it takes to get anywhere. For example, Magneto moves the Golden Gate Bridge during daylight but is ready to invade the building in total darkness – what happened in between? And there was a total lack of suspense when Michael Murphy’s Warren Worthington II is tossed over the side of the building. What character we get is all surface, without any interesting dialogue. The various triangles are a passing nod to the lovely soap opera elements of the Claremont-era X-Men but it’s all for nothing. All the characters sound the same, except maybe Wolverine, and that ahs more to do with Hugh Jackman’s acting chops than the material. (And I have to acknowledge that Kelsey Grammer as Beast is terrific and the best new thing about the film.)
Speaking of plot, while the action is fun at times, the climax fails. I’ll let Keith DeCandido explain, as snurched from his review: ““But the biggest problem in the whole thing was the confrontation with Jean. Never mind the fact that Logan’s obsession with Jean is way in excess of his lustful infatuation in the other two films, there’s the simple fact that a) the ending is ripped off from Van Helsing‘s finale, and you’re in big trouble if you’re reduced to that, and b) why did Logan have to stomp toward her anyhow? All they had to do was put Leech near her and the fight was over!!!! They spent the whole movie showing us that Leech negates powers and was the basis of the cure. They just two minutes earlier showed him zapping Kitty and the Juggernaut. So why not use him against Jean? Hell, why didn’t Logan jab her with one of the needles filled with the serum instead of stabbing her to death?”
As you know by now, stay through the credits for the last scene. Then, as you wander out of the theatre, ask yourself what purpose the moment serves beyond shock value.