The Last Stand
by Brett Ratner
us now praise X-Men, the movie franchise, for being
exactly what it was: A generally well-made, successful series
of comic-book movies. The filmmakers behind the trio of films—a
number of writers and producers, but principally Bryan Singer,
who directed the first two intallments—cast well, plotted
carefully and delivered the right balance of outsized violence,
“big” ideas and pulpy emotions to make for perfect summer
entertainment. They created a framework so sturdy, not even
Brett Ratner—the director who teamed Charlie Sheen with Chris
Tucker and fucked up a Hannibal Lecter movie, for heaven’s
sake—could break it; the Ratner-directed X-Men: The Last
Stand is an explosion of big-budgeted fun. We should all
be sorry to see these X-Men go away.
you have forgotten, the X-Men are a merry band of mutants
with bad-cool superpowers in a world frightened to death of
mutants. It’s a typical Marvel Comics universe, in which the
relationship between the superheroes and the regular folks
is complicated and angst-ridden; there are no good guys and
no bad guys. Sure, Magneto (Ian McKellen) can move anything
made of metal and wants to exterminate the human race, but
he’s too charming to really hate. At the same time, nice superhero
Storm (Halle Berry), who can change the weather at will, is
too whiny to warm up too. Somewhere in between are the cranky
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, again doing his best Where Eagles
Dare-era Clint Eastwood impersonation), electro-girl Rogue
(Anna Paquin, again with the train-wreck hair), Beast (a blue-furred
Kelsey Grammer), shape- shifting bad girl Mystique (Rebecca
Romijn, nearly naked again) and walk-through-walls teenager
Kitty (Ellen Page).
Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) didn’t really die at the end
of the last movie. She isn’t exactly Jean Grey anymore, either;
she’s become the unstoppable Phoenix, destroyer of worlds.
Another way to think of Phoenix is as the ultimate girlfriend
from hell. Janssen is very, very good in the role.
time, a pharmaceutical company sets off a war between mutants
and humans (and mutants vs. mutants) by inventing a “cure”
for the mutant “x” gene. Rogue is attracted to the cure for
an obvious reason: Electro-girl can’t touch another person
without killing them, including, of course, her boyfriend.
Most of the mutants are unhappy about it; Magneto uses it
as a reason to go to war again on the humans.
have repeatedly noted, this plot can be seen as a metaphor
for social battles over everything from “curing” homosexuality
to aborting disabled fetuses. The film takes a predictable
middle-ground position; like even the best comic books, it
raises questions bigger than the form is capable of adequately
doesn’t matter, though, because the story is full of interesting
plot twists and reversals. The ante is upped, too; as it is
the self-described “last film” in the trilogy, the makers
of X-Men: The Last Stand weren’t afraid to kill off
major characters or drastically change others. The film features
genuine surprises in a way other sci-fi flicks—like the newer
Star Wars movies—failed to deliver.
it’s sad to see these particular X-Men go away. (In particular,
one must single out Ian McKellen for his tasteful scenery
chewing as Magneto. Imagine what Anthony Hopkins, for example,
would have done with the role.) It would be equally disappointing
to see them come back in a fourth film, however. The series
has ended well. Let it rest in peace.