Monday, May 19, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) ***

PG-13, 104 min.
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ellen Page, Daniel Cudmore, Ben Foster, Michael Murphy, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Josef Sommer, Bill Duke, Eric Dane, Cameron Bright

So “X-Men: The Last Stand”. If you listened to the fans, this is the most reviled X-Men movie, often called the worst or a total mess, horrible. Of course, the truth is those descriptions really belong to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. It amazes me that people were able to hang on to their hatred of “The Last Stand” once they were given “XO:W”. But for some reason, X-Men fans just hate this movie.

While it was a letdown from the second X-Men movie, it is far from horrible. Yes, it does get bloated. Yes, the final battle lacks imagination and is filled with terribly cliché and sophomoric dialogue. However, up until that final battle “The Last Stand” tries its darnedest to live up to the high standards of the previous film and the comic books.

Thematically, it is just as strong as the first two films. The writers steer away from the parallels with the civil rights movement and racial bias, and move more into the realm of the homophobia that gripped our country in the early 80’s when word was just getting out about AIDS and HIV. With current issues about gay marriage still concerning the country on a political level, the movie is still very poignant today.

“Last Stand” does struggle to focus on the plethora of mutants put forth in it. Angel looks awesome and it would’ve really been nice to see what such a dynamic actor as Ben Foster could’ve done with the character, but alas he’s buried by the fourteen other subplots. Kelsey Grammer proves a surprisingly effective Beast, especially in the political capacity he is given, but there are too many other character strands in play to really get to enjoy him.

I wonder if people were so excited to see all these mutants they’ve wanted to see on screen and just felt gypped by their lack of screen time. With all these new characters it is easy to see how people could miss the significance of Ian McKellen leading the charge of those thought to be diseased by the genetics they can’t change. Many of the questions posed about why they should fight a “cure” for their genetic situation echo all the reasons we should accept people for who they are. There’s good in this message, and the film does a fairly good job arguing its stance through most of its running time.

It’s just so unfortunate about that ending. I can’t help but think much of the blame should fall on director Brett Ratner for either being too much of a studio ‘Yes’ man or not quite understanding what the real point of these X-Men are. The powers and battles are supposed to be the bonus, not the point. Still, I like the movie more than I dislike some of the director’s choices (or lack there of). 

Read my original review here, obviously written before the backlash had begun.

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