X-Men: The Last Stand is the third and supposedly final instalment in the X-Men film franchise. Unfortunately, with a change in creative control, the franchise takes a nosedive of epic proportions and the third time certainly proves that it isn’t the charm.
The X-Men franchise is possibly one of the strongest and most admired super hero film franchises to date. The first film, released in 2000, set the scene for scores of future comic book-to-movie adaptations and turned Marvel Comics into a filmic powerhouse. Okay, Blade (1998) was made before this but X-Men, I believe, had greater overall appeal and was definitely responsible for getting the ball rolling. Six years down the line there seems to be no stopping this comic book adaptation trend. Spiderman, Daredevil, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, The Punisher and numerous other Marvel franchises have all had screen time as a result of the success of that first X-Men film. Many have also received, or will be getting, the sequel treatment.
Granted, these films aren’t all great. Most of them are terrible. Daredevil, Elektra (the spin-off franchise from Daredevil) and The Punisher are three prime examples of adaptations that should have been canned at the pre-production phase. But, you take the good with the bad and when the good has been good it’s been great. X-Men finds itself in this category. Well at least it did, that was until I saw the third and final (Ja, right) X-Men film.
When a cure for mutation is developed it drives a sharp wedge between the mutant population. Some see it as a viable answer to living in a world that they feel persecutes them, while others see it as a direct threat against them, an act of war if you will. Again, opposing sides are forced to battle it out with Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his X-Men standing against Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his Brotherhood of Mutants.
X-Men: The Last Stand takes what director Bryan Singer (X-Men 1 & 2) carefully crafted and dumps it in the toilet. What once was a balance between visual effects and emotionally weighted situations and dialogue has now become another standard special effects extravaganza that lacks any soul. Director Brett Ratner has failed; the more I think about it the more I dislike this film.
X-Men 2 left us with the perfect set up for the third instalment. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) drowned saving the rest of the X-men, but as the film came to a close we caught a glimpse of something in the water, something that looked like a fiery bird. If you’re familiar with the comics at all you knew immediately that this hinted at periods within the Marvel universe called The Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas. We all knew that Jean would rise from the ashes (or in this case her watery grave) transformed into a being of immense – but twisted – power called The Phoenix.
However, instead of focusing on and developing this one key story, X-Men: The Last Stand gets overly complicated and bogged down by trying to show and do too much. Scriptwriters Simon Kinberg (Elektra) and Zak Penn (who came up with the story for X2) introduce so many new characters that none are done any justice. X2 introduced only two new main characters (Night Crawler and Lady Death Strike) with brief appearances from a handful more (Colossus, Pyro). X3 introduces Angel, Juggernaut, Beast and Phoenix – and, as a result, there are no characters to focus on.
Ratner suffers from the ‘kid in a candy store’ syndrome. He moves so rapidly through the film and stuffs it with so much that all that was, and could have been, great becomes tasteless and derivative. I’m sure getting to helm an X-Men film must be a fantastic opportunity but some restraint would have been better. There are almost no moments where events and their implications are allowed to seep in. A perfect example is the deaths of several key figures. These are dealt with poorly and stereotypically – the emotional connection is severed in exchange for visual effects.
I would be a bit more forgiving of the film if the effects – something that is given preference throughout – had been handled a bit more carefully but these are ridiculously obvious and harsh on the eyes. Bryan Singer was able to blend set and location almost perfectly but Ratner and his team seem not to care about the final product. The majority of the film feels like it was shot on a sound stage and the result is a film that feels rushed and claustrophobic.
X-Men: The Last Stand is a messy blockbuster that ruins what the X-Men franchise had going for it. It will disappoint many fans and even though the film ends with the possibility of yet another sequel I hope that Brett Ratner doesn’t get the opportunity. It’s not all bad but it’s a far cry from the second film. What was Marvel’s loss, however, is DC Comics’ gain with Bryan Singer now helming their flagship franchise.
Only Singer and Superman (when he returns) can save us now.