X-Men: The Last Stand
X-Men: The Last Stand 2006
It feels like I’ve been watching X-Men movies for a long time now, there’s been some pretty great movies, and some fairly mediocre movies, but I’m glad I’m done with them and am ready to move onto something different. It makes me glad that I’m not going to try to cram all eight Batman movies back to back to back. After two great X-Men movies by Bryan Singer, he dropped out for the chance to make Superman Returns while the helm was passed on to Brett Ratner. The movie promised a lot of things, some popular X-Men that hadn’t made it to the movies yet, and it centered around the mutant “cure” which could have brought in all sorts of layers of meaning to this movie. But instead, it’s a lot of empty action with little real depth to it all. It’s still a fun watch, but compared to the previous two X-Men movies and even First Class, it felt fairly empty.
This movie definitely has its share of great moments in it, especially for fans of the X-Men. From the opening sequence in the danger room fighting a Sentinel with Ellen Page as an adorable Kitty Pryde, to Bobby Drake finally going full Iceman. But many of those moments didn’t really feel earned. They felt much more like they were tossed in. It’s like they reached into a fanservice grab bag, and tossed a bunch of them into the script. There’s the fastball special, the name Trask who in the comics created the Sentinels, there’s Angel, there’s Juggernaut. And of course, there’s Jean’s return as the Dark Phoenix. But except for a couple scenes, her presence wasn’t really even felt, and she was much more of a sidestory than the main focus. I think one of the biggest problems this movie had was there was just too much going on, that none of it had anywhere near enough time to be developed fully.
Something that I’ve mentioned in all of the previous X-Men movies is that the relationships between the characters are what really makes them important. This movie also has its share of relationships, but they are all very shallow. There’s the new introduction of the teenage love triangle between Rogue, Bobby, and Kitty. Rogue is jealous of Kitty because Bobby is friendly with her and can actually touch her. But it’s done in such a cliche’d manner, with Kitty and Bobby sharing a friendly hug in the danger room while she looks on in anger. And then Bobby cheers Kitty up after Xavier dies while the camera pans up to Rogue looking out the window through narrowed eyes. It’s just silly. Then there’s the relationship between Jean and Wolverine, which became the focus both because the fans enjoy seeing those two be together, and also because Cyclops would rather stick with Bryan Singer and be Lois Lane’s husband in Superman Returns. I thought it was too rushed, and too unbelievable. For all of the Phoenix’s power, she can’t stop the power of Wolverine’s love? I suppose the counterargument is that Jean was holding the Phoenix back, allowing Wolverine to succeed, but that wasn’t how it played on screen at all. The only relationships that I thought did work in this movie were Storm and Wolverine’s relationship with the school itself. They both learned from their experiences and became the leaders they needed to be for the sake of the students and the X-Men.
Another big element of the plot of this movie is the idea of a mutant “cure”. I had originally planned on making an entire blog post about the idea of discrimination and minority groups in the X-Men movies, but as I was writing it, I realized that it was only ever touched upon in all of the previous movies. This movie is where they really had the chance to hit it home. One of the reasons why X-Men remains so popular is the idea of the minority group. Discrimination and prejudice is a strong theme used in many X-Men stories and those ideas can really touch real life minority groups and make them feel better about themselves. Whether it was African Americans in the 60’s, or homosexuals today, or even just nerds or unpopular kids, there’s still an important connection that can be made. And this movie has the idea of a “cure” that can make someone who’s different become just like everybody else. It had the potential of making the connection along with the fact that there is no “cure” for race, there is no “cure” for homosexuality, there is no “cure” for being fat. Instead, there’s a bunch of protesters, and Storm has a couple lines about how they don’t need a cure because they’re not sick, and that’s really about it. I appreciate the fact that they tried, they just didn’t get it.
One of my biggest complaints about X2 was that I thought they introduced too many characters. Of course this movie introduces about three times as many characters, and to top it off, they kill off or “cure” the most interesting ones. As far as the villains go, Callisto basically just serves as a plot device, the porcupine and androgynous mutants are just there, and Juggernaut is basically just a big joke. The returning villains don’t fare much better. Pyro becomes a lot less interesting with an imagined vendetta against Bobby just for the sake of “fire vs. ice” being visually interesting. And Jean as Dark Phoenix spend most of the time just standing around, at least when she wasn’t disintegrating people. The new mutants on Xavier’s side do fare a bit better. Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde is adorable, I can’t dislike her even though she is sucked into a two bit high school romantic drama. Kelsey Grammar’s Beast is probably the highlight of the movie, there’s no one else I could think of that would have done a better job. And Ben Foster as Angel isn’t given much to do, but he makes it work even though he conveniently joins the battle just to save his father and then flies back off into the distance again.
But for all I have against this movie, it’s good as a spectacle movie. It moves along at a fairly brisk pace, always throwing something new into the mix. If it’s the first time seeing it, and you’re a casual fan of the X-Men, it’s great seeing all the fanservice stuff thrown in. But if you’re looking for a deeper movie, with some substance behind it, look somewhere else. Jena watched it with me as well, she didn’t like it. She thought it was a sad movie, especially with all the deaths and people crying at funerals. Next week I have something a little different in mind, but still keeping with the theme of this site. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.