100 Essential Superhero Movies – You Decide! X-Men: The Last Stand
Part of finishing off this list of 100 essential superhero movies is bringing in my audience, and so when I got down to the last 20 movies, I decided that I would let you decide. And what better than to reach out to other movie critics and reviewers to let them argue the case for a superhero movie that they are a fan of and at the bottom of the post, there is a poll where you can vote whether or not you agree if it should be included in the 100 Essential Superhero Movies list. Today my guest is Tony Cogan from Coogs Film Blog who is taking a look at the third X-Men film which was taken on by Brett Ratner after Bryan Singer left to help Superman Returns.
After hearing about this blog-a-thon, there was one film that I felt should be talked about in defence considering just how much shit has been thrown at it over the past few years and that is X-Men: The Last Stand. Now I fully admit that this film isn’t a masterpiece but in terms of superhero films and the X-Men series in particular, the merits of this film cannot be ignored.
The main plot of the film brings about the most obvious mutant=gay analogy in the entire X-Men series, with the idea of a cure for mutations being found. This does have a lot of parallels in the real world with, unfortunately, a variety of different groups that try to turn gay individuals straight; trying to play God and overwrite the way these people were born and this analogy is very effectively brought up in this film. This also helps with a point that has been brought up a few times in the X-Men films and that is in regards to mutants having to hide their powers from society in order to appear normal to the rest of the world, which, again unfortunately, many gay people have had to do in the past, especially considering that many homophobic laws are still in effect all over the world with only a handful of countries recognising the rights of gay individuals to marriage. A lot of the power that superhero films have comes from discussing real world events through the filter of fantasy and, with the whole idea of the ‘mutant cure,’ X-Men: The Last Stand does give one of the more blatant versions of this, with this whole idea working in the context of the film. Along with the gay metaphor, this continues the trend of the series to treat the persecution of mutants as akin to the treatment of the victims of the Holocaust, especially represented by Magneto who continues to show that his actions are to prevent any more people suffering the extreme pain and suffering that he did in the Holocaust, although this point is made better in X-Men and X-Men: First Class.
One area where I have to admire the filmmakers is with the guts they had in their convictions. It took a lot of balls to kill off Professor X and Cyclops and the way that the death of Professor X was handled in the film was brilliant. It’s not treated as a throwaway event that is promptly forgotten about unlike other deaths in superhero films (looking at Darwin in X-Men: First Class here) this is the major part of the film and the fact that the film went as far as it did showed a lot of guts. Granted they completely blew this with the reveal at the end of the credits that Professor X was able to transfer his consciousness but, if it is handled right in X-Men: Days of Future Past, this can be forgiven.
Another area of criticism I hear a lot about X-Men: The Last Stand comes from how the Dark Phoenix story is represented. Now I have not read the comics and as such I have no frame of reference for how that story was done in the comics but I think it was done pretty well in the film. Not in terms of the plot, the whole thing with the mutant cure could have sustained a film on its own, the inclusion of the Dark Phoenix story feels tacked on in order to please fans, but in terms of the character of Wolverine. Some of the best development for his character in the films comes from the events of this film, mainly the pain and guilt he feels over having to kill Jean Grey. This is clearly a major moment for the character, one that would shape how he acts in the rest of the films, and the way this carries over into the plot of The Wolverine is excellent. In fact, in my opinion, a lot of the best moments in The Wolverine are a direct result of what happened to the character in this film and as such I don’t think this film can be ignored.
Now I will admit there are a ton of problems in this film. The love triangle between Rogue, Bobby and Kitty didn’t need to exist and feels really tacked on to further get across the main message of the film, the way the film treats Mystique is downright insulting to the character, a lot of the new characters (Juggernaut, Angel and Colossus) are completely wasted and Magneto getting his powers back at the end is a complete cop-out from the events the film set up but there is a lot of good in this film. Aside from what I mentioned above, the action scenes are really well directed (especially Magneto lifting the Golden Gate Bridge), the acting from the leads is as strong as it was in the previous films and there were 2 instances of perfect casting with Kelsey Grammer as Beast and Ellen Page as Kitty and these elements of the film are why I think it should be included in this list.
Thanks for crafting a fine argument for X-Men: The Last Stand, if I were to rank the X-Men movies it would be somewhere in the middle, above the first Wolverine and Generation X, but below everything else. I did like how it tried to expand the social issue of mutants that the first two movies barely touched upon, but I didn’t think it worked as well as it could have and it got buried with too many characters that got too little development. It also felt like Cyclops was killed because of actor’s schedules rather than actual story development, but there are plenty of worse films out there that could take the spot, now it’s up to the readers to decide, so be sure and vote!