Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Ben Foster, Dania Ramirez, Ellen Page
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Directed by: Brett Ratner
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language
Running Time: 104
Date: 05/22/2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The X-Styles

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For this, the third X-Men movie, series director Bryan Singer passes the torch so that he can concentrate on his upcoming Superman Returns.

While Singer has thus far proved a reliable maker of second-gear celluloid and a true lover of comic books, his replacement, Brett Ratner (Red Dragon), comes closer to a circus ringmaster or a used car salesman.

As a result X-Men: The Last Stand is a little rough around the edges, and its second half leaves quite a bit to be desired. But Ratner, who directs for the seventh time with this film, seems to be getting better by trial and error, and he turns in a rather terrific first half.

When we left off at the end of the excellent X2: X-Men United (2002), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) had died. But since she's the most powerful mutant on earth (a "class 5"), death is merely a small setback and she re-emerges. This time her mental safety catches are switched off and her full power bursts forth (in the comics, she's now known as "Dark Phoenix").

Both Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) vie to have Jean on their side in the war with mankind, and after a particularly nasty bit of telepathic chaos, Magneto wins.

The stakes are higher this time; the government has invented a "cure" for mutants. One shot and they revert straight to Homo sapiens. The movie clearly wishes to say something political with this notion, but Ratner and the screenwriters can't decide what. At certain points, it appears to apply to homosexuality, and other scenes play like abortion clinic riots.

Sadly, as this "cure" plot gets going, the movie bogs down in rallying cries, forgetting about the fascinating band of troubled characters in the middle of the whole thing. Even Phoenix, the most powerful creature on earth, spends a good 45 minutes staring blankly into space, waiting for the so-called last stand to begin.

Yet it's these magnificently brave, flawed outcasts populating the X-Men world that make it so appealing for so long. Among the roll call, we have: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Storm (Halle Berry), the diplomat Beast (Kelsey Grammer), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), Angel (Ben Foster), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and more.

Some characters die and all suffer from self-doubt. We could have used more of that and less brouhaha, although San Franciscans will definitely want to see what happens here to the Golden Gate Bridge. And fans in general won't want to miss the final payoff after the closing credits.

See also X-Men and X2: X-Men United.

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