‘X-Men:The Last Stand’ (2006)

Did it suck completely? No. Was it less than I expected? Frankly, no. With all the months and rumors of Brett “the Rat” Ratner taking the helm of X3, the movie ended up being more competent and entertaining than I ever expected it to be.

That said, you can leave all of your X-Men canon at the door. Especially for ‘The Last Stand’.

This much I knew from my lukewarm appreciation of the first 2 movies, with their unnatural emphasis on Rogue and Wolverine. In the comics, Rogue started out as a villain , as she was the adoptive daughter of Mystique (yes!) and a former member of the 3rd incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. For some indeterminate reason, I thought Mystique was Australian when I was reading the X-Titles back in the ’80′s, but that might just have been a bit of poor transcription in whichever way Mr. Claremont had chosen to transcribe her dialogue.

Wolverine? At some point, I owned Incredible Hulk #181 (October 1974), the issue that included Wolverine’s first appearance. I also owned a crapped-out copy of Giant-Sized X-Men #1 (May 1975), that apparently included Wolverine in it, but I had no recollection of his participation. Maybe Thunderbird’s death – a tragic waste of so much potential — just traumatized me and made me forget.

xmen143.jpg Anyway, whatever had motivated Bryan Singer and his writers was *not* the way that it had happened in the comics some 25 years earlier, I knew that. What Singer had put on screen was an awkward confab of Kitty Pryde’s introduction to the X-Men and something else altogether.

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I can’t seem to remember any salient plot elements from the first X-Men movie, other than Wolverine’s weird flashbacks that seemed to ask more questions than they answered. Yes, I bought the trade of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X miniseries back in the day, but I never read much of Wolverine’s solo title. But it was all there in Weapon X, as in ‘Weapon Ten’, as it was later retconned by Grant Morrison when he wrote ‘New X-Men’.

But that first movie was something of an acceptable introduction for a mainstream America that had probably not bristled with a recognition of the alt.sci-fi.marvel.universe that I grew up in, in a time before the internet. ‘X-Men’ was good enough of a start and better than boring old Batman and Superman. I’ve always been a Marvel Zombie.

X-2? The one with the redundant title, ‘X-Men United’? They are the X-Men. Thay are a team , there is no need for them to be ‘united’ because they are presumably already working as a TEAM. Halle Berry still sucked and I have no idea why Singer cast her in the first place, other than that she’s a black woman. (It was probably at the insistence of Fox franchise-killer Tom Rothman, forced upon Singer because she might be a box-office draw.) Trick casting like Berry’s only works in movies that are presumably boring or undersubscribed. X-Men was never going to be either – Singer ought to have either cast the woman who already is Storm, Angela Bassett, or just found an unknown. Fox could have saved a whole lot of money.

godlovesmankills.jpg Other than absurdist plots to turn everybody into mutants or some looney, Mageto-led plots and apparently a direct lift from Claremont and Byrne’s ‘ God Loves, Man Kills ‘ storyline. Again, my memory for small details fails me yet once again, but the pattern had already been established: As with the first movie, Bryan Singer and his writers took a little here and a little there and mashed the whole canon-thing up, as X-2 again borrowed liberally from the X-canon by strinkling both Mastermind and Lady Deathstrike into the same storyline with no mention of the Hellfire club or Wolverine’s history with both Hydra and the Yakuza. Interesting, but still short on the fanboy goods. But this movie was better than the first one.

Now with X-3, the rumored final movie in this constructed ‘trilogy’, several characters have died while the 3rd directorial choice, Brett the Ratt has allowed his writers Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg to cherry-pick other X-Men stories rather than just try to do ONE and remain fathful to it. All while cramming as many mutant cameos into the thing as possible. Thus we get faux Morlocks, a faux-Sentinel and a sudden personality-disorder for Jean Grey, just as we get Joss Whedon’s Dr. Kavita Rao, introduced last year in ‘Astonishing X-Men’ suddenly introduces a ‘cure’ for mutancy.

The script, IMHO, was both over- and under-written. As a fan of Farscape , I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been spoiled by character-development and shippiness, but there was NO room for either in this movie. Sure, Bobby Drake (Iceman) takes the new Kitty Pryde ice-skating in the middle of the night, but only after decimating what *ought* to have been the most important relationship in the whole movie.

Several reviewers have commented on this movie’s mysogyny, and I’d have to agree: The writers and the director seem to have conspired to strip 2 of the female protagonists of their powers, while a third literally gets stabbed through the heart. But hey, it’s just meant to be a popcorn movie, right? There’s also been much commentary about the franchise being something of a roman à plume for homosexuality and much chatter about Singer himself being gay. Whether either are true, I have no idea. Such talk and justaposition of this movie to HBO’s ‘Angels in America’ by way of Warren Worthington III just seems to be a bit of a stretch to me. If any of Marvel’s openly gay mutants had been featured in X-3 or any of the movies that preceeded it, I might see the point. But neither Northstar nor Ultimate Colossus were featured in this movie, so those bored reviewers might as well leave it alone. The X-Men are about gifted people and common alienation, no less and no more.

Even Xavier’s relationship with Jean failed to make an appearance, despite some early scenes that suggest that their history extended significantly further back than the first movie.

I’m entirely of two minds on Ratner’s adaptation of the X-Men mythos. As a lifetime fan of the comics, I recognize that the first movie was the failure and subsequent efforts have managed only to drive more nails into the coffin while rolling numerous favorite characters into the ovens. Harsh, yes – but until Alex Proyas or Guillermo del Toro are given $200 M to make an X-Men movie that’s been written by Mark Millar or Joss Whedon, the real deal ain’t gonna happen.

OTOH, I’m still surprised that this movie didn’t end up like that car accident at the beginning of ‘ Final Destination 2 , with talk of mutant pheromone hooker characters (Stacy X) and numerous other rumors circulating on the internets after Kinberg and Penn finished their notorious ’6 Day draft’. And Juggernaut sucked. Whoever thought that it might be clever to name-check that moronic fan-clip of a misogynistic Juggernaut was just wrong. Period.

So, Ratner got it righter than I expected it, but that still doesn’t mean that he passed the test.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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