The end of X2: X-Men United left the perfect setup for a sensational end to the X-Men trilogy that almost seemed foolproof. Too bad 20th Century Fox went and mucked up the whole thing. Lots of spoilers for the third movie in the X-Men franchise.
Release: May 26, 2006
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Ellen Paige, Rebecca Romjin, James Marsden, Vinnie Jones, Cameron Bright
The opening scene which included a badly digitally de-aged Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen was the first of many red flags that should have warned us of how bad this movie was going to be. The two men looked frighteningly out of place and immediately pulled me away from the story when I first saw the film in theaters. The scene was supposed to introduce the audience to the young Jean Grey (Haley Ramm) and demonstrate how dangerous she could be if she knew how to tap into her full abilities, but I couldn’t see past the creepy faces of Professor X and Magneto.
It is so easy to fully blame Brett Ratner for the epic failure that is The Last Stand. He is at best a mediocre director. The blame should mostly fall on the shoulders of the executives at 20th Century Fox for pushing a sequel to come out quickly. When Singer left to go and direct Superman Returns, the studio brought in Mathew Vaugh as his replacement. But as pre-production was beginning, Vaugh walked away from the project due to the studio’s meddling. The studio needed to find a replacement fast to keep the film’s scheduled release date, and in comes Ratner who took over the project and wanted to make changes to the two famous comic storylines (Gifted and Dark Phoenix) he had no prior knowledge of to fit his vision. Those changes would turn the two interesting plots into a confusing mess with an unsatisfying conclusion.
The Gifted storyline is about the discovery of a young mutant, Jimmy (Bright), whose abilities can remove another mutant’s gifts by just being in his presence. The government decides to use Jimmy’s powers to create the mutant cure and made weapons from the serum. Many mutants do not see themselves as a disease and react violently to the idea of having their abilities possibly taken from them. Some mutants such as Rogue (Paquin) are considering the cure because they cannot lead normal lives with their mutation.
The Dark Phoenix plot sees the return of an uninhibited Jean Grey (Janssen). We learn that Professor X placed a block on her abilities when she was a child in hopes of teaching her right and wrong so when she has her full abilities, she will not use them for evil. This block created a split personality within Jean. She is both the Jean we have known from before and the Dark Phoenix, but which is the real Jean? We never really get to know because that requires a more thoughtful approach to the story.
The theme for The Last Stand is about finding the balance between control of abilities and the choice to be the person you want to be, but everything is such a garbled mess that the film doesn’t know how to handle such a task.
Dark Phoenix is never free to explore who she is because Magneto continues to manipulate her for his own purposes. But was Professor X justified in placing the block on her mind in the first place? The film ties to tell us he was in the right when Dark Phoenix kills both Cyclopes and the Professor. Of course Cyclopes’ demise was so Marsden could be freed up to follow Singer to Superman Returns and is treated like a non-event. Professor X’s death is negated at the end of the credits leading us to believe he knew she was going to kill him and allowed the sacrifice to happen. Before we get a chance to understand the duality of Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey, she has Wolverine kill her because she doesn’t know how to stop herself.
How can mutants have a choice as to whether or not they want to be normal when the government puts the serum into guns and threatens to use it on them? We see Rogue wrestle with the decision to take the cure, but it comes off like she did it to keep her boyfriend from leaving her for Kitty Pride (Paige) even though I’m pretty sure she did it because she found abilities too dangerous.
It would have also been nice to see the justification of the other mutants seeking the cure with her. Were they there because they see themselves as dangerous? Are they getting the cure to appease loved ones? Magneto, Mystique (Romjin), and several others had their powers forcibly removed from them by the end of the film. Again it is all for naught when it is teased Magneto may still have his powers. The government still has the ability to make more of the serum so what is stopping them from making more weapons to take down the mutant population? Did Storm (Berry) promise the government that she will make everyone behave?
Two massive ideas that could have left the series with major implications about the world these people exist in, possibly set up a new trilogy exploring the fall out, but no one had the gumption to follow through. Eight years later, Bryan Singer came back to the franchise and would thankfully undo it all, but we will get to that later.
What did you think of X-Men: The Last Stand? Were you disappointed by the film’s end? Let me know what you think in the comments section below and I will be back on Sunday with X-Men Origins: Wolverine.