In anticipation of Days of Future Past, I will be reviewing the original X-Men trilogy (and maybe Origins but I’d rather not acknowledge that one). Time for:
The original X-Men trilogy comes to a close with X-Men 3, also known as X-Men: The Last Stand, a film that to some was perfectly fine, but most people didn’t enjoy very much. I cannot think of many who outright love it. Aside perhaps from this mate I have who’ll roll with anything that entails Ben Foster‘s bare chest.
Me, I’m somewhat apologetic towards it. Sure it is a step below Bryan Singer‘s X-Men and its sequel X2 and sure Singer has now been replaced by the rarely competent Brett Ratner, but it still offers enough excitement, action and drama to remain generally enjoyable. Generally.
As X-Men 3 gets started, things are easing up somewhat for the mutants of the world. They have a representative in the government in the form the blue, hairy Dr. Hank “Beast” McCoy (a well-cast Kelsey Grammer), but it’s not all good. The insidious Magneto (Ian McKellen) still has plans of war against humanity and when a mutant called Leech (Cameron Bright) emerges, displaying his powers of removing those of other mutants, companies start working on a “cure” that will remove all mutants from the population. Magneto, meanwhile, is expanding his army. Although he loses his sexy shape-shifting sidekick Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to a syringe containing this “cure”, Magneto can still trust the fire-shooting Pyro (Aaron Stanford), the super-strong Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), and Ken Leung of Lost fame as a bloke with poisonous spikes in his flesh.
Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his team of X-Men have more things to worry about. When Cyclops (James Marsden) goes to the lake where his girlfriend Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) sacrificed her life in the last movie, something awful happens. When Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who also loved Jean, and Storm (Halle Berry) fly there to investigate, they find that Jean has returned and with Xavier’s help discover that she’s under the influence of the sinister Dark Phoenix, a powerful entity that wants to destroy all. This is all fairly interesting I suppose, but since Cyclops is largely absent from this film, the love triangle subplot this time is given to Rouge (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), a girl who walks through walls. See, Rouge is still sad her mere touch kills people and worries that her frosty boyfriend would rather date Pride. Meh.
The head of development of the cure is Warren Worthington II (Michael Muprhy), who resents his son, nick-named “Angel” (the aforementioned Foster), because he too is a mutant – one with giant angelic wings on his back. A great early scene, which I’m certain is meant to symbolize self-harm and depression, shows a young Angel trying to cut off his own wings in his bathroom when Mr. Worthington walks in on him, leading him to start working on the anti-mutation cure. Symbolism like that is why I love X-Men.
There’s also Peter Cudmore as Colossus, Dania Ramirez as Callisto, and a character named Trask, played by African-American actor Bill Duke. Strange, because I thought that Trask, at least according to the upcoming Days of Future Past, was a short white man played by Peter Dinklage. Maybe they’re related, I dunno.
The film tries to have as much story and character as X2, but provides too short of a runtime for such scenes to be crammed into, and I believe this is the main reason this ranks as one of the more disliked X-Men flicks. Another common complaint is that this is where the films start to be a little too much about Wolverine; but I don’t know, I feel like X2 – besides X-Men Origins and The Wolverine, obviously – is the most Wolverine-centric of the films and aside from being the one to ultimately do Dark Phoenix in, I don’t recall many other important scenes involving Wolverine in this particular plot. Maybe because there’s so much stuff going around him with angels, love triangles, cures and such? Poor Cyclops, meanwhile, doesn’t get to do much of anything. We get no Nightcrawler either.
Then there’s people complaining about a lack of consistency in-between films. You know the Trask paradox I mentioned? Well, another scene involves a flashback where we see that Professor Xavier and Magneto were still on good terms at a time when they looked like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. In First Class, however, we see that they already split paths back when they were young enough to be James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. But this isn’t really a fault of this film so much as it’s a thing that’s gonna make people confused.
As I’ve mentioned, though, I do not mind this film as much as others. I do mind the absence of Nightcrawler and I barely care for Rouge’s love triangle with Kitty and Iceman. But I still enjoy a sufficient deal of the subplots, I still admire the skillful sense of casting (Kelsey Grammer as Beast is a delight), I still love the music at times, I still like the action, and I still appreciate the obligatory parallels between the discrimination of mutants in the film and the discrimination of certain humans in the world we ourselves inhabit. How many times hasn’t some dim-witted Catholic prayed for a cure for homosexuality, for instance?
So yes, it seems I somewhat enjoy X-Men: The Last Stand. I trust many of you will find this utterly baffling, but hey, at least I’m not going the Roger Ebert route by giving this one thumbs up and the first X-Men thumbs down. Critics can be an unpredictable lot, I tell ya.