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X-Men 3: The Last Stand Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

I’ll admit, when Brian Singer first decided to skip out on directing the third installment of the X-Men franchise, I was one of many who thought his replacement would drive the film into the ground. Brett Ratner isn’t a hack by any means, but helming X-Men: The Last Stand (or is it?) is a monumental step up from Rush Hour or Red Dragon.

To answer the lingering question, no, Ratner did not destroy Marvel’s cornerstone franchise. While his vision is not nearly as profound as Singer’s, he still supplies most of the elements necessary for this film at this time. The first two X-Men flicks were leading up to something huge – a war between the mutants and humans – and Ratner delivers the action on a grand scale.

Since its inception, the story of X-Men has always been a loose analogy to the civil rights movement, with Professor Charles Xavier serving as Dr. Martin Luther King and his counterpart Magneto our Malcolm X. Both men strive to achieve mutant equality, one peacefully and one "by any means necessary." Though Magneto is often portrayed a villain, we empathize with his cause. This blurring between right and wrong makes the X-Men legend more than just the average story.

In the first two X-Men films, Singer drove home these timeless themes. The "Mutant Registration Act" at the core of the original touches on communism and the Red Scare in the 1950s. In X2, Bobby Drake "comes out" as a mutant to his family in Boston. In essence, X-Men is all about overcoming persecution and alienation.
The Last Stand is more of the same, albeit much more blunt. In this installment, a scientific laboratory at Alcatraz has formulated a "cure" for the mutant gene. Although the government advertises it as an optional measure for any mutant, we soon learn that they are manufacturing the substance in a weaponized form. Magneto (Ian McKellan) mobilizes his troops, gathering forces along the way in an effort to eliminate the cure. As you would expect, the peace-loving X-Men set out to put a stop to the war before it’s too late. Despite depleted numbers, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) lead a young group of X-Men to the rescue with the help of Beast (Kelsey Grammar), the government’s Secretary of Mutant Affairs (an outstanding character I think should have been given time in the previous two films, if only in a cameo).

The sociological aspects that are so important to the X-Men franchise are still present in The Last Stand, but Ratner doesn’t spend nearly enough time developing them. The first two X-Men films were character studies that hinted at a war to come. Now that the war is here, we get a little bit of character development and a whole lot of action. At only 100 minutes, the film could have used at least another half hour to delve into some of the more weighty material. Simply put, Singer is better than Ratner at mixing dramatic elements with visual effects-laden conflict (We’ll likely see that sentiment reinforced next month with the release of Singer’s Superman Returns). Hardcore X-Men fans may be a little disappointed with Ratner’s style, but the average moviegoer probably won’t miss a thing with everything soaring all over the place.

In that vein, Ratner really isn’t bad at all. There are some loose ends he forgets to tie up and some characters I would have liked to see get more time to shine, but the bottom line is that this film looks brilliant from start to finish. Yes, there are probably too many characters for Ratner to manage, but you won’t be thinking about that as they fly back and forth during the film’s climax. You’ll be laughing, oohing, ahhing and simply having a good time at the movies. While it might not be the perfect culmination of the X-Men saga, this is a fun film and a worthy entry in the franchise.

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