X-Men: The Last Stand
Director(s): Brett Ratner
Writer(s): Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones and Patrick Stewart
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 26, 2006 - Wide
Director Brett Ratner, taking over the reigns of the X-Men series from Bryan Singer who flew off to helm Superman Returns, packs a lot of action into a film just short of two hours. The third installment of the series sees the continuing conflict between humans and mutants. Some progress has been made, with Dr. Hank McCoy/The Beast (a blue fur-covered Kelsey Grammer) acting as the U.S. Government’s Secretary of Mutant Affairs.
However, a mutant named Leech (Cameron Bright) has an interesting power: the ability to cancel the mutations of those around him. Billionaire Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy), who’s ashamed of his own son Angel’s (Ben Foster) 16-foot wingspan, sees the possibility of “curing” the mutations he sees as not normal. He creates a “cure” for mutation which some mutants gladly take to lead lives free from persecution.
Magneto (Ian McKellen), on the other hand, sees the offer of a “cure” as a slippery slope towards forced immunization. He views the government’s moves as a form of genocide and when anti-mutant extremists began weaponizing the antibody and shooting mutants with it, even Beast finds himself on the other side of the issue, quitting the government and rejoining the X-Men. Magneto takes the opposition to the next step, raising a mutant army to fight back at those who want to “cure” them. He also plans to attack and destroy the Alcatraz-based facility where Leech is being held and the antibody manufactured. While the X-Men are opposed to Magneto’s methods, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) has returned from the dead as the Phoenix, a creature of almost limitless power that sides with Magneto. Though not fans of forced “cures” themselves, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the X-Men must rally to prevent Magneto waging an all-out war on humans.
There’s really a whole lot going on here that mirrors political and ethical debates being held by governments and doctors. What defines “normal”? If medicine can detect abnormalities before birth what are the ethics on aborting the fetus? If science discovers a “cure” for something that’s not an illness, does government have the right to force the person to submit to it? Is one person’s individuality another person’s illness?
The story in this installment really crams a lot of elements and characters into a smaller space that probably could have used the extra sixteen minutes or so to get it to two hours. Besides the regular cast of mutants like Professor X, Magneto, Jean Grey, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), Cyclops (James Marsden), Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Pyro (Aaron Stanford) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) several additional characters like the aforementioned Beast, Angel and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) make this a very crowded dinner table. Jackman’s Wolverine, a fan favourite, has much less screen time than before and essentially the mutants have become like a Swiss Army knife in the sense that you’ll only pull a character out on-screen if you need the ability of their particular mutation in that situation. With all the activity going on, and with all the possibilities for character development and exploring the issues, it seems bizarre that this wasn’t one of those film that stretches towards the three hour mark.
Those worried that Brett Ratner, best known for Rush Hour, might ruin the franchise have little to worry about as, stylistically, the film doesn’t appear to change from Singer’s installments. The shorter running time means that the pace in this episode is rapid and unstoppable, just like the momentum of Magneto’s henchman Juggernaut.