Published on May 7th, 2012 | by PJ Montgomery2
X-Men: The Last Stand – A Movie Flashback
The third film in the X-Men franchise, The Last Stand was in trouble as soon as Bryan Singer announced he was leaving things in the hands of Brett Ratner. Yes, there was that brief middle period where Matthew Vaughan was set to direct (hence the presence of Vinnie Jones), but as soon as Vaughan stepped down and Ratner stepped up, the general consensus was that the writing was on the wall. There was no way The Last Stand could live up to the highs of X2, right? Fans went in with low expectations. And the film entirely lived down to them.
That isn’t to say that there is nothing to like here. There are actually more good things in this film than you might remember, and that’s beyond the obvious perfect casting of Kelsey Grammer as the Beast. But let’s start there. Beast had been on the cards for both the previous movies, but for one reason or another, hadn’t made the final cut. So he was pretty much a given as one of the new characters to be introduced in X3. When it was announced that Grammer would be playing the part, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t think it was a good idea, and he brings just the right amount of humour and intelligence to the character, but then, what else would you expect from Frasier Crane himself?
Beast isn’t the only new face in the cast, with Kitty Pryde getting an increased role, this time in the shape of the excellent Ellen Page. Unfortunately, the rest of the new cast members aren’t nearly so good. Magneto’s (Ian McKellen) new Brotherhood are mostly bland and unmemorable, if they’re not just downright awful. Dania Ramirez is simply wooden as Callisto, and the aforementioned Vinnie Jones is unforgivably bad in a rubber muscle suit as a dull and uninspired version of the Juggernaut. Not to say there’s no bad acting on the side of the X-Men either, though. Despite a stronger showing in X2, Halle Berry is hideous as Storm here, and isn’t helped by the characters increased screen time. Berry allegedly demanded this herself, and the producers caved to her demands. It’s a real shame. More Storm wouldn’t be a bad thing, if only they’d gotten the right actor (*cough* Gina Torres *cough*) to play her.
We haven’t mentioned Angel yet, either. There’s a reason for that. I couldn’t tell you whether Ben Foster was well cast in the part or not, because he’s hardly in it. A lot was made of Angel’s presence in all the publicity for the film, and he gets one of the key opening scenes of the film. You’d think that, with such prominence in the first ten minutes, he’d be one of the main characters. After that, though, he’s mostly a cameo who feels shoehorned in to meet the demand for as many mutants as possible. And he’s not the only character who suffers as a result. Poor Cyclops (James Marsden), arguably the character most short changed by the whole series, is promptly killed off at the beginning of the film after a scene of moping, and it isn’t long before Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is also dead. So, it’s really left to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Magneto to do the heavy lifting, and thankfully, Jackman and McKellen are as good as ever in the parts, with both managing to bring more to the script than it maybe deserves.
Ah, yes. The script. While on the first two films, both Bryan Singer and David Hayter carried writing credits (alongside Zak Penn on X2), neither one of them appears in the credits for The Last Stand. Instead, Zak Penn returns, with Simon Kinberg, and you start to feel that maybe it was Singer and Hayter who were bringing the best stuff to the table. X3 doesn’t really make much sense (we’re vaguely told that Famke Janssen’s Phoenix enjoys destruction, and are supposed to accept this as her entire motivation for killing Professor X and Cyclops, then standing around doing nothing for ages, then attacking Alcatraz), features plenty of moments of people acting out of character (Magneto, in one of the films biggest crimes, starts quipping) and has some incredibly clunky dialogue (the exchange between Professor X and Storm about Storm taking over the headmaster role towards the beginning is truly awful). But perhaps the films biggest sin is simply that it’s boring. I hadn’t watched it since it was in the cinema, but rewatching it to write this column, I just found myself wanting it to end so I could do something fun instead.
But enough negativity. There must be more stuff they get right? Yes, there is. It’s mostly small moments, but they’re there. Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) finally icing up in full is a golden moment, even if the effects aren’t quite up to scratch, and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and Wolverine getting to bust out the fastball special is fun (though did we really need it twice in the same film?). There’s also a very nice moment where Pyro (Aaron Stanford) makes a comment about wishing he could’ve killed Professor X, and Magneto puts him down. It shows that, despite everything, Magneto still considers Charles a friend, and genuinely grieves for his death. Of course, only a few minutes later, Magneto is quipping and showing very little respect for Xavier, showing the wild inconsistency of the character in this script. In fact, the killing of Professor X is a major misstep for the movie as a whole, but it’s only one of any number of major missteps in X-Men: The Last Stand. Still, surely that means things can only get better from here, right? Right?
1. X2, 2. Captain America: The First Avenger, 3. Thor, 4. Iron Man, 5. X-Men, 6. The Incredible Hulk, 7. Daredevil, 8. Iron Man 2, 9. X-Men: The Last Stand, 10. Ghost Rider, 11. Elektra
Recommended Reading – Astonishing X-Men Omnibus
Mikey’s already covered the first volume of Astonishing X-Men over in his review of the Marvel Graphic Novel collection this week on the site. Written by the legendary Joss Whedon, with stunning art by John Cassaday, it’s a very good read, and features the mutant cure pioneered by Doctor Kavita Rao that features in X-Men: The Last Stand. But, to be honest, if you’re going to buy Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, you want the whole thing. It’s a simply brilliant twenty-five issues. It’s everything you would expect from Whedon, being funny, clever and exciting, with some truly dark moments here and there, and one character who, at the very end, won’t be coming home. It also introduced us to the character of Abigail Brand and SWORD (the Sentient World Observation and Response Department), and brought Kitty Pryde back to the X-Men after a long absence. Whedon just gets the characters, and there are so many wonderful moments in here that you won’t be able to put it down until you’ve read all twenty-five issues within. It also features a Spider-Man appearance in the final issue, in which Whedon shows that he would be a perfect match for the webhead somewhere down the line, and should definitely write a Spidey book at some point. The man has now proven that he’s both one of the best X-Men writers of all time, and one of the best Avengers writers of all time. Is there anything he can’t do?
Next week, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.