Sunday, May 28, 2006

Film: X-Men: The Last Stand

I heard rumors a couple of weeks ago that the new X-Men film would be the last one. Hogwash, I thought, as the franchise has been growing in popularity, with X-Men II being one of, if not, the best comic book film adaptation of all time.

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The premise behind The Last Stand is that a pharmaceutical company has created a "cure" that suppresses the gene that allows a person to develop a genetic mutation, if their "x" gene was present. The President sees this as a cure while Magneto believes that mutants are just fine the way they are, and are, in fact, the next step in human evolution. Another battle is brewing with the Dept. of Homeland Security ramping up and the familiar lingo associated with the war on terror and Bin Laden being bandied about. Magneto becomes the world's most wanted man.

While this is happening, a very powerful X-Man from the first film, reappears, but isn't quite herself. With a dual-personality, Professor Xavier seeks to control her carefully, lest her darker, wilder, personality take over. When calm, she seems indifferent and otherwordly. When she loses her cool, she takes on an undead look, particularly in her eyes, before turning everyone around her to dust.

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The President's cabinet now includes mutant Dr. Hank McCoy (Kelsey Grammer - Beast in the comic book series), who is in charge of the Department of Mutant Affairs.

Once again, Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, the grizzly, but loyal Canadian with unbreakable metal bones and the ability to heal injuries. He's still the most prominent character in the film for me. Patrick Stewart also does a fine job as Professor Charles Xavier, but it's Ian McKellan who's magnetic as the charasmatic leader of anti-mutant rebellion, Magneto, who is the most riveting actor in the film. New characters are introduced with the same shallow convenience that we have seen from the comics. Witness the introduction of the cheeky Juggernaut (British actor Vinnie Jones seen in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch) who provides some of the funniest one-liners. Missing is Nightcrawler and there's no mention of his absence. In one of the early scenes, which appears very similar to scenes from the Terminator series, we see the appearance of the gigantic, menacing robots from the comic book series known as the Sentinels.

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The film ended up feeling shallow and heartless. It was depressing to see key characters knocked off. There's little character development. You don't get inside of the heads of the characters and therefore they don't seem as appealing as they could be. The script basically was weak and meant to dazzle but at the expense of genuine storytelling. I almost felt as letdown after watching this film as I did after watching the Fantastic Four movie. Director Brett Ratner's X-Men pales in comparison to what Bryan Singer brought to the screen in the first two installments. I'll give them credit for taking chances with the characters, but the overall story was not well written or executed.

We are teased about the potential for another sequel, however but you have to watch the closing credits to find out. Fox has apparently confirmed X-Men 4. Also, IMDB has entries for the movies Magneto and Wolverine, both set for 2007. Yes, Stan Lee shows up again, this time as a neighbor watering his lawn.

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