X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006) review

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In commemoration of the upcoming and final installment of the X-Men franchise, DARK PHOENIX (2019), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to review all of the X-Men films made by 20th Century Fox. Should be fun, y’all!

  • X-MEN (2000)
  • X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)
  • X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
  • X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)
  • THE WOLVERINE (2013)
  • X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
  • X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)
  • LOGAN (2017)

Cast:Hugh Jackman (MISSING LINK [2019], FRONT RUNNER [2018], SHOWMAN [2017], and EDDIE/EAGLE [2016]), Famke Janssen (TAKEN [2008], GOLDENEYE [1995], and the upcoming THE POISON ROSE [2019]), Kelsey Grammer (STORKS [2016] and TOY STORY 2 [1999]), Ellen Page (THE CURED [2018], FLATLINERS [2017], TALLULAH [2016], and the upcoming NAYA LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN DOLPHIN [2019]), and Ben Foster (LEAVE NO TRACE [2018], HOSTILES [2017], HELL/HIGH [2016], and the upcoming MEDIEVAL [2019])

Director: Brett Ratner (HERCULES [2014] and RUSH HOUR [1998])
Writers: Simon Kinberg (FANT4STIC [2015] and SHERLOCK HOLMES [2009]) and Zak Penn (READY PLAYER ONE [2018] and INCREDIBLE HULK [2008])
Producer: Kevin Feige (everything from the MCU)
Composer: John Powell (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON [2010], 2 [2014], and 3 [2019], STAR WARS: SOLO [2018], FERDINAND [2017], and JASON BOURNE [2016])
Cinematographer: Dante Spinotti (ANT-MAN/WASP [2018], SAW/LIGHT [2016], and the upcoming ELYSE [2019])
Editors: Mark Goldblatt (DEATH WISH [2018], TERMINATOR [1984] and JUDGMENT DAY [1991], and PREDATOR 2 [1990]), Mark Helfrich (JUMANJI [2017] and PREDATOR [1987]), and Julia Wong (LAST WORD [2017])

This is my honest opinion of: X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

 

(SUMMARY)

Though tolerance for Mutant-kind is higher than it’s ever been before, the semi-peace soon escalates. The government has announced that they have a cure for the Mutant gene to make them human for anyone that wants it. Now the question escalates as to who would want the cure, whether it’s right or wrong, or if it’ll be used as a weapon to force upon Mutants. Magneto (Ian McKellen) believes the worst case scenario and soon attempts to build an army to fight against the humans and the lab that creates the cure. Meanwhile at the Xavier Institute, the loss of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) still hurts Scott “Cyclops” Summers (James Marsden) and leaves to where she died to find peace. Much to his surprise, he hears her clearly in his mind and soon discovers that she actually survived the events. However, something terrible happens and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) sends Ororo “Storm” Munroe (Halle Berry) and Logan “Wolverine” (Hugh Jackman) to investigate. They find Jean unconscious and Scott missing and it’s revealed that when Jean was a child, she had a dual personality. One that everyone knew and loved, and the other calling itself the “Phoenix,” which is pure instinct and rage. Despite Xavier’s attempts to subdue it, the Phoenix escapes and only Xavier and his X-Men can find her and try and stop her from causing any more destruction.

(REVIEW)

This movie starts off both incredibly promising, and raising so many red flags that it almost perfectly tells you what you’re in for. The very first scene with a walking Xavier and a darker-haired Magneto meeting a young Jean (Haley Ramm) is actually quite good. You get a glimpse of who Charles and Erik were like in the past before events in their lives drove them to become enemies. While their friendship has always been a fascinating question mark in the franchise thus far, sticking to their guns but knowing they’d never cause harm to each other, personally. If I’m not mistaken, Stewart and McKellen are friends in real life, and whether or not this franchise is the reason why, their chemistry is fantastic. You believe that once upon a time, they were really good friends with the same agenda, it’s really cool to watch and to see the seeds that would eventually pit them at odds. When they’re talking to Jean’s parents, one of the parents says that Jean is sick, but Erik almost takes offense to the comment, and Charles is trying to be diplomatic. Seeing Jean and her uncontrollable powers, the eerieness of it all, as well as that fun Stan Lee cameo, it’s all really well done. Shot weird, like an over-the-top happy suburban set, but the characters and actors help distract.

Then the movie makes one of its more longer running question marks, and where those red flags starts raising. Where the first scene was so bright and colorful, almost like a sitcom, this scene is arguably one of the most disturbingly dark in the entire franchise, and that’s saying something considering the entirety of LOGAN. We cut to another flashback ten years prior to the main story and a young Angel is trying to SAW OFF HIS OWN WINGS WITH ANY SHARP AND GRATING OBJECT THAT’S AROUND HIM!!! What… the actual… f*** movie!? It’s not like I don’t get it. These X-Men films are supposed to have a darker edge to them, but there’s a difference between a “darker edge” and full on “f***ed up territory”! And on a narrative standpoint, you know why Warren is doing this to himself. His father sees mutation as a disease and wants to cure it and Warren just doesn’t want to disappoint him, or make him mad. But this scene is so grim, violent, and painful that it feels like it’s just there for shock value, rather than be organic to Warren’s personal story. Speaking of which, WARREN HAS NO PERSONAL STORY!!! Dedicating an entire scene to this character, one would think that he would have a bigger impact. He’s got three, maybe four scenes and is in them for about three or four minutes each. Maybe less. His intro scene, his escape from the lab where the cure is being tested, his arrival at the Xavier Institute, saving is father in the big battle scene, and… I’m pretty sure a CGI fly-by scene in the end. It’s so pointless. And to make matters worse, it’s Ben freakin’ Foster! I mean, this is information that didn’t mean shit at the time, but nowadays, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated and underappreciated actors in Hollywood who churns out the best performance in anything that he’s in, from the best of movies to the worst. In terms of aging, this performance hurts so much more because he’s so criminally underutilized, even today, but he’s proven to be a tremendous actor today. Setting that aside, from what I understand, Angel is a hugely popular character in the X-Men comics and to see him reduced to a character that could literally be written out and the movie would miss nothing has got to be a serious blow that really hurts. As a simple fan of good character contribution, this is such a dumb inclusion.

I’m less than ten freakin’ minutes into the movie, folks! The title card hasn’t even rolled by!

While I’m sure that the inclusion of the famous Danger Room was something cool for die-hard fans, I have to admit, I’m under that belief if you can’t do an iconic or popular character or thing justice, or put a unique spin on them, or it, that works for the narrative, then don’t do it. Even though I don’t know much about the comics, I am aware of the Danger Room, and that it only has one throw-away scene is pretty lame and never makes a reappearance in these movies ever again. That may change when the MCU makes their own X-Men movie down the line, but for now, it’s lame to see it so briefly. But I do love Colossus throwing Wolverine and ripping off the head of a virtual Sentinel, as well as the intro to Ellen Page as Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde. Really think about that. This movie came out in 2006 and put Page on the map for a lot in the nerd-culture circles. What came out the following year and put her on the map for even casual movie-goers around the world? Bingo, JUNO (2007)! And she’s given much more to work with in this movie than Foster was as Angel. Though… even this how some serious downsides. For whatever reason, she’s rendered as this “not really possible girlfriend” for Bobby, inciting jealousy in Rogue (Anna Paquin), which is basically all Rogue is reduced to in this movie, which really hurts because I loved the dynamic between Bobby and Rogue.

But let’s jump ahead to one of the many major problems. So we’ve discovered that Jean survived and Xavier reveals that when she was young, he put up psychic barriers in her mind to keep her second personality, “the Phoenix,” dormant from causing harm. There’s a couple of problems presented in this scene. One, Jean was never told about the blocks. Why? What harm would that have done? If the Phoenix was as dangerous as he makes it out to be, then maybe Jean would be completely on board with them. It’s a needless lie that benefits no one. Second, why is Wolverine so passionately against what he’s hearing. “Jean didn’t have a choice?” What the hell are you on about, dude?! You have no idea the circumstances, or have the slightest bit of context as to why this was done to her. Even sans all that, you’re hearing how the Phoenix is dangerous and is likely just as harmful to herself as she would be to others. Don’t get on a mighty steed and act like a knight in shining armor without knowing if you’re saving the princess or the dragon. <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ And the fact that he’s trying to bang her when she finally wakes up less than twenty-four hours after Cyclops’ death, this is especially unlikable of Wolverine, especially since he was trying to relate to Cyclops’ pain over Jean’s death earlier in the film. Look, I know Logan’s a dick, but… damn, this is a special kind of douchie. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>

Oh, and here’s a really bad scene: the mobile prison. This scene is so horrible. So this universe created both plastic weaponry to counteract Magneto’s magnetism, yet somehow never thought to create a plastic mobile prison? They knew he would be looking for the captured Mystique, but that mobile prison isn’t plastic. If Magneto has proven anything, he’s resourceful. Putting your prison on wheels isn’t going to do a whole lot. And did Magneto seriously yoink a freakin’ plastic gun out of that one guard’s hand?! I know the movie hadn’t introduced them yet by this point, but that sure didn’t look like a standard issued Glock! Honestly, this whole scene was poorly directed.

This likely should be a smaller complaint compared to the rest of the problems with the movie, but I didn’t like how Pyro was portrayed here. In X2, he was a morally confused kid. Sure, he was a show-off and a bit of a dick, like most teenagers, but he did have his loyal moments. You saw how upset he was that a human cop shot Wolverine in the head and knew that he hated that he and his kind are instantly considered hostile, even when they’re cooperating as best they can. You understood why he attacked those cops outside of Bobby’s house. But now… he’s been reduced to nothing more than a thug. He’s blindly on board with Magneto and his plans to the point where all he’s missing is a collar and a leash. He even goes so far as to say, “I would have killed the Professor if you’d given me the chance.” Dude, Xavier gave you a home, peers to be comfortable with and safe to be around. You had a roof over your head, practical education, structure, friends, likely three square meals a day, and you traded all of that for camping in the woods and to unleash your inner ungrateful asshole. That’s just an insult to an otherwise compelling side character that we saw in X2. I have no idea who in the writing process thought this was a good idea, but it’s an awful development.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

 

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***

 

They finally killed off Cyclops. This… is very conflicting. On the one hand, this was the perfect opportunity to try and make him the team leader he should have always been, but they kill him off after having only two scenes! I know, I keep seeing articles pop up about why Cyclops isn’t a popular character, but I’ve seen an equal amount that say why he’s essential. On the other hand, at the time that this movie came out, it was declared that there wasn’t going to be any more X-Men movies. This was the final one. Even if they had done Cyclops right, would it have been too little too late? It took the final movie to get him right? Whatever your thoughts, I think the movie almost had no other choice but to kill him off. Cyclops has otherwise been useless the last two films. Might as well put the nail in the coffin, rather than try to save face.

 

Here’s another question mark of a scene: Mystique’s betrayal. So she goes to government guys and feeds them information as to where Magneto has been hiding his Brotherhood of Mutants. At face value, we understand the motivations. She’s angry and hurt by Magneto for being abandoned. Makes sense. So the government guys send their soldiers to take them out… only to fall into a trap and it’s only Multiple Man. Um… so there’s some issues here. One, I have a question. Did Mystique betray Magneto then? Or did she simply carry out her end of an even greater plan? This barely makes sense because the last time we see them, he tells her that she’s not one of them anymore. We never see a scene where he locates her and asks for her help again, and I doubt she’d give it considering how he treated her. So… maybe she really was betraying him. But then… how did these soldiers fall for a trap that Magneto had no way of knowing that he’d need to set? I suppose if any explanation could be offered, Magneto counted on Mystique’s hurt feelings to sell him out and moved up his plans to attack Alcatraz, but again, that’s pure speculation and not even remotely confirmed. A simple line, like, “I knew she’d betray us, so I moved us out early,” from Magneto, and that’s all that would be needed. But here’s the final question mark. What was this plan supposed to really accomplish? To lessen the forces they’d have to contend with at Alcatraz? Didn’t work out too well as it still had plenty of soldiers on standby. Also, it’s not like Multiple Man used his clones to kill these soldiers, so for all intents and purposes, they could still have regrouped, got into the helicopters that you know they took to get to the forest, and went back as reinforcements. Not a single soldier died in this failed raid, so… what was the point?

 

How about that ending? Specifically when Beast injected Magneto with the cure. Okay, not a bad plan, but… um… did y’all forget about the homicidal Jean? Not that I know how much of the cure was needed to take away Magneto’s powers, but… why in horse piss did NO ONE SAVE A COUPLE MORE FOR JEAN?!?! No, seriously, I need an explanation for this one! Even if you needed all of those needles to take his powers (which ultimately didn’t do the trick anyway, if the ending with him moving that chess piece is anything to go by), but there’s an entire that has to have a surplus supply of “cure ammo” to grab and have Wolverine inject her with them! There’s literally no reason for her to have died! And what a middle finger to Jean in general! Kill her… bring her back… just to kill her again! Just… f*** you too, movie!

 

And what was up with Magneto’s line, “What have I done?” regarding Jean unleashing her powers and causing pandemonium? Um… I don’t know. What a great question. But here’s an even bigger question, why did he bring her there at all, if not to cause the damage that she is? He wanted Jean on his side for… some reason. What “practical” use did he have in mind when she came along?!

 

***

 

 

 

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***END SPOILERS***

To the movie’s little credit, it does present a very interesting question: should Mutants take the cure? Both sides of the argument are understandable and do a good job of being fairly layered. On the X-Men’s side, Storm thinks it’s an act of cowardice to accept the cure. Mutants aren’t sick, they’re just another branch of human life. A Mutant isn’t inherently dangerous, or no more than a human is with their firearms, so there shouldn’t be a reason to accept it. On the other hand, Hank “Beast” McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), thinks that there’s nothing wrong with a “get out of jail free card,” and you can probably argue just how much of that statement is really a metaphor. Mutants aren’t treated well, and some mutants, like Rogue, have powers that are burden to others and themselves, and have zero control over. Personally, I think it’s the most unique theme in the entire franchise.

Also, there are some pretty sweet action scenes. Wolverine versus Juggernaut at the Grey house, Magneto’s intro when he locates the mobile prison, Magneto hijacking the Golden Gate bridge and taking it to Alcatraz, the epic climax in general, it’s all exactly what we’d expect from a good X-Men movie. Too bad the movie as a whole isn’t a good movie, but I’ll take my cookie crumbs. Although I would have preferred some of Beast’s action moments to have been CGI, as some of his movements look like awkward wire work. The launching, roaring, and savage attacking is obviously fine, but the more acrobatic stuff just looked weird.

And I know a lot of people hated the “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” line, but… no, I love it. I hear it and I instantly laugh.

Now I’m asking myself a question… what would I have done differently to improve on the story? Well… I think most elements in this movie made it not work as a whole, but I have a couple of ideas. For one thing, I would have pushed Wolverine to a far more supporting role. I know Fox probably mandated that he still be a central character, considering his marketability, but honestly, Storm was finally given some personality that she’d been lacking these last movies. I would have made her the more central character, and here’s why. She, Jean, and Cyclops were among Xavier’s first students. With that comes an implication that they have something of a bond with each other. Long-running friends who understood each other in ways that not even Xavier could. Their relationships were always unexplored, but this could have been an opportunity to do something about it. What if we had a scene where we’re at the Grey house where all the dramatic stuff eventually happens, and we have a short scene with Storm and Jean talking to each other? Just as friends. Storm’s trying to calm her down by talking about some charming memory, finding some way to reconnect with the friend that she once knew? And we get glimpses of Jean pushing past the Phoenix, trying to hang on to her humanity, and we see that bond in full view as Storm is trying to save her and Jean wants to be saved, but the Phoenix is too powerful and it ultimately fails. It was them that should have had that face-off in the end. Think about it, <<<SPOILERS>>> [ Scott’s dead and killing Jean means that she’s the last of Xavier’s first students. That has to be an emotional struggle in of its own. Two long-time friends, two powerful mutants trying to over-power one another, but it’s more of an emotional battle, this could have been such a redeeming element to the story that we’ll never get to see. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>

Overall… man, what an extraordinary letdown. From how good the first two movies were, this was a hard sit. From pointless characters, to pointless plot points, to poorly directed scenes, the sad truth is that this movie had so much potential and it squandered every second of it. Sure, I think most of the action scenes save it from being a total dumpster fire, and I give credit that it’s a bit of a smarter film that asks challenging questions, but that’s it. This movie is not good and due to DAYS OF FUTURE PAST ignoring the events depicted here, it’s also an unnecessary watch.

My honest rating for X-MEN: THE LAST STAND: a weak 3/5

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