X-Men: The Last Stand

Year: 2006
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Brett Rattner
Writer: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stamford, Ellen Page, Vinnie Jones
More fascinating for the politics behind the camera than for anything on screen. Halle Berry's career could do no wrong after Monster's Ball. Ironically it was on the strength of the last X-Men film that she reached such heights (and attention, as with Swordfish, opposite X-Men co-star Jackman).

A couple of years ago she would never have played part of an action ensemble - she was going to a similar place that Sandra Bullock, Sharon Stone and Julia Roberts had before her - that of the female megastar whose name was always above the title and who routinely commanded $15-20m plus per film.

To things happened - Gothika and Catwoman. If you know anything about Hollywood, you'll realise that after they both aborted badly with critics and audiences, Berry's acting currency tanked, and her role as Storm in X-Men: The Last Stand is the net result of the last few years - part of a crowd again, but with sufficient clout to insist her character have a much stronger part. Hence her quasi-leadership of the school and the mutant community after the demise of Dr Xavier (Stewart).

With their last battle against intolerance and injustice over, the mutants are enjoying a period of relative peace with humans. Cyclops (Marsden) is grieving Jean's (Janssen) death, Magneto is amassing an army of followers and springing Mystique (Romijn) from custody, and a pharmaceutical firm has developed a mutant 'cure' that's sending ripples through the political world and shaky peace.

The whole thing becomes a stronger parable for homosexuality or race than the predecessors (as many believes the series is about), but it makes several large mistakes.

The first is the handling of multiple storylines and characters. Singer, who jumped ship to do Superman Returns, did it with finesse last time around - every character had their place and everything fit without bursting at the seams. An example of where character is rudely abandoned for action is Kelsey Grammar's Beast. He plays a politician and statesman for most of the movie, working with the president and government to foster good mutant-human relations, but turns on a dime when the script demands it to take off his suit and beat the shit out of the bad guys along with everyone else.

Rattner, who jumped ship early on in Superman Returns to swap places with Singer, doesn't handle it nearly as delicately. Stories and subplots throw their arms around very ungracefully and nothing feels like it gets the credit it's due.

But the biggest stumble is that X-Men 3 has too much of an idea of it's own importance. X2 was small, zippy and cool enough to impress as a blockbuster, much like The Matrix. Everything wrong with X3 is given flesh in the scene where the angel boy breaks out of the straps holding him down as they're about to administer the mutant cure to him.

He bursts forth, the wings erupt out of either side of his body and he puffs his chest up with pride, his face to one side reverently like a DNA Magazine centre spread. It's too bloated and top-heavy, taking itself far too seriously.

One surprise is the number of characters who are bumped off or removed from the story permanently - it's apparently serious that this is the Last Stand. Unless they can bring Singer back for number four, they needn't bother.

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