X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Brett Ratner
viewed: 06/02/06 at the AMC Loews Metreon 15, SF, CA

Not surprisingly, with the departure of Bryan Singer, director of the first two installments, and the insert of director Brett Ratner, whose claim to fame were the action/comedy Rush Hour series, the X-men franchise hit the rocks of mediocrity rather hard. Singer, whose work is probably above average at best, left to make the coming Superman reprise and left the super-mutant group struggling with one another for screen time.

Eh, it’s exactly what everyone else is saying about it. Too many characters and plot lines vying for the spotlight, with none of them getting proper treatment. There is an aspect of “last gasp” to this film, feeling like everybody has to get their 15 seconds of screen time since it might be the last shot.

I’ve felt that the main success of the X-men movies has been that they got a lot of the characters “right”. This simply means that they were able to bring them to the screen with casting, effects, make-up, and narrative in a way that really captures their comic book origins. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the prime example of this. And this time, they bring The Beast, played by Kelsey Grammer, in bright blue, which I thought was pretty good. Grammer’s voice I think found its greatest role in Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons and I can hardly hear him speak without thinking of that character.

The comic has long portrayed the “mutant condition” as a metaphor for racism (originally) and later for homophobia and other societal fears of non-mainstream culture, non-white culture. In X-men: The Last Stand it’s a myriad of things, but the “cure” for mutantism echoes I think a bit more of historical psychological approaches to homosexuality, seeing it as an aberration that must be “fixed” rather than a variation that can be accepted. Ultimately, it’s simply “difference” that is being eradicated (and I want to say that with the French accent on difference). I don’t think that this film really has anything to say in particular on this issue, but merely rides existing rhetoric in the comic narratives to suggest a sense of something more than lots of explosions and characters with “real cool” superhuman abilities.

As a summer movie denuded of all this comic book expectation, it’s not too bad. It’s entertaining enough, hyperactive and overfull of material and characters, but enjoyable. Being a San Franciscan, I enjoyed the major set-piece with the Golden Gate Bridge being moved from Marin to Alcatraz.

Lots of characters are either killed or made powerless in this film, though the ending leaves the door open for future installments. Certainly, as many others would suggest, one hopes that they will find a more interesting director to take the helm next time.

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