by Richard X, published on Sunday, September 10th, 2006|
When a film is poorly received, it has become fashionable to lay the blame on the director. If you agree that the director is the sole author of the film and therefore bears full responsibility, whether or not the film does well, then alas, blame Brett Ratner. Yet, the reason X-Men: The Last Stand, the (hopefully) final instalment of the superhero saga previously helmed by Bryan Singer, is so bad is directly the result of some horrible screenwriting and poor directorial choices on Ratners part. Both conspire to end one of the best superhero franchises of the last 20 years in a rushed, embarrassing whimper.
The story picks up where the previous film left off, after the death of Jean Grey. Still grieving, Scott (aka Cyclops), turning into more of a sad sack than he already was, heads off to the lake where Jean Grey perished and lo and behold, she comes back to life as an angry psychic called The Phoenix, a mutant even more powerful than Xavier and Magneto. The Phoenix sides with Magneto and his army as a means of destroying the mutant cure, a small boy (Cameron Bright) who has the ability to cure the mutant X-gene and thus turn mutants into ordinary human beings. Should the mutants accept the cure so they can live out their lives as normal human beings, or reject the cure because nothing is wrong with them in the first place? A storyline as interesting and morally complicated as this offers weighty issues that are not typically relegated to films with characters named Wolverine and Storm.
Yet, the screenwriters completely bungle this outline and end up turning it into patchy mess that seems frightened to engage its subject matter. Instead of having the characters mine through shades of grey on the issue, which would create conflict and interest essential ingredients in a well-told drama - the screenwriters choose moral absolutes. Where is the conflict in that? The Rogue (Anna Paquin) scenario, which provided a sad counterweight to the giddy enthusiasm of procuring superhero powers, is so badly handled that it is amazing Anna Paquin agreed to reprise her role at all. Possessing a power to kill by touch alone, restricting her from connecting physically to the people around her, specifically with her romantic crush, Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), her storyline is briefly mentioned in the beginning before completely disappearing from the film altogether. Characters in X-Men: The Last Stand are constantly being cheated out of their full character arcs.
In an ill-advised flashback that directly opens the film, Professor Xavier and Magneto arrive at the house of a young Jean Grey in an effort to persuade the preteen to accept training for her special psychic powers. Again, another interesting setup wasted on indulging in some eerily weird special effects applied to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to make them appear younger than they really are. Ultimately, I dont understand why the scene is included at all, but I have the sneaking suspicion it remained in the final film to pad the miniscule running time.
What we are treated to is a grab bag of inconsequential plots and subplots with no organising thread or logic. Ratner and the screenwriters choose to linger on random characters, including introducing new mutants, which seems a tad desperate this late in the game. Uninspiring action scenes and some less than enthusiastic character portrayals (most notably Halle Berry as Storm and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine) results in a rushed and deflating climax. X-Men: The Last Stand is not only the worst film in the franchise, its one of the worst films of the year, made even more disheartening because the broad storyline conceived had strong potential. I guess the blame ultimately has to lie solely on Brett Ratner. I mean, he did agree to direct this nonsense.
Rating: 1 out of 4