Already respected round these parts for being one of the more intelligent movie franchises, there’s a fair amount of pressure on this third (possibly final) part of the X-Men series. Happily, those mutant shoulders are up to the task. Or maybe that should be unhappily, because X-Men: The Last Stand is far and away the darkest of the (possible) trilogy.
While stuffed to the gills with the usual mix of moral arguments, slick effects and huge battle sequences, this third movie also features a healthy disregard for its major characters so prepare to be shocked at the casualty list. It’s a very bold move for a crowd-pleasing summer series, but then X Men has never gone the obvious route anywhere. Just resisting the temptation to wrap things up as either good or evil sets the movies apart from many competitors.
The underlying “joke” — should you care to analyse it — is that the mutants, for all their powers, are flawed which makes them resolutely human by any definition. If you don’t want to analyse it though, there’s more than enough whiz bang action stuff to pass the time. Morality plays a larger role in The Last Stand as a pharmaceutical company has created a “cure” for mutants. For some, it’s a blessing. For others though, the debate goes deeper. Their mutant status is not a disease to be cured. It’s who they are.
Unsurprisingly, this possible “cure” splits the mutants into two camps, headed as per by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen). Both are wary of the cure’s potential for abuse but, while Xavier believes in diplomacy, Magneto raises an army in order to destroy the laboratory. If that wasn’t enough, Magneto has also enrolled Phoenix — the mutant formerly known as Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Sometimes, she’s Jean, and as lovely as ever. Phoenix, however, is a mess of immense power and rage. Exactly the sort of mutant that needs curing, of course. And exactly the sort of mutant who can destroy the cure.
X-Men: The Last Stand is slick — it’s directed by Rush Hour’s Brett Ratner, so you wouldn’t expect anything less — interesting, generally well acted and thoroughly enjoyable. And it features Vinnie Jones in a big metal helmet. What more could you possibly want? Finally, do stay until the end of the credits. Reports of the X Men’s demise may yet be premature...