X-Men: The Last Stand

I was going through some files on my computer, and I found this review I wrote some time ago. It was out of date when I wrote it, so it’s not significantly less relevant now. So, here you go…

 

Was TLS the best X-Men film? No. It falls short of X-Men and X2… but it’s miles better than either of the first two Wolverine films. Let’s just get that out of the way first.

So what, exactly, is so very wrong about TLS? I recently watched all three film of that trilogy inside of a week, and I have come to the conclusion that the fan-boys are just angry about what they perceive as a disservice to the source material.

I never read an X-Men comic book, and I don’t plan to. The genre of superhero comics is great fodder for Hollywood, but I don’t think anyone is fool enough to think they should serve as treatments for films. They are inspirations for, hopefully, the more grounded, more consistent, more realistic tales that you put on celluloid. (Or, you know, the digital version of celluloid.)

So my experience with the X-Men characters and their universe, when I saw TLS, was entirely bound up in the first two films by Bryan Singer. TLS was the capper to a trilogy, and the assumption is always that, when you finish up the trilogy, all bets are off. You can (spoiler alert!) kill Darth Vader, you can destroy the One Ring, you can even have Batman and Catwoman hook up.

There were a lot of those moments in TLS, moments that seemed to “break the rules”. But let’s review them and see if any of them are truly egregious in the story universe created by the Singer films:

The Death of Cyclops — I don’t know about you, but Cyclops is just barely above Storm as The Most Boring X-Man. His power is doofy, and the only drama he provides is that his limp romance with Jean is kind of (but not really) threatened by Wolverine. When “The Phoenix” kills him you not only create a tragic moment for Jean, you relieve us from sitting through any more scenes with such a useless character.

The Death of Professor X — Well, since he’s the Old Counselor, he kind of has to die. (See Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore.) But, since he’s a comic book character, they can use some crazy logic to bring him back to life. (See Gandalf.) And, if you watch the series carefully, you notice that the Professor is always taken out of commission before the third act. (By a sabotaged Cerebro in the first film, by kidnapping in the second.) So “killing” him (and mining that death for drama) is totally in keeping with the genre, and with the series.

Mystique Loses Her Powers — You can’t have a cure weapon without someone getting cured. The stakes have to be made plain. And having it be Magneto’s main squeeze, and then having him dis her? That’s what you want. You want your bad guy acting like a douche, but in a way that totally fits with his world view.

Rogue Loses Her Powers — This one really seems to set people off. Rogue was, apparently, supposed to become some sort of super bad-ass, stealing people’s powers right and left. But it was never actually made clear (or even indicated) in the first two films that if she sucked a mutant completely dry (i.e. dead) that she’d get the powers permanently. So why get all annoyed when something that wouldn’t necessarily ever really happen didn’t happen? Her arc was an important one to dramatize: the mutant who was actually happy there was a cure. Her power sucked (literally!) and she gets to have her happy ending without it. I thought that was a nice capper to her storyline. (Personally, I’m way more annoyed that her part was cut from Days of Future Past.)

Magneto Loses His Powers — This was a great third act surprise, and a fitting comeuppance for a guy who was so quick to dismiss Mystique early on. This was, of course, completely invalidated by a sly scene at the end, but at least we got a few moments of drama.

Wolverine Kills Jean — Not that I’ve ever heard anyone complain about this one. For all I know, this was exactly how it played out in the comics. But it was a strange and heartbreaking moment when this poor sap is forced to skewer his true love so that she doesn’t, I don’t know, rip the planet in half or something. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and it surprised the part of me that kept expecting Jean to “snap out of it”. It was a great ending.

Now, was TLS perfect. Oh, certainly not. The ridiculous goth treatments of the “bad” mutants? That guy who throws secreted spikes? The deaging effects in the opening scene? The strange parallel story about Angel that is literally its own five minute movie stuck inside a larger film? None of that worked. But none of that was annoying enough to really detract from what worked. Beast worked. Kitty worked. Storm’s hair worked (finally). The scene between Jean, Charles and Erik culminating in Charles getting vaporized? That really worked. It was amazing.

So, in conclusion, the fan-boys are wrong, I’m right.

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