By Cornelius A. Fortune
There’s something beating beneath the skin of this thing, but it ain’t a heart.
Could be the percussion on the soundtrack, biding adieu to a once great-and-future franchise, by a director who didn’t have time to know the characters well enough to make a casual viewer care.
The heartbeat found in the previous “X-Men” films, which were imbued with guts and emotional resonance by the talented Mr. Bryan Singer (who ditched the X-Men for a go at “Superman”), is almost completely lost. Be warned.
“X-Men: The Last Stand” has a few moments of tranquility before the thing explodes off the screen – and let’s be clear on this: a lot of stuff blows up, is thrown telepathically, people scream and the Brooklyn Bridge is ripped from its foundation, so the special effects aren’t to blame here.
For my money, director Brett Ratner does a competent job, but 20 minutes into the film, you sense something’s missing and you may not be able to put your finger on it upon first viewing.
“The Last Stand” begins with the promise of a so-called “mutant cure,” which will make any mutant (a human with special powers that manifest during puberty) normal. Once Magneto (a mutant leader who believes that mutants are superior to normal humans) and his allies discover what the mutant cure really is, they decide to destroy all traces of it. If it comes down to violence and deaths, Magneto is more than happy to deliver it, as long as it furthers his mutant brotherhood. Consequently, The Brotherhood is the name of his new band of Big Bad mutants, who enjoy a good fight with humans and mutants equally.
Though dead at the end of X2, Jean Grey returns in “The Last Stand” quite changed. She becomes a danger not only to her friends, but to the Homo sapiens of the world as well. Professor Charles Xavier must contend with both Jean Grey’s apocalyptic powers and the malevolent Brotherhood; the X-Men are in the middle of this conflict, eventually siding with the Homo sapiens.
X-Men fans are going to hate this movie or respond lukewarmly at best. Like the “Star Wars” prequels, you’re best to leave your previous experience with the franchise behind (far behind) and look at this as a starting-over point – a new chapter if you will. No matter how much they want to make “The Last Stand” feel like closure (with an optional continuation teased at the very end of the film), I didn’t feel it – closure I mean. I wanted more from the characters.
There isn’t a whole lot of carry-over from the first two installments, unless you’re talking about the main characters, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and Cyclops (James Marsden), who’s shamefully underused. There is a reason for this, but I can’t accept the answer the film gives me.
Halle Berry gets a lot more to do in this film, but it’s probably too little too late, because we never got to really know her in the first two. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen shed the most of whatever light is let into the film, with great performances, particularly from McKellen, who seems to be springing up just about everywhere these days.
No amount of effects-laden smack-down sequences was able to jar this thing to any semblance of wakefulness, except maybe for its theme.
Though I’m not entirely sure that human or gay rights were at the forefront of making this film, it had to have been running somewhere beneath the current, because “The Last Stand” resonates so strongly when viewed as a metaphor to current events and these “cures for homosexuality” that are springing out of the darkness. Most people with a working brain agree with the X-Men: there’s nothing wrong with being a “mutant.”
For gay and lesbian viewers, the so-called “mutant cure” runs smack dab in the middle of current claims that homosexuality can be cured. It raises important and intriguing questions like, if you could be “cured” would you want to be cured? If only the whole thing fused together in the film with the many possibilities that this premise offered…
Comic fans are advised to leave their baggage at the door, sit back and enjoy the ride. If you’re looking for more than that, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is not for you. The film manages to deliver the typical summer blockbuster that, if nothing else, will have you cheering for the good guys.