..

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Patrick Stewart
Director:  Brett Ratner
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS 6.1 ES
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  104 Minutes
Release Date:  October 3, 2006

“They wish to cure us.  But I say to you…

WE ARE THE CURE.”

Film ***1/2

X-Men: The Last Stand delivers on the promise that had been building from the first two installments.  There’s more action, more spectacle, and more pure emotion at play here than we’ve yet seen.  And sadly, I suppose it’s all just in the knick of time to say goodbye to the franchise.

Hard to believe at once this third chapter was rumored to be a disaster.  Maybe that was just because the sure-handed director of the first two Bryan Singer had departed to turn his talents toward the revival of Superman, leaving the final X-Men installment in the hands of Brett Ratner, most known for the Rush Hour and Friday films.  Perhaps I was a little worried, too.  But I shouldn’t have been.

Ratner delivered on the cinematic vision auteured by Singer, and brought to fans the finale we’ve been waiting for.  For years we’ve been told of the inevitable war brewing between mankind and mutants.  In The Last Stand, it erupts with a fury.

But that’s getting a little far ahead.  We actually begin in the past, when a younger Charles Xavier (Stewart) and Magneto (McKellan) visit the home of a promising young mutant, Jean Grey.  Why begin there, when Dr. Grey (Janssen) died bravely saving her teammates in the last chapter?  Well, X-Men fans already know that a Phoenix always rises from the ashes.

In the present, or as the film tells us, the not-too-distant future, something happens to completely change the make-up of the relationship between mutants and normal humans:  a cure, found in the DNA of a silent mutant boy.  With one shot, the mutating genes can be suppressed permanently.  For some, like Rogue (Paquin), facing a life of never being able to know human contact, it’s a dream come true.  For others, like Storm (Berry), it’s an affront to believe that there’s something ‘wrong’ with her and her kind that requires a ‘cure’.  For the ever-alert Magneto, it’s the beginning of the end for either humanity or mutant kind.

The cure is meant to be voluntary and only for those who wish to use it, but it doesn’t take long before both sides realize it can also be used as a weapon against mutants.  And that means only one thing:  an all out fight to the finish between Magneto and his Brotherhood and the X-Men, who, caught between Magneto and those who would use the ‘cure’ against them, have to make some tough choices.  And fast.

This installment boasts, as I mentioned, quite a number of emotional punches, none of which I want to give away.  But I will say, as an avid horror movie fan, I haven’t seen anything of late that was as terrifying as the Phoenix.  And that’s all I’m going to say.

The best addition this time around is the great Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Hank McCoy, aka The Beast.  Only an actor of Mr. Grammer’s caliber could bring so much humanity through the fur and makeup.  And he has a few surprises up his hairy sleeves, too!

The cast continues to be terrific, with what I still aver to be a stroke of genius in having Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan play the two leads.  Who could have done better as Professor X and Magneto, I ask you?  And of course, Hugh Jackman continues to anchor the proceedings capably as the brooding, cynical but dependable Wolverine. 

I’ve said so little in this review, but that’s for a reason…this is the kind of movie that you’re better off knowing very little about before you start.  There are quite a few surprises.  Suffice to say, there’s better action sequences and special effects than ever before, each using the other to bring the energy to exhilarating heights.  And there’s more at stake with this story than we’ve seen up to now, so naturally, the overall impact is greater.

In the end, Brett Ratner had the last laugh on the naysayers, and proved himself to be more than just a talented apprentice.  He now takes his place amongst the greats in the action genre.  I only regret that there doesn’t seem to be room for one more go around with the X-Men with him at the helm. 

But it’s Hollywood, right?  Never say die when there’s a box office to be made.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Make SURE you watch the movie through the end of the credits.  Trust me.

Video ****

“You would die for them?”…

As with their first two offerings, Fox continues to impress and impress with the X-Men on DVD.  This is one sharp looking anamorphic transfer, one that encompasses a lot of detail in a lot of extreme lighting situations, and handles it all with crispness and clarity and no visible compression.  Highest marks.

Audio ****

“No.  Not for them…”

You have a choice of extended digital tracks, either Dolby or DTS, but whichever you pick, buckle up for the ride.  The audio is dynamic, powerful and busy, with all speakers getting their share of distinct workout and the subwoofer delivering a constant and powerful bottom end.  Dialogue is clean and clear, and the constant action and audio effects are potent and razor sharp.

Features ***

“…for you…”

The extras are highlighted by two commentary tracks; one with Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, and the other with the film’s three producers.  I prefer the director/writer one, as those gentlemen seemed a little more emotionally involved and enthusiastic about the work, but both are solid listens.

There are 10 deleted scenes and 3 alternate endings with optional commentary, plus a look at the world of Marvel and some trailers and promos.

Summary:

X Men: The Last Stand is simply a terrific film, and perhaps an indication of what the series, while already good, could have been all along.  This is the meatiest and the mightiest of the X-Men.  If it is indeed the final chapter, it couldn’t have gone out any better.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com