"Last" X-Men Stands Strong
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2006 24 May
Release Date: May 26, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language)
Run Time: 104 min.
Director: Brett Ratner
Actors: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden
The X-Men return to the big screen for what the title of the series’ third installment promises will be their “last stand,” but when the results are as enjoyable as this effective film, why stop? Far worse films have spawned sequels, and the X-Men franchise still looks to have plenty of life left in it.
Patrick Stewart returns in "X-Men: The Last Stand" as Charles Xavier, head of a school for mutant children in – the movie informs us – the “not too distant future.” For those unfamiliar with the series, these mutants, ostracized and feared by the human race, have unique individual abilities. Xavier teaches the mutants how to harness their gifts for good purposes.
His nemesis, also an old friend, is Magneto (Ian McKellen), who desires to bring about a great war between humans and mutants. Hastening the conflict: a new cure for mutantcy. Should the mutants accept the cure and choose to live as humans, on human terms, or should they retain their unique identities? When tensions between the human and mutant factions escalate, the president looks to a mutant, Dr. Henry McCoy (Kelsey Grammer), to help mediate a solution.
Fighting alongside Xavier are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Scott (James Marsden) and Jean Gray (Famke Janssen). Magneto’s allies include the lethal Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) and Cyclops (also played by James Marsden).
The larger battle for the future is complemented by the personal struggles among the mutants. Wolverine continues to pine for Scott’s girlfriend, Jean, counted for dead at the conclusion of "X-2." When she reappears, the romance between Jean and Wolverine kicks into overdrive, but all is not what it seems. Xavier explains that Jean is one half of a dual personality; the other half, the Phoenix, is a fiery all-consuming being, restrained by Xavier when Jean was younger.
“I chose the lesser of two evils,” Xavier explains.
Magneto, aware of Jean’s great power, uses her as a weapon of war and calls for an army of mutants to follow him into combat. The explosive conclusion to the epic showdown between Jean and Xavier is one of many startling developments that will leave viewers wondering how the series might continue.
The philosophical issues raised by the "X-Men" series are simple but profound. How should we treat others who are different from us? Should we use our individual gifts for good purposes or for evil? Are we willing to sacrifice our very lives for the betterment of others? Will societal change take place gradually and peacefully or does it sometimes need to be brought about, in Malcolm X’s words, “by any means necessary” (a line spoken by Magneto earlier in the series and repeated by another character in "The Last Stand")?
Fans of the first two "X-Men" movies, both directed by Bryan Singer, worried when Brett Ratner (the "Rush Hour" movies, "The Family Man") signed on to direct the third film, but Ratner hasn’t embarrassed himself. Far from it, he successfully packs more characters into a film with a leaner running time than the first two films in the series – a positive development in an era of blockbuster films with bloated running times but skimpy scripts – while retaining a sense of wonder and fun in the storytelling. It all adds up to enjoyable, escapist entertainment.
Viewers are advised to stay through the end credits for a surprising development.
AUDIENCE: 13 and up
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; multiple profanities; one male character is said to have “only one thing” on his mind.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Cigar smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing; an erotic scene between Wolverine and Jean; a mutant is transformed into an unclothed human.
- Violence: A mutant promises to kill a man, then follows through; numerous other killings and fights, as well as massive destruction of property; forcible medical injections; a character asks to be killed.
- Ethics: Mutants are said to be “curable,” but they fight back, claiming that there’s nothing wrong with them.