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Monday, May 15, 2006

Film Review: X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar

Not having seen the first two movies in this series, or the Marvel comic books from whence the superhero saga originates, and never having appreciated the wisdom in transfering pubescent fascination with all-powerful beings in varying degrees of leotards onto the big screen, I was somewhat ambivalent about where Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen would take this sci-fi superlative. To the max and beyond - as it turns out - and usually in a good way.

The plot: In the future mutants (humans with an x-gene that manifests itself at puberty) with super-powers (each have a different sort involving power, speed, mind reading etc.) are in danger of being "cured" out of existence by the US government as normal mainstream humans feel threatened (with the help of political fearmongering) that the mutants will misuse their powers and take over. The weaponisation of the "cure" that will make them normal humans and destroy their power instantly is by way of injections loaded into guns. McKellen's Holocaust-surviving meglomaniac character doesn't help ease the tension with Republican-type for us or against us speeches to the disgruntled mutant underclass and a formation of the "Brotherhood" to stop the normal humans at any cost. Stewart plays the professor at a university for well-adjusted mutants who organises a resistance to the other resistance in favour of co-operation with the administration using his team of x-men. So there are sort of three sides in this countdown to genocide.

The parallels with discrimination, misuse of state power and contemporary political discourse are very strong and does a great deal to elevate the storyline above the gargantuan fight scenes, full orchestral love matches and - at times - almost laughable scenarios: especially Kelsey Grammar as blue Secretary for Mutant Affairs. It took a while to overcome the absurdity of it all for this reviewer not acquainted with the earlier two movies. But, for all the teeth, claws and special effects this sci-fi action flick was actually quite enjoyable. The later spectacular assault on Alcatraz Island, where the "cure" is being manufactured in the name of "freedom" definitely trumps the earlier scenes beset with someone with a power to make all the objects in a nearby vicinity float around - tedious compared with what is to come.

A colleague who had high expectations was a little disappointed by the lack of new characters. I thought there were plenty. It was the Star Wars type acting and cheesy lines here and there that was a bit wobbly. It's big screen entertainment that threatens to become overwhelming - and that's as it should be.

3.5/5 stars

Official site - requires Macromedia 8 (?)


At 16/5/06 11:21 am, Blogger t selwyn said...

For the fans on the Superherohype thread: my colleague later explained that although there were some new characters, like Juggernaut (played well with some humourous moments by that British actor whose name escapes me at the moment. Owen... (?)), they could have brought more in from the Marvel universe at the end and not enough attention was paid to some of them.

But as a first time viewer there were more than enough to cope with - which is why I didn't bother to get into all the love triangles, enmity etc. between them all, as it became a bit "The OC" esp. with Anna Paquin and Wolverine and the girl whose power was always going to be too much. - at times.

I also thought an exchange between Wolverine and this other stubbled chap in the hallway of the university early on was amusingly (and maybe not entirely unintentionally) homo-erotic.

The special effects were spectacular especially when McKellen's Magneto character uses his forces to move metals in San Fransisco harbour ('nough said).

The movie works on several fronts: action, sci-fi, socio-political commentary, special effects and even romance between Wolverine and the women-who-cannot-be-tamed - and as a complete outsider to the x-men, I found it very entertaining once I got my head around Kelsey Grammar as a blue furry mutant in a suit giving press conferences with the US President completely dead pan and once it warmed up after the first third.

I would have benefited from a catch-up about where the story was up to in the beginning... maybe. Or it may be too confusing to put it all in there when you can pick it up as it goes along. It is primarily an action entertainment after all.

I note too at the film preview (in Auckland) there was an extremely tight security and cellphone impoundment. People waiting in their seats actually had to talk to one another instead of tapping away on their bloody phones - remarkable scenes!

At 30/5/06 10:34 am, Blogger llew said...

Great! I grew up with X-Men comics (although I stopped reading them before Wolverine was introduced - I was familiar with most of the characters)

The first film is just a basic set up flick. If you're going to see just one of the predecessors, make it no. 2, it's a lot of fun & some of the action set pieces are eye popping (the opening scene is amazing, with a teleporting, german accented lizard man played by Alan Cummings, breaking his way into the Whitehouse.

BTW - I understand retired soccer hard man Vinne Jones plays Juggernaut.

I'm also told that die hard fans of the comic will not appreciate what the film did with the Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey storyline. Apparently it got changed. But I don't know the details.

Glad it's a good one though.



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