Monday, May 23, 2016

'X-Men: The Last Stand' (flashback review)

X is still marking the spot here at Cary's Comics Craze. 

And there's no better way to get ready for "X-Men: Apocalypse" coming to the theaters than taking yet another look at the "X-Men" film franchise — even if it is the most maligned movie in the series! 

Here's my review of the last installment of the first "X-Men" trilogy, which I posted on the first CCC website many years after its 2006 theatrical release. (Has it been that long already?!). …

Without a doubt, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is the weakest of the “X-Men” trilogy. (Go here for Part 1 of Cary's Comics Craze ranking all the ensemble "X-Men" films, the "Wolverine" flicks and "Deadpool.")

That doesn’t make it a particularly bad film, it’s just not as interesting as the previous installments by director Bryan Singer. Regardless, director Brett Ratner does an admirable job of completing what Singer started.

My nephew got me “The Last Stand” DVD for Christmas (2013). I hadn’t seen it since I watched it shortly after the DVD came out (nearly seven years earlier).

Having watched two-thirds of the “Wolverine and the X-Men” animated series just a few days earlier, I decided I was ready to watch “The Last Stand” again.

Basically, my opinions and overall satisfaction of the film hadn’t changed, but there were a handful of new insights.

The Danger Room sequence at the beginning features Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) leading the X-Men since Cyclops/Scott Summers (James Marsden) decided to blow off the training session because he’s still engrossed in mourning the death of his girlfriend, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).

Just like the Cyclops in the comics and animated series, Summers is a brooder. And somehow is an even bigger douchebag.

When I first saw “The Last Stand,” I knew Marsden wouldn’t get a lot of screen time since he was filming Singer’s ill-fated “Superman Returns.” (I didn’t expect Cyclops to get killed off either, but I digress slightly. …)

This time around, I was surprised to realize Summers is in three short scenes before being unremarkably killed by Grey, now the Phoenix, before the half-hour mark. That confirmed my gut instinct — that the screenplay cheats fans of Cyclops’ death — not being one that holds any emotional weight in the story.

The audience also is gypped of any resolution to the love triangle with Logan and Grey.

Had better and more creative heads prevailed when it comes to the third “X-Men” film and “Superman Returns,” “The Last Stand” could have featured a death that actually matters or better yet, let Cyclops/Summers live and given us a much more dramatic climax involving Grey/Phoenix’s fate.

My other newest insights are how much Cyclops and Rogue (Anna Paquin) are underused throughout “The Last Stand.”

Rogue only gets a handful-plus of short scenes — the equivalent of an extended cameo. She’s the second character we’re introduced to in the first “X-Men” film, but her story arc here is rushed through.

Rogue’s story should have been the heart of the finale. I wanted to see more of how Rogue wrestles with feeling like an outsider as a mutant (as established in Singer’s movies) and how much of an ethical decision it is to undergo the controversial mutant “cure.”

But by the end, we get a quick scene in which Iceman/Bobby Drake is surprised his girlfriend has returned and undergone the cure of her own choice.

Cyclops/Summers actually is underused throughout the trilogy. There are two things to “blame.” 

Intentional or not, the drive of the trilogy’s storyline focuses on Wolverine and Grey. Cyclops and Rogue then are relegated to subplots.

The “Last Stand” story could have — and should have — been adjusted to include more of Cyclops, but it’s apparent that when Singer ditched the “X-Men” franchise to take on a Superman film, those circumstances doomed Summers from being a major player in the fate of his dangerous girlfriend.

Had Singer directed “The Last Stand,” I’m confident Cyclops would have been better used. The second thing to “blame” is a fluke in some ways.

Nobody could have predicted how wildly popular Jackman or the Wolverine character would become after Singer’s first “X-Men” film.

Admittedly, Wolverine is the most fascinating and intriguing X-Man and has an equally dynamic personality and history. In that case, it’s no wonder that by this summer, Logan will have starred in five movies in 13 years and had a cameo in “X-Men: First Class.”

Of course, that couldn’t have happened without the charismatic Jackman nailing the character and becoming such a fan favorite and media darling.

Recently I learned the next “Wolverine” film takes place after “The Last Stand.”

That prompts some questions about the story. Will Logan still be dealing with having had to kill Phoenix in order to free Grey from the burden of her dangerous powers?

I’m hoping Wolverine left the X-Men on good terms. He’s likely trying to find himself — whatever that means. It’s more likely Logan has decided being a team member isn’t for him, especially since Grey killed Professor X and since that association cost him the life of the woman he loved.

Audiences were stuck with a Cyclops-less and Wolverine-led X-Men in “The Last Stand” because of unforeseen circumstances. That movie rates a “B-.”

The one that could have gotten an “A” would have been the film in which Summers and Logan have to decide what action to take with the dangerous woman they both love. That is the movie I wish “The Last Stand” could have been.

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