X-Men: The Last Stand
Rated PG-13, 104 min. Directed by Brett Ratner. Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Vinnie Jones.
What are we to make of Kelsey Grammer's furry turn as Dr. Hank McCoy, aka the X-Man Beast? What's not to make? He's an educated person of color (blue), lodged in a high-ranking White House cabinet post and charged with holding the wavering cultural line between compassionate distaste for the various and sundry mutant folk who, in the context of the film, now populate a pollable percentage of the population, and the conservative hysterics who want to exclude them entirely from the red, white, and – much to Dr. McCoy's palpable annoyance – blue. And Colin Powell thought he had it rough. This third outing in the Marvel Entertainment/20th Century Fox superhero franchise lays on the subtext even more heavily than its predecessors – racial, gender, and sexual politics are all over the place, and I'm not even talking about Rebecca Romijn's too-blue, nudie-cutie mutant Mystique – and ends up coming across like an overearnest grad school dissertation on toxic love and the society what done spawned it. Director Ratner, taking over the helm from Bryan Singer (who moved on to Superman Returns, by the way), rounds up the usual suspects, including Stewart's sage Professor X; Jackman's adamantium-clawed, Glenn Danzig-coiffed Wolverine; Berry's weather-controlling Storm; and Janssen's schizophrenic shrink, Dr. Jean Grey, (or, when she's very, very bad, the Phoenix). The big story in The Last Stand is, no surprise, governmental in origin, as the current administration seeks to override the mutants' wild genetic code with a "cure" that permanently supresses the gene. This is not happy news to Magneto, who, as played by McKellen, not only controls all metals around him, but also has the power to devour scenery and render any scene he appears in instantly entertaining. As befits a put-upon metallurgist with dreams of messianic glory, Magneto promptly aligns himself with the legions of hormonally frazzled mutant youth (you can tell they're serious converts to the cause by all the piercings and leather they sport) and wages war on those who would "cure" them. A smart move, as it gives X-Men: The Last Stand a much-needed dose of kickassery, most impressive of which arrives in the form of a final-act redistribution of San Franciscan automobile gridlock. Nifty! Still, this is a perhaps overly ambitious issue of X-mania, chockablock as it is with enough storylines – Cyclops pines for Jean, Jean goes bananas, Rogue pines for Iceman, Iceman busts a move on Pyro, Rogue goes human, ad infinitum – to gag even Mr. Marvel-ous himself, the venerable Stan Lee (who is seen watering his lawn in the opening moments). There's much to enjoy here – Ratner's pacing is fluid and fast and the film rushes along its busy, cluttered way with something approaching melodramatic snarkiness – but it's also terribly busy and cluttered. It makes you long for the days, not so long ago, when all a superhero had to worry about were the great responsibilities that came, part and parcel, with those great powers. Oh, yeah, and that whole secret-identity thing.
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