Since X-Men : Apocalypse opened in cinemas last week, it seems fitting to revisit its disappointing precursor, X-Men: The Last Stand. As Apocalypse closes off the current trilogy, The Last Stand closed off the original trilogy. Unfortunately, The Last Stand completely and totally failed to live up to the then lofty standards set by the original two films.
Many will agree that it was thanks to the original movie, simply titled X-Men, that we now live in a world where all of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters come from the colourful pages of the humble comicbook. It’s follower, X2: X-Men United, was also a fine entry to the infant world of superhero movies and helped start the trend of having a seemingly endless chain of interconnected sequels. It was no longer enough to have standalone superhero movies with little or no connection to the previous entry, a la Christopher Reeve‘s Superman or Michael Keaton‘s Batman. I
suppose, in a way, The Last Stand also made its mark on superhero cinema trends, in that it started a trend of having the third movie in a series be weak as water compared to the rest (Although I disagree with Anthony’s opinion on how bad Apocalypse was). So then, where was it that The Last Stand went so far astray compared to the other two…
The shortest summary of the film’s issues is probably saying that it tried to do too much with too little space, as often seems to be the case with final entries in these series. Maybe the writers had looked into a whole host of excellent stories from the extensive history of Marvel’s mutants and couldn’t decide on which they’d like to focus, or which was the most important to include in what (at the time) was likely to be the final big screen treatment of the comic for quite a while.
Should they go with Chris Claremont‘s ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’, arguably the most famous X-Men story of all time? Or with Joss Whedon‘s ‘Gifted’ arc, the most critically lauded storyline at the time of the movie’s development? In the end, they decided to do both. They chose poorly. Either one of those stories could’ve easily filled out the entire 104 minutes of runtime, with my own opinion being that the latter would’ve been an excellent choice given the tone the series had built up. Ultimately, we received a dodgy, under-explored story that was much, much less than the sum of its parts.
The second awful idea was trying to shoehorn in too many famous mutants for the sake of pointless scenes. Granted, Ellen Page‘s Shadowcat was pretty cool, but Vinnie “I have to pee” Jones as Juggernaut, really? Come on! It didn’t help that their main player, James Marsden, who played Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, was leaving the franchise to join Bryan Singer on Superman Returns
(Gee, that sure worked out well for him). Losing two key parts of the X-Men parcel might’ve been the thing that derailed what could’ve been a fine closure to the series. The departure of Singer as director certainly hurt it. There’s a very obvious decline in quality of dialogue, wire work, camera work and placement of special effects, all things that I’m sure Singer would’ve reined in to some degree. Under Brett Ratner, there’s just so much that feels like it was thrown in for the sake of using up the massive budget he’d been given, whether it was necessary or not.
So, all of that adds up to a pretty mediocre movie for sure, but, what is it that makes X-Men: The Last Stand such a travesty? What’s the crime that makes it worth featuring in Screen Savers? It’s that it could have been so good. No, not in a Spider-Man 3 pie sort of way, I mean actually good. In the first 15 minutes there are some sure signs of greatness lurking underneath The Last Stand‘s skin. In one short scene, Magneto compares his number from Auchwitz to the Morlocks’ tattoos. As evidenced by Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in the newer trilogy, this was something that could’ve been used to much greater strength, but no, here they let it drop after a few seconds so that we can get to Beast and Wolverine making bad puns together. Finally, there’s the introduction scene for Angel. Not only is this the best scene of the movie by a country mile, it’s also one of the finest scenes from the entire series, including everything right up to Apocalypse.
Following the opening scene of the movie, wherein we get a pretty weak foreshadowing of the Phoenix Force hiding within a young Jean Grey, we’re given a long close up of a child in anguish, scratching at something on his back. As his father comes to the door Warren Worthington III frantically tries to conceal a box of blood smeared tools. Once the door opens there’s a moment of silence and we’re shown a floor covered in feathers before Warren breaks down in tears, not from the pain of filing his own back down to the bone, but because he can’t handle how disappointed his father must feel. Where was this quality of storytelling for the next 100 minutes of the movie? Well Fox, where was it?!
And where the hell was Nightcrawler? God damn! I never even paid attention to that and now I just have one more thing to hate!