a critiQal film review X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Plot: A "cure" for mutants has been found, and is being offered to mutants at clinics. Fearing that a "voluntary cure" is only the beginning, Magneto (McKellen) and his Brotherhood of Mutants intend to stop it before all mutants are "cured". His only obstacle? The X-Men. But, is Magneto the real threat, or will the X-Men suffer more at the hands of an old friend?

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  • ...edgier, darker and harder-hitting than either of the first two films. A must-see!

The film that spawned a whole new resurgence of the superhero picture, X-Men (2000), already has 1 successful sequel under it’s belt. Will X-Men: The Last Stand make it an impressive trifecta of films? That’s the question that every moviegoer is asking this Memorial Day weekend – Heather and I among them.

The X-Men films sparked this current new interest in superhero pictures not because of their incredible special effects…instead, they were the first superhero pic since Batman (1989) to be more character-driven than effects-driven. That doesn’t change with X-Men: The Last Stand.

All of the actors viewers have connected with in the previous 2 films return, making the viewer feel right at home from the beginning of the picture. Every actor – Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Famke Jensen prominent among them – delve into greater depths to produce a incredibly gripping whirlwind of a film. The characters that the audience has become accustomed to over the past 6 years go through some incredibly traumatic changes throughout the film, and the viewer will be there to watch as these “old friends” are changed forever.

Without the performances of these actors (including even the over-hyped Halle Berry), the viewer wouldn’t much care what happened during the film. But, given how much the audience has grown to care about each character throughout the course of the trilogy, some of the events are almost painful to witness.

Gone is the playful banter and fluid jokes from the first film. Instead, The Last Stand delves into the darker side of superheroes, and is the first film to showcase some of the dark events that Marvel comic book characters deal with. No plastic-looking cackling goblin here. Instead, it’s a personal story of friendship, betrayal and loss set against a background of war.

The Last Stand, while being extremely character driven, doesn’t skimp on the special effects. From people literally being blown to pieces to lightning strikes and an epic battle sequence, this film has so many effects it’s almost hard to take it all in on the first viewing. And not a single one looks ridiculous, or less realistic, than any of the previous.

With the amazing array of special effects bombarding the viewer, it’s almost hard to imagine that the story isn’t lost – but it never wavers, not even for a second. Each sequence is crafted to further the story along to it’s conclusion, and the viewer will never lose sight of the main purpose of the film – the characters and how they deal with the events around them.

X-Men: The Last Stand shows that it doesn’t take special powers to be a superhero, it takes courage of will even under extreme stress. A good lesson to be learned, as many people seem to have misplaced this courage that gives each and everyone of us the potential to be great.

Probably the biggest question viewers may have after leaving the theater is “there isn’t going to be a 4th film?” From all reports, it doesn’t look like it, and it’s puzzling. Why leave so many parts unfinished if they aren’t going to be continued? Most likely, they left some things open just in case the filmmakers changed their mind – or maybe they will tie up some loose ends in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), expected to be in the works. Who knows. Maybe they just ran out of time. Whatever the case, it’s disappointing, as not everything resolves the way most would want it to.

But then again, real life is never wrapped up in an hour and a half either. There are always loose ends, unanswered questions, dilemmas unsolved. Maybe leaving a few loose ends is just another way of making superheroism more true to life.

If you’re planning on going to theaters just looking for the same kind of thrill ride as the first films, you may want to skip X-Men: The Last Stand for the time being. It’s grittier, darker and more depressing than either of the first two films.

But don’t be too discouraged – after all, in the Marvel Universe, anything can happen – and usually does.

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