Why X-Men: The Last Stand Sucked

Back in 1961, Akira Kurosawa did a film called Yojimbo. Like many of his films up until 1963, it starred Toshiro Mifune (they had a falling out during the filming of the excellent, underrated Red Beard) as a samurai who hired himself out as a bodyguard. The movie -- which was also the basis for the Clint Eastwood film A Fistful of Dollars -- was very successful, and spawned a sequel, Sanjuro. They are still considered two great films, among the many gems in Kurosawa's crown.

There was a third film with Yojimbo, called Incident at Blood Pass (as well as a "team-up" of two popular movie series, Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo), but Kurosawa wasn't involved, and that film is justifiably the forgotten stepchild of the Yojimbo films. Only the ones by the great director are remembered decades later.

I think you can guess where I'm going with this.....

I suspect that many many decades from now, X-Men and X2: X-Men United will be remembered as excellent genre films, much as Yojimbo and Sanjuro are, and X-Men: The Last Stand will be consigned to the same trivia-question footnote as Incident at Blood Pass. Brett Ratner is no Bryan Singer, and it shows.

The script is a total mess, trying desperately to do too much, and therefore doing almost none of it well. The sledgehammered backstory for Jean to justify her being evil is ineptly handled, and then she spends the entire climax of the movie standing around with her thumbs in her ears during the attack on Alcatraz (why did Magneto bring her, exactly?). Plus there's the mutant cure, plus there's the Worthington family (which, after getting a very effective prologue, goes precisely nowhere), plus there's the Rogue/Bobby/Kitty triangle, plus there's Scott grieving for Jean and then getting killed (more on that in a sec), plus there's Magneto's recruitment drive, plus there's the Pyro/Iceman rivalry, plus there's, plus there's, plus there's. It's too fucking much, and all of it winds up ineffective.

The only place Ratner succeeds is in action set pieces. Stuff blowed up real good. But most of what works in this movie is 100% on the backs of the actors. Ratner should thank his lucky stars that actors of the calibre of Stewart, Jackman, Paquin, and most especially McKellen were already in place, and he also did quite well in casting the superlative Kelsey Grammer, who is simply perfect as Hank McCoy. Ian McKellen in particular shines, perfectly conveying Magneto's powerful arrogance, best seen in his speech to the mutant rally (which was also one of the better efforts of the mediocre script).

But man, is this film a mess. Cyclops is killed perfunctorily and off-camera, and he doesn't even get a funeral (or a headstone until the film's end). Nightcrawler isn't even mentioned. Jean's an MPD? WTF? And the screenwriters are apparently unfamiliar with the United States of America, as this movie appears to function on the assumption that San Francisco isn't 3000 miles from New York. And why does Magneto just leave Mystique behind after she's cured? I can see killing her because she's human now, but just letting her lie there naked so she can turn around and betray him? Magneto frankly isn't that stupid, nor is he that disloyal.

But the biggest problem in the whole thing was the confrontation with Jean. Never mind the fact that Logan's obsession with Jean is way in excess of his lustful infatuation in the other two films, there's the simple fact that a) the ending is ripped off from Van Helsing's finale, and you're in big trouble if you're reduced to that, and b) why did Logan have to stomp toward her anyhow? All they had to do was put Leech near her and the fight was over!!!! They spent the whole movie showing us that Leech negates powers and was the basis of the cure. They just two minutes earlier showed him zapping Kitty and the Juggernaut. So why not use him against Jean? Hell, why didn't Logan jab her with one of the needles filled with the serum instead of stabbing her to death?

A major disappointment, but not a surprise, given the come-down in directorial vision. What a pity Singer's being wasted on Superman instead. *sigh*

[First posted in my LiveJournal on 3 June 2006.]

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