Property review: X-Men: The Last Stand

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

Photo cour­tesy of IMDB.com

X-Men: The Last Stand
20th Cen­tury Fox/Marvel Enter­tain­ment, 2006

 

X-cruciatingly bad x-ecution

 

We get that the X-Men film prop­er­ties reside in a dif­fer­ent uni­verse than the comic book ver­sion. And we have no prob­lems sus­pend­ing dis­be­lief when asked. But we will never sit idly by and watch a film take so many lib­er­ties with source mate­r­ial that entire comic book arcs are destroyed in one fell swoop.

So it begins with X-Men: The Last Stand, the third in the tril­ogy of films cen­tered on our favorite mutants of Mar­vel fame. Last Stand was rid­ing high on the fumes of X2: X-Men United, and right­fully so since X2 did a pretty decent job telling the tale of (the pre­vi­ously reviewed) God Loves, Man Kills and start­ing the Phoenix Saga. And that’s when things take an omi­nous turn. We should have known some­thing was up when Bryan Singer didn’t return to the director’s chair. We really should have known some­thing was up when Last Stand’s syn­op­sis came call­ing. While X2 did a pass­able job with sort of mix­ing arcs together, Last Stand attempted to mesh Dark Phoenix Saga and the Gifted arc with little-to-no suc­cess. The film, while tech­ni­cally sound and well-paced, is rid­dled with errors and unnec­es­sary changes that detract from the over­all view­ing experience.

To explain just what we find fault with in Last Stand, let’s start from the begin­ning. And bear with the spoil­ers here; they’re inte­gral to explain­ing every­thing wrong with the film and are a great exam­ple of why Last Stand should have never been made. If you don’t want it spoiled — though you should have seen it by now — stop read­ing here.

First, Cyclops was never killed by Jean Grey, either as the Phoenix or Dark Phoenix, at any point in their his­tory together. The Phoenix entity made sure that Jean was kept alive and healed so that she could reunite with Cyclops at some point. The Phoenix under­stood and knew that Cyclops was impor­tant to Jean. So, killing him made no sense.

Sec­ond, Phoenix would have never and never, ever killed Pro­fes­sor X. Charles Xavier was a men­tor to Jean and was one of the few peo­ple on Earth that the woman trusted. She wouldn’t have killed him. Also, Wolver­ine was angry with Xavier about erect­ing the psy­chic blocks in Jean’s mind, but Cyclops was actu­ally the per­son who had that par­tic­u­lar scripted con­ver­sa­tion with Xavier.

Third, Beast was a mem­ber of the team for many years and didn’t just return dur­ing the Phoenix Saga. He was there the entire time.

Fourth, while we’re on the sub­ject of team mem­bers’ appear­ances in the film, we should point out a long-standing issue we’ve had with the X-Men films: Rogue and Ice­man were NEVER a cou­ple. Like­wise, Kitty Pride and Ice­man didn’t flirt with each other. Kitty was actu­ally inter­ested in Colos­sus — which was out­right ignored in the film — and Ice­man was a fre­quent makeup/break up para­mour of Lorna Dane (Polaris). The made-up romance tri­an­gle with de-aged char­ac­ters is an insult.

Fifth, Jug­ger­naut is not a mutant. If the writ­ers had both­ered to do some research, they would have come across Cain Marko’s ori­gin story that stated in detail that Jug­ger­naut is a mys­ti­cal avatar given his pow­ers by the Gem of Cyt­torak. He was an ordi­nary man mys­ti­cally trans­formed by the Gem. Thus, when Leech’s pow­ers acti­vated near him at the end, he should have been com­pletely unaf­fected. And, Jug­ger­naut should have imme­di­ately rec­og­nized Mag­neto by this point and Mag­neto should have known who Jug­ger­naut is — step­brother of Charles Xavier. No aspect of that impor­tant rela­tion­ship was ever mentioned.

Sixth, Dark Phoenix never joined the Broth­er­hood of Evil Mutants. She didn’t need to. She was, how­ever, manip­u­lated into join­ing the Hell­fire Club, which was also con­ve­niently glossed over by X-Men: First Class (see the real ori­gin for Sebas­t­ian Shaw and Emma Frost).

Sev­enth, Rogue never took the cure. She was inter­ested in it, but never took it. That’s some­thing that’s touched upon in the Ani­mated Series episode of The Cure (first air­ing, Feb. 20, 1993). Also, her given name is Anna Marie, not just Marie. See this quarter’s Mar­vel Char­ac­ter Highlight.

Eighth, Psy­locke was present in the movie, but if you blinked, you missed her. She is killed at the end along with sev­eral other char­ac­ters. She also is not a mem­ber of the Broth­er­hood of Evil Mutants, Cal­listo (the leader of the Mor­locks in the comics) isn’t either, and nei­ther is Jamie Madrox aka Mul­ti­ple Man.

Ninth, Jean does not have split per­son­al­ity as the Phoenix. She IS the Phoenix. The entity that is the Phoenix is part of her, not some dif­fer­ent side to her. Basi­cally, the Phoenix pos­sesses her and bonds with her. It doesn’t just show up ran­domly. In the comics, the real Jean was sealed under Jamaica Bay while the Phoenix man­i­fested her in reality.

Finally, Wolver­ine doesn’t kill Jean dur­ing the Dark Phoenix Saga. He was com­pletely in love with her. Given that sev­eral of his love inter­ests over the years have died, there was no way that he would have killed her then. He does kill her in New X-Men, but Dark Phoenix Saga that is not. Also, Saber­tooth is not present, which doesn’t make any sense, either.

That’s just barely touch­ing on what’s wrong with the film. It gets so many lit­tle things wrong with the “loose” adap­ta­tions that you have to won­der what exactly did it get right. One of the few things that does go right for the film is the cast­ing. The lead char­ac­ters are still per­fectly casted, and the choice of Kelsey Gram­mar as Beast/Hank McCoy is one of the best cast­ings we’ve ever seen. He was the per­fect and only choice for that role. How­ever, there’s still no fan-favorite Gam­bit — which would have solved the Rogue/Iceman prob­lem — and there’s still way too much empha­sis put on Wolver­ine. Hugh Jack­man is com­fort­able as well he should be since he’s the per­fect Wolver­ine. But a lit­tle less empha­sis on him and lit­tle more on the story might have helped. Alas, James Mars­den was wasted in the film and the char­ac­ter of Cyclops paid the price. That’s a shame, really, because Cyclops is sup­posed to be a cen­ter­piece in the Dark Phoenix por­tion, not Wolverine.

Last Stand isn’t a good movie, in the sense of being an X-Men film and in the sense of being an adap­ta­tion telling a story of the X-Men. It seems Mar­vel has trou­ble when­ever it gets to three (see last quarter’s review of Spider-Man 3), and that’s a prob­lem when you’re telling two of the biggest arcs of your most famous group of not-so-ordinary folks.

 

Like the comics: 1

Cast­ing: 7

Plot: 2

Over­all score: 10 out of 30 or 3

 

How we grade

We score the prop­er­ties in three cat­e­gories: Cast­ing (or voice act­ing in the case of ani­mated), plot and sim­i­lar­i­ties to its source mate­r­ial. Each cat­e­gory receives points out of max­i­mum of 10 per cat­e­gory, and 30 over­all. The per­cent­age is the final score.

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