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.

Strip Talk #10: Just where did Charles Xavier go wrong?

Lyndsey Mosley, editor in chief

Charles Xavier: Former leader of the X-Men, founder of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Morally ambiguous leader who mind wipes foes. Yes, Xavier is capable of great things and then there’s that tendency for him to get into the dark side of his humanity and kill people.

Just where did Xavier go wrong?

First, let’s examine the good that came from Xavier’s actions. In creating the X-Men, his strikeforce for perpetuating the good of mutantkind, Xavier gave a home to and helped many a mutant with a tragic background. These people may not have had any other place to go, killed themselves or others if not for the benevolence of the professor. However, there’s two sides to every story and Xavier didn’t always practice what he preached in taking in wayward mutants.

The list of questionable actions arising from the creation of the X-Men didn’t come to light until much later, and when it did, Xavier had to pay. I mean, who does things such as: tamper with a mutant’s mind to prevent their assassination (Wolverine); let a sentient being remain enslaved while knowing they are capable of advanced thought and feelings (Danger Room); tell a mutant for years that he can help them when he really can’t (Rogue); and erase the memory of fallen comrades that he sent unprepared into the field and who subsequently died solely to cover his tracks (Vulcan, Petra, Sway)? That would be Xavier in a number of story arcs. When even Cyclops and Wolverine are disgusted with you, you have a problem.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love the early character of Xavier. He was modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a personal hero, so there’s much to love about him. However, his problems with lying and secret-keeping are an immediate dealbreaker in terms of character likability. The more recent story arcs seem to be rehabilitating Xavier into a broken-but-honest man. Let’s hope they continue down that path.

Lyndsey Mosley is editor in chief of Gaming Insurrection. She ponders the humanity of the X-Men at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

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