It’s been just over 10 years since Brett Ratner’s addition to the series of X-Men films that Bryan Singer started back in 2000 and, without meaning to be too dramatic, it’s still painful that this film exists. I know that Days of Future Past went and deleted it from the film canon but that doesn’t make it any easier. I vividly remember going to see this film with my friends: I was 18 years old, full of hope and excitement at what the next instalment would bring. I left feeling utterly depressed and glad the whole thing was over. A lot of my sadness at the time revolved around the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I’ve always loved the character of Beast and was glad that he was set to be involved in this film. As a firm lover of Frasier I even, initially, didn’t mind the casting of Grammer; I mean Hank is an intelligent and peaceful creature so I could see where they were coming from. Upon leaving I was bemoaning the fact that Beast had been so utterly wasted. As the years went by my hatred for this film only grew and, had it not been for the even more appalling X-Men Origins 3 years later, I could easily say this was worst film in the whole franchise. And, for once, I’m not just being melodramatic.
First, the good:
- The Cast
This film’s cast does have quite a few plus points as the rest of the films have. Ian McKellen is always a delight as the villainous Magneto and, no matter how much better J Law is at acting, I think Rebecca Romijn will always be the ultimate Mystique. She’s sexy, weird and dangerous instead of endless inspiring and preachy. In terms of the rest of the cast, most of the regulars are just phoning in what little they get to work with but, alongside newcomer Ellen Page as Kitty, the main highlight has to be Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix. She gets short shrift in terms of the Dark Phoenix narrative but Janssen is fantastic in the moments she gets to unleash the Phoenix. We deserved more of her.
- Action sequences
Whatever you may think about Ratner’s directorial style you cannot deny that his action sequences are memorable. Yes, this isn’t always a positive (see the floating house/Xavier shaky jowls moment) but the danger room sequence and final Phoenix showdown are both pretty spectacular.
- Political Elements
The film’s narrative isn’t exactly strong but there are some aspects that work really well. The attempt to bring in the political elements with the cure provides an emotional struggle for the mutants. It follows the strong human vs mutant struggle we’ve seen in previous films and provides some decent moments. Angel’s storyline, though rushed, has some great moments and Beast’s internal struggle works great (particularly when added to the similar themes in the prequels).
Now the bad:
- It’s just not very good
There is a lot of shitty parts of this film that stand out. The continuity is all over the shop and the editing is just awful in places. This film isn’t all about the detail it’s just about getting the story told in the most exciting way. Day quickly becomes night, cars have lights on to make shots better and things aren’t where they’re meant to be. It all just shows a lack of finesse and care that these films had under the watchful eye of Bryan Singer. Plus, who ever cast Vinnie fucking Jones needs to get sacked. Hearing his awful cockney accent shouting “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch” was something nobody needed or wanted.
- Too many characters
There are just too many characters stuffed into this thing that nobody really gets the development they deserve. Even big players like Jean don’t get enough to do and she spends most of her time standing behind people looking bored. The new guys are introduced and ignored until they are needed for a cool shot or funny gag later one. We needed to get to know these characters and care about them instead of see one execution of their power near the end of the film. We needed more Hank for fuck’s sake.
- Terrible treatment of existing characters
Ratner was brutal in this film when it came to killing off existing characters. Not brutal in terms of number, per se, but in the way he did it. There was no respect for the key characters here and they are completely turned around from the people we know already. Xavier’s characterisation here is completely different to the one we knew and he spends most of him time being a huge dick. It’s almost a relief when Jean kills him off. But then she does and in a really understated way. However, he gets more of a look in than Scott who, thanks to James Marsden’s desire to follow Singer to Superman Returns, gets killed off in the most pathetic way about 10 minutes into the film. Then there’s fucking Rogue who went through 2 films worth of struggling with her identity only to get rid of her powers so she can have sex with Bobby. What kind of fucking crazy message is that to give young girls? Get rid of your uniqueness in order to land a guy: fuck that! It’s a horrible use of these characters.
- The rushed Dark Phoenix Saga
X2 remains the best film in the franchise in my opinion and it so expertly set up the Dark Phoenix Saga that fans eagerly awaited X3. Of course, The Last Stand managed to fuck that up by gluing this story onto the end of the main mutant cure narrative. This means we only get about 15 minutes of real Phoenix force before everything is resolved. Considering this is such a huge event in the comics, The Last Stand really doesn’t do it justice.
- Too much Wolverine
By this point in the trilogy it had become clear that Wolverine was the most bankable member of the cast and, as such, Fox had made him the main character. Which is kind of crazy. It also meant that almost every emotional aspect of this plot fell back to him instead of the people it should have done. Xavier’s death: how does Logan feel? Jean’s descent into evil: how does Logan feel? Mutant cure: how does Logan feel? Who gives a fuck!? I want to know who thought it was a good idea to take the Dark Phoenix Saga out of Jean Grey’s completely and give the emotional resolution to fucking Wolverine? I love Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as much as the next guy but this shouldn’t have been his movie.
By no means is The Last Stand the worst films ever made nor, thanks to fucking Origins, is it the worst X-Men film ever made. The problem remains that it was much worse than the two films is followed. Bryan Singer had made something great with his first two films. He not only set about placing X-Men firmly in Hollywood but also showed the great potential for superhero movies. Arguably, the focus of modern cinema could have been very different without them. So Ratner’s shitty attempt to follow in his footsteps is all the more painful because of the reputation he fucked with. Still, there are some positives. Mostly nothing to do with Ratner but, still, it’s good to know that we can find hope in anything.