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Friday, May 26, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (**)

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

Take a Stand Hike

Watching X-Men: The Last Stand was a frustrating ordeal, trying desperately to connect with the characters, to care about anyone or anything. This proved X-tremely difficult when the characters are cardboard cut outs of themselves and the movie shows so much contempt for everyone, the X-Men and the audience.

When Cyclops, the X-Men team leader, is killed off by his lover Jean Grey, it shouldn't have happened clumsily off screen. His death shouldn't be treated with such callous indifference that the audience doesn't even know if he's actually dead or not for a good 20 minutes. Why, his closest friends don't bother to investigate his disappearance, even when they find his ruby quartz glasses yet no other trace of him. Later, it's casually mentioned Cyclops is dead. No one was particularly hurt by his loss.

When Dark Phoenix murdered Charles Xavier in cold blood, when she peeled the flesh from his bones and then burst him into Xavier stew – when the founder of the X-Men is murdered in cold blood – my reaction should not have been laughter. But the execution of the death was so garish and amateurish it was actually hilarious to see old man Xavier bite it. There were Xavier bits all over Jean Grey's walls! Gross!

To top it all off, they hold a funeral for Xavier (“Of all the mutants I've ever known, he was the most… human …) and not for Cyclops, even though by that time, they already knew Jean Grey had killed Cyclops. Cyclops got a headstone later, along with Jean when she died. Since Storm was gonna close the school and no tuition money would be coming in, I guess the X-Men were just being economical and trying to save on funeral costs by that point.

Rogue, the heart and soul of the first X-Men, is wantonly written out of most of the movie. Her job was to stand around and glare at her boyfriend Iceman in a romantic misunderstanding the CW regularly handles with more grace and style, and then disappear. She's “cured” now, but then returns to Xavier's school, which she no longer belongs in because she's no longer a mutant. Rogue's goodbye scene with Wolverine, insultingly underwritten and hamfisted (“Be good.” Be good?! ), was an affront to their relationship, which was the highlight of the first X-Men movie.

Mystique, the coolest, most competent character in the previous films, was depowered and kicked aside like a bag of crap. But the movie made sure to get Rebecca Romijn as naked as PG-13 will allow before she's carted off to the home for discarded X-Men movie characters.

Wolverine, who never met a smug one liner he didn't love (“Don't get your panties in a bunch.”) when he wasn't bawling like a lovesick teenager over Jean Grey, had the most to do, including things he had no business doing. With Xavier dead, why was Wolverine leading the X-Men? Why was he mapping out the plans, drafting the X-Kids Iceman, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus, and barking out orders in battle? Note that they made damn sure Hugh Jackman had his shirt off in his emotional denoument with Jean Grey.

The person who should have been in charge, Storm, whom Xavier made leader before he died, followed Wolverine's orders. Storm was more interested in getting to finally fly around like Halle Berry keeps harping about and then getting her cape and white wig handed to her by Callisto (Dania Ramirez).

Of all the new mutant characters crammed into the movie, Kelsey Grammar as the Beast probably acquitted himself the best, but as far as animalistic blue mutant characters in these movies, he paled in comparison to Nightcrawler in X2. Oh, but the dialogue!

"Wolverine. I hear you're quite an animal."
"Look who's talking."

Someone gut me with an adamantium claw already. The dialogue in The Last Stand was just atrocious.

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scored!”
“By any means necessary!”

No cliché was left un-mined. And that was just the President talking. The mutants were just as lame-brained:

“If you're with us, be with us!” Inspiring.
“You of all people should know how quickly the weather change.” Ho ho. Get it, ‘cause Storm controls the weather…? Ho ho ho.

The worst was the brilliant name calling from the Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). “I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!” Nice. Kitty Pryde didn't take that lying down and called Juggernaut a “dickhead.” Actually, that helmet is kind of shaped like a dick. Ho ho ho.

Did I like anything? Yeah, it wasn't all bad. There were moments. I got excited when the X-Men took the Brotherhood on at Jean Grey's house. I liked Callisto being totally intent on whipping Storm's ass and I wouldn't have minded if Callisto killed that white-haired dope. I liked Juggernaut bouncing Wolverine all over Jean Grey's house. I thought the final battle at Alcatraz had its moments: I liked Magneto tossing cars and Pyro lighting them on fire.

Kitty Pryde had two cool moves, when she phased past a Brotherhood member and then gave him the Edgematic, and then when she phased the Juggernaut into the floor. For that matter, underwritten and perfunctory a character as she was, I liked Kitty Pryde a lot because of Ellen Page, who is both little and did a lot with a little.

I liked the moment on the X-Jet when the three kids were gripped with fear at their first mission and Beast taking notice (not that he said or did anything to alleviate their fears.) I liked Iceman making the ice skating rink for himself in Kitty in the stupid same way I like Lex and Lana's stupid romance on Smallville.

Iceman and Pyro finally going at it was cool for like two seconds before it ended lamely with a fucking headbutt. And I thought Magneto's stunt moving the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz was neat. Although in the scene before, the Brotherhood of Emo Mutants bitched and moaned about how they were supposed to get to Alcatraz. How did they even get to San Francisco from Alkalai Lake? Did they all walk?

Just about everything else sucked in various levels. Dark Phoenix blew. She didn't do anything for 90% of the movie except stand around next to Magneto in a waking coma. She killed Cyclops and Xavier for no reason and then went nuts at the end with little provocation. What did it feel like to die and be reborn with omnipotence? What does one do with all that power? The movie's answer: Stand around. Kill people. Repeat. Yawn. Who gives a damn?

What a hideous mess X-Men: The Last Stand was. A better title for this debacle would be X-Men: Inglorious Endings. For this merry band of mutants, this was no way to go.

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