Everything has to be a trilogy these day, I guess. Then again, is it accurate to refer to a movie like X-Men: The Last Stand that was made in 2006 as “these days?” Where is the line between now and then? Anyway, if there is a popular franchise out there, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will attempt to squeeze every last bit of money out of it. I cannot say that I blame them. I love the X-Men, as do so many. It seems, though, that unless you have a carefully crafted meta-narrative you are plugging all your films into, à la the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), then the movies get progressively sillier. This started for the X-Men in X2: X-Men United. I mean, they could not even be bothered with putting the name of the team in the main title, for the love of Stan Lee! This trend continued with X-Men: The Last Stand to the point where I was laughing in all the wrong places. You will see why.
Remember in X2: X-Men United how Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) was having trouble with her telekinesis powers, only to have them manifest spectacularly in sacrificing herself to save the others? Well, X:Men: The Last Stand expects you to remember all that as they begin by flashing back to when Jean was a child. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Eric Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), who are apparently working together at this point in time, show up to meet the young prodigy. She apparently is suspicious of strangers, especially ones like Xavier who can talk to her in her mind, and she levitates all the cars in the neighborhood when she feels threatened. But they decide to bring her to Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters anyway. Fast forward to the present day and everyone is still sad that Jean is dead. News also breaks at this point that scientists have come up with a so-called “cure,” for the mutant gene that will allow them to live normal lives. Ignoring all this, the grief stricken Scott Summers (James Marsden), who had been married to Jean, decides to travel to the lake where Jean died. Once there, he discovers that things are amiss, and then somehow Jean emerges from the lake. The reason why this is possible (or so we are told) is that long repressed powers within Jean are now surfacing in the form of the Phoenix. The comic book entity, by the way, not the city in Arizona. Jean cannot control it, however, and ends up killing Scott. Eventually Logan (Hugh Jackman) shows up there too, but this time Jean allows herself to be taken back to Xavier’s school. After a confrontation there with Logan, Jean feels like they are trying to trap her there and escapes. Xavier and the X-Men track her to her childhood home, only to be met there as well by Eric, or Magneto now, and a group of his toadies. There is an argument over what is best for Jean and she has a titanic, telekinetic meltdown that results in the whole house being lifted from its foundations and Xavier being literally obliterated. But then she decides to go along with Magneto, just because. For his part, the master of metal is still trying to incite a war between mutants and humans, and he sees this new cure as a further reason not to trust mankind. Thus he begins rallying more mutants to his cause like some kind of supervillain William Wallace. Their next move is to attack the lab where the cure is made, which is on Alcatraz Island for some reason, in order to take hold of the mutant who is allowing them to use his powers to develop the “medicine” and stop its production. How do you get a group of mutants to Alcatraz when the typical ferry will not do? Why, you get them all onto the Golden Gate Bridge and levitate the entire structure to the island, of course. Before Magneto can carry out his final plan, the X-Men show up to stop him. They are heavily outnumbered, but they go in anyway, and a major battle breaks out between Magneto’s henchmen and the X-Men and the humans they are trying to protect. The long and short of this hullabaloo is that not only is Magneto defeated, but in the process he is hit with needle projectiles containing the cure, thus robbing him of his mutant powers. Sitting passively on the sidelines while all this takes place is Jean, but then she has another meltdown that causes further destruction. She is eventually stopped by Logan, who puts her out of her misery by stabbing her with his claws. And things go back to “normal” at Xavier’s school. Oh, yeah, and there is a post credits scene that suggests that Professor X is not dead.
I mentioned in the opening how I was laughing at moments in X-Men: The Last Stand that were not meant to be funny. Two stand out clearly. First, as the Golden Gate Bridge lands on Alcatraz, it is still daytime. Then one second later it is fully night. Sunsets must work differently in San Francisco. The other is when the X-Men show up at Alcatraz and Logan yells to his compatriots, “Hold the line!” What “line?!” Hey, Wolverine, this is not World War I. Anyway, the point here is that the film is full of silliness, half-baked notions, and frustration. Why would somebody like Jean, infused with the volatile Phoenix, sit out the main fight? Unbelievably, she just stood there next to Magneto the entire time, twiddling her thumbs. Was it because Magneto told her to wait? Yeah, that had worked out really well for others trying to tell her what to do earlier in the film. And then who are all these other mutants with Magneto? I have discussed in other films how Marvel sold off the rights to their titles at random, which made casting certain characters tricky. But they seemed to take the powers of well known personages in their pantheon and apply them to somebody else. That is kind of lame, like the rest of the film.
I will hand it to X-Men: The Last Stand, though, for keeping true to the familiar X-Men theme of accepting who you are. In previous films, particularly for Rogue (Anna Paquin), whose inability to physically touch others without absorbing their powers and potentially hurting them, meant she could never be in a true relationship as she desires with her boyfriend Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore). Their whole subplot was unnecessary, but the eternal struggle is there in the philosophies of Eric and Xavier. Both of them want mutants to be accepted as full and equal members of society. They also see the hatred and fear their powers instill in people. Eric seeks to conquer those fears through violence, while Xavier desires peaceful co-existence. Either way, the notion of acceptance is a good one to remember. God created each of us for a purpose, great or small, and denying our natures is a bit like denying ourselves. Doing so can have consequences, and we see that played out in the film. It is a silly outcome, but it does speak to the rightness of following the path laid out before you.
I have said much more about X-Men: The Last Stand than it deserves. As with the other X-Men films, there is nothing wrong with it morally. It is just kind of dumb. The PG-13 rating is probably because of some of the moments of sexuality between Jean and Logan, though they are brief, and some of the intense battle scenes. Otherwise, it is a bunch of made up, but entertaining, crap like the rest of them.