X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 6/26/06
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore

The "X-Men" trilogy comes to a violent close, just like one of those milestone comic book issues where they throw everyone into the fray to see who comes out still standing. Cyclops (James Marsden) still hasn't gotten over the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) from the end of "X-Men 2" (2003) and has become an irresponsible and unreliable member of the team. And to make matters worse, he starts hearing Jean's voice in his head, calling him to the lake where she died. Heeding the call, he leaves the mansion and Jean appears to him, very much alive - but is it really her? At the same time, a biological research facility has discovered a way to reverse mutations so that mutants can become normal homosapians. This is met with strong reactions from the mutant community, both for and against the treatment and the ethics behind its use. More cynical mutants, like Magneto (superb Ian McKellen) for example, view the cure as a means of genocide rather than salvation, and recruits a mutant army to strike back against the government, and humans in general. Of course, Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) X-Men are there to oppose his violent methods, and the newly resurrected Jean Grey is the spark that sets everything off.

I found "X-Men 3" to be more enjoyable than the overly preachy "X-Men 2", although the writing is weak and the dialog is annoyingly immature. It's as if the characters are actually speaking word bubbles from the comic book. People don't really talk like that, and a lot of lines come off as awkward and inappropriate. The movie is all about Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean this time around, and Hugh Jackman is excellent, although his hair seems a bit off. His combination of rough and sensitive is right on the mark, and much closer to his performance in "X-Men" (2000). Famke Janssen does an adequate job as Jean, although she has very little to do other than glare menacingly. Halle Berry as Storm is once again a mixed bag. Her new wig is awful, but her physical performance is much improved and more convincing than the previous installments. A horde of new mutants show up including Hank "Beast" McCoy (delightful Kelsey Grammer), Kitty Pryde (adorable Ellen Page), Colossus, Angel, and Juggernaut, and there are numerous walk-ons by characters I didn't see, like Jubilee and Psylocke (damn, I would have really liked to see Psylocke as a main character).

The film has a very melodramatic and desperate feel to it, and it seems like the movie is constantly trying to keep up with itself. Additionally, the film has difficulty pulling itself together as a cohesive whole, and there seems to be a lot of discontinuity between scenes. Director Brett Ratner is definitely not as subtle as Bryan Singer, and everything is big, loud, and fast. The action scenes are exciting and well realized, and the fight choreography is much better than the disappointing fight scenes in "X-Men 2." Granted, some of the fighting looks silly and overly computerized, but at least it doesn't lack intensity. The big loud music score nicely complements the action and sets an appropriate dramatic tone. Definitely an enjoyable summer action flick outing, and it will be interesting to see if Marvel Entertainment decides to continue with the franchise. The way it looks right now, I could definitely see a "Wolverine" side project, but I don't know if Jackman could carry an entire movie without a good supporting cast.