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IN SHORT: More like last gasp, to start, with a totally rockin' ending. [Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language.]
The original X-Men were created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby with Uncanny additions by Len Wein & Dave Cockrum and Chris Claremont & John Byrne. The Last Stand brings parts of two of the most famous X-Men stories: "Phoenix Rising" and "Days of Future Past" to the big screen, as well as an appearance by the legendary "Danger Room". Fanboys will understand and non-fans won't miss anything. More background on the characters and films can be found in Cranky's reviews of X-Men and X-Men United, although this film has BAMF'd the Nightcrawler character out of existence with nary an explanation of what happened.
Magneto (Ian McKellan) is in hiding. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) is in custody. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) continues to run his School for Gifted Youngsters and all is quiet before the eventual storm. Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) mopes about the X-mansion, still mourning the loss of his beloved Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who died at the end of X2: X-Men United. Cyclops' big problem is that he is tormented by the sound of Jean's voice calling out to him from her watery grave at Alkali Lake. Needing closure, Cyclops hops a chopper and heads to the lake where he finds a living, breathing Marvel Girl -- who we will now call "Phoenix," for obvious reasons -- waiting for the embrace of her lover's arms. "How?" asks One Eye. "I don't know," responds Jean, but she seems really pissed off about her current situation -- being dead and all.
New mutants come and go as fast as undeveloped subplots and decisions made by X-team leaders Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Ororo Munroe/Storm (Halle Berry). The main story begins with the fact that billionaire Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) is not too pleased that his son and sole heir, W.W.III (Ben Foster) has the fifteen foot wingspan of a real life Angel. Worthington II puts up the cash to develop a genetic antibody to shut down and thus "cure" his son's mutation -- one based on the DNA of an imprisoned mutant kid named Jimmy, nicknamed Leech (Cameron Bright). Any mutant that comes into proximity with Leech loses his/her powers. Worthington III, who tried to amputate his extensions when just a child, isn't so thrilled with the idea of losing his wings as an adult. He bolts, flies away in a panic and pretty much disappears for most of the rest of the film.
That brings us to the two genetic scientists capable of researching and discovering this so-called cure. One is a veritable superman among genetic scientists, Dr Kavita Rao (Shoreh Aghdasloo). We'll explain the pun below. The second of our merry band to want a "cure" is Secretary of Mutant Affairs Dr. Henry McCoy (Kelsey Grammer). Covered in beastly looking blue skin and fur, no one in an established world that hates and fears mutants seems to think twice about McCoy's position in government circles. No one in the mutant world thinks twice about the role of this government "collaborator," so to speak, who is a very welcome alumni of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
Media reaction toward said cure is intense. So is the interest of two of our cast. Y'all should remember Rogue (Anna Paquin), who wants a cure so she can touch another person without the possibility of killing them. Specifically, she wants to touch her boyfriend, Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore),a second generation X-Man, code named Iceman, who has caught the eye of new student Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page). Pryde is the mutant mentioned in passing in X-Men United as the "girl who can walk through walls" and is credited as "Shadowcat" for those keeping track of code names. Piotr Rasputin aka Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), seen in a cameo in X2 is now a full member of the team. As for the bad guys, Magneto, Mystique and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) add Cain Marko aka Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man (Eric Dane), and a mutant tracker named Callisto (Dania Ramirez) to a newly revamped Brotherhood of Mutants. Fanboys will understand the significance of a cameo by the Morlocks but you who do not know miss nothing.
And, all the while, the government is supplying the military with plastic weapons equipped to fire plastic bullets loaded with "the cure," determined to wipe out the "mutant menace" once and for all. Be glad we explained this much to you, because the exposition of the front end of The Last Stand is terrible. For eleven plus years now we've written:You shouldn't have to read the book to understand the movie. That goes equally for earlier movies. The Last Stand is a bunch of individually interesting ideas for bits of scenes, here and there that, without knowledge of the first two films, isn't close to coherent. Writing as an X-fiend of many decades experience, this film's story feels as if it has been pieced together from the demands of fanboys bombarding X-message boards, without any concern about fleshing out characters or providing background or motivation for the unlucky three or four of you who get pulled into a theater by friends. The fanboys already know all the details, right? By film three everyone is a fan, right? Does it ask too much to expect a pro writer to be able to being any novice up to speed in a sentence or two, spread over two hours of story? We don't think so.
Once the final battle between good mutants and not so good mutants begins, don't even think about leaving your seat because the last act is, quoting the kidlets in front of us, "awesome!" The Last Stand doesn't deliver a perfect hat trick but it did manage to get at least one more surprise past this fanboy. That's enough to offset any complaint. The Last Stand is not nearly as phenomenal as X-Men or X-Men United were, but it's well worth the popcorn and the cost of lugging a date.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Last Stand, he would have paid . . .
For those who know no fanboy, allow us: "Rao" is name of the god of Krypton. Let's see if Superman Returns the pun.
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