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X-Men United? Well, not all that much.
There’s six or so heroes, and Rogue who can’t touch.
The rest of the mutants unfortunately
Line up with Magneto or stay absentee.
A cure for mutations has been synthesized,
And soon its great risk is sensationalized.
Meanwhile, Jean Grey has returned from the grave
To murder the friends that she perished to save.
As evil Magneto initiates war,
The X-Men fight back, as they’ve all done before.
For those wishing for Bryan Singer on hand,
This thankfully isn’t the X-Men’s last stand.

When it comes to movies, I’m fairly easy-going. Even in films that others tear apart, I tend to see the positives and end up liking them to some extent (Spider-Man 3, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Yet there are a select few movies that I honestly despise, six special films that carry my cinematic slur of “bottom-dweller.” Not all of these are bombs; some were even critically lauded. Yet they all have something in common. They disappointed me deeply, and no film exemplifies this fault like X-Men: The Last Stand, a film that seemed at the time like a franchise killer.

Having seen it again, I believe it had the potential to be a worthy follow-up to the truly great sequel X2. The plotline involving a mutant cure poses a divisive “what-if” development that offers both hope and fear, and the characters’ reactions to it are believable for the most part. Except for some scenes with Angel’s wings, the special effects are top-notch, particularly Magneto’s hijacking of the Golden Gate Bridge. (I remember once seeing this movie the same day as Monsters vs. Aliens and noticing that both featured the same bridge’s destruction.) Had The Last Stand focused solely on the “cure” plot thread, it may not have gone so wrong, but its greatest mistake is the maddeningly disappointing adaptation of the famous “Dark Phoenix Saga” from the comics. (Spoilers ahead.)

Perhaps the Honest Trailer (a satirical YouTube video series) for the X-Men trilogy summed it up in stating that, after Brett Ratner’s taking over for original X-Men director Bryan Singer, we get to watch him “kill off your favorite characters, leave out your favorite characters, and depower your favorite characters.” The worst aspect of the film is its treatment, or rather mistreatment, of these characters. X2 ended with Jean Grey’s heroic sacrifice to save her teammates from certain death, and it offered a bittersweet conclusion that left room for more. Putting aside all the action of The Last Stand, this film essentially resurrects her, only for her to disintegrate her lover Cyclops, her mentor Professor X, and a whole lot of other people until she is finally taken down by Wolverine. Not only does this diverge from the comic source material, but it makes for an entirely unsatisfying superhero film, one in which major character deaths are given no nobility and the few hints at future film prospects are woefully deficient, considering the damage already done to the franchise.

Other complaints could range from the overstuffed, underdeveloped host of new characters (including [Lost alert] Ken Leung as a punk with retractable quills) to the underwhelming face-off between Iceman and Pyro to the continuity-clashing prologue in which Charles can walk and he and Magneto are still on good terms (First Class pretty much ignored this film). Plus, even if Magneto is the villain, he always seemed to have a misguided yet understandable reason for his villainy, but his abandonment of Mystique after she saved him makes him unnecessarily shallow and selfish. Despite the welcome additions of Kelsey Grammer and Ellen Page as Beast and Shadowcat, respectively, every single character was given short shrift and deserved so much better.

After this film, most subsequent X-Men films had to hearken back to the origins of its most popular characters since this film left little to work with, yet this movie certainly wasn’t a worthy conclusion to the original characters’ story. Ultimately, it took the return of Bryan Singer with X-Men: Days of Future Past to clean up the mess left by The Last Stand and give us the happy ending this bottom-dweller never could.

Best line: (Storm’s eulogy, one of the few genuinely poignant moments) “We live in an age of darkness: a world full of fear, hate, and intolerance. But in every age, there are those who fight against it. Charles Xavier was born into a world divided, a world he tried to heal… a mission he never saw accomplished. It seems it’s the destiny of great men to see their goals unfulfilled. Charles was more than a leader, more than a teacher. He was a friend. When we were afraid, he gave us strength. When we were alone, he gave us a family. He may be gone, but his teachings live on through us, his students. Wherever we may go, we must carry on his vision, and that is a vision of a world united.”

Rank: Bottom-Dweller

© 2015 S. G. Liput

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