Last stands are very popular stories. The last stand of General Custard. Those Native Americans that made their last stand at Wounded Knee. And who can forget the Battle of Thermopylae, where King Leonidas I led three hundred Spartans, seven hundred Thespians, and four hundred Thebans against the Persian army of Xerxes, basically committing a brave, honorable form of suicide. In X-Men 3: The Last Stand, mutants are forced to make one final stance against those threats that would see the world come to war.
In X3, Professor Xavier leads his team into an all-or-nothing war against the overzealous Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. Meanwhile, Dr. Jean Grey has reemerged as The Phoenix, a purely instinctual mutant who is more powerful than anything anyone has ever seen. Mutants are making progress in the world as it pertains to equality. There is a mutant in the Presidential Cabinet: Dr. Hank McCoy, that blue-haired fur ball known as The Beast. However, as we all know, when things are going well, bad happenings are just around the bend. Warren Worthington, a lucrative executive, has created a “cure”. Once this cure goes public, mutants around the world must make a decision: abandon their identity or fight for it.
Bryan Singer chose not to direct this film and Brett Ratner was brought in to take his place. Ratner brings the action, but not the feelings. Ratner lacks what Singer built the X-Men franchise on: relationship and underlying tones of racism, prejudice, and equality. The way Ratner handles Professor Xavier is especially odd. In the previous films, Professor X is a calm, calculated character, very slow to anger or stress. In X3, Xavier shows signs of panic, and it is an instance in which the hat just looks extremely odd on the character. I will give this to Ratner, though: his handling of Magneto is impressive. Throughout the film, Magneto shows signs of compassion to Xavier, his former friend. He is a man who is experiencing internal conflict between his belief in mutant rights by any means necessary and his friendship with Charles Xavier, the very man who opposes him.
Although X3 brings plenty of memorable action scenes, it lacks enough emotion to carry an X-Men film. Considering the previous two films, I was disappointed with this installment. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it just doesn’t measure up.
Like General Custard, like the Native Americans, like King Leonidas, like all of us, the X-Men deserved a proper “last stand”. It’s too bad they didn’t get it.