X-Men: The Last Stand

It is hard to believe that the man who directed the Prison Break pilot and the Rush Hour movies could be responsible for the letdown that is the supposed final X-Men installment (yeah right.) But alas, even with Hugh Jackman’s scene-stealing Wolverine, Last Stand suffers from a jumble of underdeveloped characters and cheesy dialogue that taint the compelling plot. Thank goodness Ratner knows how to blow things up. The film opens with an extremely botoxed Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) joining his “old friend” Magneto (Ian McKellen) at the suburban home of Jean Grey, some thirty years before the events of X3 take place. Gloomy foreshadowing ensues as Xavier offers the feisty young Grey an opportunity to control her class-5 powers. Back in the present, Wolverine plays teacher to the junior X-Men (suspiciously only four in number) while Cyclops (James Marsden) broods around, mourning the loss of Jean who took one for the team in the previous film. Just when the film is beginning to feel like an episode of Saved By the Bell: The College Years, Jean Grey shoots out of the lake with fiery red hair and a man-eating alternate personality, the Phoenix, and a pharmaceutical company announces a cure for the Mutant-X gene (as if the homosexuality parallel wasn’t blatant enough.) Once more, the mutant population must divide between the “can’t we all just get along” X-Men, and Magneto’s rebellious Brotherhood who seek to destroy the cure before it is forcibly inflicted on the mutants.

X3 actually stands for the three things that ruin this movie: bad writing, Brett Ratner and Halle Berry. Yeah I said it, Halle Berry you ruined this movie! Every time her monotone Storm opens her mouth the unintentional comedy meter goes through the roof forcing me to question why Fox didn’t just call Berry’s bluff and let her quit if she didn’t approve of her screen time. Add that to the cheesy Days of Our Lives love triangle between Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and the new Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and I’m just about ready to watch this movie on mute. At least Wolverine still has his witty comebacks to keep me going. With a 104-minute runtime, Ratner packs in a fair amount of action, but at the expense of character development and a coherent plotline. Relating to the characters is simply out of the question as you are offered a gratuitous Who’s Who of mutants that are each given one cool stunt before sinking back into the sea of anonymity. Beast (Kelsey Grammer), one of the coolest characters in the comic book, might as well have been Cookie Monster for all the action we get out of him, and the new Angel (Ben Foster) does little more than look sullen while flying around. Not to mention that the screenwriters off main characters like they’re writing for 24.

But the movie manages to wrestle itself from a Star Wars Episode One level by giving the audience some awesome fight scenes courtesy of Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones) and Dark Phoenix (Famke Janssen) whose bad ass powers contribute to some jaw dropping scenes. The movie comes together with an apocalyptic type battle pitting favorite nemeses against one another, demonstrating Ratner’s talents for bang up action and intricate special effects. Once the main fight scene begins, lines like “I love what you've done with your hair,” are almost forgotten…almost. I was hoping the X3 DVD would at least offer some insight into the many controversial decisions made in the film so that I would no longer scream “what were you thinking?” at the screen each time I watched it. Unfortunately, even with loads of commentary, the disc does little more than convince me that the writers and director had no idea what they were doing.

After fast-forwarding the annoying previews, you can join either the Brotherhood or the X-Men, which seemed cool until I realized that either choice led to the same menu with the same features. The DVD then offers about twelve movie trailers all disguised as different features: First Look, The World of Marvel and Trailers, none of which justify buying the DVD, though it will pump you up for the Simpsons movie. The deleted scenes are about as worthwhile as Halle Berry’s character Storm, most being one second snippets that had absolutely no purpose in the film. For example, there are two versions of Pyro telling Magneto about the cure; one where Magneto has a beard, and one where he is clean-shaven. I had to listen to the commentary on that baffling choice but the most writer Zak Penn could offer was that he liked Pyro’s pants. The only scene that really is remotely interesting is an extended fight sequence at Jean Grey’s house that shows Wolverine and Storm kick a little more Brotherhood booty. The three alternate endings are definitely the highlight of the disc, though that isn’t saying much. Ratner’s mind-blowing commentary on the version where Rogue doesn’t take the cure: “fans of Rogue should just watch this scene instead of the actual ending.”

The disc has two sets of commentaries, one with the director and writers and another with several producers. I was looking forward to Ratner’s clarifications, but he loses all credibility when he compliments Halle Berry’s acting. The rest of the commentary offers little insight on critical decisions, although the writers’ constant corny jokes at least explain X3’s cheesy dialogue.

The widescreen DVD has both DTS 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, which definitely maximize the incredible sound effects even on my crappy TV from the early nineties. If you really want to embrace the faulty dialogue, the film offers English and Spanish subtitles in addition to being dubbed in Spanish and French.

When it comes down to it, if you have to buy this DVD I would steer away from the more expensive two disc Special Edition since the only added feature is a special mini-comic written by X-Men creator Stan Lee which, will probably be available on youtube soon enough.