Pop-Ed: Defending X-Men 3: The Last Stand

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Since the dawn of the Internet, superhero movies have been nit-picked and analyzed to death. Look at last month’s Man Of Steel for crying out loud…geez. The bigger the character, the more vocal and obnoxious the fanboys will be when something isn’t done properly. While no Batman or Superman, Wolverine and the X-Men are definitely right up there in iconic stature. With The Wolverine opening this weekend, I wanted to focus on a particular X-Men film I feel gets waaaaaaaaay too much shit – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), the third film in the X-Men trilogy.

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Here’s what I don’t like about X-Men: The Last Stand — Angel is a complete waste of time, Rogue’s character arc goes against everything the X-Men universe stands for, Halle Berry is annoying as Storm, Juggernaut has a couple Batman & Robin-esque lines, and I absolutely detest that lame mutant who’s power is extending needles from his body. He’s even extra annoying because he thinks he’s so tough! Other than that though, I think this is a very good movie. Now certainly the stuff I mentioned are not nit-picks. Those are legit problems to criticize, and it’s the reason why Last Stand probably is the worst of the trilogy. But the absolute vitriol and disdain this movie gets is just completely uncalled for.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to do a little point/counter-point with myself, and give reasons why I like this movie, and also defend what some of the major complaints are. So strap into the blackbird, because here are the reasons I like X-Men: The Last Stand!

*X-MEN MOVIE SPOILERS ABOUND*

Why It’s Good: Magneto

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One of the go-to complaints of any X-Men film (other than First Class) is that Wolverine always steals the show. I don’t care what anyone says…this is Magneto’s movie. Ian McKellen is phenomenal in this film. Every single moment with Magneto feels threatening and big. Whether he’s giving a pump-up speech to his Brotherhood, or tossing over trucks with the flick of his finger, Magneto pulls no punches and brings us the war we’ve always wanted to see teased in the previous films. There are two scenes in particular though that rank very high on my ‘Outstanding Superhero Movie Moments’ list – one is action based, the other a line of dialogue. If you aren’t wowed when Magneto moves the Golden Gate bridge, you’re flat out lying. The best moment in the entire film though is when punk ass Pyro whines he could have killed Professor X, and Magneto simply puts up his hand and says: “Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” Seriously, that’s a line worthy of a Nolan Batman movie.

Why People Hate It: “Mmmmmrrraa…It’s A Huge Departure From The Phoenix Saga!”

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I’ve never read the Phoenix Saga in the comics, but I know bits and pieces. I’ve also seen it done on the 90’s animated series. I get this is one of the most hallowed X-Men stories, and just because it was teased for two seconds at the end of X2, fanboys felt they were entitled to get this exact story beat for beat. Get over it. They were never going to do the all out Phoenix Saga. It wouldn’t make sense in the universe they established. You were never going to see the crazy space crap, consuming planets, yadda, yadda, yadda. GET OVER IT! But because people didn’t get the story they wanted, they completely ignored what was on the screen, and I thought Phoenix was a really interesting element to the film. Famke Janssen does a great job of portraying the dual character, and is legitimately terrifying. And even though the Phoenix doesn’t fly into space and wreck havoc, she does go absolutely ballistic at the end. There’s legit tragedy going on with this character. It’s a different take, but a great one that works for this movie. GIVE IT A CHANCE!

Why It’s Good: Wolverine’s Character Arc

I’ll elaborate more on this later, but people just need to accept that Wolverine was the main protagonist from the first X-Men film all the way to this one. Yeah, the war between Professor X and Magneto was the central theme, but it was always Wolverine in the middle. All three stories gave him a character arc to go through, and what I loved about The Last Stand was that it gave him the perfect ending. He became part of a team – something he always refused. He became a leader – something he always refused. But in classic Wolverine fashion, there’s also a hint of tragedy to his arc in being the one to have to kill Jean Grey. The Last Stand gave me a wholly satisfying ending to Wolverine’s journey in this trilogy.

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Why People Hate It: They Casually Kill Off Major Characters!

There are two characters that need to be discussed here – Cyclops and Professor X. Cyclops is really the one where people lost their shit. He’s in two scenes, and then easily discarded by Phoenix. Done. But here’s the thing – Cyclops was never a major character in this series. If you want to make an argument that’s a weakness of the trilogy as a whole, totally legit. But you can’t blame this film for tossing him to the side. In X2, the X-Men movie everybody loves, he’s absent for the entire middle hour of the film. Cyclops was barely a character in the first two movies. The only reason fans were mad by his casual death was because they know him as one of the major players in the comics, but that wasn’t the case in the film series. The only valid criticism worth mentioning with Cyclops’ death is that Professor X doesn’t even bat an eyelid when told about it. That’s sort of bull shit. Speaking of Professor X and his death, it’s the third film…of course the aging mentor has to die. And it’s not like he gets a wimpy death, it was pretty bad ass. Besides, he’s not even dead…or is he? We’ll have to wait for next year’s Days of Future Past.

Why It’s Good: Good Story, Good Wrap-Up:

This script could have been really lazy and just said, ‘Eh, Magneto is ready to start the war and kill humans. Just do it already.’ But the film wisely creates a specific reason why Magneto accelerates his plan – the cure. Not only did the cure become a rallying cry for Magneto, but it created a chain reaction for other interesting sub-plots and character motives. Even though Mystique has a minor role in this one, her taking a cure bullet for Magneto, crying out “Eric,” and getting completely tossed aside was really emotional to watch. The film also wraps up beautifully. It gives us closure to an entire story, but leaves the door just a smidge open to continue on. The last shot of Magneto sitting alone at the chess board was a very powerful image.

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Why People Hate It: Brett Ratner

This is really two-fold: Fans felt cheated when Bryan Singer bolted for Superman Returns (how did that work out?), and when Brett Ratner was brought on to direct, he was never given a chance. People had already made up their minds this movie was going to suck because of Brett Ratner. Yeah, he did Rush Hour. Can we move on? ‘m not going to sit here and tell you Brett Ratner is this brilliant director, but he came in to the middle of a franchise that had a lot of hype around it and delivered a solid product.

Why It’s Good: Solid Side Characters

Aside from Rogue, Angel, and that stupid needle guy, I felt the film had a solid supporting cast. The rivalry between Iceman and Pyro was cool, Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde was a good addition, Colossus was really metal, and Kelsey Grammer as Beast was everything I could have ever wanted from the character. Aside from the flawless performance, I could have watched Beast fight for another forty minutes…awesome. The villain side of things was also good. Yeah, Juggernaut had a couple unfortunate lines, but as a pure action character, he smashed through a lot of walls. What else can you really ask for with Juggernaut? Multiple Man was pretty cool, albeit brief, and Dania Ramirez was a nice addition as Callisto. The one thing I’ll never forgive this movie for though was no Gambit. COME ON! Are you kidding me? It’s the third X-Men movie, and still no Gambit? He’s a suave ladies man who wears a bad ass trench coat, has a bo-staff, and throws explosively charged playing cards. You couldn’t find room for this guy!?!

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Why People Hate It: The Hype

Now that we get so many great superhero movies, people forget how rare they were 10 years ago when X2 hit the screens in 2003. There were some even talking about how X2 was the best superhero movie of all-time back then, so naturally the hype machine for the third entry reached unrealistic expectations. Every time I walk into a movie that I’m super hyped up for, I always tell myself, “If it doesn’t reach your expectations, it can still be a great movie.” The Dark Knight Rises is a prime example of this. Is it as good as The Dark Knight? Hell no. But it’s still a great movie. X-Men: The Last Stand’s deficiencies were greatly exaggerated because of how hyped the movie was. But just because it didn’t reach your expectations, don’t just toss away the great elements that went into this movie, because there were a lot of them. X-Men: The Last Stand – give it another chance.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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