More than that, Ratner and company have jam-packed this movie with every possibly "Mutie" in just about every illustrated periodical that ever had the letter X anywhere in the title. Herein lies the joy and the pain of X3. From an action and fun standpoint it's an easy flick to love. From a logic and storytelling standpoint, I'd ask gakusee Ratner to take the make-up exam.
The big promises X3 makes begin right away with the now-common flashback set-up. This time we travel back to twenty years ago when Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, still so perfectly cast I grin every time I think about it) and Erik "Magneto" Lensherr (Ian McKellen) convince young Jean Grey to come to Xavier's school to control her powers (lest they control her). The use of some creative computerized embellishments help to make Stewart look like Picard as he first stepped onto the Enterprise and McKellen like Profumo as he first got Scandalized! Jumping forward ten years we see fan favorite (and original X-Man) Warren Worthington III first discovering that he too is a mutant, much to the dismay of his father (Michael Murphy).
However, now, in the present (or is it... "not too distant future"?) two major events are brewing. The first is that Warren Worthington II has developed a "cure" to the mutant gene (with the help of Shohreh Aghdashloo's Dr. Kavita Rao) by using the young mutant Leech (Cameron Bright) as a guinea pig. This is all to the shock of the now-benevolent government (see, told you this was a comic book), which includes "Secretary of Mutant Affairs" Hank "The Beast" McCoy (the excellent Kelsey Grammer). The second biggie is the aftermath of Jean "Marvel Girl" Grey's death. Scott "Cyclops" Summers (James Marsden) is handling it about as well as Ken Lay handled his Enron stock. Scotty therefore takes a biking tour to Jean's death site (after a quick stop off at the corner of 10th & Wolf, 'natch) for his own, unique brand of "Crying his Eyes out". But hold on to your ruby-quartz goggles, True Believers, because Jeanie-poo was only MOSTLY dead, and is soon acting out her hot, wet, leather fantasies as Phoenix (as only Famke Janssen could portray her).
Naturally that first surprise makes Magneto a lot more than mad as a hatter. However, as a consolation prize, he's pleased as rum punch at the second surprise. As he's rebuilding his "Brotherhood of [Evil?] Mutants" back up to full speed, he's adding name after name after name from the Claremont years, some of which actually vaguely resemble their printed counterparts. Back is the badass pupil Pyro (Aaron Stanford), whose work with Magneto is now honed like a well-oiled machine, and back as well (but not for long enough, pant, pant, pant) is Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), who is so hot she still could boil the rings of Saturn! Joining them is a slice of the Marvel Universe not oft seen or expected (and only occasionally accurate). These include Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones), Callisto (Dania Ramirez), Multiple Man (Eric Dane)... and soon, about a zillion others... including Phoenix herself.
On the other side, the X-Men themselves still feature Rain, Wind and Leather, Hell Bent for Leather Hottie Ororo "Storm" Munroe (Halle Berry, without the Cat Ears) and Canadian Scrapper Logan/ Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, still too tall, but otherwise perfect). Now, joining THEM are, again, Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) as well as Grammer's Beast and their fine feathered friend Angel (the aforementioned Warren III, played by a buff Ben Foster).
Still awake? I'm trying to prove a point here. This film is SO packed with characters (very few of whom develop past the wafer-thin stage) that the story collapses under its own weight. The big promises made toward the beginning rarely are kept and the very stars of the show feel more like plot point vehicles, appearing as cameos in their own movie. With so very many dead ends hither and yon, I wondered why the hell Ratner and his band of Marvel Merry Men threw in so much superfluous sub-story (like the love triangle between Rogue, Kitty and Bobby). Along the way some major characters are lost to us, seemingly for no other reason than to keep things going, and in their place are packed extra after extra after extra. Soon everyone in the film is a mutant, either fighting for good, fighting for bad, lining up for "The Cure" (no, not the band, unfortunately), or protesting against "The Cure" (no, not the band, fortunately).
Canonical accuracy is similarly dismissed in favor of high-stakes action and plot that moves fast enough that most of the audience won't notice the plot holes (hell, the majority of the teenagers in the audience were text-messaging on their phones the whole time anyway... jackasses). During the time in which that revolving door of characters becomes a veritable Cuisinart, many well-established characters do things that are very much against type with no real motivation other than the snowball effect of the storyline. By the time the titular "Last Stand" takes place (on the broken Golden Gate Bridge and on Alcatraz Island) my party and I noticed so very many loose-ends and discontinued plot threads that we ultimately had to either turn our brains off or start laughing. We chose to let the Id take over so that we could still enjoy the film.
And we did. This is a deeply flawed film, but one that can be watched again and again. The intellectual version of "The Beast" being played by a heavily made-up Kelsey Grammer is as inspired a choice as Patrick Stewart playing Professor X!!! What's more, there are some nods to the previous films in the series, corollaries to historical and current events, and a few hundred grins toward the comic books. Even when these are outshined by the disregard to source continuity, there are still enough big, dumb action scenes, killer lines and exciting victories to keep the adrenaline pumping and the audience laughing and clapping. This is the big one: the biggest, most bombastic, most flashy and most over-the-top X-Men yet. There's not a whole lot of substance to hold it up, but it sure looks pretty.
This brings us, of course, to the special effects, which I would be remiss not to mention. There are almost as many Visual Effects technicians in the crew as their are colorful mutants in the cast. The fact that these include Rick Baker should tell you some of what's in store for the old peepers when you walk into Auditorium 12. There are flying and exploding cars, floating bridges, fastball-thrown-Canadians, crushed semi-trucks, flying women, jumping men, atomized bodies and shattered buildings every seventy-eight seconds or so. If these Special Effects don't thrill you, Rebecca Romijn's Especially Effective face and body, sure as Smurfette is Smurfy, will!
Tune In, Turn Off... if you leave your continuity-nitpicking mechanism at home with your logic parser, you might just have fun with X-Men: The Last Stand. We did. In fact the words "Great Movie" were thrown around a time or three. However, this is more along the lines of "Great Popcorn movie", or "Great Summer Action Movie" than "Great True Classic Up There With The Greatest Films Ever Made, Ever Movie". Three Stars out of Five for the greatly entertaining, but superficial X-Men: The Last Stand! Keep those eyes open during the opening flashback for the now-ubiquitous cameo by Stan Lee! And on that note, stay through the credits for an additional scene that not only grabs the audience right out of their seat, but also helps to set up the upcoming Spin-off/Sequels Magneto and Wolverine. It might come as a surprise that Ian McKellen is still showing up to throw cars, flip trucks, break bridges and deliver loveably sanctimonious dialogue after so very many filmic triumphs. However, as long as there are flicks out there like Catwoman and Van Helsing, it's not surprising that SOME of our cast is still hanging about. Until then, I'll see you in the neXt reel, you Otaku Fan Boy, you!
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