Shades of spandex creep into 3rd “X”

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Shades of spandex creep into 3rd “X”


Bryan Singer already had a reputation as a director of taut thrillers when he took on “X-Men” in 2000, convincing the world to take Stan Lee’s anti-racist ’60s superhero team seriously. It was quite a transformation ― angsty plots and multicolored spandex became genuine drama about social optimism, acceptance and rejection, which was lent credibility by the captivating chemistry of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as Magneto and Professor Xavier, the old friends turned rivals that form the story’s moral axis.
That film also seems to have transformed Singer into a franchise physician tasked with resuscitating aging superheroes ― Singer’s “Superman Returns” opens this summer, with a sequel already under consideration.
With Singer in Smallville, Fox turned to Brett Ratner, a director with a record of light action/comedy flicks, most notably the “Rush Hour” films, for the third installment. With the result, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the films have become what the comics always were: fun sci-fi action melodrama with a smattering of lite social commentary ― nothing more.
In this episode, Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) returns to life to the surprise of no one in the audience, and her massive telekinetic powers overwhelm her conscious mind, which does lead to some real shocks. Knowing how powerful she is, Magneto enlists her in his war against Big Pharma (of all things), which has harnessed a mutant code-named Leech (Cameron Bright) to produce a “cure” for mutation.
Of course the government weaponizes the cure almost immediately, leading to the resignation of the newly introduced “Secretary of Mutant Affairs” Hank McCoy, a.k.a. Beast, a large agile mutant who also happens to be blue ― the third main character with that mutation (genes obviously consult with the art director before they go haywire).
All this leads to a massive showdown in San Francisco over who will control Leech’s fate, and everyone has a chance to fight with everyone else ― Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) with his old friend turned enemy Pyro (Aaron Stanford), and the rest of the X-Men with Magneto’s band of Matrix rejects.
There’s plenty of sound and fury to go around. Still, Bryan Singer’s softer touch is sorely missed. Stewart and McKellen have relatively little screen time, which makes it easier to take the whole thing as camp. Meanwhile, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a bit like Han Solo, has seen his character go from cool badass to slobbering romantic, and the oops-it-was-just-a-simulation opening action piece was especially lazy ― I felt as though I’d seen exactly the same thing as a kid watching the “X-Men” cartoon. Speaking of cartoons, the mutant cure doctor is never without his assistant (Shohreh Aghdashloo) with thick glasses, weird earrings and an indeterminate European accent ― I still cannot figure out whether this was a joke.
This review wouldn’t be complete without reminding you to stay through the credits for a dramatic relevation that’s going to look very silly if this is indeed the X-Men franchise’s “last stand.”
The third “X-Men” film is a fun superhero flick. But, for the gripping drama of the first two, you may have to visit Metropolis instead.

X-Men: The Last Stand
Drama, Romance / English
134 min.
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by Ben Applegate
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