Dark Phoenix is out today, and who would have thought that ten years on it would end up being the worse adaptation of the ‘Dark Phoenix Saga’. But I’m getting ahead of myself; we’ve still got a few films to get through before we analyse why that is exactly, but for now, let’s take a look at Fox’s first attempt in the much maligned The Last Stand.
RELEASED: July 14th 2000
DIRECTED BY: Brett Ratner
WRITTEN BY: Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn
PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter & Avi Arad
MUSIC BY: John Powell
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammar, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Ben Foster, Daniel Cudmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Dania Ramirez, Eric Dane & Patrick Stewart
After the heights of X2, The Last Stand sees the franchise handed over to director Brett Ratner, and sees the introduction of franchise stalwart Simon Kinberg. The result is a film that is often regarded as one of (if not the) worst X-Men films.
After mankind develops a so-called ‘cure’ for mutation, the X-Men find themselves split about how to move forward. Meanwhile, Magneto begins forming a mutant army to strike back at the U.S. Government for their effrontery, and may find a powerful ally in the recently resurrected Jean Grey, who seeks to unleash her true potential as the Phoenix.
I don’t know whether its because I’ve now seen what I consider to be a worst adaptation of this same story, nostalgia, or if it’s actually not awful, but I don’t think this film is as horrible as everyone says it is.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good film. But there’s fun to be had with it.
For one, Vinnie Jones, while ridiculous, is delightfully hilarious as the Juggernaut. Similarly, Kelsey Grammar as Beast is deliciously good casting. The idea of a mutant cure, following on from the growing mutant/human tension of the first two films, is interesting, and makes for another fascinating dilemma for the X-Men.
Unfortunately, that facet of the movie is undermined by all the other nonsense crammed into The Last Stand. Despite the fact that there are only two writers on this film, it very much feels like a movie where there are too many conflicting ideas. You’ve got the mutant cure, Jean Grey becoming the Phoenix, the return of the Brotherhood, the deaths of some major characters, as well as the introductions of others such as Angel, Beast and the Acolytes.
The cure, by itself, is story enough, and you could seed the Dark Phoenix saga for a potential X-Men 4. But nope, they cram it all in here, severely mishandling the characters they have, and throwing a lot of new uninteresting ones in on top of them (Juggernaut and Beast obviously not included). Heroes are killed on a whim; some in ways that seemingly have no reason or payoff beyond outside contract negotiations.
None of this storytelling is helped by the fact that the script itself is pretty shoddy. The dialogue is made up of predominantly bad jokes and things that are meant to sound ‘cool’ but fail to do so.
But the failings aren’t all on the writers and producers. Under director Brett Ratner, the film looses all sense of unique visual identity. It becomes a somewhat generic action blockbusters, and while it does capture the epic scope of the story it’s trying to tell from time to time, again, a lot of the focus seems to be more on making things ‘cool’, rather than making them make sense.
All-in-all, X-Men: The Last Stand has some enjoyable moments, but mostly stands up due to the strength of the two prior films. By itself, it has obvious flaws, but not as offensive as the flaws in some of the other films.
I give it: