X-Men: The Last Stand should have been enough to end 20th Century Fox’s take on the X-Men. Since it almost completely derailed the X-trilogy. X-Men: The Last Stand is clearly weaker by comparison. Not that it doesn’t have enough to both please and anger fans of the X-Men. By 2006, Marvel movies were everywhere. I was excited to see what seemed like the conclusion to the pioneering X-Men films. At 10 years old, I was a bigger fan of the X-Men. So I recognized Beast, Angel, Juggernaut, and other Mutants in the trailer. After seeing X-Men: The Last Stand in theaters, I was blown away by the fanservice, but equally annoyed at the mistreatment of key characters.
A lot of the final result can be blamed on studio interference and Bryan Singer’s departure. After directing both X-Men and X2, Singer left to work with the competition. Leaving his already successful superhero franchise in the dust. He was eventually replaced by Brett Ratner. A director who often favors style over substance. Which lead to them butchering one of the most acclaimed comic book storylines. Both the Dark Phoenix Saga and “Gifted” storylines were blended in a way that fit the established continuity. Despite the restrictions that previous X-Men movies had, it’s clear that some kind of effort was made to increase comic book accuracy. However misguided it was in the end…
X-Men: The Last Stand opens in a similar way to the original X-Men. By showing two different Mutant’s manifesting their power in a way that’s important to the plot. The first flashback features Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr visiting one of their new students. This was the earliest use of digital de-aging in film. It may be a common practise now, but here Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen look airbrushed. They meet a young Jean Grey at her house where she shows off her omega level power of telekinesis. While lifting objects, we get a quick cameo of Stan Lee hosing and Chris Claremont mowing. Claremont wrote the Dark Phoenix Saga. A famous X-Men storyline where Jean becomes unstoppable after absorbing the Phoenix force. I read the arc later on and it’s vastly different than what the movie does. The second flashback features a young Warren Worthington III horrifically clipping his Angel wings. Which inspires his father to create a Mutant cure. An idea present in the “Gifted” storyline. The cure comes from a Mutant boy based on Leech.
Since X-Men: The Last Stand was the most expensive movie made at the time, they were free to go all out. We finally see the Danger Room which is mostly a virtual reality simulator. Fans will recognize its simulation as the Days of Future Past storyline. It was awesome to finally see a Sentinel on the big screen (even if it’s just a head). Another comic nod is the Fastball Special where Colossus throws Wolverine at an opponent. After three movies and a growing career, it’s clear that Fox only ever cared about Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is always top of his game, but he really didn’t need to be the star this time around. Especially after Logan already discovered his origin. On the other hand, Halle Berry is finally given the presence she deserves. Since an omega level Mutant like Storm is way more important than how she was portrayed in the previous movies. Storm embraces her leadership role, her weather manipulation is way more hands on, and she sides against the cure. Her shorter hairstyle is also reflective of Berry.
Once again, Cyclops is mistreated. It’s a crime that James Marsden never got a chance to do justice to such an important X-Men. Scheduling conflicts meant the unforgivable decision by the studio to kill him off. When Jean rises from the ashes, she kills Scott off-screen. A major difference between the comic, is that Jean became the Phoenix through a cosmic entity. Other Marvel superheroes were involved and her devastating power reached galactic proportions. In the movie, the Phoenix is simply an alternate personality that Professor X repressed. It’s nowhere near as epic, but Famke Janssen is good at switching between Jean and Phoenix’s lustful rage.
Meanwhile, Magneto and Pyro return to build a greater Brotherhood of Mutants. Hoping to destroy the cure. Along with a handful of bizarre randoms are generic versions of Callisto, Psylocke, Arclight, and Kid Omega. Although inaccurate, Dania Ramirez does standout as a speedster version of Callisto who can sense Mutant powers. She helps Magneto find Mystique and other potential recruits. In true comic fashion, Magneto dispatches of several trucks with ease. Rebecca Romijn has way more lines, badass moments, and suggestive shots, but she’s also shortchanged. As Mystique becomes human early on when shot by the cure. Magneto coldly abandons her and leaves with his new Brotherhood.
X-Men: The Last Stand is very overcrowded, but it does make good use of those new additions. Kelsey Grammer was inspired casting as Beast. His blue fur and introduction reading a book upside down is ripped straight out of the comics. Beast currently works with the President, but it only made sense for him to be a longtime friend of the X-Men. Nightcrawler was left out with no explanation. Although it’s easy to figure out makeup was the reason. Ben Foster spreads his Angel wings by denying the cure, but he’s barely in the movie otherwise. Rounding out the original X-Men is Shawn Ashmore as Iceman. Anna Paquin is severely reduced after Rogue considers the cure. She’s also jealous of Bobby and Kitty. After two separate recast cameos, Kitty Pryde is finally played by established actress Ellen Page. Her walking through walls is surprisingly good in a fight. Daniel Cudmore is also on the team as Colossus, but he barely has any lines.
On the villain side is a surprisingly accurate Multiple Man and Juggernaut. Vinnie Jones brings a moderately faithful unstoppable Juggernaut to life. Except he’s a Mutant with no relation to Xavier. Professor X and Magento reunite with different ways of reaching the Phoenix possessed Jean. A fight breaks out between Wolverine, Storm, Juggernaut, and Callisto in Jean’s house. As Jean’s power grows, she shockingly disintegrates the Professor. Another unforgivable studio decision that enraged me at the time. A distraught Magento takes the Phoenix to join the Brotherhood, but she’s mostly stuck in the background until the movie figures out what to do with her. Logan attempts to get her back while evading an attacking spike Mutant. Then Magneto sends him away after giving an ironic speech about Mutant domination. The army switches to plastic cure weapons and Beast rejoins his fellow X-Men. Only then does Wolverine lead Storm, Beast, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Colossus in a last stand against Magneto. They take the X-Jet to Alcatraz and Magneto gets there in an impressively powerful sequence where he moves the Golden Gate Bridge.
The final battle is a fun mix of superpowers and fan pleasing moments that no other X-Men movie had. Makes me wish this was the time they replaced the black leather outfits. Wolverine snikts Mutants, Beast goes full beast, Storm brings the thunder, Iceman puts up ice walls, Colossus is unstoppable, and Kitty runs through everyone. When Magneto sends Juggernaut to kill the cure, Kitty runs in to stop him. Leading to a ridiculous (but hilarious) recreation of the meme, “I’m the Juggernaut B*tch!” They both run through walls, but Juggernaut is defeated by the boy’s close proximity. The other Mutants try to kill Worthington II whose caught by Angel at the last second. Storm defeats Callisto with a lightning blast. And I cheered the moment Iceman defeated Pyro by finally becoming ice. Another gasp came when Wolverine distracts Magneto long enough for Beast to cure him.
Leaving Phoenix as the remaining threat. She destroys everything around her and it’s clear Wolverine’s healing is all that can stop her. Very similar to Van Helsing, Jackman is forced to kill the woman he loves while shirtless and screaming. Making it the last unforgivable major X-Men death in the movie. In the end, Storm runs Xavier’s School, Beast becomes an ambassador, Rogue decides to cure herself, Wolverine sticks around, and Magneto’s powers seem to be returning. In an after credit scene, Xavier seems to have entered the body of one of Moira MacTaggert’s patients. X-Men: The Last Stand ends up being a mixed bag. The Mutant action is way more of a spectacle with greater comic accuracy. Fan favorite characters were equally welcome. Especially since the budget finally made it possible to cram everyone in. The biggest problems continue to be a noticeable shift in direction and killing off characters that were so much more in the comics. The conflicting Dark Phoenix Saga and idea of a cure suffer as a result. X-Men: The Last Stand both honors and dishonors its rich source material.