X-Men in Excess 

The Sound and Fury of X-Men: The Last Stand

Wolverine has three blades coming out each of his hands, he's really fast, and he's practically indestructible—skeleton full of metal, super-fast healing time—plus he likes to smoke cigars and tear shit up. Logic dictates that if you've got him in a movie, you really can't do too much wrong.

X-Men: The Last Stand—the third in the series, and allegedly the last—does have Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in it. There's also a good number of other familiar characters: Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who runs a school/superhero team for Wolverine and other mutants, such as telepath Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), weather-controlling Storm (Halle Berry), and Rogue (Anna Paquin), who kills anyone she touches, whether she wants to or not. Now crammed to maximum capacity, Xavier's school also hosts Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who can walk through walls, and the genius Beast (an unexpectedly credible Kelsey Grammer), whose mutation makes him look like a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Papa Smurf.

If it sounds overcrowded and hectic, it is. Unlike the first two X-Men films, this installment isn't directed by Bryan Singer (whose other notable work includes The Usual Suspects) but rather by Brett Ratner (whose other, not-so-notable work includes Rush Hour). In the often goofy genre of superhero movies, Singer's films were clever, heartfelt, and laced with disquieting social and political undertones.

But Ratner just wants to make a slam- bang action flick, and he'll be damned if plot or character will get in the way. After a loud first act that unceremoniously kills off of a few of the series' major characters, the stage is set: Mutants can now take a "cure" that suppresses their mutation. Some—like Rogue—immediately sign up; others—like Storm—find the idea morally offensive. The idea of a "mutant cure" is swiped from writer Joss Whedon's comic storyline, and boasts an incredible level of potential. But that'd require thinking and allegory—two things Singer excels at, and Ratner is unaware of—so instead, the "cure" becomes a generic excuse for Wolverine, et al., to fight. They're fighting, as usual, against Magneto (Ian McKellen), the series' arch-villain and strongest character. Magneto's previously piercing intellect is missing here—now he just wants to cause wanton destruction, or at least ensure that the X-franchise goes out with a bang.

Missteps and silliness aside, The Last Stand is fun—the pace is so blistering and the special effects so overwhelming that it's impossible not to be entertained. Ratner seems to think that if he makes this X-Men faster and louder than its predecessors, maybe the audience won't notice that it's a whole lot dumber. Yet as the death toll (and the CG budget) rises impressively at the climax, it's also impossible to feel or think anything of import. But Ratner's not concerned with that sort of stuff—and, in his defense, he does offer plenty of Wolverine, who, dependably, runs around and slashes things up.

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