Two brief prologues; the first explaining how Jean Grey came to Charles Xavier's school twenty years ago, the second showing a young boy, seven or eight, trying to hide his wings from his father by cutting, grating and shaving them off begin "X-Men: The Last Stand". Then the action picks up at the dam, where "2" ended. Scott, a.k.a. Cyclops (James Marsden) is taking the death of Jean (Famke Janssen) very badly and decides to ride off on his motorcycle. Soon, he finds himself at the lake and the dam and is surprised when Jean appears and walks towards him. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) picks this up as well and sends Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to the location. There, they find an unconscious Jean and only Scott's signature glasses. They return to the school and Xavier puts Jean under, trying to control her bad, reckless second persona, Phoenix. Meanwhile, Beast (Kelsey Grammer), the Secretary of Mutant Affairs, learns Worthington Pharmaceutical has created a cure for the Mutant gene, news which instantly divides both the Mutant and Human communities. Magneto (Sir Ian McKellan) fears it will be used as a weapon against the Mutants and is determined to destroy it, but first, he has to release Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), who has been captured by the government. Along the way, we meet new characters as the story leads to a dramatic confrontation on Alcatraz Island, where Worthington Pharmaceutical is based, and storing the source of their cure.
"X-Men: The Last Stand" is pretty much the definition of a `summer movie'. A "sequel", based on a "comic book", filled with lots of "special effects" and "action"; these are the buzz words you are likely to find reprinted in the newspaper ads, touting the merits of the film. "Last Stand" has a surprising amount of story as well, but the story doesn't help develop the characters, new or old, or some of the relationships. If you haven't seen the previous two films, you might be lost.
As the story begins working through its machinations, certain characters stand out, others fade into the background for large stretches of time. The new characters are given particularly short shrift. We quickly meet a new man who can turn himself into metal and seems to be very strong, but I didn't ever hear his "X-Men" name. At one point, Wolverine says "Hey, Tin Man?", but I suspect this was his sarcastic persona at work. The character seems to be around to simply provide strength. Another new student, a girl, who makes Rogue (Anna Paquin) jealous because her boyfriend, Bobby, aka, Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), shows an interest in her, can walk through walls and allow things to pass through her. Again, didn't catch her name. Magneto picks up a more interesting lot, including Juggernaut (a buffed up Vinnie Jones), who can run through anything, picking up incredible speed, and a guy who can replicate himself multiple times. Unfortunately, the film doesn't do a good job of creating all of these characters in a memorable way. I honestly couldn't remember many of their names and had to look them up on imdb.com.
Also, the filmmakers make some strange choices regarding plotting. They introduce a particular story line and then the action cuts abruptly to another character or part of the story. You would naturally assume to return to the first story in the next scene, but more often than not, the filmmakers visit another storyline, then another, sometimes providing lengthy vacations from the first scene, before returning. At this point, you may have even forgotten the first scene. For instance, we visit an ominous government caravan transporting Mystique under heavy security. She has a funny exchange with one of the guards inside the large windowless truck. Then the action cuts to something else, and then something else again. Later, we join Magneto and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) addressing a crowd of Mutants. The villain soon learns one of the Mutants can sense where other Mutants are. "Can you locate someone for me?" Oh, right, he has to help Mystique escape. Three scenes later, we see an exterior shot of the mysterious caravan and Magneto standing in the middle of the country road.
As the story begins unfolding, the filmmakers capture our attention with the sheer spectacle of everything; lots of action and special effects. But we don't learn anything about the characters, making it merely an exercise. As Wolverine and Storm run around (oddly, Storm is the only `good' Mutant never referred to by her human name) we see them in action, remarks are made to help establish something about their characters, but we never learn the meanings behind the remarks. As we meet the new characters, we don't learn about them either. Why is Angel (Ben Foster), Worthington's son, trying to cut off his wings in the prologue, but as a young man he seems very reluctant to take the cure his father has developed? In the first two films, director Bryan Singer provided these answers, or at least clues to them. Brett Ratner is more interested in blowing things up and using an incredible arsenal of special effects.
Also, this is the first time I have ever felt that a villain was, well, sort of stupid. There is a rich tradition of super villains concocting outlandish plans for world domination and, yes, they tend to do stupid things. For instance, how often have villains stopped to tell James Bond their entire plan, only to give him the opportunity to free one of his hands? Hey, Blofeld! That's all it takes. One hand. But Magneto's plan in "Last Stand" has a fatal flaw. After he learns Worthington Pharmaceuticals has the source for their cure on Alcatraz Island, he decides to retrieve it and destroy it. Okay, check. No problem, so far. He'll just take a ferry or some ship to get there, right? Wrong. He decides to uproot the Golden Gate Bridge and move it to provide a walkway to the Island. An impressive sequence, providing a lot of work for Special Effects wizards, but how does this make sense? Through these actions, Magneto has provided both the X-Men and the military with an easier way to get to the Island and hamper his efforts.
"Last Stand" is fun, mindless entertainment. But it could've been so much better. It is definitely not at the level of the previous two entries.
Now that Bryan Singer has "Superman Returns" out of his system, hopefully he will return to helm "X-Men 4: The Next to Last Stand". Oh, trust me. There will be a sequel, despite all the statements from the actors about "Last Stand" ending the trilogy.