Not awful, but certainly a bit of mess, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND almost killed a promising franchise that thankfully has been resurrected in past years with the solid X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) and the exceptional X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014).
Picking up after the events of X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003), THE LAST STAND finds that life at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters is not the same since the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). To make matters worse a “cure” has been discovered that can turn mutants into normal humans, which has divided some at the X-Mansion and strained relationships between mutants and non-mutants.
Magneto (Ian McKellen) feels this is the last straw and puts a team of powerful mutants together to teach the human race a lesson once and for all. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) prefers a more peaceful solution, but when circumstances change and Jean returns from the dead as Dark Phoenix, all bets are off. It will take the remaining X-Men to work together to save humanity.
After Bryan Singer’s deft handling of the X-Men Universe in the first two outings, Director Brett Ratner just doesn’t seem up for the challenge. Tonally all over the place with big scale action in lieu of quality character drama, THE LAST STAND feels hollow and empty.
I’m no comic book purest, but the Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most important episodes in X-Men lore and they completely botched it. On top of that, the script by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, kills off or hobbles so many fan favorite (or important to the franchise) characters that the ones we’re left with, other than Wolverine, are incapable of carrying the film.
THE LAST STAND does have its moments and it’s not unwatchable, it just lacks that emotional punch and character complexities that the previous films had in spades.
The good news is that X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST cleans up the mess quite well (even glossing over some of the missteps) and has once again raised the bar for the mutant franchise.