A boy among X-Men

Franchise’s third installment has more bang, less brain

WITH MY HANDS TIED BEHIND MY BACK <br>Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) does some damage in the latest installment of the <span style="">X-Men</span> franchise.

Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) does some damage in the latest installment of the X-Men franchise.

X-Men: The Last Stand Starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen and Patrick Stewart. Directed by Brett Ratner. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

If I were to be compelled to provide an example for the non-word “craptacular,” all I would have to do is introduce non-movie X-Men: The Last Stand as Exhibit A.

Because its plot is as memorable as a blackout kiss, one leaves the theater with the lingering suspicion that something sorta happened but uneasily unable to quite put a finger on exactly what it was. Exactly 105 minutes unreel as essentially nothing more than an excuse to introduce characters from the comic book series that had been overlooked by the first two X-Men movies, and blow things up.

I suppose for fans of the comic books that is justification in itself, judging from the contented sighs and chuckles as each new character got their moment in the lineup. Only a moment though, as there are quite a few of them, some seemingly introduced only to use their special mutant skill in order to resolve a plot complication, and to set into gear their upcoming roles in the planned X-Men spin-offs, Wolverine and Magneto.

The linking device here is that after being presumed dead in the previous X-Men outing, mutant hottie Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is back, and she’s really pissed off about something. “Something” being the operative word because it is never really clarified what her issue is, just that she is pissed off. As she is psychokinetic and all that, this is not a good thing. She pauses briefly with one character to suck some face, but that rapidly turns into a very bad thing for the poor sap because it does … well, something to him. Again, it’s never really clarified what that something is, but it makes rocks and other coastal debris just sort of float around in the aftermath of … well, whatever it was that happened to him.

Meanwhile, all the other mutants are in an uproar because the gub’mint has managed to find a cure for mutancy and is offering a clinic on Alcatraz (huh?) for the affected to get their shots. The “good” mutants, led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), are more concerned about figuring out what Jean’s problem is (which I don’t think they ever do, other than it is some very, very bad news), while “bad” mutant Magneto (Ian McKellen) builds up a mutant army to, well, be an army and smash things.

Ultimately, they all end up on Alcatraz and bounce each other about.

As disposable entertainment goes, this entry is painless enough and delivers on the spectacle. Unfortunately, director Brett Ratner (of the Rush Hour franchise) may have mastered the ability to yell “Action!” and “Cut!” but here displays absolutely no talent for directing actors, which in itself is a very bad thing for an ensemble piece.

Burdened with some of the most tin-eared dialogue to disgrace the screen since the last Star Wars movie, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry and their colleagues are left on their own to stumble about from scene to scene, struggling to get the unwieldy words out of their mouths before they choke on them. And oddly enough, for the first time in the franchise, Ratner manages to make Wolverine look almost dainty, a banty furball chomping on a cigar.

The first two entries (directed by Bryan Singer, who traded gigs with Ratner to helm the upcoming Superman Returns) took the potential for allegory and utilized it to good effect, especially during the course of the second flick as parallels were drawn to the coming-out process. Here, however, the outsider aspect of the mutant conflict is presented as pretty much nothing more complicated than a bunch of punk rockers trapped in a disco world.

Rocks fall, everyone dies … but it’s hard to take pathos seriously in a comic book world of inevitable resurrection (especially if you sit through the end credits), and Ratner doesn’t have the empathic chops to pull it off.

Things do blow up real good, though.