That’s right. I’m NOT calling it “The Last Stand.” Do you REALLY think they’re won’t be another one?!
Now with a third film, we all know the base plot. Humans are frightened of mutants (a metaphor for being different, aka race, sex, orientation, etc) and mutants are frightened of humans BECAUSE humans are frightened of mutants. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) leads the charge to protect humanity and strives for peace while Magneto (Ian McKellen) wants to eliminate humanity for mutants to take their rightful place atop the evolutionary chart. When a private firm offers a voluntary injection that can forever suppress the ‘X’ gene in mutants (calling it a cure), Magneto charges that the “voluntary” cure will be forced upon all mutants and organizes an army to destroy the source of the cure. Meanwhile, Xavier’s X-men have their hands full when Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) turns up alive, but has anyone seen Cyclops lately (James Marsden)? Oh, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is in every scene they can possibly squeeze him into.
Put your Bryan Singer vs. Brett Ratner controversies away, “true believers,” because X3 is really a love letter to fans of comics everywhere. After the relatively low-budget X-men and improved X2, this third installment is the logical conclusion to every superhero comic book story arc: all Hell is breaking loose. You’re finally going to see powers vs. powers in an epic, earth-shaking final battle where their WILL be casualties and on both sides. Things change, and this entire film is the exclamation point to the entire series.
But no, it isn’t perfect. One character “death” happens completely off-screen (but without a body, there’s always that question of “Are you sure they’re really dead?”), Wolverine seems to be everywhere at once (yes, audiences like Hugh Jackman with claws and so does the ladies, we get it), and maybe the lines could have been a little less overdone. And what kind of final epic confrontation is less than two hours long? But all the money’s on the screen, and the story building up to it suggests that far more sacrifices have been made to protect humanity than your average mutant might condone. Fans who recognize some of the classic Chris Claremont dialogue about “who has done what to whom” will both have them winking and wincing as it all seems out of context.
Just remember that this is the movies, and even the most sacred plots have all been re-written to accommodate fans new and old, and it all works. The spectacle of everything going on shouldn’t be lost on those having trouble following along, and the intimate details that dedicated fans are hanging onto are all in there, from Sentinels in the Danger Room to “fastball specials” to “Oh, my stars and garters.” Halle Berry’s Storm finally gets to really fly, and no one should question Kelsey Grammer as The Beast. When the smoke clears and the ashes settle, there are changes made in X-men movie universe, but don’t think for a second that this is the last you’ve heard of ??mutantkind?? (and there’s even a little extra something after the credits for those not quite in a hurry to get home).
(a three skull recommendation out of four)