X2 - X-Men United
Cinema Signal:
The Amazing Life of Stan Lee

X-Men United
(a mutant assassin makes an attempt on the President's life)

X-Men 1.5
(Opposistion to a powerful mutant terrorist organization)
. "X-Men: The Last Stand"

With more than the usual clarity about what the fight is all about, the third in the "X-Men" universe, brings us face to face with mutant powers, and that's the fun of it. While some critics are disappointed over the lack of deeper meanings, I was inclined to revel in the fascinating effects that actualize those powers and the technological art that makes it possible. It's a stunning night out for awestruck kids like me.

Okay, so maybe I'm not a kid anymore, but when Eric Lehnsherr, aka Magneto (Ian McKellan) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) pay their first visit to young Jean Grey when she was a newly discovered prodigy in the mutant firmament, and when she demonstrates how she can levitate the cars on her block, a certain awesomeness sets in.

If you saw "Xmen United" you'll know that she grew into an adult and was killed. But can anyone so powerful be killed on a permanent basis? That question is answered with her return, exhibiting traits of her former lovable side as Dr. Jean but mostly as the most destructive force on the planet, Phoenix. When this babe unleashes, it's a trip to oblivion for everyone around.

When you're dealing with powers like these, it's sometimes hard to avoid biblical references, but the filmmakers, director Brett Ratner (who assumed the main chair from Bryan Singer) and writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn approach the line without quite getting into divine symbolism. Let's keep this on a safe, commercial level, don'tcha think?

But while we're avoiding allusions to the heavenly and hellish to explain mutant power, political satire is what fuels the fable. It begins when Warren Worthington II discovers that his son Warren III (Ben Foster) is a mutant. The boy's got wings. Daddy, an industrial magnate with his own corporation gets into R & D and comes up with a cure. Imagine it--a cure for mutantism.

Not only does Worthington II hype the product, but no less than the president of the United States supports it as a needed social issue. He thinks it's something like HIV and sounds just a tad like George Bush on any number of issues, all designed to convince the country of a need that isn't there or for which he has no real idea of any way to improve what's already on the books. The bigger problem is that the Mutants we know (now I think I need to capitalize the subculture) don't think they need a cure and, while they're contending with Mutant-to-Mutant issues, they now have a bigger fight on their hands... with the government.

Rise up X-men! Returning to the breed are the familiar stalwarts: Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) with his stiletto knuckles, Ororo Mumroe/Storm (beauteous Halle Berry), Marie/Rogue (troubled Anna Paquin), other old-timers and some new faces. The most notable of this latter category are delicious Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, a babe who can walk through walls, and Kelsey Grammar as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast, a blue-faced Wolfman character who advises the president on mutant matters--a sort of Surgeon General with an equal amount of political power.

Special mention goes to the upstart lady known as Raven Darkholme or, in her shape shifting self, as Mystique. Alas, harm, in the form of the government promoted cure, brings her down. As she morphs to normal human, we're treated to a fine pinup moment of feminine gorgeousness. Ah, sweet normality.

As said, the fun here is in the wide assortment of special powers where mutants clash or combine forces to vanquish an enemy. In the end, they take separate sides, wreak destruction, and provide us, through the ingenious applications of a highly skilled CGI crew, the kind of thrills and satisfactions that give you a buzz.

My mutant power (and the boxoffice tingle of $199 Million in one week per Weekly Variety) tells me "The Last Stand" is anything but last. It's not even likely to be penultimate.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner
                                        Jules Brenner  

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