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X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

SYNOPSIS:
When the Worthington Corporation finds a cure for mutations, driven by Warren Worthington's (Michael Murphy) desire to 'cure' his own Angel-empowered son, (Ben Foster), Magneto (Ian McKellen) gathers an army of discontent mutants who want to destroy humans to avert the threat, while Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) preaches tolerance and the way of reason. But even among his followers, there are those who are attracted to the idea of being free of their powers, especially Rogue (Anna Paquin) who is denied a normal life with relationships since she can kill anyone she touches by absorbing all their powers. Magneto's army of mutants sets off to destroy the Worthington facility on Alcatraz island, along with Jean Grey's Phoenix (Famke Janssen) whose previously repressed and unstoppable telekinetic and telepathic powers threaten to devastate humans, mutants and anything else in her path, unless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who has fallen in love with her, can somehow stop her.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are flaming cars, levitating houses, walls of water and an X-travagant action scene in which the Golden Gate Bridge is devastated and repurposed in spectacular fashion. The credit list for stunts and visual effects for X-Men 3 goes on forever, and it's not surprising. The stunts are non-stop and we marvel at them all. Yet the heart of this third film about the mutant Marvel comic characters is overtaken by splashy effects. That's not to say I didn't enjoy director Brett Ratner's showy, visual style, but emotionally, I felt a little like Anna Paquin's Rogue, unable to touch the characters I love.

All our favourites are back as well as some fresh new faces. Look carefully in the opening sequence, when Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen's Magneto enjoy the benefit of anti-ageing software, when they are shown twenty years earlier. Good effect. Stewart and McKellen are worthy adversaries, as they remain on opposing sides of the new war which battles for the survival of mutants as a race. The notion that individuality should be treated as a disease is an interesting one and can be considered as the starting point for many lively discussions.

Love yourself as you are, is the moral of the film, and while love plays a central part, our emotions seem to be too gobsmacked by the action to be overly affected emotionally. There are too many characters doing too many things. In the beautiful body stakes, Hugh Jackman impresses again as Wolverine, and Halle Berry is mysteriously exotic as the weather-controlling Storm. Ellen Page as Kitty, who can walk through walls is a welcome addition, and the scene when Vinnie Jones' massive Juggernaut crashes through the walls through which tiny Kitty has already morphed, is a wonderful comic touch.

In chess, the pawns go first, says Magneto, and while pawns, bishops and kings alike reach the end of the game, X Men 3 X-cells at the X-tremes.

Andrew L. Urban:
In the suspended reality of comic book stories about people with super-human powers, the X-Men have an ongoing relevance. Much like games, these characters and their adventures provide us an opportunity play out deadly scenarios without getting hurt. Like the games of cowboys and Indians of old, we can replicate the primal conflicts of baddies and goodies, of evil against decency, right against wrong, in a variety of computations. But along the way, we can also ask some probing questions about the human condition, and perhaps even learn how to manage our sorry little lives just a fraction better.

The Last Stand proposes that mutants can be cured; the genetics are not discussed, but we are told - and even the President of the US is assured - that, yes, it's true, Worthington has come up with a drug that will turn all mutants into standard issue human beings. While for most of them this looks like a dull option, some, like Rogue (Anna Paquin) toy with the idea, ready to be rid of the powers that have a downside: she can kill those she loves simply by touching or kissing them.

The deeper resonances of those conjecture involve individuality, being different, and the desire to be a unique individual - although here that is transferred onto the mutants who live in the Mansion, under the patriarchal Charles Xavier.

But of course most fans will be able to ignore all the references and symbolism, and go straight to the action heart of the matter, following their favourite X-Men (and women) as they go about the serious business of maintaining the status quo - against extraordinary odds. The filmmakers have turbocharged the franchise for this closing chapter of the trilogy, escalating the effects and the enormity of the issue. And on their terms, the film works very well indeed, keeping us involved with the main characters through dramatic conflict and personality shaping, while much of the action is like a superdome sized magic show, as the various powers are put to effective use.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (M)
(US, 2006)

CAST: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Shawn Ashmore, Ellen Page, Ben Foster, Aaron Stanford, James Marsden, Olivia Williams, Daniel Cudmore, Vinnie Jones, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Cameron Bright, Michael Murphy

PRODUCER: Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter

DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner

SCRIPT: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn (Stan Lee comic book characters)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Muro, Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: Mark Goldblatt, Mark Helfrich, Julia Wong

MUSIC: John Powell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ed Verraux

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 25, 2006







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