X-Men: The Last Stand - The Worst Movie in the Franchise? (2023)

We revisit X-Men: The Last Stand, arguably one one of the worst Marvel superhero movies ever made.

For years, Hollywood has tried relentlessly to bring to life the exciting and diverse team dynamic of one of Marvel’s most iconic and best-selling comic book franchises- The X-Men. With 11 live action films and billions of studio dollars given to them over the years, you’d think we’d have covered the best stories from the pages and brought them into cinema. And while I think there are plenty of good moments hidden in these movies, and some movies in the franchise that are beyond expectations, I also think that the true potential of the X-Men and their complicated, interpersonal nuance has yet to be fully realized on the big screen.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy movies like the originalX-Men, andFirst Class, and of courseLogan, which is easily the most bleak and disturbing film that Fox has ever made with Jackman as Wolverine. And maybe it’s just my generation, but when I think of the X-Men, I think of the soapy and dramatic cartoon series from 1997 which shaped my obsession with mutants and their stories as a young comic book fan. And that makes today’s movie slightly more disappointing as we’re about to revisit a film that takes one of Marvel’s most iconic comic book events and makes a bold attempt to bring it to reality with The Dark Phoenix saga. It would fail so badly they would try it again and, somehow, make a movie that’s just as bad.

Now, I’m personally a pretty big fan of the character Jean Gray and the Phoenix, but my love for the character and her duality of good and evil exists only in print, as I don’t think this storyline can be done justly in just one film. After all, the comic book AND the cartoon dedicated multiple books and episodes to this arc and for VERY good reason. It’s… It’s complicated. But, at the end of the day,X-Men The Last Standis about much more than just Jean. It’s a movie about loss, intolerance, rebellion, and the ever-growing longing for Mutants to be accepted among humans. And, also it features some classic in-universe plot holes that make the entire experience very difficult to take as cannon.

Seriously, why do these movies have such a hard time keeping their story straight? Am I missing something here?

So, if you’re ready than grab your black leather jumpsuit and don’t forget to like the video- because we’re about to enter the Danger Room, and revisitX-Men: The Last Stand.

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Okay, true believers, We’re at the end of the originalX-Mentrilogy. If you saw our video revisiting the first two films, you’ll know that I’m a pretty big fan of the first film, and not as big a fan of the second film. And in 2006 when this third installment was released, I was expecting to see something groundbreaking as a result of the rapid advancement of special effects in Hollywood and the increasingly experienced cast of celebrities who inhabit these roles. But instead, what we get is a bloated story that is packed to the brim with storylines to try to tie off the series with as little loose ends as possible.

After the success ofX-Menand the boom in comic book movies, it was inevitable that X-Men would continue its run in cinema with a third film. But when the director of the original films, Bryan Singer, chose to leave the project in favor ofSuperman Returns, Fox was at a standstill on how to end his trilogy. So, they went to Matthew Vaughn and he… wasn’t available. So, they instead gotRush Hourdirector Brett Rattner to step in to direct. Mistake? Chyeah!

But they also considered talent like Darren Aronofsky and Joss Wheaton to take the helm. Poor Aronofsky just can’t catch a break with superhero movies can he?

But after some development issues and having studio interference in full swing before even hiring an official director, the movie’s writing was doomed from the very beginning. When the idea to bring the Phoenix Saga into the script was presented, Fox felt that it was too dark for a fun summer blockbuster and scrapped the idea. It wasn’t until later that it was watered down by subsequent unrelated plotlines that it was approved to be in the story. And that just has the studio’s lack of understanding the X-Men written all over it.

X-Men: The Last Standis the third film in the original trilogy and picks up shortly after the events of the second film. The last film saw the X-Men struggle to save the day but just narrowly escaping a watery grave with Jean Gray making the ultimate sacrifice to save her family.The Last Standuses those events to motivate the story, while also trying to build up to an epic final showdown between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants AND the U.S Government… And I don’t want to speak for everyone but honestly, the government is completely out of whack in these movies. Nobody seems to have anything to say except “mutant bad” and “human good” which would be fine if this wasn’t the basis for literally everything that happens in this trilogy.

But anyway,Xavier and the core team (Cyclops, Wolverine, and Storm) are grieving the death of Jean and each character is handling it differently. But when Jean returns, she comes back different. Darker. And upon her return, she’s recruited by Magneto to lead the new brotherhood on a fight for their freedom by destroying the government and their newfound “cure” for mutation. The X-Men need to band together one more time to save the day and bring Jean back from the dark path she’s taken as the Phoenix.

To set our story in motion, we get some flashbacks to the past and plenty of exposition to try rushing Jean’s never-before-mentioned duality. Charles and Erik visit a suburban home and we see that Charles still has full use of his legs. They’re trying to recruit a young Jean to their school for gifted mutants, and successfully persuade her and her parents. Now, first we need to address the 2006 CGI de-aging attempt that director Brett Ratner decided to go with. Here’s a hot take: IT DOESN’T LOOK MUCH DIFFERENT THAN MARVEL’S DE-AGING TECHNOLOGY TODAY. For real, maybe they’ve enhanced it for HD on Disney Plus which would not be surprising, but it honestly isn’t terrible. I mean sure, it’s a bit rubbery and overly smooth, but let’s face it, that’ just how Marvel movies look.

I also think it’s important to remember that the phoenix has NEVER been mentioned in these movies before which makes the attempt to shoehorn it into this movie even more sad. For context, this is an entire saga in the X-Men comics and had a 3-episode arc in the cartoon, which was fully dedicated to the story, as opposed to this movie which tries to balance this arc for Jean with a million other spinning plates. Things like a Mutant Cure, a war between man and mutant, a love triangle with Iceman, Rogue, and Shadowcat, and of course, the incredible sibling-like rivalry between Magneto and Professor X. That last one I actually REALLY love.

We also get an introduction to an iconic X-Men member from the original comics, Arc Angel, or Angel- played here by the under-appreciated Ben Foster.

I actually love this scene where we see a young Angel locked in the bathroom trying to surgically remove his angel wings before his father finds out he’s a mutant. It’s heartbreaking and yet it shows the current state of fear mongering against mutants in this reality, and ALSO sets up Angel’s father as the man who is motivated to develop a cure.

Scott isn’t doing well after the loss of Jean. He’s not teaching his classes at the school, he’s not joining the team for missions, and he’s definitely not up for any of Logan’s antics. When he goes to the lake where Jean died, he senses her presents through her telepathic communication and then… A whopping 15 minutes into the movie… He dies.

That’s it. He just dies. That’s what happens. CYCLOPS JUST DIES.

So, now Jean is back at the X mansion where Charles attempts to free her from her murderous tendencies and bring back the Jean Gray that we all know and love. Charles gives Logan some exposition explaining that he’s known about Jean’s dark side since the very beginning… And you didn’t think to tell anyone about it? Okay.

Meanwhile, Bobby Drake, played by Shawn Ashmore, is caught in a love triangle with his longtime girlfriend Rogue (Ana Paquin) and Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page) which goes absolutely nowhere. It’s maybe the most unnecessary drama in this movie and it doesn’t even have a real payoff. Rogue is feeling insecure about not being able to touch Bobby physically when she hears of a new mutant cure which can immediately preserve the human DNA of mutants, while killing off the mutation. Rogue wants in on it, but doesn’t really know how to tell the group.

And that’s part of what I find troubling with this movie as well, The X-Men could not be more disbanded at this point. Not on purpose, they just all have their own storylines going on and none of them seem to overlap. Magneto, Pyro, and Mystique are recruiting some new talent for their brotherhood in the form of Callisto, Multiple Man, Kid Omega, and of course…

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Their plan is to locate a young mutant called Leech, who’s sort of an anti-mutant. He’s a young kid whose ability is to reverse mutation. The Government is using his blood to make a serum that can supposedly cure mutants of their powers. Magneto and the new Brotherhood want to find Leech and stop the cure from being distributed.

The X-Men, now without Cyclops because HE JUST DIED- enlist the help of a genius level mutant called Beast (Played by Kelsey Grammer) who looks, sounds, and acts PERFECTLY as the big blue Einstein. Seriously, I don’t know what it is with Fox and blue mutants, but they make every blue person look AMZING in these movies like Mystique and Nightcrawler.

But this cool stuff with Beast is ruined pretty quickly when Charles, Storm, and Logan find Jean and try to bring her back to her normal self, and PROFESSOR X DIES. Well, not really, but we’ll get to that.

It’s not even earned. It’s just as forced as Cyclops’ ridiculous exit to the franchise.

So, the X-Men are recruiting help to save Jean who has joined Magneto’s brotherhood and stop them from destroying the cure. You guys remember how Logan was kind of like the main character of the first movie? Well, he takes a backseat in this film along with almost everyone else. It’s weird to see so many cool characters in this movie and almost none of them have any development. Beast is awesome but he really only shows up for a few scenes, Juggernaut was exciting to see although his character was just made to be a big dumb brute, and all the hype we get for Agel is deflated as he’s literally useless in this movie. He’s in like 3 scenes and says like 5 words and that’s it.

HOWEVER, while the story is all over the place, the characters are treated like disposable nothing-super heroes, and the movie is packed with bullshit like Ice Man freezing a fountain so he can ice skate with Kitty, there is also a few things that deserve praise upon this rewatch. For example, we get the see the Danger Room, a brief look at the sentinels, an amazing performance from Sir Ian Mckellan, and even an interesting take on Wolverine’s berserker rage FINALLY.

Now remember, True believers, theX-Menwas always envisioned as a soap opera. Serialized stories about interpersonal relationships between students at a special school isn’t that far off from any of the teen dramas we grew up on, but here’s the issue-

The X-Men in these movies are a blend of adults who are already in full control of their powers, and kids who get no attention in the film, and all we get to tie it all together is a few action scenes where the students and their teachers from Xavier’s school work together to have a super power battle with other mutants. There isn’t any writing dedicated to the individual characters. There’s just exposition, weird death scenes, and even weirder action scenes. I would’ve liked to have seen some of the b-plots dropped from the movie in favor of giving more development to Leech, who is a very interesting mutant in his own right but is completely underused and underserved here. It kills me that we get more scenes where Bobby is low-key flirting with Kitty, than we get of Angel and his interesting story. In the comics, Warren (Angel) is the son of a billionaire who works in anti-mutant research, and he’s ashamed of his gifts until Xavier and the X-Men help him to love himself. In this movie, He’s a kid who hates his mutation when he’s like 10, but then when his father tries to cure him later in his life, he just doesn’t want to do it. WHY? Could we not get like 5 extra minutes dedicated to this arc? It seems kind of important.

So, throughout the movie, everyone is kind of split up, but it all culminates in a final battle that pits the brotherhood against the humans, and the X-Men against both. Again, there is some stuff to appreciate in this scene. We get to see Bobby turn into full iceman mode, which is fun, we get to see wolverine pop his claws and do some damage which is ALWAYS fun, and Beast finally gets some combat in to contrast his otherwise fully composed character. Let your freak flag fly, Hank. We love you.

Jean, by this point has been fully taken by the phoenix persona (although none of her development happens on screen) and Wolverine uses his ability to heal himself to stand up against her and ultimately kills her with his claws in order to save everyone from her power. Something that, AGAIN, would be nice to fully flesh out within the movie so that this scene doesn’t come off as a completely silly resolution to a very real conflict.

Magneto is shot with the cure and seemingly stripped of his powers which brings the realization that he done messed up BAD. He flees with the rest of the brotherhood and the day is officially saved. And at what cost? Well, Cyclops died for no reason, Professor X was seemingly killed early on as well, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Mystique is also cured of her abilities and Magneto just drops her cold about halfway through.

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Director Brett Ratner brought us a final installment that didn’t work for anyone. The film was poorly received FOR GOOD REASON by audiences and the box office take while being solid at over $400 Million was not matched in the film’s underwhelming reviews. For my money, the key to making a good X-Men movie is to spend time developing the long list of interesting characters and seeing them as individuals who are all part of a collective team, as opposed to making a team up movie where nobody has time to be seen or heard as a person.X-Menis all about inclusion and embracing diversity, yet this movie treats all mutants like generic teenagers who occasionally work with other generic teenagers to stop a threat. And that’s just NOT what I, or many of you want to see.

This is proven by the franchise’s later attempts to redcon this movie in favor of a prequel/sequel/spinoff series known widely as “The First Class Series” which tracks the same characters through a different timeline. It’s a much better series in some installments and much weaker in others, and that is something that we will undoubtedly be covering in the future along with the Wolverine trilogy andNew Mutantseventually. Which by the way, I have some things to say about those movies and you are not going to want to miss that.

X-Men The Last Standis too dumb to be considered “dumb fun” and yet it’s too dense to be considered a nothing movie. I think if you want to recreate the Phoenix saga in live action again, maybe this time do it over a limited series and dedicate the entire main storyline to this idea. No more of the flip-floppy and convoluted stories okay Marvel? Just give it to us the way we want it. The RIGHT way.


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