X-Men Critics Stand Divided
X-Men may be a franchise about the ultimate outsiders, but, for the series' third installment, the biggest outsider of all is new director Brett Ratner. When Bryan Singer—who helmed the first two films—jumped ship to make Superman Returns, Fox inexplicably brought in Ratner as his replacement. Arguably the best running action series around, and its climactic third act is to be masterminded by … a man best known for the Rush Hour movies? Riiiiiight.
Even the most skeptical X-fans must admit, however, that, if nothing else, Ratner sure didn't skimp. His movie has more of just about everything: bigger fight scenes, bigger special effects, higher stakes for our mutant heroes. Heck, it's even got more heroes—joining the team this time around are fan favorites Beast (Kelsey Grammer), Angel (Ben Foster), and even burly bad guy Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones).
That's a lot of new faces to cram into an already crowded franchise, but wait—there's more! There are also major plot developments that fans of the comics will no doubt recognize with glee. Jean (Famke Janssen), for example, turns out to be not quite as dead as the last movie suggested; she returns here in the form of the strange and powerful Phoenix. There's also a controversial new mutant "cure" devised by the government, and, as always, mischief involving Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his band of evil cronies.
But hey, more is better, right? Depends on who you ask.
Russ Breimeier (Christianity Today Movies) has positive things to say about the movie, but criticizes its storytelling, saying it "promises much but falls short in delivery, and that includes its overarching theme. It raises issues without truly taking a stand, ironically." He concludes, however, that Ratner "has met with much skepticism from fans afraid that he would botch the franchise. He actually handles the action well and stays true to the feel of the series, helping make this an enjoyable summer blockbuster that generally lives up to the predecessors."
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) is much less positive, noting that "it's hard to see it as anything other than a disappointment. Not only is this effort a big step down from the excellence of the first two films, it largely squanders the dramatic and emotional momentum left by the second film." He continues: "X‑Men: The Last Stand isn't awful like Fantastic Four, but it lacks the emotional and intellectual punch of its predecessors."
Adam R. Holz (Plugged In) says it's an entertaining movie with a muddled message: "The message that every person is valuable and deserves acceptance comes through loud and clear (between explosions and dismemberments, that is). What's less clear is whether tolerance means embracing the choices other people make along the way."
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) is the film's most enthusiastic proponent: "Fans of the first two X-Men movies, both directed by Bryan Singer, worried when Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour movies, The Family Man) signed on to direct the third film, but Ratner hasn't embarrassed himself. Far from it, he successfully packs more characters into a film with a leaner running time than the first two films in the series—a positive development in an era of blockbuster films with bloated running times but skimpy scripts—while retaining a sense of wonder and fun in the storytelling. It all adds up to enjoyable, escapist entertainment."
Mainstream critics stand divided.
More reviews of recent releases:
The Da Vinci Code: Mark Gudgel (Relevant): "The same historical errors exist, but are now available to all in one easy-to-swallow, three-minute scene in which Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen, perfect for the role), just as in the book, offers a gushing speech of falsehoods, historical inaccuracies and even lies regarding the early Church, Constantine, the Council of Nicea and the divinity of Christ. Considerably worse than the storyline involving Jesus' supposed marriage to Mary Magdalene is this scene, in which Brown's fictional expert gives his inaccurate yet convincing portrayal of early Christian beliefs."
Jeffrey Overstreet, our regular Film Forum writer, is taking the month off. Josh Hurst, one of our film critics, is filling in.
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