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X-Men: The Last Stand is the third film adaptation of Marvel Comics' X-Men superhero comic books. It was directed by Brett Ratner and written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. The previous two movies were X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003). The film was released May 26, 2006 in the United States and Canada, and one or two days earlier in approximately 22 other countries.
The movie revolves around a "mutant cure" that causes serious repercussions among mutants and humans, and on the mysterious resurrection of Jean Grey, who appeared to have died in X2. The film is loosely based on two X-Men comic book story arcs: writer Chris Claremont's "Dark Phoenix Saga" in The Uncanny X-Men (1980), and writer Joss Whedon's six-issue "Gifted" arc in Astonishing X-Men (2004).
The movie starts out in the past with Magneto and Xavier visiting a young Jean Grey's house. It appears that Xavier is there to convince Jean and her parents to come to his school in order to learn how to control her powers.
A pharmaceutical company announces that it has developed a serum to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their powers and makes them different from humans, offering the "cure" to any mutant who wants it. It is also revealed that the source of the "cure" is a young mutant named Leech whose power is to suppress the powers of other mutants within a short radius of him. While some mutants are interested in the cure, including the X-Men's Rogue, many others are horrified by the announcement. In response to the news, the X-Men's adversary Magneto raises an army, warning his followers that the cure will be forcefully used to exterminate mutants.
Cyclops, haunted by the memory of the dead Jean Grey, returns to the place where Jean had sacrificed herself to save the X-Men in the previous movie. Jean appears from the water, and as she and Cyclops kiss, Jean changes and appears to kill Cyclops. Sensing trouble, Professor Charles Xavier sends Wolverine and Storm to investigate. When they arrive, the two X-Men encounter telekinetically floating rocks, Cyclops' glasses, and an unconscious Jean.
Back at the school, Xavier explains that when Jean sacrificed herself, she unleashed the powerful alternate personality she calls "Phoenix". Wolverine is disgusted to learn that Xavier has kept Jean under control telepathically, but when Jean awakens, he realizes she is not the Jean Grey he knew. This Jean is unusually sexual towards Wolverine and, for a moment when she is conscious, she begs Wolverine to kill her. When Wolverine refuses, she slams him to the wall and escapes to her childhood home.
Magneto, also aware that Jean is now a supremely powerful mutant, meets Xavier at Jean's house. Magneto is accompanied by newly introduced mutants. Both Magneto and Xavier vie for Jean's loyalty until the Phoenix resurfaces, unleashing her power. The Phoenix destroys her house, kills Xavier, and leaves with Magneto who comforts her. Wolverine and Storm mourn over the death of the Professor.
Following the loss of Xavier, the X-Men regroup and confront Magneto's army, which is attacking the pharmaceutical company. Shadowcat, or Kitty, escapes the Juggernaut and rescues Leech. During the fight outside, Beast injects Magneto with the cure, nullifying his mutant powers. After the battle, the Phoenix emerges and begins to destroy everything around her. Momentarily gaining control, Jean begs Wolverine to save her. Telling Jean he loves her, Wolverine reluctantly kills her by stabbing her with his claws.
Despite the X-Men's losses, life goes on. Magneto, now an ordinary man, sits at a chessboard and reaches out toward a metal chess piece that trembles slightly. Following the end credits, Dr. Moira MacTaggert checks on a comatose patient who calls out to her with Xavier's voice. Startled, she replies, "Charles?"
Bryan Singer, the director of the first two X-Men films, left the project during preproduction in order to direct the film Superman Returns. He was joined by X2 screenwriters Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty and composer/editor John Ottman. Matthew Vaughn was hired as the new director for the project. He cast Kelsey Grammer as the Beast and Vinnie Jones as the Juggernaut, but family issues reportedly led him to withdraw before shooting began. Vaughn was replaced by Singer's friend Brett Ratner, who was among those originally considered to direct the first film — and coincidentally was considered by Warner Brothers to direct the 2006 Superman project before it evolved into Superman Returns.
On June 13, 2005, a review of an incomplete early draft of the screenplay posted by Drew McWeeny from Ain't It Cool News sparked controversy from fans, due to certain main characters' storylines; however, that draft was the very first of over two-dozen drafts the film went through and has had numerous changes happen to the storylines.[citations needed]
Patrick Stewart sparked fan speculation when he spoke publicly about the project saying, "It's very intense, it's very emotional, it's very personal about the individuals that we've already got to know in the first two movies. It has some astonishing set-piece sequences. It has a number of quite significant deaths. From what I've seen so far, I think, it's likely to be extraordinary."
Fox Films Entertainment Chairman Tom Rothman said The Last Stand is the end of a trilogy, but not necessarily the end of the X-Men film series: "These three movies work as a trilogy. These characters in this relationship, it's the culmination of that saga. It's the culmination and the resolution of those relationships laid out in the first two movies." In a December 2005 interview however, Brett Ratner disagreed with Rothman's comments: "We wanted to make sure the audiences knew that this was a trilogy. Even though they weren't made together like Lord of the Rings, this is really closure for the X-Men series...This is the last stand for sure." In the same interview, it is stated that a 20th Century Fox spokesperson confirmed The Last Stand will be the final installment for the X-Men team.
X-Men: The Last Stand began shooting in August 2005 and ended in December 2005. Much of X-Men:The Last Stand was filmed in Vancouver, Canada. According to associate producer Dave Gordon, "This is the biggest production ever filmed in Canada. It used to be X2, now it's X3." The final battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants was originally scripted to take place in Washington, D.C., but Ratner opted to change the location.
The film had some interesting production issues. A 2,500-foot replica of the Golden Gate Bridge was built for one sequence originally in the middle of the movie, but Ratner decided it would create a more dramatic climax if moved to the end. 65+ year old actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen had their faces partly replaced by CGI to make them look younger in the first scene flashback.
Angel's wings were initially too heavy for Ben Foster, and were remade from foam.
Many of the actors performed some of their own stunts.[citations needed] The whirlwind wire-stunt performed by Halle Berry during one fight scene reportedly caused Berry to become so nauseated that she vomited. The crew actually had to bring in buckets for her before shooting her scenes.
Many of the cast members from the previous two X-men films returned, the major exceptions being Tyler Mane's Sabretooth from the original X-Men, Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler) and Kelly Hu (Lady Deathstrike who is now deceased.) from X2. Both actors have two-film contracts, despite Hu's character being killed in X2.[citations needed] James Marsden (Cyclops) also appeared in The Last Stand, despite reported scheduling conflicts with the June 2006 movie Superman Returns.
Halle Berry stated during interviews for X2 that she would not return as Storm in the third film unless the character had a significant presence comparable to the comic-book version. Brett Ratner also felt Storm required a larger role, and increased it.
Additions to the cast include veteran TV actor Kelsey Grammer (Beast), former British footballer Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut), actor-director Bill Duke (Trask), Ben Foster (Angel), and Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde, the third actress to play the character). New members of the Brotherhood of Mutants include Eric Dane (Multiple Man, whose name appears in Stryker's files in X2), Dania Ramirez (Callisto), Ken Leung (Kid Omega), Mei Melançon (Psylocke), and Omahyra Mota (Arclight, credited as simply Omahyra). While the Juggernaut is referred to in the official press notes as Professor Xavier's stepbrother, this is not mentioned within the film. The character Dr. Moira MacTaggert, who appears in the film, is not listed in the official press notes' cast list and goes uncredited in the finished film. She is played by actress Olivia Williams.
Alan Cumming was reportedly uncomfortable with the long hours he had to take with the Nightcrawler makeup, but still planned to return for X-Men: The Last Stand. However, the part for Nightcrawler was so minimal, he felt it was not worth it to go through the long and costly make up process when he was barely in the film, and the character was cut. He did agree, however, to do voice work for the character for the video game based on the film.
The sergeant directing defensive preparations before the Brotherhood assaults Alcatraz Island is played by Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey, a former U.S. Marine Corps non-commissioned officer who became a military adviser for films and frequent military character actor.
X-Men co-creator Stan Lee and writer Chris Claremont have cameos in the film's opening scene as neighbors in Jean Grey's old neighborhood. Respectively, they are credited as "Waterhose man" and "Lawnmower man".
Filmmakers considered using the Beast character since the first X-Men movie, but budget constraints ruled him out; however, Steve Bacic is identified as Hank McCoy when he appears on a television screen in a cameo role in X2.
Top row: McKellen, Stewart, Marsden, Jackman, Janssen, Berry, Paquin, Romijn. Bottom row: Foster, Cudmore, Jones, Grammer, Stanford, Ashmore, Page, Ramirez
X-Men: The Last Stand grossed $45.5 million domestically for the highest Friday gross ever, and the second-highest opening day after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($50 million). It is ranked fourth among film debuts having generated an estimated $122.9 million domestically during its four-day Memorial Day opening weekend. The website The Numbers notes that the film's weekend gross "equals the record for the fewest number of days taken to earn $100 million, joining four other movies that achieved the feat in three days." However, the film suffered a significant drop of 66.9% in its second weekend,when its box office take fell to $34.0 million. As of June 6, 2006, the films had grossed of $175,348,409 in North America and $318,110,729 globally. It became the first film in America ,in 2006, to cross the 200 million dollar point as of June 11th.
Reviews of the film have generally been mixed, with the film review website Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a 56% approval rating. The film review aggregate site Metacritic also reported mixed reviews with a score of 58/100. Ebert & Roeper gave the film two thumbs up, while Ebert stating "I liked the action, I liked the absurdity, I liked the incongruous use and misuse of mutant powers, and I especially liked the way it introduces all of those political issues and lets them fight it out with the special effects." Some film critics, however, considered the third film to be of lesser quality than the previous two. Justin Chang from Variety said the film is "a wham-bam sequel noticeably lacking in the pop gravitas, moody atmospherics and emotional weight that made the first two Marvel comicbook [sic] adaptations so rousingly successful." Frank Lovece of Film Journal International said, "A risk-taking script with genuine consequences elevates this ... above the lackluster direction of Brett Ratner, whose competent mechanics move the story efficiently but with very little soul." Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer, said, "Director Brett Ratner can't make chicken a la king out of chicken droppings, and that's what writers Simon Kinberg (XXX: State of the Union) and Zak Penn (Elektra) supply."
Tom Rothman, head of 20th Century Fox, has made comments to the effect that there will most likely be a fourth X-Men movie.
Patrick Stewart and Halle Berry said that if the movie fares well, the franchise will continue. The final scenes leave that possibility open. Vinnie Jones said that when contracting for his role as the Juggernaut, he signed for three movies, although this is standard procedure on planned franchise projects.
A Wolverine spin-off and a Magneto spin-off have been announced and are in the scripting stages. Another possible movie based on the character of Emma Frost, a mutant telepath and X-Men comics regular who can transform her skin into an organic diamond substance, is also being developed as a result of the success of the first three X-Men films. Three Kings director David O. Russell was contacted about creating a story for the character. A possible film based on the students at the school has also been mentioned.
Avi Arad, executive producer, stated in an interview that Marvel would take its time to decide what to do with future X-Men films, but is focusing on the spin-offs.
Comparison with the comics
The film borrows from many previous X-men story arcs. The Phoenix theme originated from writer Chris Claremont's "Dark Phoenix Saga" in The Uncanny X-Men (1980). While in the film the Phoenix is Jean Grey's evil "split personality", in the comic the Phoenix is an actual Phoenix-like alien entity, neither good nor evil, that bonds with Jean through her telepathic and telekinetic powers. The film's theme concerning "the cure" and mutants voluntarily wanting to take it was previously seen in episodes of the X-Men animated series, as well as in writer Joss Whedon's six-issue "Gifted" arc in Astonishing X-Men (2004).
Other familiar details from the X-Men mythos seen in the film include the Danger Room and (as a hologram shown within) a giant, mutant-hunting Sentinel robot. One of the president's advisers is also called Trask, alluding to Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels. Beast's line "Oh my stars and garters" is the character's trademark catchphrase in the comics, specifically "The Avengers". The movie features the "fastball special", Colossus and Wolverine's famous tag-team move, in which the super-strong Colossus throws Wolverine at their opponent — in this case, a Sentinel, and Magneto. Storm and Callisto engage in two battles during the film. In the comics, Storm defeats Callisto to become leader of the Morlocks. The fate of Professor Xavier after his "death" is the same as Psylocke's in the comics. Wolverine killing Jean bears similarity to the conclusion of his original limited series.
Juggernaut is a mutant in the film, as evidenced by the fact that he has been contained by the government and is affected by Leech's power. However, in the comic book continuity, he is a regular human who derives his powers from a magic crystal. He also is Charles Xavier's half-brother and there was sibling rivalry between them. In the original comics, Spike, Psylocke and Multiple Man are not Brotherhood villains; however, in the alternative Ultimate Marvel universe, Multiple Man is a villain. Kid Omega is portrayed as a mutant with porcupine-like quills as opposed to his comic counterpart whose power is superhuman intellect. Psylocke is shown with a red dagger tattoo over her left eye, and is able to cloak herself in shadows, making her appear invisible. This refers to Psylocke "under Crimson Dawn", where she has this power and mark rather than her usual power of telepathy/telekinesis that manifests as a pink katana. When she uses her "shadow powers" in the film, however, there are no shadows in the place where she materializes. In the film, Callisto is depicted as having super-speed (new power) and a variation of her super-acute senses: sensing the power levels of mutants. In some comics, the character Caliban (also a Morlock) has the ability to sense mutants and their power levels.
The Juggernaut's line to Kitty Pryde "Don't you know who I am? I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!" alludes to a popular video parody (The Juggernaut Bitch!!) based on Juggernaut's character from an episode of X-Men: The Animated Series.
This is also the first film that features the five original X-Men: Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Angel, and Jean Grey.
The novelization of the film, written by comic book writer Chris Claremont, was released on May 16, 2006.
The novelization of the movie differs significantly from the film. In the novel, young Jean Grey discovers her powers after an accident that takes her best friend's life. Angel officially joins the X-Men and travels with them to Alcatraz Island instead of going on his own. Storm spares Callisto's life, which is more in line with Professor Xavier's views on violence. Iceman takes an unconscious Pyro away from Alcatraz. The attack on Alcatraz is referred to as M-Day, a reference to the "Decimation of mutantkind" storyline in the comic books. Rogue decides to keep her powers in the end, and Beast stays at the school as a teacher. Warren Worthington announces that the reason he developed the cure was to change his mutant son and destroys all remaining vials of the cure. Moira MacTaggert visits Magneto in the park, presumably offering an antidote to the cure, which he refuses because as the book says: "He couldn't go back. That path had brought nothing but grief, to those he cared for, those who trusted him, to himself. This was better." This suggests that in the novel Magneto turns over a new leaf before discovering a slight return of his powers. Unlike the film, the novel does not allude to Xavier's resurrection.
- Main article: X-Men: The Official Game
Games publisher Activision released X-Men: The Official Game, the official video game tie-in to the film across all major videogame platforms on May 16th, 2006. The various editions of the game bridge the events of the films X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand and feature many of both films' prominent characters. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Alan Cumming, Eric Dane, Shawn Ashmore and Tyler Mane reprise their film roles in this game. Sentinels, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Silver Samurai also appear in the game. It also provides an explanation to Nightcrawler's absence.
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