|X-Men: The Last Stand|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Thursday, 01 March 2007|
On the surface you might think the third installment of the X-Men series is another story of good mutants fighting evil mutants for control of the world. However, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is much deeper than that. It brings up many social issues such as Darwinism, evolution, civil rights and social discrimination. It’s much more than just a big budget, computer generated special effects laden extravaganza.
Scientists at Worthington Labs have come up with a vaccine they claim permanently reverses the genes that cause mutation. The United States constitution states that all men are created equal, however when this document was written, the countries forefathers never would have dreamed there would be a race of mutant humans whose abilities and powers would be far beyond anything imagined at the time. Herein lies the big question. Are non-mutant humans the controlling force on the earth or should the mutants be allowed to eventually take over? Those who believe in Darwinism would have to say that these mutant humans are simply more powerful and stronger and therefore they should be allowed to flourish and eventually non-mutants will die out over time. On the other side of the argument, most people would agree that maniacal social dictators such as Hitler or Saddam Hussein who threaten to destroy large groups of people in order to have forfeited their right to exist. These leaders don’t have superpowers like the mutants in X-men. Their weapons are guns, tanks, missiles and bombs and most importantly, the power to control and influence people’s opinions via fear. When a human becomes able to fly, walk through walls, control the weather or teleport from one location to another instantly, they become potentially lethal weapons.
Should non-mutants be able to step in and take the mutant powers from these mutants who have the potential to be a walking, talking weapon, even if they haven’t done anything wrong as far as the laws of the land are concerned? Of course the police could try to arrest a mutant who as broken a law, but depending on that mutant’s powers, they could simply walk through the prison wall or somehow escape captivity. It would be the toughest social issue ever to resolve if there were to be a race of super-human powered mutants, even if none of them had plans to commit criminal acts. The reality is much of what keeps human social behavior in check is the fear of being arrested and incarcerated. With that fear removed, a heck of a lot more crime would be committed.
Kelsey Grammer plays the socially debonair beast-like blue mutant, Dr. Hank McCoy, who’s even called Beast. He’s the political voice for mutant civil rights at the U.S. Department of Mutant Affairs, whose political savvy gives mutants a representative in the public relations world, but who’s not afraid to kick some ass when the time comes.
One particularly interesting scene at the beginning of the movie shows a young boy, around age twelve, using a pair of pliers and a saw in a attempt to remove a pair of wings that is growing out of his back. This boy is obviously a mutant whose special power is the ability to grow wings and fly, but is later angered that his business tycoon father is financing the creation of the vaccine. One can’t help but draw a parallel between this boys feeling of shame and guilt with that of perhaps a young man who is struggling with having homosexual feelings and yet has a father who is a pastor or clergyman who publicly denounces homosexual activity as evil. Many children who have these conflicting feelings turn to a behavior called “cutting” where they cut their arms and legs in order to distract themselves from the overwhelming feelings of depression, shame and fear they have. The fear is not only of being teased socially but more importantly they fear the repercussions of having of their family finding out about their sexual orientation. These feelings, when not controlled with therapy or sometimes anti-depressants often evolve into suicidal thoughts.
Getting away from the underlying social questions that “X-Men: The Last Stand” brings up and makes the viewer think about, this is a pretty damn spectacular piece of filmmaking from a visual effects standpoint and one of the better-looking Blu-ray discs available. I have had both HD DVD and Blu-ray formats for several months and in most cases I have found the HD DVD versions of movies to be a little sharper and brighter than most of the Blu-ray discs I’ve watched; however “X-Men: The Last Stand” is one of the best-looking high-def titles in either format I’ve seen to date.
Any movie that uses Alcatraz as part of the plot tends to be pretty exciting. In “Escape from Alcatraz,” Clint Eastwood re-enacts the famous escape from the island via man-made rafts, in an overnight swim from the island in pitch black, freezing cold waters. In “The Rock,” to stop nuclear weapons from being launched at San Francisco, Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery sneak onto the island via storm drain tunnels under the island.
In this third X-Men, however, the mutants rebelling against standard-issue human beings, led by Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) use a different method to get to the island and its one of the best home theater demo scenes I have ever seen. Stopping traffic with his power to control and manipulate metal, the evil mutants follow Magneto onto the Golden Gate Bridge as he rips the metal support braces off the bottom of the bridge as he makes the entire bridge into a floating hovercraft and moves it over to the island. They do this to put a stop to the creation of that vaccine that robs mutants of their powers. On the island is a young boy who has a very special power of his own that is the key to the vaccine. When in the vicinity of this boy, any mutant loses their special powers temporarily. In Superman terms, this young boy is the equivalent of kryptonite. The scientists have found a way to harness this power into liquid form and are making the vaccine on the former island prison.
There are some weird plot holes in this X-Men that make one wonder if the director Brett Ratner didn’t pay attention to the other two movies, directed by Bryan Singer. In “X-Men: United,” Magneto was captured and placed into a specially made plastic jail. Without any metal to manipulate, he is fairly powerless, other than his cunning brain that helps him conjure up a brilliant plan of having Mystique, who can shape shift, pose as a woman at a bar and get Magneto’s guard very drink and inject his blood with a large amount of iron. With all of this excess iron in the guard’s veins, Magneto sucks all of the iron out of his body and form bullets to crack the plastic walls with.
In X-Men 3, Magneto’s right hand woman Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) is captured and yet the feds transport her in a metal truck, fully aware that Magneto is out of jail. Magneto simply finds out where Mystique is thanks to one of his fellow evil mutants who has the ability to sense the location of other mutants. Magneto intercepts the convoy of trucks that are transporting Mystique, along with a handful of other rebellious mutants. Magneto flips the trucks high up into the air; after they crash-land, it’s easy to walk right in and break out the mutants.
This third X-Men film doesn’t really attempt to answer the big social questions it raises, but it does make for an interesting plot twist as the “good” mutants, lead by Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) just to name a few, are forced to team up with the evil mutants. The good mutants don’t want the evil side to win, however if the scientists who have created this vaccine have their way, all mutants, good and bad will be wiped off the face of the earth, so they must band together.
Some of the scenes that are in dark areas such as Jean Grey’s house at the beginning of the film show some signs of film grain, but overall this is one of the best looking and best sounding Blu-ray discs. When I first watched it, I had an ISF calibrated 720p set and it looked pretty good, however when played in spectacular 1080p via my Sony PS3 into a native 1080p JVC set, I argue there aren’t any better Blu-ray demos on the market today. The dark fighting scenes such as the battle simulation at the beginning of the film are a little blotchy on an older rear projection TV of plasma, but the more modern TV sets with improved black levels with 1080p native resolutions make this film look simply spectacular. If you have a Blu-ray player and a modern display and want to wow your friends, this is the disc you need to have.