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X-Men: The Last Stand
With the third entry in Marvel's most famous mutant franchise, Bryan Singer, the director of the first two films in the series was gone and Brett Ratner, the man behind the Rush Hour movies and Red Dragon was in. With Singer's departure things were changed around a fair bit and rather then a story focusing solely on the Phoenix with the White Queen as the primary villain, Ratner went for a different, group-oriented take with decidedly mixed results.
The story picks up where X2: X-Men United left off. Jean Grey (the lovely Famke Jennsen) is thought to be dead at the bottom of the lake though a flashback scene wherein Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) recruit her tells us early on where the focus of the film will be. Scott Summers (James Marsden), better known as her former boyfriend Cyclops, hears her in his head and so he heads off to the lake alone only to find Jean there waiting for her. They kiss, and that's the end of Scott - Jean has taken on a different form, and is slowly but surely losing control of her considerable telepathic powers.
Meanwhile, Warren Worthington III, the son of a wealthy industrialist, has been found to be a mutant. His father figures out a cure and the government decides to allow mutants to take the cure and turn themselves into normal every day humans. Magneto isn't down with this idea at all, he sees it as a way of eliminating the mutant race all together and likens it to Hitler's treatment of the Jews during the Second World War. As such, he gathers together a brotherhood of powerful mutants who subscribe to his philosophy and as one thing leads to another, they're going to try and beat the government at their own game and get rid of this supposed cure once and for all.
The two main plots tie together nicely and along the way we're introduced to a few new characters who should appeal to fans of the comic book (Kelsey Grammer as The Beast being the prime newbie this time around though Vinnie Jones as The Juggernaut has to be mentioned). The action scenes come at us quickly and without relent but it happens at the sacrifice of the storyline, unfortunately. While the first two movies set things up really nicely this third one feels rushed and a little hectic. That's not to say that the movie doesn't have its moments and its high points because it does, but it isn't as interesting or as carefully put together as the two movies that came before it.
That being said, the cast is still strong here, even if it's hard not to laugh at Vinnie Jones as The Juggernaut and his horrible 'I'm the Juggernaut, bitch!' line. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are both perfect as Professor Charles Xavier and Magento respectively and Famke Jennsen and Hugh Jackman are both quite good as Jean Grey and Wolverine - their chemistry in a couple of key scenes plays well. The main reason to see the movie, however, is for the action scenes. The set pieces that Ratner and and his team have conjured up for the film are excellent and these carry the film. The story is there and it's not horrible even if it could have been better, but these scenes - such as when Magento frees Mystique or when the X-Men face off against Magento and a few of his comrades in the film's finale - are really well done. This makes the film more a series of successful vignettes rather than one, big cohesive whole but it's entertaining enough as a popcorn film.
X-Men - The Last Stand looks good in this 2.40.1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. There aren't any noticeable problems with edge enhancement or mpeg compression nor is there much in the way of print damage to note. A fine layer of film grain is present throughout the movie but it's never 'too much' nor does it detract from a strong level of fine detail. Color reproduction looks nice and natural, as do skin tones, while black levels are inky and deep while retaining good shadow detail. Close up shots fare best, showing off every line, wrinkle and hair in the faces of the various characters seen in the movie, but medium and long distance shots are almost equally as impressive, particularly those shot by the lake which look quite breathtaking and almost three dimensional. Interiors shots maybe look a little less impressive than the outdoor ones but just barely as they too look great, especially those shot inside the X-men's base of operations. This transfer never fails to impress.
Fox provides a fantastic DTS-HD 6.1 Master Audio track for this release, with optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mixes available in English, French and Spanish. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, and Portuguese. The DTS-HD track is pretty impressive, with some very immersive surround usage and deep, strong bass response. The action scenes do a great job of spreading things throughout the entire soundstage while dialogue remains clear and concise even during the most chaotic moments of the film. You only have to watch the film from the opening attack scene to know just how involved this mix can get, with various effects coming at you from different channels to provide a very enveloping listening experience that is as exciting as it is rich with detail.
Director Brett Ratner and writer Zak Penn show up for the first of two audio commentary tracks included on this release where they're joined by another writer, Simon Kinberg. Unfortunately this track proves to be a bit of a disappointment. They don't cover much of the production and instead spend most of their time commenting on what's happening on the screen. It's all well and good that they get along and provide some humor here and there but those looking for dirt on how Ratner came on board to direct and the pressure that he was under from studio big-wigs can keep looking as they don't cover any of that here and instead keep things very, very light.
A second, slightly more interesting commentary track brings the three producers of the film - Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter - together in front of the microphone but again, they don't really give us much to latch on to here in terms of production history or the issues that surrounded the project. This is a very scene specific track and they do cover some of the effects and locations and CGI in a fair bit of detail but as to the actual history of the film and some of the casting issues, we're left wanting.
Up next is a selection of Deleted Scenes (SD) that runs for roughly ten minutes in length, three of which are alternate endings and all of which contain optional commentary from director Brett Ratner. Most of these are simply alternate takes of clips that made it into the final version of the movie but it's interesting to see these regardless, even if a lot of the changes are minute. Trailers are included for all three X-Men films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine,Daredevil and The Fantastic Four.
Disc two contains a wealth of featurettes starting with Brett Ratner's Production Diary (SD), which is a forty-one minute look at the director's day to day work on the film that covers scheduling, shooting, casting, rehearsing and more. It's a little dry in spots but if nothing else it does serve to give fans a pretty in-depth look at the director's role. X-Men: Evolution Of A Trilogy (SD) is a forty-five minute examination of the making of the three X-Men movies that takes a look at the importance of casting, production details, comic book roots, and special effects. Fans of the series will definitely want to give this a watch as it makes for interesting viewing. There's a lot of good behind the scenes footage in here and some interesting input from some of the comics creators as well. X3: The Excitement Continues is a twenty-one minute behind the scenes featurette that lets the cast and crew discuss their various parts in the production. It's pretty standard stuff and it doesn't really go too far in-depth. X-Men Up Close (SD) is a collection of text based character biographies that details most of the mutants from the film. Those who don't already know all there is to know about these characters might find this a handy reference tool. Anatomy of a Scene: Golden Gate Bridge is a twelve minute examination of how the film's spectacular special effects stand out was created. This was actually one of the more interesting featurettes as it shows us how CGI was used to create the finished effect but also gives us some input into the storyboarding process as well.
Generation X: Comic Book History (SD) is an hour and ten minute history of modern comic books with some obvious attention lavished on the franchise that launched the film series. This is absolutely worth a watch and stands tall as the best supplement included. Stan Lee chimes in along with a host of other comic book artists and writers, each one lending some insight into the history and cultural impact of Marvel's famous band of merry mutants. On top of that, it covers the insane amount of merchandising and spin-offs that the series has birthed over its fifty year history. For those who don't know the history of the comics like it's their religion, this makes for some pretty revealing viewing - those who do know it like the back of their hand will enjoy seeing some of their favorite creators shows up here to chime in.
Moving right along, Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School (SD) is a twenty-six minute piece wherein producer Ralph Winter talks about filmmaking with some film school students, with special emphasis on the X-Men films. Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session (SD) is a ten-minute bit that gathers together X-Men creator Stan Lee and a few other comic book types to talk about the importance of getting the casting just right for the X-Men films. These are worth a quick watch if you're a fanatic but again, they don't go all that in-depth.
Next up are a series of quick High Def Vignettes that cover various aspects of the movie. The titles more of less tell you what they cover - Prophecies, X-Men Politics, Clothing VS. Costumes, Make-Up Chair Confessions, Weapons Of Choice, On-Set Effects and Learning to Fly. Most of these are around five minutes in length and while they're all fairly brief, as a whole, they do shed some light on parts of the series that the other featurettes don't really cover specifically. In this same section are some Blogs which cover the Production Teaser, Live From The Danger Room, Marvel-ous Cameos and Editing Magic. Also included are twenty-six minutes of Animatics (SD) that show off some unfinished computerized effects sequences.
Rounding out the extras on the second disc are two still galleries, three trailers for the film and some nifty menus. The third disc in this set contains a digital copy of the movie. The feature is also encoded for D-Box playback. All of the extras for this release are in high definition except where indicated as (SD). This release is also Blu-ray Live enabled.
It would have been nice to see more of the extra features presented in HD, but overall this is a really well rounded package. The audio and video quality are excellent and the supplements are not only plentiful, but some of them are actually really quite interesting. As for the movie itself? It's the weakest of the three in the series but it's still quite entertaining and fairly well made. Consider X-Men The Last Stand highly recommended on the strength of this Blu-ray release.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.