X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- 5; L – 3 ; S/N – 5. Running time: 1 hour 44 min.

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
1 Peter 4:10

X-Men: The Last Stand

The angst of our mutant friends and the warfare between the two mutant groups continues in this third of the X-Men films. (Feminists must remember that the series is based on a comic book, wherein “Men” is still presumed to include women as well.) The world has changed since the last film, there now being a Secretary of Mutant Affairs, with Kelsey Grammer playing the hairy, blue-skinned Dr. Henry “Hank” McCoy/Beast. And Jean Grey/Phoenix (Famke Janssen), who gave her life for her fellow X-Men at the conclusion of X-2, has returned, true to her name—though not quite her old self, as her lover Cyclops (James Marsden) discovers too late. Set in and around San Francisco, the film makes great use of such landmarks as Alactraz and the Golden gate Bridge.

Billionaire Warren Worthington II (Michael Murphy) has funded a cure based on harvesting genes from the little mutant Jimmy/Leech (Cameron Bright) that can reverse other mutants’ powers. The rich man has a personal stake in the outcome of the project, his own son Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Foster) having years before attempted to cut off the wings growing out of his back in a desperate attempt to be normal. Against Dr. McCoy/Beast’s objections the government decides to mount a program to inoculate all mutants, thus ending the paranoia of the public concerning the deviants. Both Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his nemesis Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen) oppose the program, though with wildly different tactics. When Warren Worthington brings his son to be the first to be inoculated with the new serum, the young man changes his mind, breaking away, spreading his enormous (and beautiful) white wings, and flying through the window and over the city. As he flies over Alcatraz, older members no doubt will recall the film Birdman of Alcatraz.

Meanwhile some of the X-Men have personal issues to deal with: Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) his grief over the death of his close friend and his love for Phoenix; and Rogue (Anna Paquin), upset that she cannot kiss her boyfriend, Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) because if she touches anyone, she causes them great pain and death. Their issues, of course, pale before the great climactic battle with Magneto and his force, a battle so titanic that it involves our villains uprooting the Golden Gate Bridge and connecting it to the difficult to reach Alcatraz, quite a CGI spectacle!

All this super power business could be so much hokum were not the very human feelings of the mutants much in evidence. The anguish of being persecuted because one is different; the feelings of respect between Xavier and Magneto despite their enmity— all this and more is handled well by the talented cast, which makes us suspend our disbelief and enter into their dark, strange world. Also, the filmmakers are not afraid to do what such childish adventure films like Mission Impossible seldom do, own up to the mortality of the heroes by killing off a couple of major characters. Like the previous two films, the sequel is well worth the attention of those with vivid imaginations and the curiosity to follow wherever the “What if…?” might lead.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) The theme of being different and being ostracized or persecuted for it is central to the X-Men stories: how is this an important issue with teenagers, who probably make up a large part of the series’ readership? Who might identify with Angel and his sad attempt to cut off his wings?

2) Compare the series to a much earlier, and popular, film, Carrie. What is the “solution” to the being different/persecution in each film? Which is nihilistic, and which constructive?

3) How is the government program for “curing” the mutants like some of the early eugenics-based programs in this country and Nazi Germany, wherein people with low IQs were sterilized, with or without their consent? What do you think of such programs, carried out by those who believe they are doing it for the good of society. (For an excellent film about a similar official program, this time supposedly to benefit Australian Aborigines, see Rabbit Proof Fence.)

4)How is Xavier a savior figure, and the band of X-Men like a church? Xavier has always taught his gifted students that they should choose to use their special powers for the benefit of others, similar to what is taught in 1 Peter 4:10. Read down a few verses, and what warning do you see that could also apply to the X-Men?

5) How do Magneto and his followers show the division within the human/mutant psyche? How are we all determined by the choices that we make?