Directed by: Brett Ratner
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), Anna Paquin (Rogue)

Blame Superman. When Bryan Singer bailed on his own, lovingly-crafted X-franchise and traded the Man of Adamantium for the Man of Steel, he left a crippling talent vacuum in his wake. Matthew Vaughn volunteered for duty, but reportedly baulked at the furious turnaround time. So the studio turned to the serviceable, exec-soothing Brett Ratner, a director with a reputation for competence rather than flash. Does he deliver? Well, let’s put it this way: it’s deeply ironic that Ratner’s calling card was a 1998 movie by the name of Rush Hour.

Everything about X-Men: The Last Stand screams fast-track. It plays like a rash, hastily assembled filler picture, a monumentally mundane cap to the X-Men trilogy. It takes the classic Dark Phoenix saga from the comic books, but squanders such gold-standard source material. It feels flat and drab, underwritten and ill thought-out, and its “will this do?” vibe is exacerbated by a criminally huge continuity howler where broad daylight turns to pitch black night in a beat.

In the villains’ corner, Ian McKellen is, as ever, superb, but his talent is short-changed. Magneto’s abandonment of a suddenly-human Mystique betrays the truly intriguing relationship that was established in the first two films. The “mutant cure” storyline is also piffle – how can a single hypodermic jab change someone on a cellular level? As for Vinnie Jones, the awful hilarity of his snarled, “I’m Juggernaut, bitch!” is a true hurtle-out-of-the-movie-pissing-yourself moment that will surely become Razzie legend.

Bafflingly, and frustratingly, there are moments of pure, surprising splendour, floating like gold coins in porridge. A face-off between Phoenix and Professor X is genuinely shocking. And the moment where Magneto commandeers the Golden Gate Bridge and urges it across San Francisco Bay is total comic book brilliance, precisely the kind of romantic high absurdity that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby specialised in. It’s here that you realise Brett Ratner is actually raising his game. And to his credit, this isn’t a cynical fast food exercise. But you do wonder what he might have been capable of, given more time and resources.


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