X-Men 3:

Bryan Singer's legacy is a hard thing to compete with. X-Men and X-Men 2 were both superb films, upping the standard for both action films and comic book movies. But now, it seems, the franchise is at an end.

The Last Stand is billed as the final "proper" X-Men film. This means that this is the last time that Storm, Cyclops, Wolverine and Magneto will all appear in the same film together. But plans are already going ahead for a Wolverine film, and, as long as it is done as well as this trilogy, then all well and good.

All of which brings me to The Last Stand. It's a difficult thing. On the one level I found myself utterly engrossed and loving every minute. But, sadly, there was a tinge of disappointment lurking in the back of my mind. Brett Ratner seems to have done a fine job of putting together a film abandoned by its original director. It can't be an easy thing to do, and fair enough to the man, he has stepped into some very big shoes, and, with the aid of a little bit of extra stuffing, just about got them to fit. With thick socks.

So, to come to the point. In terms of action and hi-jinks, this film is a knockout. A visual feast, full of grand settings and impossible scenarios - take Magneto's moving of the Golden Gate Fridge ... er, sorry, Bridge, as an example. The word "Epic" springs to mind, and not just because I am a Faith No More fan either. Beast, played by Kelsey Grammar, looks uncannily like the Beast depicted in the comics, a big furry blue man, hanging from the ceiling, whilst reading a book. Well, fair enough, but why don't his glasses fall off? Jackman does his thing in his usual way; Stewart is sadly underused, and Berry actually gets to speak in sentences. It's the first time that Storm has not been just a one-trick, two-dimensional character with a bad wig. This time around, she is distinctly 3D and has been entrusted with proper dialogue. But she still has a bad wig. Which is nice.

Yummy Famke gets something of a raw deal. Besides a few vital scenes early on, she does very little. Just stands around looking slightly miffed, as if someone's just nicked her favourite pair of shoes. 

The problems come with the script. There is too much going on to be contained within the short space of 100 minutes, or however long it is. A plethora of new characters are sprung onto the screen. It is, without doubt,  a visual feast. But some of these seem to have been tagged onto the story for no real purpose. Did they really need to put Juggernaut in? And did he have to be played by the ridiculous Vinnie Jones? The man cannot act. I mean, admittedly, he does not have to do too much thespian stuff, just running into walls and head-butting things. He reminds me of Ram Man from Masters of the Universe. Just without the eloquence. Or the diction. Or, in fact, the springy legs.  

In the first two films, most of the characters had a fair crack of the whip. Origins and motivations were explored and it was not all wham, bam, thank you Ma'am. The first film provided a bench-mark for superhero films. Gone was the mindless action and lack of story seen in dreadful films such as Judge Dredd. From this point on, it became clear that for the comic-book to translate well onto screen, it had to have a serious and believable emotional content, something located in reality. The audience had to identify with these characters in a way that they had not before. And so along came Spiderman, which, ostensibly, is a story of a teenage boy trying to get the attention of the seemingly unattainable girl. With X-Men it all centred on Wolverine, Rogue, Magneto and Professor X.

The second film carried this on brilliantly. But this third installment leaves explanation at the way-side.  Why has Jean Grey / Phoenix taken two years to come back. Where has she got the hair dye and that very maroon / flame coloured wardrobe? Was it at the bottom of Alkali Lake? Was it perhaps what she'd been up to for the last couple of years? Lying at the bottom of the lake, knitting and sewing some groovy new garments.

Who knows.

The film is a lot of fun. It just does not have the depth of the first two (no lame jokes about Jean Grey being out of her depth at the bottom of Alkali Lake here, thank you). And what a waste of Famke? Just standing there, angry, and with no real dialogue for the back end of the film. A terrible waste.

But if there is one good thing to be said, it is that the trilogy has the cunning to ensure that a full-blown follow-up will not be in the offing. Sure, there will be films about Wolverine, and maybe even Storm. But with so many characters killed by the end of the film - and quite rightly - there is no way that studio bosses with pound signs in their eyes can continue a watered-down version of the franchise until it all goes a bit Batman and Robin.

If X-Men comes back as a franchise, it will have to be started from year zero. That is a good thing, and something that the makers of Spiderman would be well advised to take note of.