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X-Men: The Last Stand

To Be or Not To Be (A Mutant)

While director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, After the Sunset) and screenwriter Simon Kinberg's (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) credentials don't exactly conjure up visions of inspired filmmaking, the much anticipated X-Men: The Last Stand, the supposedly final installment based on the famed Stan Lee-created comic book series, is surprisingly thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

When a pharmaceutical company develops a cure for the mutant gene, the community becomes divided between those mutants who believe that they are fine and don't need to be cured of anything, those who believe the cure is only the beginning of a systematic plan for the humans to rid the world of their kind and those who don't necessarily believe a cure is needed but don't think humans are the very definitions of evil either.

The cure raises a slew of ethical questions (if you could change something that made you both special and different, would you? Is it cowardice to do so or self-preservation?) as well as provokes a civil war between mutants with one faction being led by the zealous Magneto (Ian McKellan) and the other being, of course, the X-Men, featuring Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry sporting a wig inspired by Tina Turner) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) as well as new members Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) who can run through walls, Bobby Drake/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore).

There are several smaller storylines intertwined into the plot, the biggest being the resurrection of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). She returns, however, she has not come back quite the same; fans who noticed the image of the phoenix projected onto the lake at the end of the last film X2 will know to what I am referring. But, be wary, the film adaptation differs from the comic books. Furthermore, due to the multiple storylines, there were some characters -- whom you wanted to know more about -- that were pushed to the periphery and only touched upon briefly. The Last Stand could have used a lot more character development.

One of the most interesting threads throughout the series has been the relationship between Magneto and Xavier; it's complex and nuanced. They are at once best friends and enemies (though the loathing stems more from the former rather than the latter). Indeed, the opening scene sees the two men bickering like a seasoned married couple while visiting a young Jean Grey twenty year earlier, and their friendship is alluded to several times throughout the movie. Perhaps the point filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan made in his film Unbreakable was correct: every villain needs a hero and vice versa. However, this storyline, one of the most interesting, is only delved into superficially.

San Francisco residents will get a particular kick out of watching the film as it is set in our lovely city and features both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge quite prominently sans the requisite car race through the hills. Despite its inspiration, X-Men: The Last Stand departs greatly from the original comic. It is its own creature and is best viewed as such. Regardless, it is still engaging as well as entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars