Any second film in a series can spend all the time in the world with character development. Everyone's vital details were established in the first part, and if there are going to be future movies, then there's no sense in rushing through things. However when a third film, especially one with a prophetic title like "The Last Stand", comes out the characters are already done. We learned all about these characters in the first two movies, and the only really new additions should be more than familiar to readers of the comicbook. Kelsey Grammar plays Beast and he makes the most welcome addition to the family. I'll admit I was extremely skeptical on his ability to play a superhero, but he most certainly didn't disappoint. Angel and Juggernaut are the other two new members of the mutant family, and Juggernaut unfortunately falls into the general category of mutant villians barely mentioned.
Angel is the son of the man who invents the "cure" for the mutant gene, played by Michael Murphy. Angel is dealt with in very small doses. The film begins with a scene of his mutation, and the next time we see him is when he accepts his body. I recall reading a passage from Adouls Huxley where the mention the impracticality of Angels, saying that to support wings of that size their chest would have to be nearly six feet wide, so pardon the suspension of disbelief with the rather thin actor playing him. Angel was underused in the film, and only seemed to show up at rare moments, but always to some good effect. The film in general was rather concise, and I was honestly amazed at how short it was. Director Brett Ratner is new to the franchise and he has an extremely economical mind. Not to say he's a great director, but a very concise no-nonsense director. Unfortunately he's still unable to get a half way decent performance out of Halle Berry who once again shows what a horrifically weak actress she is here. Not ot bad mouth Berry, but she's constantly been the worst actor in all the X Men movies.
Cyclops, who was very underutilized in the second film, gets even less screen time here, and his character is very quickly sent to the gallows. After the end of the second one we're left to suspect the worst of Jean Grey (Famke Jensen). Although anyone who's seen a poster for the film or caught a preview would be able to tell, she's naturally in the new film, so something must be up. Readers of the comic know of her alter ego Phoenix, also known as Dark Phoenix, and are also aware of the fact that she's about the most powerful mutant around. By the time we get a look at Phoenix we slowly begin to realize her mutant powers are godlike, and no one can really get in her way.
Rogue was always a crybaby in the comics, and that aspect of her personality comes out much clearer in this film. The cure is seen by her as a way to become human, which is a good thing in her case. Sure the message is tolerance, but in the case of someone who could kill anyone they touch, being human isn't a bad alternative. Kitty Pryde acts as a minor rival for her, and Iceman's affections. Pryde was shown only briefly in the last film (as was Collossus), but she has a much bigger part here, and I personally found her character quite useful. Generally I thought she was vampire food in the comics, much like the Invisible Girl, but even they have their special abilities.
As always though it is ultimately Hugh Jackman's movie, and one begins to wonder exactly what he'll be up to without Wolverine. The story however isn't focused on him quite as exclusively as the first two were. Instead he is seen much more as a team player than ever before. His love or lust if you will for Jean is made much more obvious this time around, and with Scott gone, he's given no competition, the only catch is that Jean's power has made her pretty much insane. The film was much more dark than the previous efforts, and in most ways a better film. The door could easily remain closed on the series, but of course it wouldn't be out of the question to bring the series back for another go round, as enough doors remain open. However their is something conclusive about The Last Stand, and if the series ends here, it will be on a high note.
Grade A -