Brett Ratner

 Brett Ratner
Brett Ratner may be one of Hollywood’s least capable directors, but somehow not even he could screw up the third instalment of the durable X-Men franchise. Despite said director’s Palaeolithic mentality, The Last Stand manages to continue the teen-angst/crypto-gay subtexts of the first two films while not doing too much to embarrass itself.

The plot concerns the introduction of a cure for mutation, which puts a chill in the mutant community (represented by Patrick Stewart’s Dr. Xavier) while mobilising the radical wing (that’s Ian McKellen as Magneto’s group) to commit all manner of PR-damaging no good. The wrinkle is that the thought-to-be-deceased Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) returns with her split "Phoenix” personality awakened to wreak havoc and complicate normal/mutant relations.

As with the first two instalments, the film really isn’t in control of its central metaphor; unlike those predecessors, it’s listlessly directed and bedevilled by bad dialogue. But though the script has clearly been rushed into production, the central storyline (and its unshakable belief that outsider-ship is valid) is strong enough to carry the production’s more regrettable lapses.

Some decent movie-star turns soften the blow: Janssen shows real presence after being marginalised for two pictures, McKellen is his usual charismatic self and Hugh Jackman once again shows why he got the part of Wolverine, with his big Clint Eastwood vibe. And while I suspect that Stewart will be doing Capt. Picard until the day he dies, he makes a thoroughly creditable figurehead.

There are dull spots and WTF moments when you hear that awful dialogue, but by the final battle scene on Alcatraz Island all is forgiven. One wishes that more thought had gone into these things, but at this point, any vaguely self-aware blockbuster is a welcome gesture. (Fox)