X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammar, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Vinnie Jones

Directed by: Brett Ratner

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand

What is it about the X-Men movies that makes them so darned likeable? Is it the intriguing, fast-paced action plots, aided and a betted by CGI which manages to be passably impressive without becoming overwhelming? Is it the stellar ensemble cast of proper, RSC trained, Oscar winning actors, headed up by Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin and, um, Hugh Jackman (okay, so I doubt Huge was ever in the RSC, but he's still damned fine hairy fine)? Or is it the relatively well-defined characterisation and interesting back stories, which means you actually care what happens to our heroic bunch of mutant misfits?

Certainly X-Men and X2 tick all three boxes. And X-Men 3 (okay, X-Men: The Last Stand - numbers are so out, colons so in.)? Well, two out of three ain't bad.

The plot isn't much to write home about (Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is back from the dead, but this time she's pissed) but the dramatic action and stunning set scenes manage to keep you hooked, and occasionally gobsmacked - the marvellously iconic moment when Magneto (Ian McKellan) moves the Golden Gate bridge rivals the explosion of the White House in Independence Day.

Kelsey Grammar as Beast in X-Men: The Last Stand

The cast are solid as ever, joined this time by Kelsey 'Frasier' Grammer (taking a tip from on screen brother Niles, last seen voicing an amphibious fishman in Hellboy, and proving that if you want to shake off 20 odd years of playing an uptight Boston psychiatrist in a suit, there's no better way to do it than by playing a huge blue hairy Beast. in a suit) and Ellen Page, aka Hayley from Hard Candy. Yikes! Oh, and Vinnie Jones, who's rubbish.

But where X-Men: Yada Yada slips up is with the human (or mutant) stories to accompany the action - or rather, the lack of. So while we're introduced to intriguing new characters such as Angel (tall blonde boy with big white wings) and the Leech (small bald boy who sucks other mutants of their power), we're not given any insight into who they are or where they come from. While Halle Berry's Storm is given a more leading role, we don't really learn anything new about her, and while Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is again thrust centre stage, it's simply because he's Hugh Jackman and has cool hair, not because it makes sense. (And while we're on the subject of Huge, how come, an audience of women asks, when his skin is falling off in the face of Jean Grey's wrath, do his trousers stay put?)

Sir Ian McKellan as Magneto, with Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and, um, Vinnie Jones...

Still, criticisms (and Vinnie Jones) aside, X-Men 3 is an entertaining, attention grabbing romp, well worth the price of a cinema ticket. Are we really to believe it's The Last Stand for our leather clad mutant mates? Not if the 'hand from the grave' scenes at the end are to be believed (you'll need to sit through the credits for the final moment) - although with a spin off Wolverine film already in the pipeline, perhaps the makers of X-Men would be wise to leave it at three. Two out of three ain't bad, but two out of four could be x-tremely embarrassing.

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