The next step in devolution

By and

“X-Men: The Last Stand”

20th Century Fox

Directed by Brett Ratner

Written by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and Anna Paquin

Rated PG-13/104 minutes

Opened May 26, 2006

Two-and-a-half out of four stars

Aaron Allen

The Daily Utah Chronicle

How many mutants does it take to screw up a franchise? Lots and lots, apparently, as Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” daftly demonstrates.

Third in the superhero trilogy-and supposedly the last (don’t count on it)- this mutant mash-up delivers plenty of wham-bam action fireworks; but at 100 minutes, and with roughly 100 characters to keep track of, the movie is too busy running here, there and everywhere to make much of a lasting impression.

The departure of series director Bryan Singer may have something to do with that. Where Singer brought a certain chromatic cool with a beating heart to the first two movies, Ratner only sees as far as the chrome, and no deeper. Big, emotional scenes somehow forget their purpose and end on a blunt note.

Wolverine does get to kick a bad guy in the nuts, however-and you thought little old ladies had claim on that move.

He and the rest of the X-Men have their hands full doing battle on multiple fronts. A rich, intolerant fuddy-duddy has developed a cure for the mutant gene-an offense to those mutants who treasure their differences. Magnetic ber-villain Magneto (Ian McKellan) violently opposes the cure, while the peaceful Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) supports a more democratic approach.

The parallels to today’s social issues are unmistakable-the “threat” of homosexuality and the definition of family are particularly prevalent. What’s remarkable about the X-Men movies is how the wildly different mutants-both the good and bad-always come together to form a unit that is stronger than the “normal” humans who praise conventionality. I believe the idea that a family comes in only one variety is ridiculous, but I don’t need X-Men to tell me that.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” merely provokes these ideas, instead of really engaging them. Ratner and his screenwriters, Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, are more interested in awesome special effects, like when Magneto levitates the Golden Gate Bridge and makes it his personal transport to Alcatraz. As threatening as Magneto is, he probably could have scared himself up a boat-but where’s the style in that?

Lost in all that style are the new characters, including Angel (Ben Foster), a winged heart-throb who looks like he just flew out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, and Beast (Kelsey Grammer), a blue-haired intellectual who speaks on behalf of mutant-kind in Washington.

Unfortunately, we get few precious moments with these new characters: The movie is too out-of-breath rushing back and forth between the old ones.

Returning from parts one and two are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Cyclops (James Marsden) and the re-emergence of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who was consumed by a wall of water in “X2.”

I don’t know what’s more tragic-the fatal ends of some of these characters, or how Ratner fumbles the drama as he makes a mad dash out the back door with his big bag of money.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. $6,000,000,000 in budget and I can’t even get a lighter? Damn you, Ratner!”