One of the most popular film series based on Marvel Comics superheroes becomes a trilogy and raises some interesting real-world issues about diversity and "fitting in."
The X-Men world is filled with mutants: people whose genetic differences give them remarkable abilities. Magneto can control anything made of metal. Storm wields the power of the weather. Wolverine is the perfect warrior, able to inflict terrible damage with his metallic claws and heal his own wounds in seconds. Mystique can change her form to match ... or outmatch ... any opponent. Professor Xavier has telepathic powers to read minds and project his own thoughts.
Like the original Marvel Comic books, the films - X-Men in 2000 and X-Men: United three years later - are action-fantasies; but they also deal with prejudice as the X-men mutants are subjected to discrimination and violence. In X-Men: The Last Stand they are presented with a solution: a drug that can erase the genetic differences and make them 'normal:'
Hugh Jackman returns as Logan - 'Wolverine' - and the Australian actor believes it is easy to identify with the fictional superheroes' dilemma.
"Everything in life is a double-edged sword. Having power is a double-edged sword. Every person's dream can become their nightmare, so even though the X-Men have powers that seem so cool, what sets this comic book and the movie franchise aside is that every one of them, because of their power, is alienated, separated and unhappy with it, too," he says.
Anna Paquin as teenager Rogue looks forward to a 'cure' for her power that kills anyone she touches; but there are no easy answers, according to older and wiser Storm, played by Halle Berry, who says the issue is coming to terms with our differences.
"We are all different and at some point in our life we've had to deal with that," she says. "We're always forced to deal with who we are and 'is it okay to stay the way we are?' or do we need to change for a lover, a parent, a friend or our work environment? Is it okay to be who we are or do we somehow need to 'fix' ourselves or change ourselves or make ourselves better? Are we not good enough? We are always faced with that question and that's what The Last Stand is all about: do we change or do we not change? And is it our problem or is it somebody else's problem? Whose problem is it, really?"
The issue divides the X-Men, with Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier leading the side promoting individual choice, and Magneto willing to start a war to reject the 'cure.' Sir Ian McKellen is back as charismatic (though megalomaniac) Magneto.
"I think the plot is more interesting than the previous two and Magneto gets to do an awful lot in this film, which he did not in the second so I am very happy about it," he says.
Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men films was not available this time around (he was directing another superhero movie, Superman Returns, due out at the end of June); so Brett Ratner, who made the Rush Hour action-comedies, took over as director of this new X-Men.
"It's like a dream come true to direct this movie ... with all the brilliant characters, amazing actors and stories. It's not just an action movie. It's really about something and it's got levity to it and humanity and emotion and humor," he says.
Happily tapping into that range of ingredients: Kelsey Grammer, who joins the cast (and gets decked out in blue makeup and long fur) as one of the favorite characters among X-Men fans: Dr. Henry McCoy, who is also 'Beast.'
"X-Men is an epic tale so the characters have epic proportion," he says. "If you know you're in an epic you just get bigger. They're just big people. There's big energy about it. There's a sense of size and importance about it that you lend yourself to ... and it's actually just playing 'dress up.'"
X-Men: The Last Stand also features Rebecca Romijn as shape-shifting Mystique; and Famke Janssen, whose telekinetic character Jean Grey seems to have died at the end of the second movie, but comes back again as the dangerously powerful Dark Phoenix.