“The Last Stand” was the first X-Men movie to nearly kill the franchise, but it wouldn’t be the last. After a solid opening film and an even better “X2,” this third film came along and stomped on everything that made the X-Men movies great. Did you come to like familiar characters like Cyclops, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Mystique, or Professor X? Well, here they’re all either callously killed off, clumsily written out of the story, or they’ve straight-up vanished from the face of the earth, never to be mentioned again.
But the biggest issue with the movie is the way it tries to cram together two major storylines that didn’t fit. The whole mutant cure storyline could’ve been fascinating, but the movie never seemed interested in unpacking the implications of it too deeply. Meanwhile, the Dark Phoenix saga in the comics is famous for being a sprawling, slow-burn story, yet “The Last Stand” felt perfectly comfortable making it this film’s B-story. The fact that “The Last Stand” is also 30 minutes shorter than “X2” (for some reason) definitely didn’t help.
Most damning, perhaps, is the movie’s treatment of Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), who is given a bafflingly passive role in a movie that is supposedly about her. In the comics, her arc ends with her making the active choice to end her life for the greater good. The arc finishes with the famous quote, “Jean Grey could have lived to become a god. But it was more important to her that she die … a human.” In the movie, the choice is handed over to Logan, who kills her for her own good while telling her he loves her.