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X-Men: The Last Stand (****)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, based on stories by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, Chris Clairmont, John Byrne, and Joss Whedon
X-Men: The Last Stand
Principal Cast
Hugh Jackman -- Logan/Wolverine
Halle Berry -- Ororo Munroe/Storm
Ian McKellen -- Eric Lensherr/Magneto
Famke Janssen -- Dr. Jean Grey/Phoenix
Anna Paquin -- Marie/Rogue
Kelsey Grammer -- Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast
Rebecca Romijn -- Raven Darkholme/Mystique
James Marsden -- Scott Summers/Cyclops
Shawn Ashmore -- Bobby Drake/Iceman
Aaron Stanford -- John Allerdyce/Pyro
Vinnie Jones -- Cain Marko/Juggernaut
Patrick Stewart -- Professor Charles Xavier
Ben Foster -- Warren Worthington III/Angel
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The third X-Men movie is the best so far, which is saying a lot considering how good the first two were. I was afraid the new director and writers would not maintain the quality -- as has happened with other threequels -- but have no fear, true believer. The writers know their Marvel comics. They pick the best stuff from hundreds of issues and weave it into a seamless whole.

Almost all of the best of the X-Men has been reprinted in book form, so there was no need for the screenwriters to dig through stacks of moldy comics looking for material. All of the issues by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were reprinted in Marvel Masterworks, The X-Men 1 and 2. These issues introduce Professor X, Jean Gray (then Marvel Girl), Cyclops, Ice-man, the Angel, and the Beast (oh my stars and garters!), as well as the villains Magneto, Juggernaut, and the Sentinels. Many character and action sequences in the film come from these issues, and the Sentinels story line is a natural for the fourth film.

Then the comic book produced forgettable stories for several years, before a brief return to glory with the Neal Adams issues (written by Roy Thomas and Dennis O'Neil) which feature the classic conclusion of the Sentinels story. These have been reprinted in Marvel Masterworks, The X-Men 6.

Then the comic book folded, only to be revived years later with a new team, created by Len Wein: Professor X, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and a trio of minor characters, Sunfire, Thunderbird, and Banshee. Wein and Cockrum were replaced by Clairmont and Byrne, who introduced Phoenix and Kitty Pryde. These stories have been reprinted in Marvel Masterworks, The Uncanny X-Men 1 and 2, (available in some really nifty paperbacks exclusively from Barnes & Noble) and in Marvel Masterworks, The Uncanny X-Men 3, 4, and 5, which leave just three more John Byrne issues to reprint. The Dark Phoenix story is from the Clairmont and Byrne era.

Finally, Joss Whedon, creator of Toy Story, Buffy, and Serenity, is the author of Astonishing X-Men, drawn by John Cassady, reprinted in two trade paperbacks. It is his story line that introduces the "cure" for mutants that makes up the main plot thread in the film.

Needless to say, none of these creators except Stan Lee get any credit.

Of course, the script writers deserve credit, too, first for respecting the comic books and then for bringing all the pieces together. Zak Penn wrote the story for The Last Action Hero, a film I liked a whole lot more than the critics did, worked on the screenplay for Electra, X2, and Fantastic Four, and is currently working on The Incredible Hulk. I liked X-Men: the Last Stand so much that I'm going to ignore what the critics said about Electra and give it a try. Stay tuned.

And don't leave the movie before the credit cookie comes on. Then, if you can match the cookie to an earlier scene in the film, you win a genuine No Prize. (I'm proud to have a No Prize awarded by Stan Lee himself in my collection.)

Excelsior!

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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