Third ‘X-Men’ installment tackles issues of tolerance |

Third ‘X-Men’ installment tackles issues of tolerance

Diyah Pera / Twentieth Century Fox / Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) prepare for battle in "X-Men: The Last Stand."

There are times when you wonder if these movies that originated from a comic book series could really be saying something about ourselves? I mean, the characters on the surface are an interesting lot, but it’s the message that is conveyed, substituting mutants for minorities, that makes you realize there’s more here than just an individual with special powers.

I guess that’s too obvious, but it’s interesting when you like a movie on the surface, then start piecing the prejudices that lie just below the surface. 1988’s “Alien Nation” was one of my faves, where Earthlings harbored a deep resentment for “newcomers” from another planet inhabiting “our” planet, commingling with humans. There goes the galaxy.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” offers that, along with some outstanding special effects. How special? Let’s just say you’ll never look at the Golden Gate Bridge the same ever again.

All of the principle players are back for the third installment, including Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Halle Berry as Storm, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Rebecca Romijn (now without the Stamos) as Mystique, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, James Marsden as Cyclops and Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix. Yes, that’s right. Not a typo and I’ll leave it at that.

The forces of good include Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his sometime nemesis, Eric Lensherr/Magneto (played by Ian McKellen). Keeping the franchise fresh are several new additions including Jimmy (Cameron Bright), a boy with the ability to dispel mutant powers, and a very cool Kelsey Grammer playing double duty here as Beast/Dr. Henry McCoy.

Director Brett Ratner replaces the magnificent Bryan Singer, who was the creative force for the first two “X-Men” movies. His presence is missed here and, this being the final chapter, tying things up was a lot to ask of Ratner. Well, they did leave the door open, so never say never. After 2003’s “X2: X-Men United,” any sequel would be a hard act to follow. Maybe that’s why Singer couldn’t pass up the opportunity to direct the highly anticipated “Superman Returns,” knowing the pressure that comes with wrapping up all the loose ends. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Singer also took previous “X-Men” writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to “Superman,” so I can’t wait to see Singer’s latest version of that classic superhero.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” draws a line in the sand where mutants must choose to side with Xavier or the more radical Magneto. Why? A pharmaceutical “cure” for the mutant population, eliminating the X gene, sparks a civil war. The mutants now have a choice. They can retain their uniqueness and alienate themselves, or give up their powers and become human. Fueling the division is the crusading Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Foster) who lets the others know of the ramifications that can happen should they become “cured.” The more level-headed Xavier tries to preach tolerance and the path of least resistance, while Magneto vows to obliterate both humans and mutants alike who are given no choice unless they change.

Change? The movie parallels arguments about genetic engineering and racism, with a strong message about morality thrown in for good measure. There are those in our society who treat homosexuality as a disease. What if there were a pill that supposedly offered a remedy to that way of life? Or how about one’s fear of other minorities? Tough to swallow, huh? So what appears to be just another entertaining, comic book-based movie is something deeper if you view between the scenes.

“X-Men” creator/executive producer Stan Lee (who makes a brief cameo here, as in past “X-Men” movies) has been quoted as saying that the battle between the good Professor Xavier and the more militant mutant Magneto is a stand-in for the differences between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Take that another step further, throwing in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, and why not let those with their special gifts dominate the weaker sect of the population? As the more intelligent species, we’re supposed to offset that dominance with compassion, but do we? If you know you can just kick someone’s ass without a struggle from your opposition, then why not obliterate them? Because we have a brain and can reason? Sure sounds like some countries on this planet, doesn’t it? Wait. All this based from a comic book?

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including the Sirius Radio Network every Sunday evening. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8.

Keepin’ it Reel

Now playing: “X-Men: The Last Stand”

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, Dania Ramirez and Ellen Page

Directed by: Brett Ratner

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language

Length: 104 minutes

Howie gives it: 4 out of 5 bagels

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