Scientists discover a serum capable of transforming mutants into humans, prompting Magneto to gather a goth mutant army and lay siege to the scientists’ Alcatraz laboratory. Wolverine, Storm, and assorted other under-written X-Men stand in his way. Oh, and Jean Grey’s back as an unstoppable force capable of disintegrating any character with an unfavorable contract.
After its midnight premier, I remember feeling crestfallen, blaming replacement director Brett Ratner. On revisit, I can see the studio machinations at work. When series director Bryan Singer left to do Superman Returns the producers should have pressed pause. Instead they doubled down on a release date, turning to a hired-gun director and writers. The result jettisons the prior films’ ensemble structure in favor of top-billed stars Jackman and Berry, who dominate the screen time. To make room, the film jettisons characters at a ludicrous rate. Major deaths that should resonate feel like minor plot points.
But even sans studio interference, the script proves wanting. Cringe-worthy dialog, specious motivations, and one-dimensional characters abound. As Magneto, Ian McKellen’s reduced to making faces and waving his hand at special effects. Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler, the prior film’s standout new character, isn’t even mentioned.
Also gone is the series’ heart, which manifested via a resonating allegory to discrimination. This film’s “cure” plot line muddles said allegory. Wouldn’t mutants like Rogue with dangerous powers welcome a cure? And what of the X-Men using said “cure” on their enemies?
Such ethical questions prove beyond this film, whose sole concern seems to be culling the cast and moving from one forgettable set-piece to the next. At least it runs under two hours.