All things considered, X Men: The Last Stand, the third instalment of the massively successful X Men franchise, has probably been one of my most anticipated films of 2006, mostly because I had many questions to be answered after X Men 2: What happened to Jean Gray? Would Rogue and Iceman ever grow up? How would the Professor control his team now? How would Cyclops and Wolverine respond to the loss of Jean Gray? These questions (and many more) needed answers, and as far as I was concerned, the sooner the better.

Of course, you know you’re in for a great sequel when the filmmakers ensure they take time with it – the worst sequels are always the ones that come out about 2 months after the original, rushed and underprepared. With the X Men franchise (and the Spiderman franchise too) the filmmakers are, firstly, great quality filmmakers, but also have respect for the audience, and know that by taking the proper time to make the sequel, they do justice to the film, and – by extension – the audience.

While the stage seemed set for a great finale to the X Men trilogy, a major setback occurred when Bryan Singer (the director of X1 and X2) dropped out of this one to make Superman Returns. So we ended up with Brett Ratner, the director of such notables as Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2, as well as the upcoming Rush Hour 3 (I guess this man knows a thing or 2 about sequels). However, any teething problems would be minimal, since X Men is all about the characters, not about the filmmaking.

At least, that’s what I was telling myself as the lights dimmed.

X Men: The Last Stand picks up a short time after the final moments of X2 – Jean Gray has been lost in the collapsing damn, and the X Men are grieving her. Of course, you would have to be an idiot not to know she is alive and well and living as Dark Phoenix, which isn’t good news for the mutants of the world, except Magneto, who intends on recruiting her for his Dark Brotherhood (hey, she has the right name).

As well as this, the government has found a mutant who can completely remove any trace of mutation, should another mutant get close enough to him. Not only that, but they have managed to turn it into a cure which can be administered to mutants wanting it, and used as a weapon against threatening or violent mutants. Of course, Magneto (the resident bad guy) isn’t so happy about that, and makes a move aimed at capturing the source and stopping the spread of this “cure”.

For the sake of not ruining any of the storyline or accompanying details, I’m going to leave off there. But make no mistake, this movie is everything it needed to be in order to properly close off the trilogy. The storyline is fantastic and the acting is about as good as it gets for this trilogy, with several of the main characters finally coming into their own – especially Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) and Jean Gray/Dark Phoenix (played expertly by Famke Janssen). As well, Ian McKellen is once again larger than life as Magneto, but hey – he always is.

X Men: The Last Stand is more edgy and intense than the previous 2 instalments, and the performances of the key players show that. So you’ve got a great story, you’ve got a great cast and characters, and you’ve been setup to deliver the best comic book based movie, if not one of the best action movies, of all time. So where do you go wrong?

Let me put it like this: 100 minutes.

X Men: The Last Stand is by far the shortest entry in the X Men trilogy, and given the source material Ratner had to work with, that is a tragedy, if not a downright disgrace. Every single thing I can think of that is wrong is simply due to a lack of time spent focusing on those things, so in effect, the length of the movie has actually taken away from the effect of the movie.

For example, not enough time was spent looking at the government aspects of the storyline (the cure, the military response to Magneto, and so on). But why? There was certainly plenty of time to do so. At other times, scenes seemed to be trying to achieve too much – instead of two shorter scenes, we were given one slightly longer scene to fit everything in.

Characters were not developed properly, or, in the case of Matrix and Juggernaut, were just suddenly there, with no back story – a staple of the previous X Men films. Relationships were not studied properly, with the exception of Jean Gray and Wolverine, which was central to the plot. Characters disappeared for long periods of time, like Rogue, who ran off to get cured about 20 minutes in, and didn’t properly show up again until the end of the film when she came back to the school. Other characters were inserted with really no point to them being there – the main offenders: Beast and Angel, both of whom were involved, but really needn’t have been.

This is the biggest sin Brett Ratner has committed in bringing this film to the screen. The storyline was great, the characters were great, and the special effects were beyond top notch. But the film was too short and felt rushed from start to finish. Overall, X Men: The Last Stand was a great film, for fans of the genre, but those new to the franchise will need to watch the previous 2 before watching it. I give it a 7.5 out of 10, because it was great, but far too rushed.

As for the possibility of a part 4? They could do it, but the reports from Marvel and from the studios is that it is not going to happen.