Megan Basham

It took in $45.5 million on the day of its release—the second highest opening day haul in film history, behind only Star Wars: Episode III. It earned $120 million in its first four days, making it the biggest Memorial Day weekend movie ever, and it ranks fourth on the all-time opening weekend chart, more than exceeding studio expectations.

Like its predecessors, the third installment of the X-Men franchise is landing on all kinds of box office record lists. But does the bona fide blockbuster really merit the impressive grosses it has already raked in? That depends on how much you expect in return for your summer entertainment dollar.

Certainly the franchise’s “spectacle factor” hasn’t suffered from a changing of the directorial guard, having swapped the well-regarded Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) for the considerably less-known Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, After the Sunset). In X-Men: The Last Stand, audiences have the opportunity to ogle all manners of brilliantly costumed mutants exercising all manner of brilliant powers. Under Ratner’s hand, though, the nuanced themes and character depth that marked the first two films take a serious pummeling.

It’s not for lack of good source material that the movie seems like a dumbed-down version of its forerunners—the premise couldn’t offer more relevant material to work with. With a new, furry blue representative to the White House, Dr. Hank McCoy (also known as “the Beast,” and played by Kelsey Grammer), mutants and humans have finally begun to work out a plan for peaceful coexistence. Villainous mastermind “Magneto” (Ian McKellan) is up to his old race-baiting tricks, but most mutants aren’t of a mind to listen—that is, until a pharmaceutical company, with the help of an especially gifted young mutant, manages to develop a serum that cures the “X gene” (the source of mutant powers).

The discovery of a cure immediately causes a rift in the mutant community, dividing them into those who want to exercise their choice to have a normal life, and those who see that choice as a betrayal and threat to all mutant existence. Some X-people, like “Rogue” (Anna Paquin)—whose “power” makes it impossible for her to get to first base with her boyfriend without killing him—understandably see their genetic enhancements as a disease they’re all too happy to vaccinate. Others, like Magneto and his shape-shifting gal pal “Mystique” (Rebecca Romijn), see the cure as nothing more than the government’s method of initiating “mutant cleansing.”

Megan Basham

Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All

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