The Worst X-Men Movie Is Better Than You Remember

By Zack Zagranis | Updated


The mid-00s was a dark time for Marvel movies. The MCU was still a few years away, and the one-two punch of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) started to have audiences second-guessing this whole superhero fad. And while neither trilogy capper is the ending that fans wanted, we’re here to tell you that the third X-Men movie is not as bad as you remember.

X-Men: The Last Stand Isn’t A Complete Failure

aaron stanford

Don’t get it twisted; we’re not calling X-Men: The Last Stand a good movie, but it’s far from the dumpster fire that it’s been made out to be over the years. For anyone who doesn’t remember or wasn’t born yet, X-Men was the first successful Marvel film franchise—ok, technically, it was Blade, but most moviegoers in 1998 had no idea Blade was a Marvel property—beating Spider-Man to the big screen by a couple of years.

Superman’s Fault

That means that almost by default, it was the first big superhero franchise to have any sort of major shakeup behind the scenes. The drama came in the form of director Bryan Singer jumping ship from Marvel to DC to direct Superman: Returns (2006), leaving the third X-Men movie without a director, that is until Brett Ratner stepped in.

Trouble Behind The Scenes

Look, for reasons we won’t get into here, both Singer and Ratner are widely considered garbage people, even by Hollywood standards. In 2006, however, Brett Ratner was considered the worst of the two—both as a director and a human being. As a result, many fans, out of loyalty to Singer and his first two “near perfect” X-Men movies—we’ll come back to that—went into X-Men: The Last Stand already expecting to hate it.

A Huge Disappointment After X-2

For the most part, they did. Everyone did. X-Men (2000) and X-2 (2004) have critic scores of 82 percent and 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively. Both films’ audience scores are roughly the same.

Meanwhile, X-Men: The Last Stand scored a less than-fresh 57 percent with critics and only slightly better 61 percent with moviegoers. A drop that big must signify a decline in quality, right? Not really. In hindsight, all three movies actually deserve scores closer to the 60 percent mark, and that’s being generous.

None Of The Fox X-Men Movies Are Great

We have something to tell you, and you’re not going to like it, but here goes: the first two X-Men movies aren’t very good. No, seriously. They don’t hold up. It’s not exactly Bryan Singer’s fault, either. X-Men was the first superhero ensemble movie of any note, and superhuman titans throwing each other around in live-action wasn’t really a thing that existed yet.

Hollywood Was Learning How To Do Superheroes

Singer did the best with what he had, but after close to twenty years in the MCU, it’s hard to look back at X-Men‘s awkward fight choreography and not cringe. That’s one area where X-Men the Last Stand easily trumps its predecessors. By the time X-3 came out, audiences had already sat through two Spider-Man movies, Hulk (2003), Daredevil (2003), The Punisher (2004), Fantastic Four (2005), and even Elektra (2005), and Hollywood had a better grasp on how to translate superheroes from the page to the screen.

Strong Visuals Can’t Save The Story

As a result, X-Men: The Last Stand has better fight scenes and better effects overall than the first two movies. But strong visuals do not make for a good movie, and X-Men: The Last Stand should instead be judged on its story, which was fine. Fans made a big deal at the time about the way Bret Ratner screwed up the Dark Phoenix Saga, one of the most famous story arcs from the X-Men comics, but honestly, it’s no worse than the way the first two films bastardized the comic version of Marvel’s Merry Band of Mutants.

Go back and watch the first two X-Men movies, and you’ll see how much Bryan Singer was forced to compromise the version of the X-Men kids were used to seeing on Saturday mornings in order to bring Fox something grounded enough to depict in live-action.

I’m The Juggernaut

There’s no way that Fox would have made the Phoenix alien in nature even if Bryan Singer hadn’t left. It would have been considered too “out there” for a series that insisted on putting its protagonists in matching black leather instead of the bright, outlandish costumes worn by their four-color counterparts. The sooner X-Men fans can accept that, the sooner we can all stop pretending that X-Men: The Last Stand was some steep drop in quality from the first two movies.

X-Men: The Last Stand might not be a great film, but neither are the two that came before it, so cut the movie some slack already, huh? At least it had the Juggernaut meme.