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They Should Really Call It 'X-Women'

Halle, Famke, Rebecca Make It 'X-Women'

Right away, let me tell you the most important thing about Brett Ratner's “X-Men 3: The Last Stand.”

The movie has made it through Marvel Comics’ quality control unit with flying colors, and the third part of the "X-Men" trilogy is the summer hit we’ve been waiting for.

Last night’s red carpet premiere of the movie at the Cannes Film Festival was like an old-fashioned retro Hollywood gala, with more than a dozen stars and their director getting ovations and hollers of approval while paparazzi bulbs flashed like fireworks in every direction.

Luckily, the movie itself warranted the glitz and glamour: It’s an old-fashioned blockbuster that makes you feel like seeing it again right away or going out and flying around town.

But what’s most interesting about this "X-Men" is that the ladies take over.

Halle Berry, as Storm, becomes the group’s leader and moral conscience; Famke Janssen plays Jane Grey/Dark Phoenix; and Rebecca Romijn, as the blue-coated Mystique, is a fallen siren.

With this trio in place as mutant Valkyries, "X-Men 3" — featuring special effects that will knock your socks off — is like a rock-'n'-roll “Gotterdammerung” last act with the world exploding, flooding and shuttering before ending in silence.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the movie ends with gravestones for three of the main characters.

Are they dead? I can’t tell you. Two of them might be, and one who you think is, is not.

Ratner and Co. have book-ended the story with set pieces in the real world, and it’s given the movie an unexpected emotional heft that I think will have fans coming back for at least a second viewing.

“The Last Stand” is a satisfying ending for the three "X-Men" movies, and at the same time a suggestion that more is coming.

But if there are future "X-Men" movies, they won’t be with this entire, huge cast. It’s way too expensive to bring these actors together again.

So what we are likely in store for is a film about the adventures of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and maybe another with the ladies.

There’s certainly a Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) movie set-up in this version, and by the time this film is over he has many natural enemies.

"X-Men 3" also works because there are a couple of love stories — most notably the one between Wolverine and Jane Grey — that form the center of the film.

And there is also a message of tolerance, as the main plot revolves around the government (the president is played by the wonderful actor Josef Sommer) finding a cure for mutantism — something mutants don’t want.

In the middle of this, the head of the science lab that’s developed the cure — played by the terrific Michael Murphy — has a mutant son (Ben Foster) whom he wants to cure first.

The son, known as Angel, has one very disconcerting scene in which he locks himself in the bathroom and tries to scrape off his wings with kitchen utensils because he feels so ashamed.

It’s almost like a comic book nod to “Angels in America,” and could even turn the film into an iconic experience.

But mostly — even with strong performances by Jackman as Wolverine and Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy, aka The Beast — "X-Men 3" does become X-Women.

Janssen’s Jane Grey is elevated to star status as her own personal fight between good and evil threatens to destroy the group, while Berry’s Storm is officially passed the baton of leadership by The Professor (Patrick Stewart) — something that happens early on and that surprised me.

You kind of think maybe Wolverine’s claws will be out of joint on that one.

“X-Men 3” isn’t going to win Cannes, obviously. It’s here for the excitement and glamour of Hollywood.

But boy, oh boy, was this premiere needed! Directors Oliver Stone and Kevin Smith walked the red carpet for this one, and I spotted Kieran Culkin, juror Samuel L. Jackson and wife La Tanya Richardson and all the main Cannes players.

Strangely, Ratner’s “Rush Hour” star Chris Tucker stayed away despite being in town — but that may have been more about Tucker’s notorious shyness and stage fright than anything else.

Berry, especially, in her first Cannes appearance on the red carpet, really came across as a movie star of the first order. She drove the press wild all day, but still managed to find her place in the large repertory cast.

Aside from Penelope Cruz, whose performance in “Volver” remains the talk of Cannes, Berry and friends provided the festival with an important shot of adrenaline.

Even with an Academy Award, Berry still has plenty of career ahead of her, and many more accolades to come.

So get ready, because “X-Men 3” is likely to knock “The Da Vinci Code” off its top spot this weekend and maybe set a record or two.

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