The femmes fatales of summer are back, and the strong, sexy superheroines of "X-Men" are joined by a whole new slew of deadly damsels as they make their "Last Stand" this weekend.
Knowing full well the power that butt-kicking ladies can have at the box office — and did have in the first two "X-Men" movies — director Brett Ratner introduces several new female characters in "X-Men: The Last Stand," which hit theaters on Friday.
Joining the old guard of Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn, Famke Janssen and Anna Paquin is Ellen Page as youngster Kitty Pryde or Shadowcat, beloved by readers of the "X-Men" comic books as a fresh-faced, plucky alternative to the dark, gritty adult characters and world surrounding her.
"Kitty is the one written into the story who represents the reader, written in for teens trying to relate to the story — she's the only one who isn't an adult, like Spider-Man when he's in high school," said comic book geek Matthew Hancock, a New York City-based theater director.
In the latest movie, a violent war erupts between mutant groups the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and the Brotherhood, organized by Magneto (Ian McKellen) — after a cure is discovered to get rid of mutations.
Kitty, a complicated character portrayed as a young girl both awed and excited by the enormous goings-on around her, has the ability to "phase" and walk through walls or any other solid objects.
"She has the best original power and the most personality. Women in comics often have one-dimensional characters and she's anything but," said Matthew Manning, a freelance writer for several Marvel and DC titles, including "Spider-Man Unlimited."
"With the phasing there is more unexpected things you can do with her, with a character that can come out of anywhere," Manning added.
There's also a new batch of devious, evil mutant foes for the X-Gals to catfight with.
Dania Ramirez plays Callisto, a deadly assassin with heightened senses, and Omahyra (an actress who goes by one name) appears as Arclight, a brooding, super-strong killer — both as members of the Brotherhood.
"[Ramirez] will appear as more of a villain sidekick, more there just to kick some butt," Hancock said. "Arclight is also added not really as a well-developed character, but just there to knock down walls and bust some heads."
But there will also be some familiar faces.
Lead X-Woman Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) is back, this time as another villainous vixen. Jean seemingly died at the end of the second film, covered by a mountain of water, but her reappearance goes along with a plotline in the comic books.
"It's taken right from the comics, not to mention interesting to have that happen," Manning said. "Jean has always been a cornerstone of the 'X-Men,' which makes sense since she was one of the original members from the '60s."
Halle Berry also returns as the white-haired African princess-turned-heroine Storm, a fan favorite who controls the weather.
"She's a female character who isn't there for you to feel sorry for — she's a strong woman," said Jacksonville, Fla., "X-Men" fan Caroline Milne.
Berry's critically panned starring role in "Catwoman" makes her the only actress to recently play two different superheroines — perhaps because she loves a little rumble.
"I love that part of making the movies — the action, the combat, the fighting," Berry, who did her own stunt where her character does 25 revolutions in a few seconds while spinning into the air, told the New York Post. "I was a gymnast when I was younger, so it allows me to do all those things I loved as a kid."
Also returning is Oscar-winner Anna Paquin as human-contact deprived Rogue, the first female character to be introduced in the first film. Rogue absorbs the memories and abilities of anyone she touches, knocking them unconscious.
"Rogue is one of the most powerful X-Men, but the most tragic," said Hancock. "Her power keeps her more than any of them from living a normal life. They have a 'mutant cure' in this new movie — she'd definitely be the one to want it the most."
Rogue's tragic nature has made her a favorite of writers and editors working on the X-Men comic books.
"The idea of a girl who can't touch anyone because of her power, it's a perfect tragic model," said Joe Quesada, the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. "Her whole life is symbolic of what so many people take for granted."
And then there's sexy Mystique, played by gorgeous blue bodysuit-clad actress Rebecca Romijn.
Mystique is a character known for unexpected, eye-popping effects as the mutant villainess changes her shape into anyone she wants to look like.
"It's interesting to see her have such a large role. She's one of those that's fun to play with because she can be anyone," Manning said. "I'm not a huge fan of Rebecca Romijn, but she doesn't really, er, act in this movie anyway."
Indeed, Mystique, no doubt the favorite villainess of fans of the movie, is the character most known for her sex appeal.
"They put her in the movie just to have a naked supermodel walking around, that's what she's there for, to look sexy and kick a few dudes' butts," Hancock said. "Although there is an added intrigue to her, that she can choose to look like whatever she wants and still decides to look like her weird, blue-skinned self."
While the new killer vixens may be joining the cast mainly to contribute to some splendid X-fights, fans are looking forward to just that.
"[The women] are hot, have bigger parts and … it's not just the guys that are kicking behinds," said "X-Men" fan Kyle Murphy, an 8th-grader at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria, Minn.