Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
PLOT: In a horrific future where mutants are being exterminated by sentient robots called Sentinels, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) teams with his former enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) in a plan to use Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) powers to send Logan's (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to 1973, in order to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from carrying out an assassination which Xavier has pinpointed as the moment a mutant war with mankind became inevitable. In order to accomplish his mission, Logan has to rouse a strung-out, depressed young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) from his stupor, while also contending with a young and unpredictable Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
REVIEW: X-Men fans rejoice. Director Bryan Singer – the man who brought the X-MEN to the silver screen (and arguably kicked-off the current superhero movie trend) – is back to once again make his mark on the franchise he started, and put right where the franchise once went wrong. While Singer dipped his toe in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (he had a co-story and producer credit), this is his first full-on foray into the X-franchise since X2: X-MEN UNITED, and fittingly, it's the best installment of the series since then.
While initially that may seem like faint praise, for every disaster like X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, there was a good instalment like FIRST CLASS (which was actually very good) or last summer's THE WOLVERINE. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST takes the promise that was shown in FIRST CLASS to the next level, with it serving as a kind-of de-facto sequel to both THE LAST STAND, WOLVERINE & FIRST CLASS, and a prequel to X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Confused yet? Don't worry, within the first few minutes you'll get it, although all of the films up to now are required viewing to get the most out of this – even the bad ones.
While this is definitely more of a sequel to FIRST CLASS, with the older mutants (other than Wolverine) only really getting extended cameos, it all feels pretty seamless, and no one's part feels tacked on. The opening, dystopian part of the film is suitably horrific with Singer pushing the boundaries of his PG-13, as mutants are torn to pieces (graphically) by Sentinels, and one even gruesomely getting their head ripped off. However, the meat of the film rests in the 1973 section, to which about 85% of the movie is devoted.
While one might assume everyone takes a backseat to Wolverine, that's not the case. Like in the earlier pre-solo movies, Jackman is just part of the ensemble. If anything, the major character arcs go to the young Xavier, and Mystique, which is appropriate considering how Jennifer Lawrence's star has risen since she last played the part. Everyone agreed FIRST CLASS was perfectly cast, and once again everyone is pitch-perfect. McAvoy's got a much more interesting part this time around, with Charles now being addicted to a serum made by Beast (a returning Nicholas Hoult) that allows him to regain the use of his legs but robs him of his power. Much of the conflict comes from Charles having to accept his disability in order to use his gifts, and McAvoy is wonderful as the professor gone to seed.
While Mystique was portrayed in the Singer films mostly as a straight-up villain, here Singer opts for the approach used by Matthew Vaughn (who has a screenwriting credit) where Mystique still hasn't fully committed to Magneto's violent path, and Lawrence perfectly conveys her inner struggle, while also acquitting herself very nicely in a number of good hand-to-hand scraps, which are well-choreographed. The only (slight) disappointment is that Wolverine is somewhat extraneous here, which is a bit jarring considering his recent solo adventures. At times it feels like anyone could have been sent back, although Jackman is as good as ever, and seems to be having a good time under Singer's direction.
One thing that Singer always excelled in was finding ways to occasionally cut the tension through a subtle wink to the audience, that goes a long way in giving the film a bit of energy and wit a lot of the other movies didn't have. One way he does this is through music, with funny bits including Wolverine enjoying a cheesy Roberta Flack song, or scoring a jaw-dropping action sequence (starring soon-to-be fan favourite Quicksilver) with an easygoing Jim Croce tune. Singer also brings back two important members of the X-Men franchise, DP Newton Thomas Siegel, whose work is immediately recognizable, and composer-editor John Ottman, whose presence is immediately signalled when the main theme from X-MEN UNITED kicks-in during the opening credits. Clearly Singer knows the franchise, and to his credit he never tries to pretend the other films don't exist, although he does try to right the ship – so to speak.
One of the only weaknesses is a common one for the franchise, in that the villains are only so-so. To a degree this feels inevitable, with Magneto being somewhere between an antagonist and anti-hero, but Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask isn't really given enough screentime to project any menace. A secondary baddie, played by Josh Helman, fares better, although I wouldn't dream of spoiling his identity. Michael Fassbender, who dominated FIRST CLASS, is once again magnetic (pun intended) as the angry young Magneto, although as opposed to the last one it really does feel like this is McAvoy's show to a certain extent.
Overall, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is exactly the film X-MEN fans have been hoping for, and one that sure to please even the most critical fans. It's the first great blockbuster of the summer, and alongside April's CAPTAIN AMERICA; THE WINTER SOLDIER, a really good example of the superhero genre done right.
|Extra Tidbit:||Yes, there IS a teaser. Not having read the comics I had no idea what it meant, but my buddy Papps assures me it's awesome and the fans will get it.|