Ror Reviews: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
I love the X-Men movies. Not all of them of course -- though I'd argue that the likes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand have a bit more going for them than many give them credit for -- but overall I love the cinematic universe that Fox has created for some of my favorite comic book characters.
Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise with a loose adaptation of the classic '80s comic arc from Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It currently sits at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes..but are the critics overpraising? Click on for my take.
Not something you hear very often, I know!
I realize many purists will think I'm crazy, and I'll admit that I've found some of the changes made in adaptation to be unnecessary, and even outright baffling -- but at the end of the day I think they've produced some damn fine movies, with excellent casts, and strong scripts. Isn't that the most important thing?
With Days Of Future Past Bryan Singer returns to the genre he helped define (don't like the man? Okay. Don't agree with that statement? Do some research) and arguably delivers the strongest entry in the X-franchise yet. Matthew Vaughn did a great job with First Class too though, and while this does work as a direct continuation, it also manages to bridge the gap between the earlier films in a way that should please most fans.
One of the most surprising things about DOFP is how simple the story actually is. Once you wrap your head around the time travel stuff (holes can be poked if you think about it too much..like ANY movie using that plot device) it basically boils down to a battle for the soul of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), with Xavier (James McCavoy) as the angel on one shoulder, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as the devil on the other. See, it was actually something Mystique did in in 1973 which led to the hellish future we find ourselves in at the start of the movie, so Professor X (Patrick Stewart) thinks that if Logan (Hugh Jackman) can prevent her from carrying out the deed, that the unstoppable Sentinels won't be created and that future will be averted. Logan enlists the help of the younger versions of Xavier, Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Magneto -- but unfortunately for all concerned, the ever devious Mr. Lensherr has his own agenda.
The X-Men have endured for so long for good reason. I love most of the Marvel flicks (not trying to start a flame war, just using them as an example) but they're not really known for dealing in shades of grey when it comes to their characters, and they're simply less interesting as a result. Here our main protagonists are a noble, but ruthless killing machine and (at least in this movie) a snarky, apathetic junky. Then there's Mystique, who still clings on to her humanity but is willing to let it slip away in her pursuit of justice. And Magneto; not an inherently evil man, but a man prepared to commit evil acts to ensure the survival of his race. Not exactly The Avengers.
Make no mistake about it; although this movie features some great action scenes, it is at its heart a character based sci-fi drama, brought to life by a cast at the absolute top of their game. It's a four-hander, with McCavoy stealing it and Jackman clawing at his heels all the way. Fassbender and Lawrence are also as predictably solid as ever, though they didn't get quite enough screen time for my liking -- which brings us to the movie's biggest problems: In a film so jam-packed with characters, some are bound to get the short end of the stick, but the new Mutants in the future timeline really suffer. As great as it is to have the likes of Bishop, Warpath and Sunspot etc on screen, they get barely a full line of dialogue between them. I guess they are really only there to instigate some of those awesome action set pieces I mentioned..but not even a few exchanges before they power up? By the same token, Havok, Toad and a few other nameless mutants appear once in a sequence set in the past before vanishing from the story.
But, there is one character who only makes a fleeting appearance and still emerges as probably the highlight of the whole movie. We all made fun of his costume, but trust me when I tell you that Evan Peters' Quicksilver is a joy. The scene in which he breaks Magneto out of the Pentagon had the crowd I saw it with clapping and cheering -- something I've never actually witnessed during a film before. You may all think it's a foregone conclusion that Aaron Taylor-Johnson's version of the character will outdo him in Avengers: AOU, but after seeing Godzilla I'm not so sure!
Another highlight is simply the tone and structure of the film as a whole. Singer injects quite a bit of humor, but not so much as to detract from the drama, and at the same time he never allows things to get too bleak either. There's some dark stuff (particularly in the future scenes) but ultimately this is a hopeful tale, with themes and a message that resonate without ever seeming forced upon us.
If you're not a fan of Fox's (and maybe more importantly, Singer's) approach to these characters and this world then I don't think Days Of Future Past will do much to change your opinion. But if you're already invested then this is unmissable. Powerful, funny, exciting, and signifying a new beginning for the younger cast while (possibly) serving as a fitting swansong for the originals. DOFP clocks in at just over 2 hours, and I'd have happily sat there for 2 more. Bring on Apocalypse.
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