The X-Men film franchise has indeed seen a combination of both ups and downs through the almost 15 years since the release of the first film. With a wide array of characters at their disposal Fox has churned out some solid and not quite solid titles that you would expect to see. With three of the four big main titles being directed by Bryan Singer and a pair directed by Brett Ratner and Matthew Vaughn we get an interesting picture on Marvel Comics most bizarre characters.
Days of Future Past is a sequel to both Vaughn’s tremendously impressive X-Men First Class as well as Singer’s X1 and X2 as well as Ratner’s turd that is X3. If we were to look at these films chronologically we would go First Class, Days of Future Past, X1, X2, X3 for those of you keeping score at home. But the question does beg to be answered is does Singer’s return mark a continuing climb upwards towards the top of the super hero heap or does it flop in the water like Namor the Submariner if he were to have his arms chopped off?
Days of Future Past is the most ambitious super hero film ever crafted. Sure the Dark Knight Trilogy is superb and well done but nothing that defies conventions. The last few Superman flicks have been ho hum in terms of being original, and don’t get me started on the Spider-Man flicks (I have not yet seen Amazing 2 so I cannot judge wholly). What makes DOFP an ambitious title is the fact that a portion of the film takes place in the future (roughly 2023) and then the current (according to the time period) which happens to be 1973.
I have never witnessed an actual film almost adapt perfectly from the comics a story arc quite like this, DOFP was a huge Marvel event in which Kitty Pryde went back in time to essentially prevent a genocide of the mutant race at the hands of the Sentinels, to say that Singer copied this word for word would be a bit off but he stuck true to the source material in a way that most film makers don’t.
We open up our film in the future where it has a dystopian feel and a voice over explaining how the world got this bad. How the mutants were being hunted and how the humans who helped them were being hunted down. After the awesome opening credits roll we arrive in Moscow where we see the first team made up of faithful comic characters, Warpath, Blink, Sunspot and Colossus all preparing for a sentinel attack and then we see Kitty and Bishop (yes they got that right to a point!) fleeing to be sent back in time.
Eventually we find out that Kitty projects Bishop’s conscious into the past (not far) and they avoid that area. It’s a clever way to escape the sentinel menace that we learn was created in 1973, which essentially brings us into the “past” of course the big difference is that Wolverine is the only person who could travel back because he could stand to be torn apart and end up all back to himself in the past due to his regenerative healing ability. Convenient plot hole explained. As both a comic fan and super hero film fan I found this an acceptable excuse for sending the buff Canadian back in time.
Wolverine wakes up in 1973 in New York and that is essentially where the bulk of the movie takes place. He goes off to find Charles Xavier and attempts to unite him and Magneto to stop the menace that will destroy mutant kind. I won’t delve too much deeper into the actual plot of the film but I want to note that the film does it’s best to follow the arc of the comic series and to that I applaud Singer and his crew.
As I shake off the rust of film reviews let’s dive into the acting of this film. With a wide cast and several characters portrayed by two actors it’s imperative that one keeps an open mind. While Patrick Stewart and Ian MacKellan play the older versions of Xavier and Magneto like they are old friends (which they are in real life and in the film) they are not the stars but it’s always a pleasure to witness them in these roles. Hugh Jackman seems born to play the role of Wolverine as his wit and violent rage is perfectly mixed in what is the most accurate depiction of the character at peace with himself. I always thought Logan was way too tame even in the original trilogy and then they pussified him in the Wolverine films, with more success in last summer’s flick. Nicholas Hoult reprises the role of Hank McCoy/Beast and the role seems far more comfortable for him this time and he just looks the part. Hoult should reprise his role in the upcoming film and it’s needless to say I look forward to it.
Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is just as he was in the previous film, the engaging anti-hero. When he isn’t playing the obvious villain Fassbender plays the reluctant anti-hero. His speech at the end of the film essentially nailed what I picture the character to be like in the comics when he gives the free world it’s choice regarding the mutant population. I believed in Fassbender’s Magneto more than most villains in other films. He brings an aura of mystery to the role.
While Peter Dinklage may win an Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones this season, his Bollivar Trask was not only underused but not flawlessly written. Dinklage brings the desperate scientist to life but at the same time it felt a little flat. I believed that he wanted his sentinels to be made but I didn’t buy that he didn’t hate mutants, because his lines were contradictory at times in that regards. The side characters, Warpath looked like Warpath, Ellen Page’s Kitty felt like a nice throwback, as did Shawn Ashmore’s mature Iceman. Even for the brief time he was in the film Evan Peters’ Quicksilver stole the show. I will save the elaborate thoughts on that for an actual conversation because it is quite hilarious.
Jennifer Lawrence seems more comfortable with herself in the reprising of the role of Mystique. The role is a lot more sexier this time than in First Class which could be the fact that she has become more comfortable with her body image and what not. The make up on both her and Beast look vastly improved over the last film as well. Lawrence takes center stage and delivers yet another amazing performance but the real star of the show is James McAvoy who portrays a broken Xavier with near surgeon’s precision. The rage, the sorrow and all the mixed emotions that are flowing through him are on vast display, it’s seen in his conversations with both Jackman and Fassbender.
Directing wise this film is solid, there doesn’t feel to be many wasted shots and the visual effects are top notch which is not something that usually happens with an X-Men film, usually it feels a little cheaper but this time it feels like it could be the best film of the summer. On the writing side the script while not the greatest in the world is solid for the genre, even with the time travel jokes aside DOFP is probably one of the better super hero flicks you will see this year based on writing alone. A majority of the plot holes are addressed by the writer’s and they actually explain them which is something most films don’t do.
This review clearly has gone on a bit too long so I will wrap it up with my final thoughts on this flick. Go see it. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you miss this one. DOFP is not only the best film I have seen this year (sorry Cap!) but I feel that it is the best super hero film of all time. Flawless.