X-Men: Days of Future Past is high mark in franchise
If your X-Men experience is limited to the cinematic universe Director Bryan Singer introduced mainstream audiences to back in 2000, chances are you’re going to love X-Men: Days of Future Past, an audacious, thrilling adventure that’s the most epic adventure yet featuring everyone’s favorite mutants.
However, if you’re so well versed in X-Men lore that you know the difference between Mastermind and Mesmero, you’ll appreciate what Singer has done in creating a massive summer blockbuster, even if he still can’t create an X-Men film that fully captures the tone and fun of its comic book source material.
In the future, the X-Men are fighting a losing battle against the Sentinels, advanced robots capable of adapting their attack to counter and ultimately kill any mutant. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) have partnered to combat the threat. Joining them are Xavier’s remaining X-Men — Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine), Storm (Halle Berry, Cloud Atlas), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and a handful of new members that will thrill longtime X-fans.
Kitty has discovered a possible way to prevent the Sentinel invasion from ever occurring by using a very vaguely unexplained power to allow an X-Man to inhabit their body back in 1973. That’s when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle) kills Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones), the Sentinels’ creator, and inadvertently sets in motion the chain of events that will lead to mutantkind’s downfall.
Wolverine is assigned the task of traveling to the past and reuniting young Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Magneto (Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave), who have long gone their separate ways in the decade following the events in X-Men: First Class. Xavier is all but a recluse since shutting down his school with only Hank/The Beast (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies) remaining to care for him.
But even if Wolverine is successful in getting Xavier and Magneto to work together again, stopping Mystique may be a bigger challenge than any of them can handle.
Screenwriter Simon Kingberg, who last desecrated the X-Men franchise with the abysmal X-Men: The Last Stand, returns to make amends for his previous transgressions and largely succeeds despite a few legacy franchise problems.
Singer has never truly been able to move beyond his first X-Men loves: his four core characters —Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto and Mystique — even if it’s to the detriment of developing the other actual X-Men.
And with new characters like Blink, Warpath, Sunspot and Bishop, it’s frustrating watching them get token cameo appearances so Singer can stage yet another scene where Mystique becomes a ninja and wipes out a roomful of men or Magneto can aim the same weapons previously pointed at him back at his would-be attackers. We’ve already seen those formerly impressive moments before and now it’s just commonplace in an X-Men movie.
A little character development would go a long way to make the new X-Men seem less like super-powered cannon fodder and more valuable members of the team in the same esteem as Wolverine and Storm. Not surprisingly, one of the film’s best scenes features a new mutant, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), creatively using his super speed powers in the best visual display since Nightcrawler’s run through The White House in X2.
Yet when working with actors the caliber of Fassbender, McKellen, McAvoy, Stewart, Jackman and Lawrence, it’s easy to see why Singer is content focusing on them and the film is at its best from an acting standpoint when any of that contingent interact.
Besides an occasional song and the wardrobe, Singer evokes the 70s feel with a heightened sense of paranoia and perspectives meant to capture the look on an 8mm camera.
Like Singer’s previous X-Men efforts, the cinematography is too dark. The scenes featuring the future X-Men are awash in blackened buildings filled with characters in black leather fighting enemies clad in black armor, which beyond making the action difficult to make out until the X-Men use their powers, it negates the need for viewing the film in 3D.
It’s an outstanding action movie, but Singer still hasn’t quite nailed that comic book feel that make Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise the standard bearer. This is a step in the right direction especially after the fan-pleasing final act.
For its flaws, DOFP is the best entry in the series as it borrows the standout elements from X2 and X-Men: First Class to create a bridge between the previous trilogy that puts the franchise on excellent footing movie forward.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10