Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Hoping to bridge the gap between the success of X-Men: First Class and the more star-studded original X-Men films, and wash the taste of how horrifically that series ended, 20th Century Fox brought back director Bryan Singer and decided on adapting one of the long-running comic's most popular stories for the big screen. The task set before Singer was no small one but the director steps up with X-Men: Days of Future Past and, in a Geoff Johns-ian effort of making disparate (and often inane) pieces fit, finds a way to deliver the best X-Men movie to date.

Opening in a dystopian not-too-far future the film sets up its basic premise of the time travel of a character's mental consciousness in an opening action sequence involving Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) along with several mutants we haven't seen before: Bishop (Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Bingbing Fan), and Sunspot (Adan Canto). What we learn is that Kitty can send a X-Men's mind back in time to his younger self to warn of coming dangers and change the outcome.

Taking that approach in a much wider scale the remaining X-Men, who also include Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), and Storm (Halle Berry), decide to send Wolverine's consciousness back to his younger self in the early 1970s to seek out the young versions of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and change a key moment in history involving the creation of the mutant hunting Sentinels who have laid the world to waste while attempting to eradicate the mutant threat.

What Wolverine will need the help of both Xavier and Magneto to stop is Mystique's assassination of the Sentinels' creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) whose death secures a Sentinel legacy while will lay waste to mutants and humans alike in the years to come. It's fun to see Dinklage here, but honestly the character of Trask is so straightforward it doesn't offer the actor much room to breathe and Singer could easily have filled the mostly thankless role with any number of actors.

With the exception of Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Singer does a bit of disservice to the cast of X-Men: First Class most of whom either get only a short cameo, such as Havok (Lucas Till), or a posthumous mention (pretty much everyone else). As the movie is structured primarily on Wolverine's time travel, the ramifications of Mystique's actions, and the central relationship of Xavier and Magneto (the heart of several of the comics' best stories) this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is certainly worth mentioning.

The major addition in the 70s scenes is the surprisingly enjoyable Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who Logan enlists to help break Magneto out of prison in a ridiculous costume but great humor and well-executed slow-motion effects (while reminding me of Mark Waid's Impulse). Meanwhile Wolverine struggles to motivate a Charles Xavier to rejoin a battle which has already cost him far too much.

Despite the fact that the film's timing of events is somewhat questionable concerning the alternate opening and closing scenes which bookend the movie (the world certainly goes to hell quickly in the dystopian future), and the fact that the hazy science the movie series is known for pops its ugly head up once again with the serum Beast uses to help Xavier walk (at the cost of his mental powers), Singer certainly succeeds in fixing much of what was broken in the original continuity with The Last Stand. This of course means X-Men: First Class doesn't, and won't ever, really get a proper sequel, but it does allow the franchise to win back fan support by rewriting over several mistakes of the series' lowest point.

I saw the film in regular old 2D and didn't see much, outside of the future scenes and the final 70s battle in the nation's capital, that would offer much that I think would have been enhanced in 3D. The effects are consistent, and storyline, despite some nagging nitpicks and a few hazy plot points, holds together far better than any of the other X-Men films by focusing on the relationships of the core characters as much, if not more, than outside threats. The result is movie better than expected which, if you stay until the end, teases what else is yet to come.

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