If nothing else, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is the triumph of hard earned experience over past failure. Director Bryan Singer has indeed come a long way from the barely warmed over intro that was X-MEN. Taking painful lessons from that first outing and the plodding love-letter that was SUPERMAN RETURNS, Singer has crafted a film that is tight, layered and loaded with taut action sequences.
Advil. X-Men style.
Never before have we seen a more perfectly matched double pairing in James McAvoy & Patrick Stewart as Xavier and Michael Fassbender & Ian McKellen as Magneto. The crisscross chemistry between each pair is palpable, never more so at a key moment between young and old Charles. Fassbender and McKellen are great as always, but it is Fassbender’s soulful performance as the militant Magneto that I found it difficult not to sympathize with his cause. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance felt a little tepid by comparison, but I suspect it was largely due to having to do heavy emotional lifting without the help of the Brotherhood. (Don’t think we didn’t notice, FOX). Practically renouncing all the love he enjoys as Tyrion in Game of Thrones, Peter Dinklage stars as the calculating industrial scientist Bolivar Trask. While fully present in all his scenes, the character felt a bit one dimensional, as though merely filling the ‘bad guy’ slot. His intentions feel real enough, but his motivations are never explored. Mere anthropological dictate is not enough to fund such genocide. Dinklage’s eyes bespoke a much bigger hurt, yet Singer failed to capitalize on its potential. Though the film appears to be carried by the bankable Hugh Jackman as a less surly Wolverine, make no mistake: this film is about Charles’ and Magneto’s choices. Though there is plenty of Jackman’s naked, shredded-like-cheese physique for those so inclined.
I’d be angry too, waking up with such hideous 70′s decor.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST takes its cue from the original story by beloved X-Men scribes Chris Claremont & John Byrne. Reworked for the screen by Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST makes some curious, but fairly well thought out deviations in its journey to the big screen. I’m a comic purist, but had little issue with Kitty’s new abilities, though I bit my lip when it was Wolverine being sent back in time instead of her. Women keep getting sidelined in Hollywood. At it’s core, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST argues the point that it is our choices that determine our future, that it is not immutable, only stubborn. Themes of loss, forgiveness and courage under fire are all touched on, with varying degrees of success. The film paints a rather bleak picture of a racist future and hatred in the beginning and manages to reignite the fires of hope by it’s last frame, simultaneously lining up X-MEN 1 through 3 and slapping some much needed sense into them, 3 Stooges style.
Blink and you’ll miss her. Literally.
I took issue however with the criminal under use of Storm, (I still feel Halle Berry was miscast) and Bishop, Blink, Sunspot and Warpath. Here we have at least two Omega-Level mutants among the group being reduced to a paltry 3 lines in a movie that spans an epic 2 hours and change. I was hyped to see Bishop kick serious sentinel tail and felt crestfallen when he opted to meekly shoot them down. It’s a concern that women and people of colour continue to be reduced to supporting, supporting roles and cannon fodder for the Sentinels. I had hopes that Singer would have fought harder to give them something else to do, other than dying nasty deaths. I hope that the inevitable follow up film will do more to include the ladies and PoC being more than mere Sentinel training dummies.
“What’cha you mean I’ve been ‘replaced by Lupita?!’”
Singer has matured as a director and it shows, with generous helpings of whuppin’s and top class showcases of bad-assery. Heck, a sequence involving Quicksilver was worth the price of admission alone. Aside from the dreary, Tron: Legacy feel to the world of the current X-Men, the sets show just enough for us to get our bearings. Still, it felt a bit cramped, but that was the idea. In contrast, the world Wolverine wakes up in circa 1972 is bright and almost cheery in spite of the tumultuous events therein. There were plenty of ‘lifted from the comic’ shots and nicely executed scenes of mutant mayhem. The digital wizards certainly put in the work. The soundtrack by John Ottman manages to filter through the explosions and punches to deliver a decent orchestration. There is just enough variation on the ‘X-Men’ leitmotif to be hummable, the mark of any effective movie soundtrack.
Overall, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST delivers a cinematic ride, filled with emotion and high stakes, tempered with somber reflection on the consequences of actions on the bigger picture. If the execs at FOX have an ounce of sense, they will leave Bryan Singer to captain the franchise back into the smooth waters it deserves.
P.S. We’d thought it was standard procedure by now, but yes, you will have to stick around til after the credits to see the scene that has everyone buzzing.