X-Men: Days Of Future Past Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 05.23.2014
Bryan Singer returns to Marvel's mutant franchise with X-Men: Days Of Future Past, but is the time-spanning plight of mutantkind worth your time? 411's Terry Lewis checks in with his full review!
Hugh Jackman - Wolverine / Logan Patrick Stewart - Professor X / Charles Xavier (Older) James McAvoy - Professor X / Charles Xavier (Younger) Ian McKellen - Magneto / Erik Lehnsherr (Older) Michael Fassbender - Magneto / Erik Lehnsherr (Younger) Jennifer Lawrence - Mystique / Raven Darkholme Peter Dinklage - Bolivar Trask Josh Helman - William Stryker Evan Peters - Quicksilver / Pietro Maximoff Nicholas Hoult - Beast / Hank McCoy Ellen Page - Shadowcat / Kitty Pryde Shawn Ashmore - Iceman / Bobby Drake Halle Berry - Storm / Ororo Munroe Daniel Cudmore - Colossus / Peter Rasputin Omar Sy - Bishop Fan Bingbing - Blink / Clairce Ferguson Adan Canto - Sunspot / Roberto da Costa Booboo Stewart - Warpath / James Proudstar Lucas Till - Havok / Alex Summers Evan Jonigkeit - Toad Mark Camacho - U.S. President Richard Nixon
With the success of The Avengers and film studios hoovering up properties to make TV & movies out of, there's no better time to be a comic book fan but spare a thought of the loyal ones who've had to sit through some dreck. After Fox's badly received The Last Stand outing of the X-Men movies, fans have wanted to see the characters from that universe done justice, not quite satisfied with the rebooted, set in the past First Class. Trust Fox to turn back to director Bryan Singer who brought the mutants to the big screen in the first place with a well rewarding crossover between the two timelines in X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
It's the not too distant future and the remains of the mutant race & the humans who allied with them are herded into prisons and kept underfoot or killed by the mutant hunting robots, the Sentinels. Pockets of the X-Men resist and survive barely by constantly time phasing a member's consciousness a couple of days before to avoid attacks. Professor X (Patrick Stewart, Hamlet) hatches a plan to send the only one who can counter the pain of the ordeal, Wolverine, (Hugh Jackman, Prisoners) back to his younger self and stop this dark future from happening. To do so, he must stop the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle) from assassinating the Sentinel's creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones), as his death sparks the rise of the robots. To help, he enlists the younger Professor X (James McAvoy, Filth) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Frank) amongst others to save the world and mutantkind.
With plenty of characters in a speedy pace, expansive film, it could be easy for some to be chucked aside - and you do get a little bit of that here. Check out that cast above and you'll notice how a lot of fan favourite X-Men are relegated to the side lines with new ones popping their head into frame to fire off an energy blast or two and that's it for them. Even the reliable Jackman's Wolverine takes a welcome spot on the supporting cast bench. After five films where he's more than less been the main character (ignoring his own two singular outings), Days Of Future Past focuses back to the far more engaging battle of methodology and mutant rights between McAvoy & Fassbender's quality, younger two sides of the coin in Professor X & Magneto. Less so was the expanded role given to Lawrence in her second outing as Mystique. Whilst this time, she's more Mystique than First Class with displays of her mysterious spy-esque methods and does the nimble fight choreography well, it feels like she's made into Poochie just because she's Jennifer bleeding Lawrence and since she's an A-list star she needs to be front and centre. I don't hate Lawrence but I much prefer to see some other characters have a tad more screentime when I feel she doesn't do the character justice compared to others who have. Still, the focussed main three or four mutants are welcome and very well acted in Dinklage's impression of a completely dark Tyrion Lannister in a suit.
That said, Singer deserves so much credit for returning to the franchise which kick started the comic book movie trend of the 2000's and where he made his name in popular western cinema. This film iis legitimately funny & slick, gets characters right again and most important of all finally pushes the X-Men franchise back undoubtedly into the good part of the medium scale. Largely ignoring the events of Brett Ratner's The Last Stand and washing the bad stain of that trainwreck away, Days Of Future Past is simply a film for fans of the films and comics in a damn good apology. There's so many Easter Eggs on offer which gets over character's relationships & idiosyncrasies, X-history and the original, modern X-cast get a warm fuzzy happy ending in the sun. Not to mention the plot is a damn nice cliff notes version of the great storyline of the same name from the comics. In fact, it's not so much eggs as an Easter Chicken Farm. Newcomers just watching this fifth mutant outing on it's own may feel a wee bit left out on proceedings, whilst the faithful are rewarded well and the near continuous references to the other X-movies are a joy to watch although you may like a breather from it after awhile. They should have probably gone with the subtitle Days Of Future And Past Continuity instead.
Perhaps odd for a big superhero blockbuster summer movie, we don't really get a big superhero blockbuster final fight. Well we do but without spoiling, do remember we're in a time travel film. As such events in time are most definitely fluid and some parts may end up not being very important. Instead, there's some damn good thematic resolution which I enjoyed but it still felt plain weird after movie upon movie with a fight bringing the film to a close. Does make a nice change of pace mind. Don't get me wrong - there are some VERY nice displays of powers and action scenes which are mindblowingly awesome. We're spoilt with such moments like Magneto moving a whole baseball stadium with his magnetism and, for me the film's highlight, Quicksilver's slo-mo jailbreak of Magneto & his resolution to a subsequent shoot out. Reflecting back, I'd much rather see Evan Peters of American Horror Story fame whizzing round the Pentagon's kitchen and setting up Government goons to punch themselves in the face and to flick bullets out of the direction of fellow mutants over the same people in a three minute fight scene which won't fill my wants. A truly masterful scene very well made shines through and nearly makes you forget about the lack of scraps.
Sadly at some points, the special effects and CGI don't hold up very well at all. Quicksilver's film stealing scene aside, there were moments where I was flashbacking to X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the horrifically bad effects from that film. There's a scene where Magneto raids a train carrying Sentinels (who nitpickingly don't look that great in their original form) at night and sneaks some metal into their plastic bodies so he can control them later. He does this with ripped up railway track rails. I understand putting effects over a dark scene can be troublesome but there's no attempt to discolour the rails and they stick out like a sore thumb on screen, floating across it. What's worse, when we see the actual Sentinel, they look so artificially fake. It is literally just a computer effect added on to a dark room setting. I usually don't have a problem with effects taking me out of a film as they can show the impossible and are essential to movie making when they are done well. Here, it's not the case. Unless it shows up better in 3-D screenings (I plumped for the standard option), I refuse to accept some jump out bad moments of CGI when the film gets set pieces right and expects me to not mind about the rest. For the most part, the CGI is fine but when it looks off, it looks really off.
Finally, Days Of Future Past delivers possibly the most satisfying thematic slices of not just the X-Men but comic book movies in general. That ending notwithstanding, we pick up the good old fashioned rivalry between Xavier and Magneto's methodologies with Professor X attempting to be the bigger man & show people the right way through reasoning and Magneto getting his sympathetic points over via violent methods. There's the seeds sown for Xavier to set up the school for mutants as a symbol of hope in the coming uncertain times of mutant forthcoming and the whole plot of Mystique being convinced to be the bigger person to save the world is quite good viewing via the moral conflict. Simply put, you won't find anything better theme wise in a superhero movie.
The 411: An X-tremely satisfying and near perfect send off to some aspects of Fox's X-Men juggernaut from it's originator. Against my better judgement, I'm ignoring some dodgy effects and character ditching so I can enjoy this. Singer is more than happy to celebrate the core values of the X-Men finally realised in a day in the sun with Days Of Future Past. Newcomers would be well advised to go hunt down a boxset of the previous to catch up but for the rest of us are well rewarded for our patience.