Movie Review #783: Not only does Bryan Singer fix all the plot failures of the previous X-Men movies, he also brings back the heart the franchise had lost years ago in this sweeping epic of a superhero film.
By Red Stewart
|Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi|
|Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence, nudity, profanity, suggestive dialogue)|
The “X-Men” film series is a franchise that deserves more respect, but at the same time makes it hard to. After helping re-popularize interest in the superhero genre with the first entry, director Bryan Singer crafted an arguably better sequel in 2003 called “X2”. From there, however, things began to decline starting with Brett Ratner replacing Singer as director in “X-Men: The Last Stand”, resulting in much of the drama and emotional center of the movies to be replaced by action. 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, focusing on the mysterious past of the X-Men mascot, was met with even greater negative reviews.
While “First Class” and “The Wolverine” helped return the franchise to its roots, I can safely say that the latest addition, “Days of Future Past”, has not only restored the glory of the series, but is also one of the greatest superhero films ever made.
The film follows two different timelines–the dystopic future where mutant hunting robots known as sentinels exterminate all who harbor the x-gene, and the counterculture era of the 1970s. Prior to the events of the first “X-Men”, it turns out Mystique was unintentionally responsible for not only jumpstarting the sentinel program, but also upgrading it to the point where the machines are practically unbeatable in the dark present. To prevent this from ever happening, Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back in time to his younger body, via the evolved abilities of Kitty Pryde, in order to unite Xavier and Magneto to stop Mystique.
Singer proved in “X2” that he was more than capable of handling multiple characters, and that skill hasn’t diminished in the eleven years since. By that I mean, obviously some mutants will get more screen time than others, but it doesn’t feel that way. To give a small spoiler, Havok, Toad, Colossus and some others aren’t in the film that long, but the way everything is paced you’d feel like they had plenty of time. It reminded me of “The Silence of the Lambs” where Anthony Hopkins was on-screen for about sixteen minutes total, yet his presence felt much longer than that; or in “Star Wars” where Darth Vader had twelve minutes himself.
But the characters don’t matter much if there isn’t a good story for them to explore, and in that regard “DOFP”, which acts as a sequel to both “First Class” and “The Last Stand”/”The Wolverine”, succeeds greatly. The script is so beautiful, taking the famed story arc from the 1980s and modernizing it for a 21st century audience. There’s just the right balance of humor and drama, with plenty of inside jokes for fans of the both the previous films and/or comics. Singer’s own experiences of growing up as a minority is what gave the first two “X-Men” movies a heart, and I’d almost forgotten what that felt like till “DOFP” where he brings that sensitivity back that Ratner and Vaughn couldn’t possibly emulate.
I know a lot of people are getting sick of Wolverine being in the spotlight all the time, but Hugh Jackman does a phenomenal job bridging the gap between the two eras. It really brings the whole franchise full circle since in the first “X-Men” it was Professor X who helped Wolverine, whereas in this one Logan is the one who helps Charles.
The rest of the cast is all talented and embody their superhero/supervillain personas well enough. If I had to pick one actor/actress who stood out from the rest, it would have to be Evan Peters as Quicksilver and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Ironically, I didn’t like Lawrence much in “First Class”, but here she evokes Rebecca Romijn’s cold, manipulative nature perfectly. The only member I had a problem with was Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask (sorry Game of Thrones fans), and that’s because he didn’t seem to convey that mutant fascination/hatred feeling Danny Huston and Brian Cox expressed so well in “X-Men Origins” and “X2” respectively.
In the end, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” blew me away in scale and scope. I’ll be honest when I say that out of all the superhero movies I was looking forward to this year (and no, I’m not looking forward to “Guardians of the Galaxy”), I didn’t expect this one to be the best, but I was wrong. It’s not just a terrific superhero movie; it’s a cinematic powerhouse in the history of film. ✴