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This is how you do the X-Men right.
on May 27, 2014
X-Men fans can be a prickly lot and over the last 14 years since Bryan Singer's first movie, they have run hot and cold on the films, mostly loving the first two, intensely disliking LAST STAND and splitting the difference on FIRST CLASS and the two WOLVERINE movies. Singer's latest effort, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, may well be the best of the lot and a film that even the most particular of fans will find hard to totally dislike.
I thought X-MEN:DAYS OF FUTURE PAST was the best of the X-Men movies because:
It truly captures the essence of who the X-Men are: the down and dirty combat grunts of the comic book universe. While The Avengers and the JLA are made up of world beaters who come together to fight some universe threatening evil, the X-Men consist of scrappy misfits, many with working class origins and neurotic personalities. They band together because no one else will have them,then bicker, fight, and feud like a true family. Professor X and Magneto can be bitter enemies, but they are also brothers and patriarchs over a large brood, with Wolverine only the first of many difficult children.
DAYS OF FUTURE PAST has a perfectly convoluted plot that unites the X-Men universes of the first three movies and Matthew Vaughn's FIRST CLASS which was set back in the early 1960's. Thus we have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan back as the originals, along with their earlier counterparts, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, in the roles of Professor X and Magneto. The movie begins in a hellish future ruled by the Sentinels, killing machines capable of hunting down anyone with even slightest trace of the mutant gene, where there is a handful of surviving mutants led by a now reconciled Professor X and Magneto. They devise a plan that calls for Kitty Pryde to use her power to send Wolverine's consciousness back into his 1973 body and then try to prevent Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask, the inventor of the Sentinels. It is Mystique's capture following this crime that allows the Sentinel makers to use her DNA to build indestructible machines capable of neutralizing any mutant's power. But back in the Vietnam era 70's, with its lava lamps and water beds, Wolverine has his work cut out for him: Charles Xavier is a bitter alcoholic living in the now shuttered Xavier Institute (under the care of Hank McCoy/Beast) and Magneto is imprisoned below the Pentagon for killing JFK (there is a nice twist on this later). The best part of this is that it puts Hugh Jackman's Logan back front and center in the story as he goes about getting Xavier to care again and busting Magneto out of his cell so they can rewrite history and save the future.
There are terrific action scenes that come as close as any movie to recreating the comic book. It all starts off with a great battle in the future where Iceman, Blink, Colossus, Storm, Bishop, Sunspot and Warpath have to hold off a wave of Sentinels; it makes smart use of their powers, especially Blink's ability to create portals. This is how to kick off a comic book movie, and it's not by having Mary Jane sing. Then the film makes up the ante by giving us a jaw dropping sequence during Magneto's breakout done totally from the perspective of Quicksilver as he moves so fast that even speeding bullets in mid-air appear to stand still; this scene alone is worth the price of a ticket or the cost of a Blu Ray copy. It says something when the finale, which includes the levitating of RFK stadium through the sky so that it can be dropped on the White House grounds, is not the high point of the movie.
The way DAYS OF FUTURE PAST touches on all of the X-Men movies that came before and does manage to rectify some of the injustices us fans had to put up with; there is a climatic scene with Wolverine and Professor X where Wolverine and the rest of us are reunited with some fan favorites that just might be my favorite scene in any comic book movie. I also like the way Professor X's first meeting with Logan (from LAST STAND) is referenced here and the way they work Bill Stryker into the story. And it is such a kick to see so many good actors back in familiar roles starting with the leads in their iconic parts; but there is also Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Hallie Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Lucas Till (Havok), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), along with newcomers like Omar Sy (Bishop), Booboo Stewart (Warpath), Adnan Canto (Sunspot). Some of them get less screen time than we would have liked, but just having them there is enough for me. The real breakout performance goes to Evan Peters as Quicksilver, he nearly steals to movie. A note to the CW and their upcoming Flash series: the bar has been raised high on how to do a speedster. I do wish Peter Dinkledge's Bolivar Trask had been given some better dialog in light of what we've seen him do on GAME OF THRONES.
Of course for a comic book movie, there are a few logic holes and inconsistencies; the main one being how is Charles Xavier up and around after being literally destroyed by the Phoenix in LAST STAND? In the post credit scene from that movie, he appears to have transferred his consciousness to a comatose patient, but that doesn't explain his appearing to everyone as Patrick Stewart. Maybe the patient was his twin brother or he is simply using his well honed mental powers to alter his appearance to everyone else. Then there is the plot itself which appears to play around with some to the theories of time travel and its consequences. Does it really matter or maybe we should cut comic book movies the same slack we give to comic books, where constant rebootings, relaunchings and tweakings have made the canon of even the greatest super heroes all but unrecognizable.
Then there is the post credit scene, which sets up the coming of THE AGE OF APOCALYPSE; can't wait to see what they'll do with some of my favorites like Nate Gray, Mr. Sinister, and the Sugar Man.