|X-Men: Days of Future Past|
With my heart pumping and my wallet empty (thank you, Loews), I walked into the movie theater, and as an avid comic book reader and an X-Men enthusiast, I not only wanted, but needed, this film to be excellent. I expected a lot from X-Men: Days of Future Past. The previous ensemble X-Men film, X-Men: First Class, was pretty good (Fassbender and McAvoy are to be thanked for that), but it wasn’t fresh. It didn’t grab me, or inspire me. I remember watching the first film, X-Men (2000), and going home, trying, day after day, to coax my own titanium blades from my knuckles. Sadly, that never happened.
What did happen, however, was a new film of outstanding performances and plot (however slightly batty). This installment follows Huge Jackedman (Hugh Jackman) as Wolverine, who, in a dystopian war-stricken future in which mutants are hunted down and slaughtered by Sentinels, and is sent back by Professor Xavier and Magneto (yes, you read that right) in a bid to stop it from ever happening and preventing the extinction of mutant-kind. So no pressure. It’s interesting to compare Jackman with his image when he first came onto our screens—he was muscular, yes (moans), but he was not monstrous. Given that this is his eighth (or ninth?) reprisal of Wolverine, it has become pretty obvious that there is no downtime between films: he is just in a permanent state of muscular intensity. Gone is his youthful tenderness, which, in fact, works very well to lend the entire premise credence: he is a warrior and a survivor. And, as always, Jackman gives a fantastic, however slightly typical, performance in the lead. McAvoy plays Xavier during his drug-addled years, haunted by his accident and addicted to a serum that Beast invented to prevent the paralysis his legs caused by Magneto in preceding installment. As a result, his powers have faded to almost nothing, and Wolverine has to drag him back from the abyss in a heart-wrenching sequence.
|James McAvoy reprises his role as Professor Charles Xavier|
Wolverine also has to release Erik/Magneto from the Pentagon for killing JFK. I know, I know, I didn’t believe it either—and as far-fetched as it seems, it all works surprisingly well. Fassbender acts like an entitled brat throughout the film, and you can see Erik’s inclinations to betrayal and to immoral actions fester below the surface. However, put simply, Evan Peters (American Horror Story) as Quicksilver is perhaps the most refreshing actor in the whole film. Not only does he hold his own in front of far more experienced actors, he outdoes them in part from the garden-fresh and unexplored aspect of his kleptomaniac character, but also because of the talent of this amazing actor. He is sharp and unflinching, riddled with authority- issues Ferris Bueller would be proud of. The film’s cameos of stars from previous roles is not the futile carousel of marketing that one would expect from a sequel of this scale. Instead, it is executed with far more tenderness than is typically exacted. It feels more like an honest, supportive reunion than an obvious ploy. Although Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (the list goes on) are only on screen for a combined time of perhaps ten minutes, it is surprisingly touching when they all rally together for mutant-kind. My one major criticism is Peter Dinklage; he is considered the antagonist of the film, having created the Sentinels as the means to eradicate mutants, but is largely muted—in all he has about a page worth of dialogue. While they were probably aiming to make him appear mysterious and Bond-villainous, his character simply comes across as being underdeveloped, and if we learned anything from Game of Thrones, it’s that Dinklage is not to be wasted nor underestimated as an actor.
|Evan Peters as Quicksilver is the highlight of the film|
What are noteworthy are the gorgeous visual effects. Director Bryan Singer makes beautiful films and has Newton Thomas-Sigel (Drive; 2011, The Usual Suspects; 1995, and the original X-Men; 2000, to name a few) as a fantastic cinematographer. He does, at times, baby his audience, and one can often end up feeling rather patronized when watching the film—it’s all too easy to get removed from the story and to remember that you are in a movie theater. 3-D certainly doesn’t help, and this effect is largely useless—as always—in adding to the story. Having said that, there is only one sequence where it pays off: where we are transported to Quicksilver’s perspective—speeding around the room while everything else is slowed down. We see water globules float in the air, and bullets pierce the screen at a magnificent pace—it’s truly lovely. And as far as other special effects go, the movie just would not be the same without the truly breath-taking representation of superpowers. Whatever your views are about the film, it is undeniably gorgeous and stylish as hell.
But, of course, I’m nitpicking. This installment of the X-Men franchise is, in short, X-cellent (I couldn’t resist). It’s amazing that after all this time, X-Men still hasn’t lost its potency for us on the big screen, and, in classic Bryan Singer fashion, touches us in ways that aren’t necessarily appropriate (…allegedly).