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June 23, 2014

Movie Mondays: X-Men: Days of Future Past

I guess the gangs all here
Well there's less black leather this time around

Well there’s less black leather this time around.

Title: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn (based on “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont & John Byrne)
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy
Release Date: May 23, 2014
MPAA: Rated PG-13

Welcome back to Movie Mondays true believers!!! That’s right I said “true believers,” which can only mean one thing…it’s time to look at another MARVEL movie! This week we take a trip back in time or back to the future or something, with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Here we have a convoluted time-travel movie based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men story line titled, well…Days of Future Past. This movie is essentially a direct sequel to TWO movies: X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine (isn’t time travel fun), and more than just a time-travel movie, this is FOX’s way of trying to fix all of their continuity problems created by having six movies more or less trying to do their own thing while still being tangentially connected to each other. Does it work? Is it good? Is it lousy? Will it make movie-goers happy, comic book fans angry, or any combination of emotional outcomes in between? Let’s find out.

Bishop looks good.  Blink, Warpath, and Sunspot ... okay

Bishop looks good. Blink, Warpath, and Sunspot … okay.

The film sets up a dystopian future where the world is an ashen grey wasteland, devastated by an ongoing war between the human-created Sentinels and mutant-kind. These Sentinels are essentially robots that hunt down, capture, or kill mutants, and have the ability to adapt to any mutant power. In this story line, the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinates a weapons developer named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in 1973, and that is apparently the first domino to fall in a series of events that would eventually lead to the war we see in the future. The mutants are obviously losing this war and are growing desperate for a solution. They formulate a plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to stop this future war from ever happening.

Fans finally get some Sentinels! Let's hope they prove their mettle!

Fans finally get some Sentinels! Let’s hope they prove their mettle!

Why the war took this long to start, how Xavier is back in his normal body after having been disintegrated in X-Men: The Last Stand, why these Sentinels were designed in 1973 but never mentioned or seen in the previous movies, how Xavier is paralyzed in X-Men: First Class and this movie yet shown walking in X-Men: Origins Wolverine…all of these questions and more will remain unanswered in this movie.

Magneto is going to wreck someones plans, no matter the timeline!

Magneto is going to wreck someone’s plans, no matter the timeline!

For a movie that was said to have been made to clean up the continuity of the franchise, all it really does is ignore the events (except for the coda) of The Wolverine, and by the end of things arrange it so that X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand never happened.

While discussing the plot-line, one should address its level of faithfulness to the source material.  As far as accuracy goes, this film gets some things right. In the original story, Mystique does assassinate someone and that does lead to widespread mutant hate, and that does lead to a war on mutants. Also, the X-Men of the future are all but wiped out, and they send one of their own back in time to stop things from turning out the way they have. The similarities really stop there. But being a sequel to X-Men: First Class, I had zero expectations for any semblance of fidelity to the source material. Also, in the original story it’s Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) who goes back in time, not Wolverine, but Wolverine is one of Marvel’s biggest cash cows and the star of the X-Men film series, so there you go. At this point, as long as it keeps some elements of the source material and manages to be a good movie, I’ll take it. And the movie IS surprisingly good.

A Cat-man in "First Class", a blue wolf man this time around

A Cat-man in “First Class”, a blue Wolf-man this time around.

The acting is all top-notch this time around. Wherein the acting from most of the supporting cast has been spotty at best in past entries, and the ONLY really good part of X-Men: First Class was Michael Fassbender (young Magneto). Jennifer Lawrence plays the shape-shifting mutant Mystique before she eventually becomes Rebecca Romijn in the X-Men Trilogy, and she apparently cares about her performance this time around, giving a greatly improved performance over her previous attempt at the role. A combination of a much better script and acting experience gained from the five movies she did in between X-Men performances, her portrayal showcases greater emotional depth and complexity this time around.

The other returning actors live up to their usual standards. Not singling out any of these actors for praise is by no means a condemnation of their performances, but if one were to address each individual performance, we’d be here forever. The one other returning actor who should be singled out for outdoing themselves this time around is James McAvoy (young Xavier). His characterization of a dark, helpless, and deeply troubled man is truly outstanding and immensely deserving of praise, which surprised me considering how much I disliked his portrayal in the previous installment.

Why isn't Professor X bald yet?

Why isn’t Professor X bald yet?

BEST CHARACTER IN THE FILM!!!

BEST CHARACTER IN THE FILM!!!

As far as characters and characterization are concerned, I’d like to take a moment to talk about my favorite character from this movie. Evan Peters’ portrayal of Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff is one of those fantastic moments where a talented actor combines with a very well-written character to just create something spectacular. Only in the movie for a short while, he absolutely steals the show, presenting audiences with a charming, snarky, bizarre character that you can’t help but love. Fans of the comics and fans of film in general should thoroughly enjoy this film’s portrayal of what could have easily been a throwaway character.

Where do these characters get their costumes I wonder?

Where do these characters get their costumes I wonder?

Like most superhero movies and grand-scale sci-fi movies, this movie features a fair bit of spectacle and it does not disappoint. The visual effects are top-notch, on par with if not surpassing the submarine-lifting scene from X-Men: First Class. The entire third act is a pretty visual effects heavy sequence involving floating land masses and flying robots, and it’s all presented with highly detailed, well-crafted CGI. The one complaint that can be leveled at the visual effects in this movie stems from a scene, without giving too much away, wherein Magneto does a bit of meddling with the Sentinels, and it all looks rather unpolished and lacking in the quality of the special effects scenes before and after.

The story this time around is a time-travel plot, and so very few of those are handled well. This is one of those movies that doesn’t handle things very well. The stories presented in the past and the future are fine and are engaging, but if you start thinking about the hows and whys behind it all, it begins to fall apart. If you don’t stop to scratch your head or try to explain how this film fits in with the previous movies, and how it effects them after all the time traveling is said and done, then you’ll enjoy the proceedings a lot more.  As was mentioned before, there are tons of plot contrivances, such as the Sentinels being introduced in the 1970s but never being seen or mentioned again in any previous film.  This story centers around an assassination of an important government figure, and as later revealed possible mutant involvement with the earlier assassination of JFK, yet none of these plot points are addressed in t he senate hearings in X-Men or discussed by all of the presidential staff in X2.  Things like that need to be considered when making a prequel.  Again, try not to let logic ruin your good time. Things like this can be overlooked by almost anyone not looking to nitpick, and they aren’t such glaring issues that it detracts from the overall experience.

Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not a perfect movie, but then I can think of no film that truly is. And it’s not all that accurate to the source material. And it doesn’t really fix the timeline of the previous six films. But it does present an entertaining story that is well-acted, thought provoking, and engaging. Is it amazing? No. Is it pretty damn good? Yes. X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best entries in the franchise thus far. It’s also the first X-Men movie I’ve wholeheartedly enjoyed since the very first one. This film earns a solid 8 out of 10.

Aaron Nicewonger
Aaron@comicattack.net
aarongni@gmail.com

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