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May 25, 2014

6

X-Men: Days of Future Past

by Franz Patrick


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★

Since the development of the Sentinel program, spearheaded by Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage), humans with special powers, collectively known as Mutants, have been hunted and eradicated. But the Sentinels, non-metallic machines that can quickly adapt to their environment, have gone haywire throughout the years: Instead of killing only Mutants, they somehow gained the ability to detect non-Mutant humans who are capable of having children with special mutations on the X chromosome.

This had lead to the planet being reduced to an apocalyptic wasteland and it is up to Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send the consciousness of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1970s and convince former partners, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to team up and prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Dr. Trask—the very action that pushed the Sentinel program to pass.

Despite the first “X-Men” live-action film having been released almost fifteen years ago, it really is quite a feat that its sequels and spin-offs, which peaked in quality during “X2,” both, including this installment, having been directed by Bryan Singer, remain relatively fresh even though the franchise is not the most consistent. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is, in a handful of ways, a return to form—it offers solid action entertainment, jokes and references to previous installments that are actually funny but not distracting, and, by the end, it hints at the raw potential of future sequels. The final scene rewards those who have seen the entire series. I will say only this: I enjoyed how it plays with time travel and acknowledging the gigantic, if not maddening, miscalculations of previous entries. Yes, I am referring to you, “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

Not allowing every Mutant to become the center of attention is a smart move. We get only a glimpse or a few seconds with once familiar faces like Rogue (Anna Paquin), Havok (Lucas Till), and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and they are not given a lot to do. Instead, the writer, Simon Kinberg, makes the right decision by focusing on Wolverine, the eyes in which we see the story through, and the challenges of getting the young Professor Xavier and Magneto to come to terms with each other and their own personal demons. These are men with a lot of anger, a lot of conviction, a lot of power—watching McAvoy and Fassbender navigate their characters through an archipelago of emotions is like watching a good old-fashioned drama. Take away their superpowers and they remain interesting.

Less effective are scenes with Mystique. Although Lawrence is more than capable of delivering the requisite emotions to play a conflicted character, the speeches between Professor X and Mystique—as well as Magneto and Mystique to an extent—as to why killing Dr. Trask will not solve anything become a bore eventually. Instead of being moved by the push and pull of Mystique’s morality, I found the whole charade somewhat disingenuous. Instead of being invested in the conflict, I noticed the syrupy attributes of the lines. Clearly, the writer is very smart and creative when it comes to how action sequences and overarching plots are going to play out. However, getting to the core of the emotions and allowing us to care in a deep way is an Achilles’ heel.

A character that does not get enough screen time is a teenager named Peter (Evan Peters), later known as Quicksilver, a Mutant with very special talents—so special that Professor X, Wolverine, and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) ask for his help to break into the Pentagon. The sheer brilliance of the scene at the Pentagon must be seen to be believed. I had not experienced so much excitement and glee since Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike’s duel in “X2.” To me, it is the essence of what makes “X-Men” so great: Its content need not be “dark” to be considered great—it just needs to be smart and cheeky.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” provides what one expects of a superhero film: astonishing special and visual effects, eye-opening action sequences, as well as characters worth getting to know and rooting for. However, it fails to surpass my expectations because it does not get the build-up of emotions—which lead to key realizations—exactly right. Alas, perhaps less discerning viewers will be more forgiving for this.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 25 2014

    Quicksilver completely steals the show – such a great scene.

    I’m glad you liked this Franz (although I understand some of your reservations). For me, it’s the first superhero movie to genuinely impress me since Avengers Assemble.

    Reply
    • May 25 2014

      I love how you guys from the UK refer to “The Avengers” as “Avengers Assemble.” I prefer that name, actually!

      It’s a close call; the “Captain America” sequel gives this one a run for its money. I mean, CATWS has a less complex plot compared to this movie but I felt more excited about it (surprisingly–because the first one just OK). What I did love about this movie, though, is that it has managed to acknowledge all of its sequels and spin-offs without trying too hard.

      Reply
  2. May 25 2014

    Good review. I liked the film, I mean I have some problems from a total comic nerd point of view but yeah its good.

    The visuals and 70’s timeline worked really well and the acting was really good. Quicksilver steals the show.

    This wasnt greatness but Apocalypse might :D

    Reply
    • May 25 2014

      As a non-comic nerd, I’m wondering about these problems from a total comic nerd point of view. :)

      OH MY GOD. The closing credits scene. I wouldn’t have known… until I saw the 4 horsemen.

      Reply
      • May 25 2014

        Well I mention a few in my spoiler section in my review but most of it is nitpicking. Except the sentinels, that did piss me off.

        I swear if they ruin that story arc I will lose my shit! Still it looks good :D

        Reply
  3. May 26 2014

    I think it’s easy to see why someone would have a great time with this. It’s fast, fun, and in ways, pretty humorous. But there is a heart here and that’s what really keeps it going. Good review Franz.

    Reply

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