X-Men: Days Of Future Past
The Pitch: X-Men: Days Of Sideburns And Flares.
The Review: I was never much of a comic book reader as a child, other than traditional British fare like The Beano and The Dandy. It wasn’t that the concept of comic books didn’t appeal; far from it, as I spent large chunks of my adolescence in comic book stores, I was just there for the latest TV and film merchandise from my favourite franchises. Comic books always felt somewhat alienating for their complex universes, and I never felt comfortable attempting to pick up in a franchise that had sixty years of back story. Slowly but surely, the film franchises are heading the same way, and the Avengers and X-Men series are both at a point where coming in fresh to the franchise will prove alienating and frustrating.
For those keeping score in the XMCU (X-Men cinematic universe, as probably no-one apart from me is yet calling it), the tally is so far one decent, one amazing and one muddled film in the original trilogy; one dire and one passable Wolverine spin-off; and one fun, fresh and revisionist take on the younger versions of the characters that seemed almost impossible to reconcile with what we knew was to come. Undaunted, many of the key players in both the franchise’s high and low points behind the scenes have returned to attempt to draw these plot threads and characters together in a single film. In theory it’s a simple premise: Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) has been using her powers to send someone’s consciousness back a few hours and use the future knowledge to help win otherwise impossible battles with highly advanced, adaptive robots called Sentinels in an era when both humans and mutants are all but extinct. Deciding the only way to win the war is to stop it before it starts, the franchise’s own odd couple Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) decide to send someone back using Kitty’s power, but only Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) can survive the trip. Once back in the Seventies, he must stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Sentinel designer Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), but will need to get younger Charles and Erik talking first (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender).
If that paragraph didn’t make a lick of sense to you, I suggest you give up now and turn back. Those also expecting detailed explanations at how the future mutants have either regained powers or survived should also lower expectations now. While many of the film’s set-pieces can be enjoyed on their own – especially the opening future battle showcasing a host of new mutants with exciting powers and no time to get into their character traits, and the standout scene with new super-speedy mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and a Pentagon break-in – whether or not the character arcs stand up on their own is more debatable. In terms of development, there are only three characters who get any serious work: once again, the focus is on young Magneto, Xavier and Mystique. Fassbender continues to exhibit the same directness as McKellen did, while Lawrence is a mass of whirling limbs and is in blue more often than not. The standout this time is McAvoy, who gets to explore his own evolution more thoroughly and his struggle on whether or not to use a drug created by Nicholas Hoult’s Beast to enable him to walk at the cost of his powers carries the most dramatic weight.
Pretty much everyone else is a cypher, even Jackman as Wolverine who here is little more than a plot device who gets to react to the latest dramatic development. The biggest waste has to be Peter Dinklage, effective but woefully underused in the rush to give everyone a line of dialogue or two. With even minor mutants from the original trilogy and First Class populating the background, some of whom I didn’t even remember on first watch, there is an occasional feeling of the plot straining at the seams under the sheer weight of mutants. You may be too entertained to care, as Days Of Future Past rattles past at a fair old lick, and Singer directs with the same flair he brought to the series high of the first sequel. I also hope you’re not too attached to the original trilogy, as by the time the dust settles it’s unclear how much of them even happened in this new timeline, but in this case if you’re thrilled by this instalment, it’s probably enough. The USP, and strength, of the X-men series has been their service as an analogy for any groups suffering segregation, abuse and injustice, and while these themes are still at play, they’re slightly more to the background here and DOFP is more action movie, first and foremost; that’s no bad thing, as there are only so many times you can wheel out the same moral or message before it feels stale. Where many other comic book franchise episodes feel like they’re biding time before the next chapter, this X-Men movement has substance and feels pivotal while still leaving you wanting to watch the next in the series. It’s to the credit of all involved that there still feels plenty of life in this franchise, but let’s hope the coming Apocalypse can thin out the X-roster a little and keep the series relatable.
Why see it at the cinema: It’s another big Hollywood mash-up, and with a decent supply of humour and some epic visuals – as anyone who’s seen the trailer will testify – the cinema is the sensible choice to get the most out of this one.
Why see it in 3D? The two main issues for any 3D film are both related to seeing what’s going on clearly. In terms of editing, Singer favours long takes and steers away from choppy editing, and in this sense the third dimension works well. Much of the future setting, though, is very dark and although I could always work out what was going on, sometimes I was straining hard to see everything.
What about the rating? Rated 12A for moderate fantasy action and infrequent strong language. I’d hate to be a director of a major studio tentpole knowing that the best you can aim for is “moderate”, but as moderate films go, no complaints here.
My cinema experience: A Tuesday night at my local Cineworld in Bury St. Edmunds, another person to show my ancient Cineworld card to and to convince them it still works, and a sizeable audience taking advantage of cheap Tuesday prices which meant
The Score: 8/10
The X-Men Movies From Best To Worst (because these things matter to some people):
1. X2: X-Men United
2. X-Men: First Class
3. X-Men: Days Of Future Past
5. The Wolverine
6. X-Men: The Last Stand
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
May is upon us, and with it traditionally comes the avalanche of beautifully rendered pixels and overpaid Hollywood stars. Except the increasing love for, and success of, the Hollywood blockbuster in recent years has caused a swelling of the season. Come next year, by the first day of May we’ll already have had a penguin-themed Madagascar spin-off, the tragically delayed Fast & Furious 7 and the mother of all superhero smackdowns to date in Avengers: Age Of Ultron before a constant stream of often deliberately brainless eye candy and the occasional thoughtful actionfest takes us right through to November and December, with Star Wars 7, Mission: Impossible 5, Hunger Games 3 1/2 and Kung Fu Panda 3. Along the way we’ll get Bond 24, Jurassic Park 4 and Terminator I-lose-count, a tiny Marvel in the shape of Ant Man, a Fantastic Four reboot, a Ted sequel and seriously, doesn’t anyone even make films without something exploding in them any more?
Thankfully a few people have made simpler films this year, so you’ll actually find more than two films playing in most of your multiplexes this year. Who knows if next year we’ll be so lucky?
Next Goal Wins
For those facing the end of the football season, there’s either two options: you’re a football fan and you can’t wait for the World Cup and the excitement of England getting knocked out in the group stages because they can’t cope with either the heat or Luis Suarez and his Uruguayan team mates, or it’s another miserable month of stupid men in shorts running about pointlessly on a field, and it will be on TV every night until nearly the middle of the summer and oh the humanity. Next Goal Wins might appeal to those with a romance in their hearts but who can’t face a daily dose of soccerball for an extended period.
The Wind Rises
I have to confess I’m something of a latecomer to Japanese animation in general and to Miyazaki in particular, so it’s likely I’ll see his movies in a rather strange order. He does hold a fond place in my heart, not least for the fact that my review of Ponyo was the first ever post on this blog, a little over four years ago. Hopefully I’ll get chance to catch a few more of his master works on the big screen in the next few years.
I always get slightly nervous when I see the name Weinstein on a film, not least with the reputation for cutting that Harvey has gotten over the last few years. But this is another film being distributed in this country by Picturehouse Entertainment, and it’s good to see the likes of them and Curzon taking a more active role to get and to keep a wide variety of films in our cinemas. As long as nobody’s got their editing scissors on them too much first.
The Two Faces Of January
It’s amazing what you can find out about people from Wikipedia. Apparently Patricia Highsmith, on whose book of the same name this film is based, was a comic book artist, writing romance comics for Marvel’s predecessors. She was a strong anti-Semite, yet counted notes Jewish people among some of her closer friends. She apparently also liked cats and bred snails. I dread to think what my Wikipedia page would say about me; let’s be thankful I’ll never be that famous.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
To think there was a time when a Batman sequel came out and we were worried because it had three villains in it. Seems barely credible now, when we can now manage to squeeze in two entire blockbuster casts, some giant fighty robots and the short bloke from Game Of Thrones without even batting an eyelid. There would be less mutants in this film if there were actual mutants in the cast.
Edge Of Tomorrow
And what blockbuster year would feel complete without a Tom Cruise movie? It’s Tom Cruise. Not much more I can say.
Tom Cruise. Mmm.