Review: X-Men: Days Of Future Past
The X-Men's past and future collides in
X-Men: Days Of Future Past. With the future looking bleak it's up to Wolverine to travel to the past and enlist the help of the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, who come with their own complications, to change the timeline and save mutanity.
The obligatory opening action sequence of X-Men: Days Of Future Past
didn't sit well with me. It's set in a very bleak future that seems to be pilfering from the plot of The Matrix
(mutants and mutant sympathisers are bad
and quarantined, spiritually and physically; machines are everywhere; the sky is dark and ominous) and features a band of mutants, some familiar to the film franchise's world, others new, running around using their powers - in a way that's special-effects pretty but impossible to follow unless you've watched it a few times - as they try to defend themselves from a group of Sentinels, which we later learn are giant machines that can adapt defensively to any mutant powers and are, therefore, omnipotent.
The actors' great feats during this sequence are Superhero Action Poses and an acute self awareness that they're in An Important Action Movie and it was all too much for me.
Thankfully they are soon rescued (figuratively, rather than literally) by some familiar heavyweights in the form of Magneto (Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who all get their camera-spotlight pose moment as they step off a new X-Jet to meet the not-so-merry band, which, for the moment, is holed up in a monastery in Mongolia.
The X-Men have come to find Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to enlist her skills in sending Professor X's consciousness back in time to stop the sequence of events, which began in the 1970s, that led to the hell-hole Sentinel future and the genocide of all mutants and most humans. Of course, time is running out and the Sentinels are once again approaching so after it is determined that Professor X is too weak to make the journey Wolverine's consciousness is sent instead, with instructions to find the professor's younger self, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and Magneto's younger self, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to assist him. Both are fighting their personal demons so it is clear that Wolverine has quite the challenge ahead of him.
The larger task requires stopping Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a scientist who has been developing the Sentinel programme, which at this stage comprises giant mutant-detecting robots made from a polymer, that has been designed specifically to protect humans from the new mutant "threat" that is emerging. The assassination, which takes place in Paris as the US and Vietnam are in negotiations to end the Vietnam War, martyrs Trask and convinces the US Congress to approve the programme, which it had initially rejected, resulting in the dark future and the imminent eradication of all mutants.
Most of the story takes place in the 1970s, with the occasional cut to the future to show parallels that, of course, ultimately makes no sense because as Wolverine changes the past the future will also change, although the filmmakers argue that this particular plot point relies on quantum superposition
. It's but one of at least three massive plot holes I observed related to the time-travel premise, which is a dangerous area in which to play, unless you really know what you're doing.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't really matter, unless you are very bothered by these things (and, admittedly, I am). Rather than be unsettled it's best just to accept that they are going to screw up the time-travel aspect and rather just enjoy the ride for what it is.
The 1970s, and Wolverine in
the 1970s are, naturally, ripe for humour (pleasingly never overt), as well as entertaining set, costume, and production design. (You do spend a lot of time going "Wow, the world used to be like this and it was only 40 years ago!", which, in retrospective, actually makes the bleak Sentinel future more plausible.)
This is all done well, particularly the representation of news media - 4:3 ratio, big cameras, newscasters and cameramen in leisure suits, three
big public broadcasters - which almost becomes another character in certain scenes as bits of the story are told through news-camera footage. There are also lots of nuggets for geeks, such as old logos from familiar brands that surround a stadium and a Pong arcade machine in the home of Quicksilver/Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), a mutant who can move incredibly fast and who is given a notable action sequence that is one of the highlights of the movie.
In contrast, and as usual, Hale Berry is absolutely wasted - I think she gets about two lines in the entire movie and spends the rest of her few scenes looking awesome... in the background. It's very disappointing. Ian McKellen also isn't given much to do, although he does have a handful of notable moments in which he gets to impart gravitas.
The purpose of this movie, of course, it to align three sets of X-Men sub franchises (and their actors) into a cohesive whole. The original X-Men franchise stalled after the mess that was 2006's
X-Men: The Last Stand
and the Wolverine franchise has wavered off in its on direction in a way that has been 50% bad, though enlightening (X-Men Origins: Wolverine
), and 50% good (The Wolverine
) - I believe, since I haven't seen it.
Then we had 2011's far superior X-Men: First Class
, which was sort of a reboot to get around the X-Men: The Last Stand
mess, set in the 1960s to explain the origins of mutants and the X-Men, but not exactly, because it still sat within the world of the original franchise, which, as we are now seeing, has allowed the two to be merged, gracefully incorporating both storylines and sets of actors.
The result is stunning. In X-Men: Days Of Future Past
everything has been pulled together perfectly. Some may not like the resolution, in terms of what it does to the story (I can't say more here due to plot spoilers), but I doubt there was an alternative if the franchise was going to move forward and leave the conflicting mess and occasional dead-end storylines behind. Additionally, everything is now set so that, if Marvel wants to (and production agreements/film rights allow), it can pull the X-Men into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it, along with a few others stragglers such as The Fantastic Four and Spider-man, has jarringly stood apart from The Continuing Adventures Of Everyone Else. I'm not saying that Marvel will
do this, or ever intended to, I'm just saying that it now could
so we can have pleasant daydreams about the possibility - or not, because, as exciting as it is, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also starting to feel like overkill and it's becoming a bit tedious.
There's not much to say about the technical aspects of the filmmaking that I haven't already mentioned. The film is well paced and superbly edited - nothing drags and nothing seems too quick or is difficult to follow, bar that first action sequence - and, for the most part, the special effects don't stand out as being special effects, although one does raise the occasional eyebrow at the future Sentinels and their very science-fictiony renderings. As for 3D - give it miss. There isn't a single
scene that needs to be seen in three dimensions.
The score, as with X-Men: First Class
but this time by John Ottman, is functional but completely forgettable. The sound design is not overwhelming - in fact, I think more could have been done with it but I'm glad we weren't subjected to the usual sound-blast onslaught. There's just one scene, in Quicksilver's basement, where the back speakers are used to incredible effect and I wish more of that thought had gone into the sound design for other scenes.
So, put aside your feelings about the time-travel filmmaking shenanigans, which are just never going to sit well. This is an entertaining, well-paced action film whose team has done the impossible in taking three messy, disparate entities and forming them into a cohesive end point - and start point.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is written by Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn, is directed by Bryan Singer, and stars Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen.
The review screening was courtesy of Nu Metro.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is on circuit in the US and will be released in South Africa tomorrow.