Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review: X-Men - Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (third-pass)
Cert: 12A / 131 mins / Dir. Bryan Singer / Trailer

And so, after a twenty-or-so minute interval spent chatting to the cinema staff about the apparent diminishing returns of midnight-showings (and certainly multiple-movie-marathons), it was time for a catch-up with 2014's Days of Future Past; the X-Men movie where everything changes, and it becomes very apparent that First Class sprinted over existing continuity*1 because it was the foundation for this movie; the one that would establish a new set of ground rules for the franchise…

Although it's the second film in the 'new' series, DoFP is the first to show both the young and old iterations of the X-Men in the same movie; sort of like the Star Trek: Geneations of the saga. We open in a bleak dystopian future where it's always (apparently) night-time, and the X-Men are fleeing from hidden base to hidden base by means of telepathy, teleportation and time-travel. Yeah, it's a big ask for the first ten minutes of a story, but it's also where 90% of the narrative exposition is parked; a very wordy setup for Wolverine waking up in 1973 and having a shaggy-haired, flared-trousered adventure.

As a quick detour to my favourite subject, this film sees the long-awaited return of Bryan Singer on directorial duties, and it's great to have Ian McKellen back as Magneto in the 'future' segment. Although you'd think that he'd be putting on an Irish accent for the camera, for continuity's sake, at least. That said, it's also worth noting that Fassbender's younger version of the same mutant is now sporting a far more British™-sounding tone. He still struggles with it from time to time, but I told you he can do it when he needs to

Elsewhere we get Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique being more of the gymnastic killing machine we're used to from Rebecca Romijn's performance in the 'old' movies, and of course this film sees the introduction of Quicksilver. Evan Peter's portrayal is so much more interesting and likeable than his MCU counterpart, but his over-acting is so much more annoying at the same time. Curiously, there's no mention of Scarlet Witch in the X-verse, even though Fox could have used that character too, under their licensing agreement with Marvel. Given that the version of Quicksilver we see here is far closer to the canon of the comics in terms of origin, it'll be interesting to see if any move is made to introduce his telekinetic sister at some point in the future (quick digression: Why does the super-fast mutant put his headphones in place before the kitchen-fight scene? The implication is that Time In A Bottle is the laidback soundtrack to his kinetic mayhem, but any music playing through his personal stereo would be slowed down just like everything else in the room, wouldn't it? Unless he's managed to rig his walkman to play at 100x speed of course, in which case he could only use it when his powers were engaged. It doesn't seem practical, either way).

This is also the film which shows a series of autopsy-photos to wordlessly tell the audience that many of the characters we met in the previous movie won't be returning, in a move which is almost as insulting as Alien³ writing out Newt and Hicks before the dust has settled on the opening credits.

Despite my grumbling, I do love DoFP. The writing around the soft-reboot of the timeline is positively surgical in deciding what it does and doesn't want to keep, with a family-reunion finale that feels like it could be a happily-ever-after insert for its legacy-cast. But Xavier's closing speech feels a little too much like Sarah Connor's from Terminator 2; a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card tucked up the sleeve for future use which is shorthand for "…and we'll probably to this again in five years when we've written ourselves into another corner."

Days of Future Past is a much more confident film than its predecessor, given how outlandish and convoluted the plotting is. It's also by far the most ambitious of the X-Men movies, and probably the most satisfying for it…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The previous X-Men movies, and the sort of headaches caused by the flippant causality of the Terminator series.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you get the chance, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.
Whether it should is a much longer debate, though

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not necessarily the best, but definitely 'up there'.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Behind the camera, writer producer Simon Kinberg also has his name attached to Star Wars Rebels, as well as upcoming movies in the saga and anthology lines.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Or what little there was of it, admittedly...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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