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Friday, May 23, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

And you thought the Avengers was packed...

While Guardians of the Galaxy is still the year's biggest unknown quantity in terms of superhero movies, X-Men: Days of Future Past was always the one had the biggest potential for really falling flat on its face. Sure, X-Men: First Class restored the X-Men franchise after a couple of truly wretched entries in the form of X-Men III: The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins - Wolverine but First Class was a focused and ultimately very contained story. However X-Men: Days of Future Past was going to turn out, it was destined to be anything but contained. Indeed, it looked doomed to suffer from the same kind of Mutant overload that helped sink the already rather sinkable X-Men III.

Based on one of the comics franchise's most beloved stories, Days of Future Past does indeed, it has to be said, feature a boatload of Mutants in a time-travelling story that spans decades and two quite different cinematic incarnations of the X-Men. Unlike that horrible Brett Ratner abortion, however, Days of Future Past is helmed by Bryan Singer, the guy responsible for what were the second and third best X-Men movies (X2: X-Men United and X-Men, respectively) and is based on a story by most of the very people who made First Class the best X-Men film to date. As such, though it's hardly surprising that Days of Future Past is a massive improvement over something like The Last Stand, it is still pretty astonishing just how well it turned out. I, for one, still think that First Class remains the best of the series but Days of Future Past gives X2 a serious run for its money for second place.

The film's potentially convoluted plot - which involves a time-travelling Wolverine enlisting the help of past mutants to stop Mystique from assassinating a genius inventor, Dr. Boliver Trask, and setting off a chain of events that would doom Mutant-kind in the not-too-distant future - is streamlined and controlled enough that not only is it exciting in and of itself, it also leaves plenty of space for strong characterization and an impressive amount of emotional pathos. The plot is apparently different enough from its source that it may well keep even die-hard fans guessing and the group dynamic of the elaborate action scenes are probably the most "comic booky" in a superhero film to date (they're not as well choreographed as those in the Avengers but they're even more amped up) but the key to Days of Future Past's success lies in how well it uses its massive cast of characters.

Effectively, we have three different levels of characters here. First, we have the largely silent supporting characters who are mostly there to fill up the screen and and add extra bodies to the elaborate action scenes. These include even some of the more well known mutants like Storm, Bishop and Colossus. A major step up from this largely ancillary group, we have a fair number of secondary characters that have crucial roles but with a relatively small amount of screen time. All the major future characters fit into this category (Professor X, Magneto and Kitty Pryde), as do the likes of Peter Dinklage's Boliver Trask, Beast and the film's surprising breakout character, Quicksilver. The latter is especially interesting because in the comics, Quicksilver has always been a less likable and powerful version of DC's The Flash so it was a very pleasant surprise to see how well he was used here. He even gets what is hands down the best set piece in the film. I won't spoil it but, believe me, you'll recognize it when you see it.

Finally, we have the main - and relatively small - group of characters who are very clearly the focus of the film and, because they're all (save Wolverine because, well, he's Wolverine) First Class characters, Days of Future Past ends up feeling a lot more like First Class 2, rather than X-Men 4. These characters were exceptionally well defined in the previous film and there's even more growth and character insight here. Wolverine is our point of view character but, once again, the largest focus is on James McAvoy's Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender's Magneto and, once again, they're two complicated characters whose strained relationship lies at the core of the film.

The true MVP of Days of Future Past, however, is Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/ Mystique. Much more so than the first film, Mystique is the heart and soul of the film and it is her character arc that is both its narrative and moral focal point. Lawrence is as great as ever, channeling both the intensity and the complexity of Katniss Everdeen into a character that is as meaty and multi-layered as even her most awarded roles. It's not for nothing that she is featured so prominently in the film's promotion campaigns.        

It's interesting then that though the film gets very little wrong (the pacing is occasionally slightly wonky thanks to the constant shifts between past and future, as well as different groups of characters) and plenty right, it still doesn't rank quite as high in my books as the likes of the Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier or even X-Men: First Class, as there is something vaguely - and quite indescribably - unsatisfying about it. Though, really, these are still nitpicks. Marvel has once again provided a tremendously entertaining, witty and impressively mounted comic book film and - despite the fact that this is, what, their fifteenth film in the a couple of years - it still astounds me that not only do faithful comic book films exist, they are the most reliably good Hollywood blockbusters out there. Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy... and X-Men: First Class III while you're at it !

1 comment:

  1. Waw nice post . Thank you for your submission
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