May 25, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

It is rare, at least in my experience, to see a franchise really begin to catch its stride this far in to its run. It is especially rare when you consider that said franchise did not start out all that bad, in my estimation. In fact, I thought they did a really good job with the first couple of films. 2000's X-Men and 2003's X2 were both pretty strong adaptations. Definitely not exactly like the books, but they did a good job of keeping true to the source while adjusting to the movie format. Then there was a steep stumble with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

At this stage of the game, the future did not look all that bright for mutants on the big screen. Things began to look up when the franchise rebounded with X-Men: First Class. That was a strong film bolstered by a strong cast that brought them back to relevance. That climb continued with the excellent The Wolverine last year. That brings us to now. Director Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films, returns to the franchise with a movie that does two things, correct the errors of the past and bringing the two casts together, and make a solid movie. Consider it a success.

X-Men: Days of Future Past brings the past, the present, and the future crashing together in one glorious excursion. The movie wastes no time getting going. We are dropped right into a sentinel attack on a mutant hideout. We watch as the mutants do battle with an advanced model sentinel. Shadowcat and Bishop flee to a back room where she uses an advancement of her powers to send Bishop's consciousness to the past to warn of the attack. It is a rather thrilling sequence.

It is this ability to send someone through time that is employed to send Wolverine back to 1973 in an effort to change their future present. The idea is to to stop this war with the sentinels effort it even begins by changing the events of the past. Of course, the trouble arises with Wolverine being ale to get the people involved to work together and believe him in order to do what needs to be done.

The movie does a great job of juggling all of the moving parts to keep the pace moving forward and not leaving anything behind. And while that is all well and good, what makes the movie work as well as it does are the characters. It is the actors ability to imbue their parts with a genuine humanity with real reasons to care is what really holds your attention. Action for the sake of action can be fun, but it does not necessarily make something worthwhile. Add an emotional element and then you have the making of something special.

What I really liked about the film was how many characters exist in the grey area between good and bad and how convincing the arguments can seem either way. This is not always about doing things in a clear cut fashion. Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job of embodying Magneto and his swaying, often self serving, allegiance. Then there is James McAvoy as Charles Xavier is just fantastic. He portrays this tortured, haunted soul, a far cry from the refined intelligence he would later show, as portrayed by Patrick Stewart. Add in the metaphorical drug addiction and you have a deliciously complex character.

I am not sure what else to say. Well, given time and some rewatch in and I probably could. Still, simply put, this is a fantastic movie that works on many levels. It combines two solid casts under one title and successfully blends character drama, action, and humor. It each piece feeds another, creating a tapestry that feels rather epic. It really is a movie that does a fine job of blending special effects driven action and interesting characters.

Again, it is fascinating to see how the ship has been righted over the past few releases. It is like something clicked and the vision became clear. It essentially erases the events of many of the films already released, or at least shunts them to an alternate universe while the current timeline will continue in the upcoming films. What will be interesting now will be to see what cast members continue on, it is not exactly a Star Trek: Generations passing of the torch. We also get a tease for the next villain. What else to be said other than the future looks bright.

Highly Recommended.

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