Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Rating

Director
Bryan Singer
Screenplay
Simon Kinberg
Length
131 min.
Starring
Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore
MPAA Rating
PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language

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Review
Introduced in September of 1963, Marvel Comics’ X-Men have emerged as one of the defining superhero teams ever created. Bringing together heroes from various walks of life and from regions around the world, the team became symbolic of acceptance in the face of intense prejudice. 50 years later, they have a box office force with the latest film, X-Men: Days of Future Past continuing from where X-Men: First Class left off and bringing together the stars of the franchise’s first trilogy.

In the not-too-distant future, a robotic foe known as the sentinels have become so powerful that they are slowly eradicating all mutant life on the planet along with their sympathizers. As the X-Men struggle to avoid annihilation, a unique plot develops, one which sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman in both past and present) back in time to convince their younger selves to stop a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from carrying out an assassination that would trigger the creation and development of these highly adaptive mechanical killers.

Having years of experience to guide their decisions, Professor Charlies Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) are uncertain if anyone, including Wolverine, can convince their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively) to go along with the plan, but they have little choice. What follows is a mind-bending, time-spanning adventure that could re-write the entire history of the X-Men and save everyone from the brink of destruction.

Bryan Singer started the X-Men franchise back in 2000, establishing the first of the modern era of hero franchise films, pre-dating Iron Man and The Avengers team films by eight years. Singer’s attention to detail and appreciation for broad character devleopment helped establish a formiddable roster of mutant superheroes that would become as familiar to modern audiences as they were to comic fans of the 1960’s, 1970’s and beyond. A large number of original cast members return in this film either as cameos or with minor story arcs. Jackman, Stewart and McKellen are joined by Halle Berry (Storm), James Marsden (Cyclops), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) along with the third film’s (X-Men: The Last Stand) version of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Beast (Kelsey Grammer). Each carefully evoking a sense of place with the original films while blending seemlessly with their past-tense counterparts.

The primary cast of the First Class film is back including McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence along with Nicholas Hoult as young Beast. Having the difficult task of portraying characters that have already been perfected, McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and Hoult each successfully imagine and re-imagine these characters investing them with depth and sympathy with layers that improve upon what has come before them. This is easily one of the best casts ever assembled for a superhero films easily surpassing the core stars of The Avengers and its associated films.

Singer’s directorial style, a sly blend of bombast and sentiment pulls the audience into a fictitious version of 1970’s America that heightens the challenges and frustrations of the period. These are characters whose special abilities not only define them but provide grist for a sawmill of distrust, trepidation and hatred. The film simultaneously evokes countless equal rights protests from the last century, including equal rights for women, minorities and gays. This was a period where the greatest forward momentum was achieved and which set the groundwork for continued efforts to protect and embellish the rights of all human beings regardless of why they are different from what’s considered “normal.”

It is clear that Singer shares a deep kinship with these characters, infusing them as he does with passion, conviction and personal demons. This is a film that feels more in line with the first two X-Men films he helmed than it does with the questionable departure he took to helm Man of Steel. He obviously shares more in common with these complex individuals, which brings depth to his lengthy, but breezy two-hour-plus feature. Flare and panache are successfully leveraged against the rich tapestry of events set forth in Simon Kinberg’s lofty script.

There are many standout scenes in the film, including a spectacular moment early in the film featuring the briefly-seen Quicksilver (Evan Peters) that will have some flocking to purchase Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” As exciting and fascinating as that scene is, it is but a drop in the bucket of a film that has a gorgeous majesty coated with visual style and complex simplicity.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is another fine example of how sequels don’t have to be inferior to their predecessors. As the sophistication of plotting increases with each passing year, the superhero genre seems to be finding new peaks and has no plans to fade anytime soon. It isn’t often that time-spanning films manage to click on enough levels that minor, but dismissable plot holes can skirt by unnoticed.
Oscar Prospects
Potentials: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects
Unlikelies: Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling
Review Written
July 10, 2014

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