I think that a safe argument can be made for the idea that ‘X-Men’ (2000) is REALLY the flick that kicked off the current Hollywood obsession with comic-book properties. Sure, everyone is aware of ‘Superman’ (1978) and ‘Batman’ (1989) being milestones in the history of comic book adaptations, but before ‘X-Men’, they weren’t taken all THAT seriously. I mean, really…look what happened after the pathetic and insulting ‘Batman and Robin'(1997) . Things went quiet on that front for a bit. It was 3 or so years later that 20th Century Fox, who was smart enough to own the rights to one of Marvel’s most successful and long-lived comic franchises, stepped up to plate. Director Bryan Singer, still riding high on the strong critical and commercial success of ‘The Usual Suspects’ (1995), as well as having impressed some, but not many , with the severely underrated ‘Apt Pupil’ (1998), a terrific-looking (and creepy!) film whose visual ‘flavor’ I’d wager had something to do with Fox choosing him to helm a new, more ‘grounded’ superhero movie.
And that was ‘X-Men’, a well-constructed and exciting telling of the epic struggles of ‘mutant-kind’, in an alternate ‘now’. The X-Men Franchise, both comic and film, has used the back-drop of Mankind’s predilection for aggressive xenophobia, and effectively brought it to the fore-front through an entertaining and accessible ‘medium’. It’s a clever way to introduce younger people to the idea of prejudice and bigotry, while having some extra heft with adults who are all too aware of these elements existing in the world around them. But through all that ‘heavy’ shit…’X-Men’ was a kick-ass time at The Movies!!
As a result, the flick pulled in some major ‘coin’, and gave birth to a full-fledged film franchise. The second flick, ‘X2: X-Men United’ (2003) was an awesome sequel, and still stands as one of my all-time favorite ‘superhero’ movies. Again directed by Bryan Singer, the quality of the first film was very capably carried over to the sequel…and then some! But then…Bryan Singer left to direct his ill-fated passion project ‘Superman Returns’ (2006), leaving Fox to start plucking from the lower tier branches of The Talent Tree, where they found …drum-roll, please…hack douchebag Brett Ratner (Rush Hour)! And he went ahead and fuuuccked it up! ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ was to the previous two films as ‘Alien Resurrection’ (1997) IS to the ‘Alien’ franchise…a goddamn embarrassment. It sucked.
And then…as if THAT wasn’t enough, Fox went ahead with a solo Wolverine’ flick; a flick that, in theory, should’ve been rad! But it so, SO wasn’t. ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (2009) was a disaster of near-Titanic proportions. There are SO many things wrong with that movie that it, in conjunction with the 3rd movie, actually lower the overall quality of the entire franchise, which is a real shame, as it started off SO strong. Luckily, they soon made an inspired choice with Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass) for the directors seat for ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011), a prequel that, for the most part, ‘right’d a lot of ‘wrongs’ that we’d been subjected to over the last two…ahem…films.. James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) then stepped up and gave the geeks a better-than-decent ‘stand alone’ with ‘The Wolverine’ (2013), ALMOST erasing the fetid odor of ‘Origins’ and definitely heading in the right direction for a solo ‘Wolverine’ series.
Then it was announced that Bryan Singer, the man who essentially started the whole shah-bang, would be settling back into the director’s chair for the next installment. It seemed as though the reemergence of ‘quality’ into the once-blossoming series was going to come to NerdGasm fruition. For a little while, some of the ‘insider’ reports on the production ( a large chunk of which was filmed up here in Canada…surprise, surprise.) started to paint a picture of Singer and Co. over doing it. SO many characters were being brought into the fold, from the original cast to the ‘First Class’ group to a good dose of new mutants, people were beginning to wonder if the number of key characters would overwhelm the story, and therefore the audience. So…like all the rest of the geeks, I waited. Then…it was here.
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past is an impressive sequel. You can feel Singer’s deft touch all over it…and much relief was felt! On top of having a well-paced and creative script, the flicks looks gorgeous. There’s a rich color palette at work and the lighting, as in most ‘Singer’ films, is great. Yes, the cast is substantial but everyone, even the most fleeting of cameos, feels relevant to the plot. Many of the key X-Men characters from the first 3 films have noticeably diminished screen time, while a sizable chunk of the ‘First Class’ crew get the lion’s share of the story. But it works.
The Story goes like this:
In the near future, an army of autonomous and absolutely bad-ass droids (named Sentinels) have found a loophole in their programming and waged war on mutant-and man-kind alike. In the desolate ruins of a major city, a last, desperate group of mutants prepare for a last stand with an approaching fleet of deadly Sentinals. A desperate idea is proposed to send someone’s consciousness back through time via a power held by Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page). Being that Logan’s mind can heal, he can survive the transference back into himself circa 1973. It’s deemed necessary to stop an assassination that will unleash the Sentinel horde upon the organic bipeds covering this planet. After some hi-jinks involving the screwing of a gangsters girlfriend, a bruised and bloody group of thugs and several bullets to the torso, Wolverine set’s out to find the young versions of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan). Soon enough, he rustles up the James MacAvoy/Michael Fassbender versions of the on again/off again friends and allies.
From there it becomes a dual story as we follow Logan and his perilous adventures with the young Xavier and Lehnsherr, while the elder versions await their fate at the hands (or claws, or spikes, or fire etc) of the inevitable Sentinel attack.
My girlfriend hadn’t seen any of the X-Men flicks (I know, right?!), so we opted to nerd-out and get her introduced to the X-Men universe, to help ease her into the story we were soon to see on The Big Screen. We watched ‘X-Men’, X2 and ‘First Class’…you know…The Good Ones. From her input post-‘X-Men’-a-thon’, and my own refresher, it is definitely recommended that you be caught up on your cinematic ‘X-Men’ lore, to get as much from the simply-told-but-strangely-complex story. And speaking of my girlfriend, her fantasy sex slave Hugh Jackman again brings’it’ as Logan/Wolverine. That man throws himself into this character and just own’s him. The ladies and gay dudes might be interested in the full-on ass-shot Jackman gave up for this flick. The rest of the cast, from all the movies, do a great job with the characters they portray. Interestingly, one character I swore was going to be the ‘Jar Jar Binks’ of this movie, turned out to have one of the most entertaining and eye-popping scenes in the whole flick. ‘Quicksilver’ (Evan Peters), whose ‘look’ I thought was stupid (still kinda do) and too ‘on the nose’, but somehow he made it work. He basically helps redefine ‘bullet time’. Given the size of the cast and the plethora of top-notch talent involved, rest assured that the performances are solid, even the small ones.
The effects are terrific, as one could rightly expect. The CG on the Sentinels and their eerie, merciless methods of attack are sweet. All the varying powers look cool, and are well-used in key points of the film. The 3D was decent, for a post conversion job, and the added dimension lend some added spectacle to the already spectacular set-pieces.
There were some parts in this one that really seemed to push the boundaries of it’s rating (PG-13). Some of the kills at the hands of the Sentinels are down-right nasty (a body torn in half, a face slowly roasted off, a girder-sized impalement etc) and much of the fight sequences were quick and nasty. Very cool shit.
If I had to complain, I would have to say that the pace stumbles a little in the 2nd Act and seems to drag. It all kicks back into high-gear for the fast-paced, tragedy-laced climax in the 3rd. Some may complain about the similarities to the Terminator franchise, and they would be right to, but here the familiar tale has a new and pleasing coat of paint, in a richly-realized ‘universe’.
And that’s really about it for note-worthy criticism. ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ is the ‘X-Men’ movie us geeks have been waiting on for a while now. It’s a solid sci-fi/action flick with some awesome camera work that compliments the ‘sprawling, multi-character but strangely concise’ narrative. ‘X2’ is still my favorite, but this one isn’t far behind. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this one will not let you down…unless you’re some Nazi-like comic book nerd who obsesses over small and pointless details. It’s good to have Bryan Singer back…this franchise deserves it.
PS-Speaking of Comic Nerds, I guess you have to be one to understand the significance of the post-credit ‘zinger’. WTF?!