Sunday, July 6, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past - Review

The lead up to X-Men was exciting. Not only was there good buzz but this was going to be a reboot, a smart one at that, done inside the universe. Had someone brought intelligence to the X-Movies? Turns out, no. But this one is a lot of fun. Provided you never think of the scientific plausibility of any of it.

Happily, Days of Future Past impresses right out of the gate. FINALLY, it feels like the mutants are up against something that can actually kill them! The rhetoric has always been present but it has, in every instance, come down to mutant versus mutant ideology, played out with a few dissenting mutants versus the larger group.  Fit in or conqueror, be a mutant or don’t, are again played out in shallow form here (offering zero new ideas or arguments the other five movies haven’t used).

The game changer is the Sentinels. They provide real meaning and consequence for the first time in the series. It’s much less the gentlemanly debate and now, more, a mad scramble for survival. The visceral illustration of seeing a robot rip a mutant in half is a more engaging format than stuffy dialogue. A chaotic, crumbling, world fits the X-Men much better than the matching uniforms with one on one matches upon the open battlefield ever did.

This X-Movie is also more realistic on its number of character subplots. New mutants are shown with barely a name, much less the short vignette of past films. Others have howled about the criminal underuse of the series key supports in Days of Future Past. I get that. It was atrocious what they did to Kitty Pride and Bishop might as well not have been cast. I also understand financially and narratively this is Wolverine & Friends, not X-Men. Given the abysmal development of the leads thus far, I’ll applaud a tightening of the belt. I’d rather the X-Verse dig itself out of the hole it’s currently in than adorn the pit with cute branching tunnels.

I didn’t expect much from Quicksilver. His inclusion came late in casting, on top of a mountain of other mutants, and seemed “me too”, being the center of some studio vs. studio power play coming after Joss Whdeon expressed a lot of excitement in featuring the character in the upcoming Avengers 2. Wouldn’t you know, he turns out to be the most fun? In one scene he embodies what I’ve wanted from the series since the beginning. Play with the super powers. Have fun with how these people mock the limits of human ability.

The action, otherwise, seesaws between the incredible and the campy. How many times am I going to watch Magneto vibrate every object in the room for a full minute before he throws something dumb, like a clock, at somebody? His use of a couple ball bearings is a way more fun, interesting, expression of his mastery. Beast jumping through the air? You might as well not have erased the wires for how obvious they still feel. Then we’ll be treated to Colossus supermaning through portals to slam into Sentinels. The unevenness of it strikes me as lazy rather than incompetent. Good ideas are clearly there.

Setting up Mystique as a force unto herself was another one of those good ideas. Ok, her fighting? Let’s stop being critical for a sec. Her fighting is so god damn cool. Matches perfect the style used in X1 through 3. The wild, frenetic, strikes are too fluid for my brain to keep up with. I’d be one of those slack-jawed guards who’s still wondering, after he hits the ground, how her heel got to be there.

The fact that Mystique is the only person concerned with continuity from First Class just makes her even more likeable. While everyone else is droning on about the morality of This and the historical lessons from That, she’s the real, living, center of the film. The grounded perspective. Really, the only person I care about. I’m curious what happens to the other mutants but their journey to philosophical pillar of the universe isn’t why I look forward to the next scene.

Or the next movie. I don’t have a comprehensive spreadsheet for this stuff, but by my count, Days of Future Past fixed all the problems that X3 and Wolverine Origins left. Bravo. It did the smart thing by deviating from established comic book canon, too.

I wish it could get some fresh blood behind the camera. That would really excite me. All the actors are dynamite. Don’t touch a single one of them. But they deserve better. Don’t tell me this is Jennifer Lawrence’s best work. Don’t say Hugh Jackman couldn’t bring a whole lot more to the character. (Ect) They need someone who doesn’t plop the whole franchise on their back. After six X-Films, I think they, and the audience, are owed a little more respect.