Thursday, May 29, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

**1/2 out of ****

I’m not sure how I would evaluate X-Men: Days of Future Past, (the seventh entry in the series) as a stand-alone film. The first two films made huge changes to what was established in the comic series but they found a way to work as an alternate cinematic universe. Then the movie series started contradicting its own storyline in various ways. Now this one restores characters to their previous states - including bringing one person back from the dead - and offers no explanation. We’re just supposed to fill in the blanks. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a pretty fun movie but in spite of seeing all the X-Men movies that came before (and not liking most of them), it made me feel as though a whole movie required to lay the foundation for this one had passed me by somehow.

This film gathers its resources selectively. Certain plot elements from previous films count. The prequel world from X-Men: First Class has its awesome cast, including Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult. Then there’s the older group from the “not to distant future” with Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman –among many others. There is also a storyline from the comics about a war that devastated the entire world and a time-travel plan to set everything back to normal. The prospect of this story being put on the big screen excited a lot of fans.

For those who don’t know this world very well, it is about an exponentially growing group of people labeled “mutants”  - who are born with different kinds of powers - and their fight against human oppressors - and in many cases each other. In this movie, Wolverine (Jackman) is sent back to the nineteen-seventies to find help from younger versions of his friends to put a stop to the early stages of a government-funded technological movement that will result in humanity’s annihilation decades later.

From the perspective of a comic book movie fan –as opposed to an actual comic book fan, I thought this time-travel story was weak. I waited with patience for every confusing story problem to have an answer -or at least something emotionally gripping about the prospect of changing time, but it’s all played about as loose as Men in Black III.

I won’t go into the controversy that surrounds the director Bryan Singer’s personal life, but I will say that I have always rooted for him as a director in spite of his complacency towards lazy screenplays. His work on X-Men and its sequel X2: X-Men United helped to launch a renaissance for comic book-based movies. As far as the X-Men movies are concerned, he had a gift that the other directors who followed seriously lacked. This gift is a cinematic imagination in relation to showing people with superpowers. This movie demonstrates that he’s still got it. He manages to show Magneto, Xavier and Mystique using their abilities in new and crafty ways, but it is in one throwaway scene involving a first-time screen appearance by the character, Quicksilver, that the whole movie peaks in its coolness.

I was initially disappointed with this movie but there are sequences that are rather unforgettable. Most fans will be forgiving of its shortcomings unlike the awful Spider-Man movie that came out earlier this month. I will simply close with a plea to people who only seek out franchise movies when going to the theater: There are unique original movies out there. Give one a try. You may have a better time.

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