Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past review; the best X-Men film yet

If you haven't heard about X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP) at this point, you've been living under a rock.  This movie is everywhere!  The film is a sequel to both, the X-Men movie franchise, and the X-Men: First Class film.  While most of us were worried about character overload when we watched the trailer, it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  Why?  Because Director Bryan Singer and Screenwriter Simon Kinberg have put together the best X-Men film in the franchise's 14 year history.  Rather than wait till later in this review to explain, I will tell you now... Singer rights so many wrongs from previous X-Men films.  His love for the franchise is undeniable and it comes through in his filmmaking.  Every decision is made with precision and care, and it, just, works!  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Script
The script for DOFP is very well written.  For a film dealing with time travel, it is never confusing or difficult to follow.  Kinberg is inventive with the way he handles two parallel storylines, while keeping the film grounded.  And while there are large action set pieces, the smaller, nuanced parts in the film were my favorite.  There is a scene that takes place in an airplane that I loved.  Charles and Erik are arguing over what they think the other person should be doing to help mutantkind.  It's a gripping scene featuring gifted actors; and that's the kind of material that really stood out for me.  Kinberg nailed this script and I'm happy to read he'll be back for the sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse.

The Acting
Legendary actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are wonderful in the film.  They bring a certain gravitas to the film, just by being in it.  Hugh Jackman is excellent in this, his 7th time playing the character of Wolverine; more than any other actor has played a comic book character in film history.  Other veterans of the X-Men franchise may not be in the film much, but they are nice additions.

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult are the main actors alongside Jackman.  McAvoy and Fassbender kill it as the younger Professor X and Magneto.  The relationship between the two was my favorite aspect of the X-Men: First Class film, and it continues on in this film.  It's a complicated relationship held together by respect and admiration; even if they have differing views on the world.  I was curious how the filmmakers were going to make Lawrence's character relevant, but they pulled it off in a convincible way.  I enjoyed Hoult's return as Beast, even if he doesn't say much in the movie.

The character that steals the show, is by far, no doubt, undeniably Quicksilver.  Evan Peters plays the speedster mutant and there is one scene in particular that had my theater roaring.  I won't give anything away, but I will tell you that Peters' performance has created so much buzz, that it has been confirmed the character will play a much bigger role in the X-Men: Apocalypse film.  This movie just had really great acting all around.

What makes the X-Men universe, in film or otherwise, are the universe messages it explored.  The parallels between the mutants in the film and the racism plaguing our nation today is an obvious one.  But there's more; hope is discussed in this film and what it means to people.  Despair is the absence of hope, and without hope, most people have nothing to look forward to in the future.  I love how the film touched on this because it's an incredibly powerful message for young people growing up in impoverished parts of the world.  Not that this film is going change the world, but it might bring hope to someone in despair, and THAT is the kind of power a great film can have.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Villain
Peter Dinklage is a wonderful actor.  When I read he was joining the cast, I was really excited.  While Dinklage does a fine job with the script he was given, ultimately the character is just not very intriguing.  Why is he doing what he's doing?  What is the character's backstory?  And why would the primary villain in the movie receive such a weak sendoff?  None of these issues are Dinklage's fault, but it is a big issue I had with the film.
Limited Action
This is more of a nit pick than anything else.  There was surprisingly very little action in this film.  For being the most expensive film in history, I have to wonder where did all that money get spent?  Don't get me wrong, the movie looks visually stunning, and we know period pieces cost a lot of money to produce; but I wish there was one action set piece that stood out in my mind, and there really wasn't.  But that's ok, because like I mentioned above, it's the character development moments that I enjoyed the most.

The Verdict:
The Best X-Men Film Yet
What makes the X-Men films so great are the universal themes they explore.  And this movie is no exception.  Acceptance and hope are things children, teens and adults alike are faced with on a daily basis.  There is great storytelling and great acting in this film, but ultimately it's the message it delivers that carries the most weight.  Singer and company hit it out of the park with DOFP.  I personally can not wait to see what the X-Men franchise has in store for us.  

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