Sunday 22 June 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Possibly the most anticipated film of 2014, based on one of the most famous comics in the world, and aiming to revitalize the franchise, connecting it to its roots and injecting a fresh spin on it at the same time. This is what Days of Future Past, the seventh film in the X-Men film series is expected to do. This is a tall order for any film, and it of course risks falling short and becoming another Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine.
To be brutally honest, the film gets off to a good start long before any of us have seen it. Bryan Singer has returned to take the helm for the first time since X-Men 2. It is very important that people realize how significant this is. Singer managed to ensure the success of the franchise with just two films, something that many franchises have failed to do when faced with a drop in quality for following films. None of the films have really lived up to the critical success of the first two. However fans have remained loyal to the series, waiting for this moment, when the X-Men could finally return to their past days of glory. I could write a lot more about this, but I'm saving it for my view of the entire franchise.
Another aspect of the film that helps it get off to a good start is the fantastic cast. this is another element that I feel is overlooked. Frankly this is one of the most amazing mix of talent I have seen in a film for quite a while. The list includes Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage and Ellen Page. If you still do not agree, name one other film where Halle Berry is left with a relatively minor role? (I know it was reduced due to her pregnancy, but it is doubtful that it would have been expanded any further).
Many of you will already have a good idea of the plot, Wolverine travels back in time to try and undo events that will lead to a mass war against Mutant-kind. Te result is a spectacular mix of delicate story telling in the past with Wolverine making step by step progress towards his goal. I say 'delicate' but that does not by any standards mean that the story is dry of action. It wants to maintain a suitable amount of dialogue to help keep this already fairly complicated story flowing, but as this is still a superhero film we want to see plenty of elements of excitement.
Even of this story in the 1970s too calm for you, there is a subplot set in the future in which the remaining X-Men must fight for survival against the Sentient machines that are eradicating them. With the two stories running side by side it would be very easy to be lost in the complex and action packed film. But Singer is able to keep us enthralled without confusing or losing the viewers interest. It is brilliantly balanced to a point where you firmly realize how the two are connected, with one affecting the other. But you can also see them as two separate timelines, it is very easy to distinguish between them which is essential to the plot. You have to be constantly aware of how much is at stake, what failure would mean, and how the future can be changed.
Those of you who can remember the original trilogy scene by scene will easily pinpoint the spectacular Nightcrawler sequence that opened X-Men 2, and the powerful Holocaust scene from X-Men which depicts Magneto's origins.Well the opening sequence to Days of Future Past is a fine mix of both. We are shown in detail the extent of the damage done by the Sentinels, and immediately thrust into a battle between them and our favorite mutants. From there the plot runs smoothly and quick enough to engross us, but it is also slow and calm when it needs to be, just so we can reflect on what has happened, and guess what might happen next.
In a similar style to First Class, Days of Future Past proves that history can be made more fun with mutants, as Singer re-writes and works alongside key events. Some elements of the story fit so well that you have to ask if this entire films was made just so Singer could put these throw-away references into the script.
I am not saying that all of this does not come with a price. With so many characters woven throughout the film is is naturally difficult to give each of them suitable screen time and background. The advantage of having so many prequels is that we already know almost everything about them. But some of the new characters seem interesting enough to deserve just a small view into their past. Trask, the central villain of the film seems to be complex, but without a back-story there is no way to tell if his can be viewed as sympathetic. What made X2 great was the fact that even Stryker was given a tragic story that could make audiences connect with him in a small way. But with Trask there are a lot of questions left unanswered, like where this irrational hatred of mutants originates.
Also, it feels as if more time needs to be spent with McKellan and Stewart in the future. It would be riveting to witness this couple that we have become so used to seeing at each other's throats now united over a common cause. Not to mention the new generation of mutants that are fighting in the future. There are rumors of a spin-off film being planned to feature them, but until then we only have the rather small amount of screen-time in this film in which they were seen in action.
But putting that aside, everything that we have seen is very positive, and if there are more films to be planned then this is a great way to introduce us to so many characters that may be seen in them. Undoubtedly this is the best film of the series since X2, in fact X2 could be the only film of the franchise that surpasses this one. It has renewed the franchise and even though it does leave a lot in the open, those could be stories for another set of films. The best result any X-Men fan could hope for.
Result: 8/10

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