director Bryan Singer
viewed: 05/25/2014 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA
Who thought that this new X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, would turn out to be this year’s first good superhero movie? Not I, necessarily. The trailers seemed a muddle of complexity and confusion, with a tonality of overwrought drama. The return of director Bryan Singer, who helped to usher in this latest wave of superhero movies with his X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003), didn’t necessarily guarantee success. After all, the previous X-Men movie, X-Men: First Class (2011) was a whole different creative team with director Matthew Vaughn at the helm. So, really, who knew?
X-Men: Days of Future Past taps into one of the comic book’s most venerated story tropes, one that involves time travel and alternate realities. Bryan Singer gets to re-connect his “old” X-Men (e.g., Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier and Ian McKellen as Magneto) crew with the newer X-Men actors of X-Men: First Class (e.g., James McAvoy as Professor X and Michael Fassbender as Magneto), all in one movie. And it all gets to make sense, which is even odder. And of course we’ve got the irreplaceable Hugh Jackman reprising his Wolverine role for like the seventh time.
The bottom line is the the story is complicated. It has to do with a future in which giant killer robots with the ability to morph to destroy every mutant have taken over the world and track and kill every mutant or potential would-be progenitor of a mutant in the world. With the last surviving mutants scrambling around to escape the Sentinels (as they are called), a last ditch hope is to project Wolverine back into his 1973 self to go and warn the earlier versions of everyone that the assassination of the head of the robot program needs to be stopped, the only hope to change the future for the better. And the assassin? Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.
While there is nothing simple about trying to relate a thing about this movie (maybe why the trailer was doomed to a lack of clarity), the film is actually an engaging, action-packed ride, managing to keep the whole thing’s momentum in constant thrust and entertaining, largely, the whole way through. Now, I’d read the comics from which this was adapted, so I had some familiarity with the concepts and characters. The film doesn’t spend much time trying to teach you who is who. I stopped reading the comics in the 1980’s so there are a number of characters with whom I too am unfamiliar.
But, you know, it’s actually pretty good. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the first superhero movie this year that I’ve walked out actually feeling like I enjoyed it. Which is a testament in a way itself because I’ve been beginning to wonder (as others have no doubt) whether the superhero movie has played itself out for the time being, despite being the template for years to come for movie studios. There is a doubtless cynicism in some of the future films, though there are some things to which I am looking forward.
Now, I guess, I’m looking forward to the next X-Men film, too.