Friday, May 23, 2014

Singer's New Blockbuster is Best X-Men Film Yet: Our Review of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)

Directed By: Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2

Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 21 minutes

Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future, machines called Sentinels have tracked down and eliminated almost the entire mutant race. To stave off their extinction, Professor X (Stewart) has the consciousness of Wolverine (Jackman) sent back to his body in 1973 where he is tasked with getting a reclusive Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and imprisoned Magneto (Fassbender) to reconcile and stop Mystique (Lawrence) from assassinating the Sentinels' creator, Bolivar Trask - who's death propelled the Sentinel program to the mutant hunting power it became.


Andrew: Hello dear readers! Last night Sarah and I saw an advance screening of this week's new, big blockbuster - and one of the biggest, most anticipated films of the whole summer - X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is a de facto sequel to 2011's X-Men: First Class as well as being a "soft" reboot of sorts for the series.

Sarah: Why don't you explain what you mean by "soft reboot?"

A: Well…the difference between a "hard" reboot and a "soft" reboot is that a "hard" reboot would be like this new The Amazing Spider-Man series by Sony where they have completely started over with new actors and a new director but telling the same exact beats over again and they're not referencing the old trilogy at all. Sort of like how Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy was a reboot of the Batman films.

Whereas what I mean by "soft" reboot is that this time they are keeping the continuity of the original X-Men trilogy (kind of), but in the course of this time-travel film the general idea is that the franchise picks up around the year 2022 where the X-Men from the original trilogy - Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and others - are trying to send Logan/Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to his 1973 self so he can get the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto to stop Mystique (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, reprising their roles from First Class) from assassinating a weapons-building scientist named Bolivar Trask. 

It's Trask's death and the capture of Mystique afterwards that eventually causes the dire future in 2022, and they're trying to wipe out that time-line, which in effect would reboot the series from that point on because it would nullify the original trilogy. But because they're using the actors from the original trilogy AND the actors from the newer prequel films, people are referring to this as a "soft" reboot of the series. If that makes sense.

So, Days of Future Past was directed by Bryan Singer who directed X-Men and X2: X-Men United plus he had a hand in coming up with the story and producing X-Men: First Class. This one does see the return of a lot of familiar faces - as mentioned before Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Ellen Page and obviously the main actors from First Class, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence…

S: And you haven't even mentioned the main man, Hugh Jackman, who bridges the two timelines. He's the one who has really bridged the entire X-Men film because he's the only actor to appear in all 7 films and as the same character.

A: Very true. So this was one we were very much looking forward to. It was #10 on our list of our most anticipated films of the year mainly because we loved First Class, so now that we've seen it Sarah, what did you think of Days of Future Past?

S: It was everything that I had hoped for and more. It fulfilled pretty much every…it covered a large spectrum of things for me. It was a great summer blockbuster, maybe it eased some fanboys' hesitations with the movie considering this is based on one of the more popular storylines in X-Men lore. I think that it covered everything and everybody.

Overall I thought it was beautifully done. I was a little bit curious about how they were going to bridge the old and the new and they actually did it in such a seamless way that it looked like this had truly been the plan the entire time. So I thought it was brilliant. 

It was exciting and intense and it starts out with such a bang but then backs off a little bit. But what's interesting about that is that throughout the entire movie there is a sense of…like an underlying sense of urgency, which I thought drove the entire film beautifully. So even the slower parts had that sense of, "Let's get there, let's get there, we don't have much time!" I felt that was extremely well done.

I thought the cast did an amazing job here. And the movie looked…it fit perfectly in with the entire canon. It's almost like you could sit down and watch X-Men, X2…eh…maaaaybe X-Men: The Last Stand and then First Class and this will fit in pretty well with them all. You can throw The Wolverine in there, too, but let's just ignore X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This was a very satisfying movie for me. What did you think?

A: I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I think I agree with you - it satiated my appetite and fulfilled the expectations that I had for it. Because, you know, X-Men and X2 are good to great comic book movies. We were talking about this last night…

S: They're a little dated…

A: They are, they don't hold up as well over time, but X-Men was like the first comic book movie of this big comic book movie boom over the last 14 years, so we owe a lot to Bryan Singer and this cast for bringing that to us. But this…I can't quite decide if it's the best X-Men movie they've made…if it's not it's a very close second to First Class

What I liked so much about it was the cast and, you touched on this a bit, how they handled the story. The story sounds like it should be very complicated and I'm sure the way I explained it earlier kind of muddied it up a bit, but when they explain it in the movie it makes a whole lot of sense and it's really easy to follow. Which is impressive considering it's a time-travel movie.

S: Right. I mean, if you think about it too much it does get a little confusing, as time-travel movies tend to get.

A: Yeah it was pretty direct. So I thought they did that very well. They explain the concept very well. And the other nice thing is…yes, it has a lot of the actors from the original trilogy playing their characters, such as Stewart and McKellan, but they're not the stars of the movie. 

For all intents and purposes this really is a sequel to First Class because only about the first 10, maybe 15 minutes of the movie is devoted solely to the future where they decide to send Wolverine back. The rest of the movie, for the most part, takes place in 1973 where Logan is trying to convince a very disheveled and broken Charles Xavier to help him stop Mystique. And then they have to break Magento out of the prison he's being kept in, and then obviously with what happened between the two of them in First Class those two are clashing and butt heads. So…I enjoyed that they didn't linger too much on the future/present X-Men.

S: Yeah they really got to the point pretty quick, which I was pretty surprised by.

A: I wasn't, so much,  because again I knew this was as a sequel to First Class through and through. So that strength of the movie then is - again - McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence. They are phenomenal as Charles, Eric and Raven. They were great as those characters when they were in First Class and they're even better this time around.

McAvoy is sort of playing a different kind of Charles Xavier and totally pulls it off, Fassbender still kicks ass as Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence is even better this time around because she's more the Mystique we're used to in that she's a trained warrior now…

S: She's the assassin, the kind of killer she's supposed to be…

A: She kicks ass here like Rebecca Romijn's Mystique did in the original trilogy. I feel like she was given a bigger part in this film because Lawrence's star power has exploded since First Class came out, you know, with The Hunger Games series and being nominated for an Oscar twice and winning one since then and that's not a bad thing at all. She's great.

S: Also, her character is older and has seen more because she wasn't under the protection of Xavier because she left with Magneto at the end of the last one, and then as we learn she hasn't been with Magneto for a decade either because of his being in prison. It's been very interesting to see that…without showing it, she has been through a lot and has changed as a person. Very interesting stuff.

I mean, let's talk a little bit about how some looks are changed in this movie. With Singer's direct involvement in this one versus First Class he has the ability to mold the characters a little more closely resembling his original films, which I think helped bridge the two series, too.

Mystique looks a little different here than she did in First Class and it's probably in part because she's a couple years older now, she's thinned out in her face just a touch, but the makeup I felt was much more in line with the Mystique of the original trilogy. Which is interesting! 

And I thought she looked way better in this one than she did in First Class, which I find notable because when filming First Class Lawrence was completely body-painted. In this one she's part body-painted, part body-suited.

A: It's actually mainly a body suit because the process for the last film took way longer and was more uncomfortable than Lawrence liked. And you're never able to tell at all.

S: Never. So yeah, her look was great. Also, Nicholas Hoult's Beast looked different.

A: Yeah, he looks way better if you ask me. That was one of the few things I didn't like about First Class was how Beast looked. But this time he just looks more in line with the Beast that Kelsey Grammar played in the original trilogy and he just looks more like the Beast from the comics and cartoons I remember. He looks great here. Singer definitely changes some things like that.

S: Maybe it's just me but I felt like there was more of a gravitas behind the characters with Singer directing. Maybe it was also because the actors were acting directly in line with their characters' future selves? Magneto was very much…he had even more of a presence here. He wasn't as lost, he was definitely more of a force to be reckoned with, in line with the older version.

A: Okay, thank you because you just jarred loose something I've been trying to put together in my head. Yes, the characters in this movie are now more like the characters we are familiar with from the earlier films. In First Class it was an origin story of sorts, so Charles wasn't really Professor X yet, Eric wasn't Magneto yet, Raven wasn't Mystique yet. So yeah, they're more the characters we're used to. So I thought it was interesting to see these actors play these characters in this way.

I loved that Hugh Jackman gets to be involved with the First Class actors. I thought he played very well off of McAvoy and Fassbender. I liked seeing him portray a younger version of Logan who doesn't have his adamantium claws and skeleton but is used to having those things…

S: I loved that, too.

A: And really this movie is just a good time-travel movie, it's a good action movie. The cast is great. We haven't even talked about Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask…

S: We haven't even talked about the kid who plays Quicksilver!

A: Oh yeah! Peter Evans (American Horror Story). Let's talk about Quicksilver real quick then.

S: So…a big thing surrounding this movie was that Singer and 20th Century Fox wanted to use Quicksilver in this film because he's an X-Men character…and then Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios wanted to use Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ulton because he's also a member of The Avengers. After a struggle between the two studios they finally came to an agreement where Disney can use Quicksilver in the next Avengers film but they can't refer to him as a mutant, since Fox owns the rights to all the X-Men and the mutant term. Right?

A: Correct.

S: So we've already seen what the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Quicksilver looks like because he was in the post-credits scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we are now seeing Fox's Quicksilver. And they look like completely different characters. BUT…I loved this character here. He's been getting some flack because he looks like a goofy, dweeby dude…

A: Oh he looks awful here. I have to say that much.

S: He looks pretty bad. But I felt that the actor shone through all of that. Evans was perfect. He was hilarious for the kind of comedic relief they wanted him to have. His highlight scene where he gets to show off his speed was elegantly done and yet hilarious at the same time. His character is just a kid and I loved that they really highlight that. He's just a kid and almost, dare I say, because I'm comparing him to a Disney character, but very much like Dash from The Incredibles. It was almost like these filmmakers looked at Quicksilver as what Dash would look like when he became a teenager.

A: I think that's a neat way to look at it.

S: He was mischievous but got the job done with his incredible speed.

A: I really liked Quicksilver in this movie. The parts of the movie that he is in are some of the more fun parts of the entire film. When he's going super fast in his highlight scene it's very funny, it's really well shot, he seems to be having a lot of fun. It's just a really cool scene and a neat take on his character. But then after that sequence - which occurs while they're trying to break Magneto out of prison - once that happens he's not in the movie anymore!

S: Yeah they just kind of leave him behind and he disappears! I was surprised by that.

A: I wouldn't say I was surprised because I hadn't seen him in the trailers or commercials in any of the other scenes, but I feel that his character could've been very helpful to Logan, Eric and Charles in trying to stop Mystique from killing Trask because he has a very unique power. Even if he is only a kid. So it was kind of a bummer he wasn't in the rest of it, but he was certainly a highlight in this film.

Also, side note, I'll ignore that Quicksilver uses a Walkman - which wasn't invented yet in 1973 - but it did bug me after the fact that he listens to music while running super fast. That makes no sense because if he zips around a room in less than a second, he won't be hearing music, he'll be hearing a fraction of a note of sound. But I digress.

S: So now let's talk about the bad guy. The bad guy, Bolivar Trask, played by the man who portrays our favorite character on Game of Thrones and is just an all-around great actor, Peter Dinklage [Editor's note: if you love GoT and/or Dinklage, you need to follow that link]. Trask is the inventor of the Sentinels, these robots that are able to track and target the mutant gene and then eliminate that mutant, for lack of a better explanation. What did you think of Dinklage here? I have some mixed feelings on his character.

A: Well I love Dinklage, I have ever before he was on Game of Thrones

S: Quick question: has Trask always been a little person?

A: Good question, and no, in the comics and cartoon he is not a little person. Actually I think it's interesting that Dinklage says Singer wanted him to play Trask because of his dwarfism, which the two of them look at as a kind of mutation for the character. I thought that was an interesting way to convey the character and convey his interest in mutants. 

But I thought Dinklage added some gravitas to the role. He's a fantastic actor and I thought he did well in conveying that interest in the mutant race but also being a silver-tongued weapons expert trying to get Congress and other nations the money to build these Sentinels.

I mean…he's not really a villain in the truest sense of the word…

S: I think that was kind of my thing with him…

A: But he does, in the film, do bad and evil things to mutants in the name of science. He has a lot to do with the fact that a number of characters from First Class are not in this film, I'll just put it that way. But his creation, you know, the Sentinels just become more than he ever would have anticipated in the timeline of when Mystique assassinates him and then the government uses Mystique's DNA to improve the Sentinels.

I feel like he's Dr. Frankenstein in that he creates these things but they just grow out of his control, which is a classic scientist tale.

S: That's the thing - he's the villain, yes, but it's the Sentinels that are the true bad guys. And they are terrifying. They do a great job of conveying that these machines are very close to being sentient, which almost makes them a new kind of race that's there to wipe out mutants and humans who are mutant sympathizers. Which is very interest because I doubt that was the point of Trask's original creations, to kill humans as well.

It was very, very interesting especially the contrast between the Sentinels of '73 and the Sentinels of the future. How dark and ominous the difference is, which you definitely get a feel for in the trailers. I know you've said the future Sentinels are nothing like the ones in the comics, but I think they're a cool fit for this film.

I just really, really enjoyed this movie. I loved the contrast between the old and new, while kind of merging together in such a beautiful way. Sure it's a time-travel movie so you're going to be able to punch holes in the logic of it. But that's not the point. The point is that the two worlds have come together and now we're all on the same timeline. The old and new has come together and we're all going in the same direction.

A: This movie made me exited for the sequel that they're already working on, X-Men: Apocalypse. But the last thing I want to touch on is that I thought Singer's direction with the action scenes has improved markedly since he did the first two. X-Men and X2 the action scenes were okay, they weren't great. But here they were staged much better whether it be a very cool opening action beat where mutants are zipping in and out of portals and the Sentinels are attacking, to then smaller beats like the prison break and trying to stop Mystique, and then they gradually build up bigger and bigger to the climactic final act that jumps between the past and present. You're never bored with an action scene because they haven't been large and loud the entire time like a Transformer movie. They build it up, which I thought was good.

Let's wrap this up, it's kind of long.

S: It was fabulous. This movie was definitely one that…I'm sure will be topped later this summer but will be tough to be topped by other blockbusters. It's like, "This is the bar, now beat that.

A: Well that's gonna be tough because even already Godzilla set the bar last week…

S: And I think this film hit that same level as Godzilla, maybe even a bit better because the acting was better.

A: The acting was much better here…

S: And this film is more character driven. Except in regards to the lesser mutants in the beginning of the film. They're so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that I don't remember any of their names. Oh well.

A: I will say this: I had more unbridled joy watching Godzilla and just having smiles break across my face and getting sheer chills than I did watching this, but I got more verklempt watching this film, so the emotional beats of X-Men was better.

S: And I think that is because with Godzilla it was so new, but with this one you're seeing characters you have an emotional attachment to these characters whether they're the older X-Men or the First Class versions. And I thought they way they were able to do that is great.

A: I agree with you, but I also think it's because of the acting strength of Hugh Jackman and the rest of the cast. Because it was a particular scene between Jackman and McAvoy that really got to me. But then that emotional payoff, that investment, also comes into play towards the end. We won't spoil it but…

S: It was so satisfying. It was…it was perfect, because everything had been set right.

A: Well you see that the actions of Wolverine and the rest, you see the results and that it was all worth it.

S: And you see that the two franchises have merged together really well. I loved this movie. It's my favorite X-Men movie yet. I say see it in theatres this weekend if you can. 

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 4.5/5)

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  1. Glad you seemed to enjoy X Men as much as I did :) I love the format of your reviews, it breaks it down and makes it very readable.

    1. Thank you very much, Christopher! Glad you enjoyed both the movie and our style of review! That's greatly appreciated!