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When X-Men Collide – X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 23, 2014

sentinels

  1. For all of you vexed by The Last Stand, our depressing final glimpse at the original troupe to this point, the future bookends provide a rousing sendoff on multiple levels. The apocalyptic (a word we’ll be hearing more of very soon) world that we open on is straight out of the original arc, with Muties and sympathetic humans rounded up into concentration camps Terminator style, or killed outright by future Sentinels that can adapt to any threat. It’s bleak and deadly, as we see when new and old faces are mowed down quickly, and mowed down again for good measure. But it’s so good to have McKellan and Stewart back in the saddle. And Bobby Drake. Hell, even the much-maligned Halle Berry Storm. You never really get a chance to know new faces like Bishop or Blink, as we’re given a heavy dose of Professor X exposition and then Logan is off to his 1973 body, but they have their moment to shine late in the film in a true Last Stand, one that lives up to its billing, with immensely powerful mutants, strong enough to survive to this point, hopelessly trying to hold out just long enough so that history can be rewritten. It’s the best action in the movie and the drama is earned, as is the sunny, futurey-alarm-clocked coda, with returning faces galore. Not only has the storyline in the movie been set right, the wrongs of the franchise have been erased. How meta. And how welcome.
  2. Logan. Wolverine. Hugh Jackman. What more can you say at this point? His time with this character is winding down, but Jackman still feels as fresh and effortless in this role as he did a decade and a half ago. He may only have one movie, maybe two left in him — a follow-up to last year’s surprisingly good The Wolverine will likely be the last — but he’s the glue that’s held this franchise together from the start. (His First Class cameo has a delicious payoff, FYI.) It’s going to be a sad day when he hangs up the claws. And give the guy credit, he’s stayed in incredible shape to keep doing these things. (A gaggle of gay men sitting behind me at the theater almost fainted due to his nude scene. If it had been full frontal we may have had a celebratory riot on our hands.) Here you can tell Jackman is savoring every minute, playing off younger versions of the characters he’s come to know so well. Once again he’s all we could really wish for in the role. Enjoy him while he’s around.
  3. You can’t say enough about Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender as Mystique and Magneto. James McAvoy’s young Charles Xavier is solid as well, but those two are at the top of their game, legit movie stars now owning roles originated by others. Fassbender smolders most wondrously throughout, and Lawrence has brought new depth to Mystique, a character who was a one-dimensional ice queen femme fatale in other hands. There’s been talk of spinning her off in her own movie, especially now that Lawrence has that Oscar fueling her career. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but yes, I’d now watch a Mystique solo film — and with the new reordering of the universe at the end, she’s on a different, more intriguing path than the one that brought her to her old villain groove. These new stars have crafted characters with rich inner lives, and for those who look for something a little deeper in their comic book movie fare, this is manna from heaven. (We should note that the dead weight of First Class, namely January Jones and Lenny Kravitz’s distaff spawn, has been mercifully omitted/killed off-screen. Addition by subtraction if there ever was.)
  4. One major issue isn’t with the narrative itself, but concerns the engines of the apocalypse (that word again…): the Sentinels. Yes, we finally get the mutant-hunting mechas, and not just disembodied headlights in the Danger Room. But the concern I voiced with the second of the trailers has unfortunately come to pass — namely that we never really to get to see the Sentinels that we know and love to hate. You have the sleek future Sentinels which look like generic CGI (good CGI, but still) and the plasticy 1973 versions, which do no mutant hunting. And neither look much like the classic design. I try not to get too wedded to the old-timey looks, but I can’t help but think back to Marvels and Alex Ross’s depiction of the Sentinels stalking their prey at night, and wishing that we could get something like that — just once. Alas.
  5. As a fan of Peter Dinklage since The Station Agent, I’m glad to have him in one of these babies. His Trask is like a sinister version of Tony Stark — THEIR NAMES ARE EVEN ANAGRAMS, PEOPLE — what with his work with weaponry and robotish stuff. And that hair and those 1970s suits, which appropriately look like they’re crafted from sofa upholstery. Perfection. (Incidentally, Fassbender appears to at one point wear Charlton Heston’s bandana/scarf thingy from Soylent Green. Again: perfection. IT’S PEOPLE!)
  6. Quicksilver: I’m still not sold on the look, but he does do much scene-stealing in the middle of the picture, eliciting some of the loudest howls of joy from the audience. The character’s impatience with the slow world around him works, and he’s likable enough in his insufferable way. But my God he looks like such a douche.
  7. If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. But yeah, Magneto can pretty much make the presidential bunker come to him, thank you very much.
  8. Speaking of presidents, it’s always dicey including an actor playing a former U.S. chief executive, in this movie’s case Nixon. We know these faces and voices so well, their presence can drag us out of the film and remind us in big capital letters that THIS IS MAKE-BELIEVE WE ARE WATCHING. It’s one thing when the character is at the core of the story, as then you have time to get to know them, acclimate yourselves. Lincoln. The Bill Murray FDR flick. That sort of thing. This didn’t feel as awkward as some do (Nixon’s presence in Watchmen comes to mind, which was more full-faced than anything in the comics), but it’s still something of which to be wary.
  9. It’s delightful how effortlessly small nods are made to the lore. A hint of lineage. A glimpse of a red-headed younger sister. Someone proudly talking about his son Jason. You can go on.
  10. As always, stay through the credits. (I actually learned something this time: that Francis Scott Key gets a credit when they use “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a movie. Seems like that would go without saying.) This stinger is right up there with the Thanos appearance a couple of years ago in terms of the caliber of villain teased. And yes, I’ve clumsily teased him in these bullet points. (Though actually there are five teased in total, if you catch the drift. Look on the dune!)

As the credits scrolled upwards the audience, savvy enough to stay in their seats for the true finale, started to talk about the movie. I, like Professor X, tapped into that zeitgeist microcosm using my superpower: what’s known as “hearing.” It was all positive, with many calling this the best of the bunch, even better than X2, which is still for many the gold standard in this subgenre of a subgenre. I’ve thought about that, and it’s possible. It might be better simply because the medium of comics on film has come so far in the intervening decade, but it’s up there — maybe right alongside it if we adjust for inflation, as it were. Whatever the ranking, this is a must see, a fine romp that despite preposterous time travel shenanigans never slaps viewers in the face with stupid. It has restraint, fine performances and a general, genuine empathy for the material that’s most welcome for those who love this stuff. High marks.

Four sets of graying Wolverine temples out of five, and I’m tempted to go higher.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2014 9:22 am

    Nice review 🙂 Going to see it this weekend hopefully would you like to follow me back? Cheers

  2. May 25, 2014 10:28 pm

    Reblogged this on The Seamly Gamer.

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