For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Dystopian Movies, here’s a review of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) by S.G. Liput of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to James of Back to the Viewer for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by S.G. Liput of Rhyme and Reason. We will be reviewing our favorite fantasy/sci-fi animated movies (non-Disney or Pixar) . Please get me your submissions by 25th May by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice S.G.!
Let’s see what S.G. thought of this movie:
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The future is bleak, as most futures are,
For mutants can run but not hide
From versatile Sentinels, stronger by far,
Who hunt mutants down far and wide.
In hopes of preventing this future so grim,
Professor X wants Wolverine
To go back in time to the much younger him
And with his past self intervene.
When Logan arrives back in ’73,
He runs into many roadblocks,
For Charles is drugged-up and slow to agree
To stop a death at the peace talks.
With friends, old and new, who might end up as foes,
They try to prevent and reverse,
But differing methods and plans interpose
And could end up making things worse.
As future and past are both looking their worst,
A rare mercy changes the tide.
Our hero with claws is at last reimbursed
While future exploits are implied.
There’s much to be said for the social commentary of dystopian stories in which characters are trapped or hampered by a messed-up world too big for them, but it’s far more entertaining to see heroes fighting to stop said dystopias. As sci-fi fans well know, one of the best ways to resist a dismal future is to prevent it from ever happening. Following in the footsteps of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 12 Monkeys, and Back to the Future Part II, X-Men: Days of Future Past employs just that tactic in its perfect merging of past and present casts.
After the unsatisfying train wreck that was X-Men: The Last Stand, it seemed that a happy ending for the original trilogy’s characters was impossible, and future films thus preferred to focus on their past, with younger actors exploring their origins. Leave it to Bryan Singer, the original director of the first two films, to bring two timelines together into one of the most exciting, complex, character-driven, satisfying superhero films in recent memory. The ensemble here is staggering and assumes extensive prior knowledge of the franchise: Hugh Jackman (of course) as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Ian McKellan and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Halle Berry as Storm, Ellen Page as Shadowcat, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, and Evan Peters as the first incarnation of Quicksilver (the second to come in Avengers: Age of Ultron), along with myriad others from the first trilogy, the reboot, and unique to this film. Keeping everyone straight might be taxing on the uninitiated, especially when the climax starts jumping back and forth between the timelines, but for those who have followed the series faithfully, hoping it would rise from its low points, this is the film we’ve been waiting for.
Not only does its numerous comic book and self-references provide constant enjoyment for X-Men fans, but its themes are universal and persuasive enough to draw in those who may not comprehend everything going on. The best example of this is young Charles’ lack of confidence in himself, feeling helpless and ineffective in the face of betrayal and physical handicap; his conversation with Stewart’s Charles is not only a moment of geeky glee but a moving encouragement across the decades. Alongside deeper messages of mercy and hope are thrilling effects-laden battle scenes that expertly combine various mutant powers, chuckle-worthy scenes of fish-out-of-water humor with Wolverine, and genuinely fun action sequences, such as Quicksilver’s slow-mo takedown of an entire kitchen full of guards.
It may not be perfect. Peter Dinklage as villain Bolivar Trask is a big improvement over the Trask in The Last Stand (Bill Duke, who I call “Mr. Dead Eyes”), but Dinklage still doesn’t stand out very much and his motivation for creating the Sentinels is rather underdeveloped. He admires mutants, but he wants to wipe them out to unite humanity? Shouldn’t there have been some past trauma or something involving mutants that would give him that kind of vendetta? In addition, the appearance of Stewart and McKellan still with their powers implies that The Last Stand is simply being ignored, but a few flashbacks indicate that’s not the case. Thus, their presence is left unexplained, as is the fact that Shadowcat has somehow picked up the added ability to phase people’s minds into the past. (In the comics, she was the one sent back in time, not Wolverine.)
Yet all of these are minor quibbles, easily ignored by the energy, enjoyment, and eye candy of this greatest installment of the X-Men film universe (yes, even better than X2). While it may not fully ignore The Last Stand, its greatest strength is that it reverses all the damage that dystopia inflicted on the cast. The last five minutes or so are supremely satisfying, and I would be content to let the entire franchise end on such a gratifying high note. Still, with at least one more film on its way with next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, I have high expectations for whatever comes next. Let’s hope they don’t mess it up again.
Best line: (old Professor X, to younger Charles) “It’s not their pain you’re afraid of. It’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope. Charles, we need you to hope again.”
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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Thanks again S.G.