Sunday, June 08, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Based on the X-Men comic story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the story where the surviving members of the X-Men led by Professor X and his longtime nemesis Magneto ask Wolverine to go back in time to 1973 to stop an assassination that led to an all-out war on mutants as Wolverine would meet the younger Professor X and Magneto. Directed by Bryan Singer and screenplay by Simon Kinberg from a story by Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn, the film is a multi-layered story where Wolverine travels back in time in an attempt to save mutants as well as deal with what Magneto and Professor X were back then. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Nicholas Hoult, Omar Sy, Evan Peters, and Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. X-Men: Days of Future Past is a marvelous and sprawling film from Bryan Singer.

In a world where mutants are being exterminated by gigantic robots known as Sentinels, the film is about the small band of X-Men led by Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Leshnerr/Magneto (Ian McKellan) trying to survive the last days of the war. Upon learning that Kitty Pryde has the power to send people back in time through their consciousness, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) volunteers since he is the only one that is strong enough to withstand the rigors of time travel. Wolverine travels back to 1973 in order to convince the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) to come together and stop Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the Sentinels designer Bolivar Trask. While the remaining X-Men wait for the army of Sentinels to attack while protecting Logan and Kitty, Logan would face an even bigger battle in convincing Xavier and Erik to come together despite their major differences.

The film’s screenplay by Simon Kinberg explores not just the fragile relationship between the young Xavier and Erik as they’re driven apart by their own differences but also in how much their falling out has hurt them. For the young Charles Xavier, he has become a despondent and bitter man that mourns those he lost and cared for as he becomes addicted to a serum that allows him to walk but not use his powers. For Erik, he becomes far more angrier as he is locked 100 feet below the Pentagon for killing John F. Kennedy, though Erik claims he was trying to save him, while becoming more determined to ensure the mutants desire as the number one species. Then there’s Mystique who is the lost woman who also endured the loss of many friends as she is torn between the two ideals of Erik and Charles as she would also be ultimately responsible for the Sentinels program to come ahead and set the wave for the end of mutants.

The antagonist in Bolivar Trask isn’t really a villain but someone who wants to ensure peace in the world as he admires mutants but also fears them as he would create the Sentinels in the hope that it would save the human race. Yet, he would be unaware of what his creation would do as his impending death would only mean more trouble which adds to the dramatic stakes of the film. Wolverine becomes a much more prominent character in the film as he is someone that does carry a lot of emotional baggage as he understands what the younger Xavier, Erik, and Raven are going through. Just as Xavier had helped guide him when he was lost, Wolverine realizes he must do the same thing to the younger Xavier who had lost so much hope over everything as Wolverine has to remind him of an even bleaker future where the young Xavier would meet his older version as the latter needs him to hope again. It would prompt Xavier to reach out to Raven and Erik in the third act to tell them what is at stake in this very spectacular climax.

Bryan Singer’s direction is very sprawling in terms of not just the set pieces and different time periods that is presented. It’s also a film where it is about the stakes of a small number of mutants trying to survive this dystopian and apocalyptic world. Much of the direction has Singer not only use a lot of wide shots to display the look of a bleak world where the X-Men are in China awaiting for the last stand against the Sentinels. There’s also some unique medium shots where the characters are placed in the frame while Kitty is sitting in a chair as she is taking Wolverine back in time through his consciousness. Singer’s direction for the scenes set in 1973 has a mixture of different aspect ratios and footage as it plays to a place in time where things are less complicated but it’s in a world that is on the brink of Armageddon.

While Singer would inject some humors such as a very powerful sequence where Xavier, the young Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Wolverine help Leshnerr break out of prison with the help of a mutant known as Quicksilver (Evan Peters). It is still an action-suspense film where it takes place in various locations such as the U.S., France, China, and other places as it is a very worldly film where a lot is happening. Some of it would involve the fallout over the Vietnam War as well as this climax in Washington, D.C. where Xavier, Beast, and Logan have to stop Raven and Magneto in their separate pursuits to kill which is also showcase in parallel to the final battle between the X-Men and the Sentinels in the future. Overall, Singer crafts a very spectacular and engrossing film about a group of mutants trying to band together to stop their own extinction from happening.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography from the bleak look of fortress where the X-Men makes their last stand with its low-key lights to the more vibrant and colorful look of the scenes in 1973. Editor/music composer John Ottman does fantastic work with the editing with its stylistic approach to rhythmic cutting to play into the action and suspense while his music score is filled with some bombastic orchestral arrangements to play into suspense and drama while the soundtrack features songs from Roberta Flack, Jim Croce, and other artists from the 70s. Production designer John Myhre, with set decorator Gordon Sim and supervising art director Michele Laliberte, does amazing work with the set pieces from the Chinese fortress where the X-Men make their last stand to the prison that Magneto lived in as well as the school that Xavier used to run as it becomes a place of ruins.

Costume designer Louise Mingenbach does wonderful work with the costumes from the 70s clothing the characters wear in the 1970s sequence to the leather-uniform of the X-Men as they make their final stand. Visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers does brilliant work with the visual effects from the design of the Sentinels to the look of the dystopian world where the X-Men are at. Sound designers Craig Berkey, Warren Hendricks, and Chuck Michael, with co-sound editor John A. Larsen, do superb work with the sound from the way the Sentinels sound when they use their weapons to the layers of sound effects that occur in the action sequences.

The casting by Roger Mussenden is great for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small appearances from Lucas Till as Havok, Josh Helman as a young William Stryker, Mark Camacho as President Richard Nixon, and Michael Lerner as a senator concerned about the Sentinels program. Other noteworthy performances that are major standouts include Omar Sy as Bishop, Fan Bingbing as Blink, Daniel Cudmore as Colossus, Shawn Ashmore as Bobby/Ice Man, Adan Canto as Sunspot, Booboo Stewart as Warpath, and Halle Berry in a terrific performance as Storm as she helps lead the other mutants for the final stand. Evan Peters is fantastic as Quicksilver as a mutant who is known for his speed as helps out Wolverine, Hank, and Xavier retrieve Magneto while Nicholas Hoult is superb as the young Hank McCoy/Beast who watches the young Xavier while using his powers when he needed as he would often spar with Magneto.

Ellen Page is excellent as Kitty Pryde as the mutant who can walk and run through objects while having the ability to put mutants back in time through their consciousness as she deals with what she had to do. Peter Dinklage is pretty good as Bolivar Trask though his character is a bit underwritten as he’s not a full-fledge villain but one that is just simply afraid of mutants but also has admiration for them. Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as Raven Darkholme/Mystique as a former companion of Xavier and Leshnerr who is torn between their respective ideals while eager to assassinate Trask unaware of what she will do and what will happen to her. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are amazing in their respective roles as the older Xavier and Magneto as two men who try to maintain their survival while displaying their own regret over the schism that tore them apart.

Michael Fassbender is brilliant as the young Magneto as a man who still filled with a lot of rage and frustration as he wants to wipe out the human race over not trusting the mutants while also wanting to kill Raven in an attempt to stop the future from happening. James McAvoy is incredible as the young Xavier as a young man ravaged by grief and bitterness as he refuses to see what lays ahead for him as he realizes the fears he has to face in order to save the world. Finally, there’s Hugh Jackman in a remarkable performance as Logan/Wolverine as the mutant who can attack with his metallic claws and heal pretty fast as he is sent back in time to convince Xavier and Magneto to come together while being aware that he’s the last person that can convince them considering the emotional baggage that he carries.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a phenomenal film from Bryan Singer. Thanks to its ensemble cast, unique concept, and sprawling visuals, it’s a film that has all of the tropes of a blockbuster film while also being a film that is smart and not wanting to take itself too seriously despite its grim tone. It’s also a film that manages to stand on its own in comparison to films of the franchise where it shows some clips from previous films but also allows enough ideas into what to expect from the characters and such. In the end, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a sensational film from Bryan Singer.

X-Men Films: X-Men - X2: X-Men United - X-Men III: The Last Stand - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - X-Men: First Class - The Wolverine - X-Men: Apocalypse - Logan (2017 film) - Deadpool 2 – (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) - (New Mutants)

© thevoid99 2014


Alex Withrow said...

Great review man, so cool that you dug this one. I saw this film the day it came out, and there’s something about that I still don’t get. So I’m wondering if you could help me out.

How much time passed in the present, while Ellen Page was doing her flashback thing to Wolverine? In the past, it seems like at least 5 or 6 days pass, but in the present, it only seems like an hour or two. Did I miss a line a dialogue that explained some sort of Inception-like time slow motion… thing? Or I should I just leave this one alone and right it off as one of those things?

thevoid99 said...

I think it's one of those things which didn't get explained. I didn't pay attention to that though I think it happened in hours or something. I don't know. Then again, maybe they left that information out in case it would require too much exposition.