Friday, June 6, 2014

Needs More Quicksilver

X-Men: Days of Future Past: adapted by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, and Jane Goldman from the comic-book story by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin; directed by Bryan Singer; starring Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), James McAvoy/Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellan (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven/Mystique), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Peter Dinklage (Trask), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Halle Berry (Storm), Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Omar Sy (Bishop), Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Bingbing Fan (Blink), Adan Canto (Sunspot), and Booboo Stewart (Warpath) (2014):

A relatively sprawling movie adapted from a 34-page comic-book story from the early 1980's which itself took its title from a Brian Eno album, X-Men: Days of Future Past follows up the good work done by X-Men: First Class in making X-Men movies enjoyable again after the debacle that was the Brett Ratner-directed X-Men: The Last Stand and the twin thuds of the solo Wolverine movies.

Brian Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies that really kicked off the Marvel Movie Juggernaut starting in the year 2000, returns to the series with his limited colour palette and earnest tone. Well, mostly earnest. The best scene in the movie features some very funny super-heroics set to Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle."

It's the best scene from any Bryan Singer movie, ever, and so show-stopping that the rest of the movie seems somewhat workmanlike by comparison. If anyone had said before the movie's release that the mutant speedster Quicksilver would steal the movie in a good way, I think that person would have been committed. But he's great. The movie needs more of him. Hell, the X-Men needed more of him by the conclusion.

Time travel drives the plot here. The original comic-book story predated both Back to the Future and The Terminator movies, so save your comments on who's stealing from whom. Wolverine, everybody's favourite veiny Canadian mutant, must travel from the dystopic near-future to the early 1970's to save mutants and humanity alike from a dire fate at the hands of a bunch of levitating sand-crawlers that disgorge endless streams of killer robots. Once in the past, Wolverine teams up with the young versions of Professor X and Magneto; in the future, they stand together despite their differences in the past.

Jennifer Lawrence is given a lot to do this time, as the plot hinges on what her character. Mystique, decides about her path in life. Sometimes she's in her scaly blue body-suit and sometimes she looks like Jennifer Lawrence. So it goes. Much super-heroing and angsting ensues, all of it in the mode that Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Dave Cockrum brought to those 1970's and early 1980's X-Men adventures.

Not everything works, and the plot could use about one fewer transAtlantic trip towards the end, but enough works to make things pretty enjoyable. Peter Dinklage is a bit wasted as a one-note villain, but he does what he can. And the design on the future Sentinels really is top-notch. They're actually scary. Recommended.

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