Days of Future Past is the (nonsensical) X-Men movie we’ve been waiting for

DOFP posterAs you read this review, please keep in mind that I loved X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s everything a summer movie should be—fun, engaging, funny, exciting, entertaining, full of likeable characters and stakes that feel like they matter. I’m about to say a lot of stuff that’s actually critical of the movie, so it’s important to remember that DOFP works in spite of itself, and it’s tremendously fun along the way. It’s just that it makes no fucking sense.

Hands down the best thing done by DOFP is retcon the two worst movies in the franchise, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I think they might have also accidentally retconned last summer’s The Wolverine, too, if only because I’m still not quite sure on how the time travel thing worked. Definitely don’t start thinking about the mechanics of the time travel, you’ll give yourself a migraine. I mean, how does the future know when Wolverine has “fixed” the past, anyway? Was there some kind of magical checkpoint, or a paradoxical moment? The whole point was to save Trask but he does that halfway through the movie but then more stuff keeps happen—no. Stop it.

DOFP is about a future in which giant mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels have basically destroyed the planet. Only a handful of mutants are left to fight them, which coincidentally happen to be mutants we’ve met in previous X-Men movies, like Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Storm (Halle Berry) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and some other mutants you’ve never heard of before, such as Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart) and Bishop (Omar Sy). They went deep on the mutant bench for this one. Everyone’s powers are realized beautifully (fucking finally, an all-powerful Storm!), except for Warpath. I still have no idea how his power works in the movie. Whatever—everyone looks cool.

The future is very blue apparently.

The future is very blue apparently.

So, in the future, Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine back in time in order—because she has that power now?—to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, criminally underused), the guy who invents the Sentinels. He has to find the young versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively) and unite them in order to stop Mystique. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg wisely keeps this exposition breezy and director Bryan Singer keeps the pace clipping along quickly enough for us to buy this explanation, at least until Trask is saved and yet the past keeps happening and the future isn’t changed and WTF, no. Stop it.

Professor X

McAvoy and Fassbender remain the best parts of the entire X-Men franchise. As in 2011’s First Class, they elevate every scene they’re in, turning popcorn fare into something a little more substantial. When Charles rages at Magneto for what he perceives as the ruin of his life, you feel every ounce of frustrated rage McAvoy projects (and yes, he keeps his “James McAvoy snots everywhere” streak alive). Fassbender is charismatic enough as Magneto that he’s hella fun to watch as he slides into supervillainy. Dinklage makes much of the little he’s given to do, but I’m still confused as to why Trask hates mutants. He thinks fighting mutants is a way to finally unite humanity, fine, but what is his particular reason for hating mutants in the first place? Trask is a severely undercooked villain, so it’s a good thing the meat of the movie is the ongoing conflict between Charles and Magneto, and not Trask’s “let’s create world peace by murdering a bunch of mutants” plan.

Magneto

Lawrence, however, is miscast. She worked well enough in First Class, but DOFP shows her as the lone wolf Mystique more than as Charles’ adopted little sister, Raven. When she’s indulging in her humanity, Lawrence can be effective, but she projects no sense of danger or mystery as Mystique. Charles is trying desperately to prevent her from becoming a deadly assassin, but Lawrence never seems all that threatening. She’s stiff and wooden in her blue body paint, and I found Mystique terribly disappointing in this outing. If this is what we have to look forward to in a solo Mystique movie, count me out.

Quicksilver

The action in DOFP is great, though. The best sequence is when Charles and Wolverine break Magneto out of jail with the help of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). His costuming is still ridiculous, but the way Singer visualized Quicksilver’s power—running really fast—is pretty brilliant. It creates the tightest, most fun scene in the whole movie. It’s also fun in the final scene to see the restored future, including the return of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Scott Summers (dreamboat James Marsden). And wait, shouldn’t Wolverine have remembered both pasts? Wouldn’t he have mind-jumped forward into his “new” future-body, thus inheriting new-future-Wolverine’s memories of the new-futur—NO. STOP IT.

Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past is slick fun, in the tradition of slick, fun summer movies. Just don’t start thinking about the plot, because it won’t hold together. Focus instead on McAvoy and Fassbender, who carry the movie like it’s motherfucking Shakespeare, and on the fact that we can now pretend like X3 didn’t happen and maybe get a do-over on that whole Phoenix Saga thing.

Trucker Jesus blesses this movie.

Trucker Jesus blesses this movie.

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9 Responses to “Days of Future Past is the (nonsensical) X-Men movie we’ve been waiting for”

  1. “Focus instead on McAvoy and Fassbender, who carry the movie like it’s motherfucking Shakespeare.” Dead on. I would watch McAvoy and Fassbender in acting out phone book ads, they would probably do it just as well as they carried this movie.

  2. Agent K Says:

    I unabashedly loved this movie. X Men was always my jam far more than any other comic book movie; (love the Dark Knight series but more as pure drama than genre) (love the Avengers series as a joyful ride but never felt much emotional investment in it). To see the worst of the series ret-conned away was joy. I know you can’t think about it too hard and I just don’t want too!

    Sign of a great movie; I’m already anticipating the sequel. Although Magneto needs to go at least semi-good so Fassbender and McAvoy can have more screen time together with their “I love you my brother but you are my enemy” interplay. They are glorious. I had a feeling Lawrence would have been better if she had someone to play off of. I don’t think she works as a lone wolf.

    So is Erik really Quicksilver’s daddy or what? ;-)

    • The problem is, Mystique is supposed to work as a lone wolf. She follows Magneto’s philosophy, but she’s her own agent. So if you can’t make her compelling by herself, it’s a problem. Also, JLaw is boring and flat in the Hunger Games movies. I suspect she’s just phoning it in when it comes to blockbuster stuff. It’s just business and paychecks for her. Which is fine, whatever, but at least let yourself have fun with it (a la Fassbender and McAvoy).

      The movie definitely implied that Magneto is Quicksilver’s dad. I liked where that set up was going, a lot. I can see Charles and Erik fighting over Peter’s soul, as it were, in the next one.

      • Agent K Says:

        Yeah that is true about Mystique, but given that there is no chance they get rid of her I would like to see them use her effectively in this version. Maybe they can have her drawn in as one of Apocalypse’s horsemen in the next one to change things up a bit?

        I loved the we don’t see Erik, Mystique, or Peter at the end in the future (I think just those three?). Evil? All dead? Is Erik down the hall teaching English Literature? They managed to close out the original characters beautifully but still leave some suspense for the ultimate fate of the “First Class” timeline.

        Also call me crazy or did Erik actually keep his word to Charles not to kill anyone? I started to wonder when he just knocked out the guards on the way to get his helmet and had the sentinels shoot at parked cars and not the people fleeing. I couldn’t figure out if that was deliberate or just “PG-13″ necessary.

  3. I am in a state of moral and emotional confusion about fassbender and will remain in it for the rest of 2014 if he plays his cards right. I dk if it’s the effects of dating another asshole or what, but he is actually likable in the every interview and every public outing. WHAT IS HAPPENING ?

  4. […] The best movie up till now was X-Men: Days of Future Past, a well-made and very fun movie that made no fucking sense. But now it is now, not then, and now we have the first—only—truly great summer movie of 2014: […]

  5. I’m still trying to realize what was Magneto’s role in the entire movie beyond screw the entire plan of stop Mistique and eradicate an entire stadium only for… Godknowswhy. It seems that the great villain of the movie is Magneto (‘s stupidity) so… why, in the name of whatever, did Wolvie and Charles free him from jail?!?

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