Sunday, June 08, 2014

Movie Review: "X-Men: Days of Future Past"

What's past is prologue.

The sequel to 2011's pretty good X-Men: First Class is even better as it brings Wolverine center stage for a daring mission to the past in order to prevent a disastrous future.  Icing on the cake: the past is the 70s.  Get ready for all the wide collars, long hair, and polyester you can handle, my darlings (American Hustle should have helped prepare you!), and enjoy a rollicking story with all your old favorites, a fascinating villain, and, perhaps best of all, the delightful surprise of a supporting character who absolutely steals the show.

Let me just get this over with, because the fashion commentator in me is dying to yell, "OMG, LOOK AT THESE OUTFITS! THE FASHION'S SO BAD IT'S ... GOOD?"

Hank McCoy's fugly olive green suede outfit is just beastly.  Wow, Wolverine, your lapel corners are even sharper than your hair.  Also: Professor X, wearing that shirt with that jacket?  You're a brave man.

OK, OK, if I think the 70s' strong suit wasn't fashion (get it? suit? ba dum tsssh), then I have to say that they absolutely nailed the music.  It shows up in the movie soundtrack, and in one scene, if you pay attention, you can see that one character is wearing a big Pink Floyd t-shirt.

As for the cast, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique is as good as ever, though you don't actually see enough of her because she spends so much of the movie shapeshifting into other people.  Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame is unscrupulous scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask (get an eyeful of that vintage mustache!  Magnum P.I. is green with envy).  As for the scene-stealing supporting character, I'm not going to say anything, because I don't want to spoil it any more than I already have.

Hugh Jackman is back as Wolverine, and as good as he is in his grumpy, gruff way, the movie really needs the troubled friendship ("frenemy-ship"?) of Charles Xavier-Professor X and Eric Lehnsherr-Magneto, played in youth by the beautiful pair of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and in age by the unspeakably splendid pair of real-life BFFs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  Here's a delightful publicity shot:

Charles in his depression, painful doubt, and psychological, even spiritual, angst is well offset by Eric's rage, inflexible will, and terrible certainty.  For being a superhero comic book movie, this flick at least attempts to engage emotional complexity, moral ambiguity, and the idea of unintended consequences.  The X-Men have always been a metaphor for people who are different and who are feared and hated for that difference.  The great thing about the storytelling is that the mutants themselves are a varied group, and individuals are wrestling with moral and ethical and personal issues.

A few gripes: I thought there were just way too many characters running around, with the result that some of the X-Men got short shrift.  One doesn't even get dialogue.  Elsewhere the dystopian future looks like every other dystopian future with the tenet that military tech and A.I. get away from their creators and users.  Also: dissing Richard Nixon is just too easy and struck me as a kind of a cheap shot.  The bit about JFK was clever, though.

Overall, though, this is a fine, fun film, so please make X-Men: Days of Future Past part of your present.

Mad Minerva gives X-Men: Days of Future Past a grade of A+.

RottenTomatoes gives the movie the bona fide Fresh rating of 92%.

X-Men: Days of Future Past runs 131 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, a bit of language, and blue-painted nudity.

Here's the trailer:

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