X-Men: Days Of Future Past
No worthwhile discussion of an X-Men film can exist without a fair amount of criticism, so let’s lay it all upfront. Brian Singer’s comic aesthetic is a vestigial leftover of the original film from 2000. Drab metallic suits and lifeless characterisations may have made sense in a time where comic book films were risky studio endeavours, but in a market saturated with vibrant costumes and immediately endearing performances, Days Of Future Past is plain fucking ugly. Which is a crying shame, because while the reboot cast is an exponential improvement, the film is a visual wasteland. Case and point is the character design on the really god-awful Quicksilver, who’s been plucked from the canon for no reason other than to facilitate what is, admittedly, a fun slow-motion set-piece. That stupid silver jacket though. Most of these effectively executed action set pieces fall to the wayside due to a lack of any visual hooks.
Scripted by Simon Kinberg, Days of Future Past dishes out some truly serviceable time travel mechanics and, much to his credit, they’re as detailed and as vague as they need to be. They’re fleshed out enough to imbue the narrative with a real sense of urgency, but shallow enough to distort and manipulate wherever they need a hit of continuity. However, as with the previous X-entries, the tone oscillates wildly. You have flat-out childish slapstick antics thrown at you, quickly followed by a shockingly violent action scene. Emotional beats end up being struck a little too hard in an attempt to tie this barrage together and the hinging point of this entire narrative, Mystique’s ultimate act of defiance, feels overdrawn.
And really, Days Of Future Past is probably the strongest X-Men film to date. The source material earns the film a plethora of wonderful motivations that truly lend it a more cinematic air. Even baddie-Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask gets a nice Darwinian platitude. Without the inclination to fill in gaps or explain anything, Singer’s direction (though iffy in the past) handles the converging timelines with complete fluidity. The smart choice is made to stick with the reboot cast, all of whom give the visual blandness some well-needed vibrancy. James McAvoy plays the broken Xavier like Jim Morrison after a huge bender and to see a fallible side to the character is one of the bigger draws for the film. His arc is the most complete and touching in the whole story, with a nice ‘struggle to overcome your own shortcomings for the betterment of mutant-kind’ shtick. In fact, all of the main characters get their own unique moment - not in any showboating superhero way - but in a grounded, human way. Of note is Beast, who is, at one point, trapped in front of an international media frenzy and can’t escape. These little touches keep the film from falling completely flat. Less compelling, however, is Wolverine, who mills about muscularly, without anything of worth to say or learn or do.
Days Of Future Past straddles the bridge between awkward missing link and rollicking popcorn flick mostly successfully. It has a clear sense of fun as Singer revels in a creative space that, by its very nature, is completely transient. Everything that happens on-screen effectively erases everything that has preceded it. Essentially this film is the meeting place of Hugh Jackman’s pecs and Jennifer Lawrence, which, in and of itself, is an event that makes all of this retcon worthwhile.