Friday, 23 May 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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The X-Men film series has been "hit-and-miss" throughout the years, from the successful but not particularly great X-Men (2000) and X-Men United (2003), the mediocre and pointless Wolverine spin-off films (2009 and 2013), the terrible Last Stand (2006), to the exceptional First Class prequel (2011). It's been 14 years long since Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men film that kick-started the whole franchise. This time around, he's back again to direct the franchise's 7th instalment (His third X-Men film), Days of Future Past.

Loosely adapted from the 1981 Chris Claremont and John Byrne comic storyline of the same name, Days of Future Past intends to bridge the gap between the original trilogy of films and First Class, melding together the disjointed history of the X-Men world, erasing or fixing certain plot holes, continuity errors and inconsistencies that exist in the franchise, start anew and open up possibilities for future films. With that being said, this is considered the most epic and ambitious taking of the X-Men films to date.

Days of Future Past succeeds by fulfilling its long-term promise and achieve the 'impossible'. This film wouldn't work without a solid foundation laid over throughout the years. We have known some of these characters for so long (4 films, 2 spin-offs) that we can identify with them strongly. Fans would definitely be pleased with the numerous cameo appearances of Marvel characters in the film as well.

Because the film involves time travel (a story that jumps back and forth between 2023 and 1973), it is intensely plot-driven, linking the events that happened in past films together with historical events as part of the story. There's a brief mention of a character's involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy which leads to a prison break; a violent confrontation at the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 which leads to the creation of the Sentinels; the attempt of killing Richard Nixon. The film has decent pacing and story flow, successfully integrating both future and past timelines together, avoiding many of the typical time paradoxes without overcomplicating the story.

The film takes the best thing about the X-Men and show it to the audience: taking all these 'gifted' individuals and make them into a team, watch how they face and solve issues inherent to teamwork. Forget The Avengers. This film has two generation of mutants from two different timelines (14 of them) teaming up trying to prevent an apocalyptic future that could mean the extinction of both mutants and humans.

Finally, Marvel fans get to see how these individuals complement one another in terms of power, weakness and personality by teaming up to fight against an army of mutant-hunting Sentinels in order to survive. There's one amazing action sequence in the past involving Quicksilver, which is probably one of the film's highlights. The way he infiltrates and stages the prison break from a highly-secured Pentagon cell is simply brilliant. Not to mention, the song that comes with the scene is spot-on as well.

While many would have thought that this film is overcrowded with characters, but this is not the case. The film cleverly focuses on young Xavier's character arc, which acts as the central story that ties the various subplots and relates all the characters together into a single cohesive narrative, watching him go from a guy who lost nearly everything...his legs, his best friend, his adopted sister, his students due to the Vietnam War (his school as well) to a guy who will become the powerful, wise, compassionate teacher and leader of the X-Men in the future. There's a wonderfully shot, exceptionally acted, heartfelt moment in the film...the conversation between the young and old Xavier. “Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, doesn't mean that they're lost forever...Please...Charles, we need you to hope again...” pleads the older and wiser Xavier, with emotional heft and gravitas to his broken and disheartened younger self.

However, the franchise has yet to provide a compelling central villain that poses a huge threat to the X-Men. The series have always been repeatedly dwelling with themes of discrimination, prejudice and social injustice...with the human race always in conflict with the mutants. (This will soon change in the next sequel) There's another gripe regarding the CGI effects presented in the film. Some of the shots aren't realistic enough and shown to be rather sloppy, which is definitely not to be expected from a high-budget Hollywood blockbuster film.

In my opinion, it is the best X-Men film in the franchise so far (better than First Class). This film have left me incredibly hopeful for the upcoming sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse. A highly recommended film.

Rating: 9/10

Note: As usual with many Marvel films, please stay for the after-credits scene. It's rather important for what's about to come for the sequel.

For Days of Future Past character list, please take a look at my previous post:

For better understanding, the following links shows the X-Men movie timeline: 

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” - Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States

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