Monday, May 26, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer)

Wolverine to Mystique: "Let's reboot this shit, bub!"

Before anything else, let me just say, with utter conviction, that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is not the masterful “X-Men” movie that many people are making it out to be, because Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” is leagues better. And, yes, screw those who think otherwise. I’m not kidding. No, really, I’m just playing with you. Now stop staring at me as if I killed Kennedy!

Seriously though, while I don’t really get the enormous hype surrounding this film, I understand why it’s easy for people to label this one as the greatest “X-Men” movie out there. Of course, one of the obvious reasons is its merging of the actors from the original trilogy and those from the prequel into one tremendous ensemble cast. Another is Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise after Brett Ratner and Gavin Hood have turned it into a watered-down joke (even now, I still can’t believe what they did to Deadpool *shudders*). Superficial reasons, those two.

But with that being said, I think it’s quite fair to say that you still can’t go wrong with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” in terms of entertainment, which is often kept crisp by its ambitious thematic flourishes. Yet sadly, narrative issues prevent it from truly being superior to its predecessors. Though this qualm of mine can be heavily attributed to the film’s complete disregard for continuity issues and character inconsistencies (the last time I checked, Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat enters walls, not people’s minds), what I’m pretty sure about is that this is the densest “X-Men” movie of the bunch. However, it has so much going on with it that instead of its narrative strands adding up for a highly satisfactory experience, there’s a feeling that the film, as a whole, never really pushed the envelope further when there’s more than enough space for it. In some ways, Bryan Singer, with a potential super-epic in his hands, has squandered the chance by instead playing it safe, with his intention not on delivering a staggering superhero masterwork but only on rebooting the very franchise he himself has initially helmed. Like a social worker who has handed out a pack of salty instant noodles to a hungry, malnourished refugee, Bryan Singer has fed the franchise and gave it an additional jolt of life, but nothing really long-term, for its continuity issues will always come back to haunt it.

The film, as what is admittedly posh among superhero movies nowadays to bolster their cinematic self-importance, heavily tinkers with history, and for that, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” instantly elevates itself as a different kind of superhero film. But unlike “Watchmen”, for example, which maximizes its use of historical events by integrating them within a most potent and well-built alternate reality, “Days of Future Past’s” dose of history is but a nostalgic ornament, used only to support the story’s “Terminator-like” time-travel gimmick. Also, the way the story tells us that Magneto is involved in JFK’s assassination, unlike how “X-Men: First Class” fits perfectly into the whole Cold War subplot, is a bit forced and inorganic, especially when, you know, “Watchmen” has already made use of that shocking historical event as an interesting plot nugget some years ago. Though on a positive note, they absolutely nailed Richard Nixon this time around without using much prosthetic on the nose part.

In addition, the plot also seems to be so focused on Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) being this fate-altering wildcard that Magneto, somnambulistically played by Michael Fassbender, has no choice but to relegate himself to a side villain role despite the fact that the story, if logic is to be followed, dictates that he should be fighting alongside Charles Xavier for survival’s sake. Instead, what he did was telephatically lift a big-ass football stadium, drop it on the White House to trap Richard Nixon and Henry Kiss-Ass-inger, among others, and discourse about mutant respect while being a bit of an ass about it. With him being listed as the number one greatest comic book villain of all time in a list I’ve read quite a long time ago, Bryan Singer and company should have known that Magneto is much better (and wiser) than that. And don’t tell me that he’s merely being his younger, reckless self in this film to excuse his nonsensical Mojo Jojo-like actions. Man, Joker was already as sharp as a shiv and on the brink of breaking both Batman’s sanity and the entire moral fiber of Gotham in “The Dark Knight” and he was not even 30 yet during that time.

But despite all those (it’s really not possible to write a review about this film filled with nothing but rants), the franchise (not just this film) was still more than successful in rebooting itself without recasting any major lead characters or starting from scratch again. When the whole superhero world is scrambling on fast-tracking a remake of this and a reboot of that, the “X-Men” franchise has remained confident about the universe it has built, privy of the numerous shit it has churned out but also aware of the gems it has intermittently created all throughout these years. Though Rebecca Romjin’s blue-scaled seductress will always be my Mystique and Ray Park’s tongue-lashing badass my Toad, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, though slightly uncalled for, has made the necessary changes to make the franchise more appealing to a new generation of audience. I mean, come on, who would not want to see Jennifer Lawrence in an uber-fit bodysuit?

But on a more serious note, given the film’s star-studded cast, I was surprised that there really weren't any standout performances in it, except for Evan Peters, maybe, who truly rocked his Quicksilver turn, specifically in THAT one scence, which would give the Wachowski siblings a run for their money. Go watch it for yourself. Tyrion Lannister, err, Peter Dinklage, also shines as the hard-to-hate villain Bolivar Trask, who just wants to murder millions to save billions by way of his giant sentinel dudes. Such a sweetie, this guy is, “Watchmen’s” Ozymandias will be happy. A little trivia: Trask was first played by Bill Duke (!) in “X-Men: The Last Stand”. Google him if you may. Now that’s some epic recast.

The CGI fight sequences, although good, are oftentimes too dark and hard to follow, and the sentinels’ bodies sometimes contort in physiologically unrealistic ways. And, seriously, do they really need to recast William Stryker again? I know, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is pure dung, but Danny Huston has done a more than decent job in portraying Stryker in it that they should have just used him again instead.

All in all, though I have lots of complaints toward “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film for what it is, which is an ambitious, thinking man’s superhero film. In the end, it all comes down to two things as to why I never liked the film that much: either I just was never a fan of “X-Men”, or I am just a much bigger fan of proper narrative continuity.

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