After I made the grievous error of missing the superb X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) during its theatrical run — an intentional move spurred by my disinterest in the three previous X-Men movies and the ridiculous X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (which was so bad that it became amusing) — I was psyched for a followup but when I saw the trailers and other preview footage for X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST over the past few months, my enthusiasm dwindled to virtually nil. To be blunt, it looked like shit, what with the trailers' focus on the characters from the first films (the majority of whom I felt were miscast in a big way from the get-go, especially Halle Berry's bland Storm) and the special effects making everything look like a demo reel for a video game tie-in. In fact, I was so turned off that over the past two weeks I'd pretty much decided to give it a miss. Well, hoo-boy, am I glad I suddenly got the urge to check out the 11:20pm show at the Court Street Stadium 12! X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is a terrific sequel to FIRST CLASS and the ho-hum X-characters are barely in it.
Taking the classic titular comics story arc as its template (and altering some of the details in ways that actually work), the basic plot deals with Wolverine's future consciousness being sent back in time to inhabit his body in 1973, in order to convince young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric "Magneto" Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) that they need to stop a justifiably vengeful Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from committing a murder that will spell the doom of all mutantkind in a hellish future timeline. The target of her assassination scheme is Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a genius at weapons design, robotics, and genetics, who has developed the Sentinels, towering automatons that detect and exterminate mutants with extreme prejudice. As Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto, and Hank "the Beast" McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) face a number of very daunting snags in their mission, the X-Men of a half-century in the future hope for the success of Wolverine's quest as highly-advanced, super-adaptable iterations of the Sentinels close in with the most terminal of intent.
That's it in a nutshell and the film's 131-minute running time is never dull, giving us a solid script and performances, spiced with appearances by a good number of X-Men familiar from the previous entries and the comics. Among the elements of note:
- After ages of superheroes being portrayed as squeaky-clean in just about every way, it's a breath of fresh air to hear some of this film's protagonists use character-appropriate profanity, and it's also nice to see Wolverine smoking cigars like he's supposed to. (Hey, the guy was never meant to be a role model. Well, at least not during the years in the comics that indelibly defined him as a character and fan-favorite.)
- The X-Men from the first three movies, plus some lesser mutants, are only seen in sequences taking place in the future, which comprises about ten or twelve minutes of scattered screen time. A wise move on the part of the filmmakers because the stuff taking place with the other characters in 1973 is infinitely more interesting.
- Though he looked quite awful in all of the pre-release material, I'm shocked to admit that I loved the modernizing/re-imagining of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Marvel's best-known super-speedster, Quicksilver can easily be described as the Flash if the Flash were a dick, and that aspect is still evident here, though his dickishness is kind of endearing because in this iteration he's a juvenile delinquent. I'm curious to see how he's handled in THE AVENGERS 2.
- Peter Dinklage's casting as Bolivar Trask has less to do with him being an ideal choice to embody Trask than it probably has to do with the filmmakers seeking to draw in some of his GAME OF THRONES fan base. And while there could have been a lot done with the idea of a little person crafting an army of murderous giant robots and the psychological/emotional ramifications of that, nothing is done with it. Nonetheless, it's Dinklage and he's always a welcome screen presence.
Simply put, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is absolutely worth your time and money. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, and make sure to stay through the end credits for an Easter egg that you'll need your comics geek friends to explain to you.