October 23, 2014

Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past is Oddly Familiar

 

Big cast, bigger story yield small results.

PHOTO BY ALAN MERKFIELD

Film: <i>X-Men: Days of Future Past</i> is Oddly Familiar

Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) play a game of chess in X-Men:Days of Future Past from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Bottom line, X-Men: Days of Future Past is good. Casual fans will like it and comic book guys will pay the price of admission based on the film title and the post credits scene alone. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, the caffeine-free Diet Coke, Splenda/NutraSweet aftertaste that permeates what should be a top-five comic book movie is distracting. Beneath the sentinels and time warps, X-Men: Days of Future Past is more of a reflection of today’s business model than the amazing story it should’ve been.

Serving as a sequel to both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s X-Men: First Class, Future Past wasn’t a story that needed to be told right now artistically. The film is effective in bridging the gap, cleaning house and setting the path for future film franchises, that’s all. This has been done before and better (Marvel Films, Joss Whedon), but this is the first time that it’s done so blantantly.

Beginning with petrified dialogue, director Bryan Singer introduces horrible exposition that ignores the film’s namesake for modifications to the story. In a dystopian future (as all futures are), sentinels have nearly wiped out all mutants save for a small band of X-Men. Magneto (Ian McKellan/Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart/ James McAvoy) come to the conclusion that in order to evade their present, they need to send Wolverine (the ageless Hugh Jackman) back to the early 1970s to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), inventor of the sentinels. Somewhere, James Cameron is seeking legal counsel.

The film is connected to the classic, eponymous comic in name only. Future Past is reverse-engineered and manufactured to the point that the only question was not if, but how much money is going to be made.

With this film and this particular story, fans question not if this film will be good but will it live up to expectations. Sadly, the answer is no.

Let’s start from the top. Director Bryan Singer returns after first-class director Matthew Vaughn dropped out. Singer also brought back his metallic, drab and hermetic style which is sad, considering Vaughn’s film was so good with its sense of style and location. Similarly, the best moments of Future Past come from the '70s, not the future.

Hopefully, Apocalypse and the Channing Tatum-led Gambit can carry the franchise because watching Jackman and Co. is exhausting. If Fox is trying to cop Marvel’s idea of a cinematic universe, it would make sense to have characters headline films instead of the same old-same old. How many times can Hugh Jackman make a claw joke or Storm look concerned? The breakout performance was Evan Peters as the speedy mutant, Quicksilver. Breakout is an understatement. He owned every scene he was in.

In Future Past, Beast poses an interesting question about whether their future dystopia could be averted or delayed. That thought has a cryptic and Meta quality about the X-Men franchise itself. With these new cinematic universes that are being created, it’s a lot like fake wrestling. Fans are so devoted that they know the business aspect as well as what’s on screen and that it’s hard to write for marks, smart or otherwise.

Days of Future Past fails in that it gives you everything you want and nothing you don’t. If Bryan Singer only meant for that to be so bittersweet.