Friday, May 23, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

While I'm a huge fan of superheroes and comic books, I've never gotten into X-Men, mainly because it's just a big soap opera at its best and heavy handed propaganda at its worst. Fortunately, the movies focus more on the story and character exploration and aren't as heavy handed with the preachy messages, although plenty of that jumps out in your face.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a 2014 live action, science fiction, superhero movie rated PG-13 for violence, killing, nudity, language, and a few tense scenes. It's appropriate for teens and older. It is a continuation of the X-Men story seen in the previous six films.

The Good

The Story. The story was solid and the movie did not deviate or go off onto any unnecessary tangents. It was interesting, original, and true to the spirit of the comics and the previous films. It moved at a great pace never going too fast or too slow. Everything was explained well, but not overexplained.

Use of Characters. When I heard who was cast in the movie and which characters were being used, I was very worried that it would be a jumbled mess with too many character and too little screen time. Fortunately, the film focused on a handful of main characters and followed their story. Most of the other characters were still given a respectable amount of screen time and something important to do so they didn't feel like mere cameos. The two characters who did appear at the end as mere cameos only needed to show up for a few seconds to make their impact. A cast of characters this large could not have been handled better.

Ties to Previous Movies. When X-Men: First Class came out, I wondered if it was a relaunch of the franchise and would ignore all previous movies as so many others have (I'm pointing my finger at you Dark Knight and Amazing Spider-man). Fortunately, the previous six movies were all woven into this movie with their events being essential to this one and several clips shown as flashbacks. I really appreciated that. It made the story that much richer. And being a time travel story, they could believably undo parts of previous movies and did.

Character Development. I really enjoyed seeing the different sides of characters portrayed by two different actors at two different stages of their lives. You really got inside of their heads and understood what they were going thru. The only one who seemed short changed was young Magneto, but after all we saw of him in First Class, I don't know that we needed to see much more in this movie.

Ties to History. As with X-Men: First Class, this one ties into two major events in history, the Kennedy assassination and the end of the Vietnam War, and integrates its story seamlessly into those events without disrespecting what really happened and without requiring too great a stretch of the imagination.

Apocalypse. The next movie has been announced, so I'm not spoiling anything by saying the coda after the credits featuring Apocalypse was one of the most satisfying and meaningful teasers yet. I'm excited to see what they'll do with that movie.

The Bad

Charles Xavier's Change of Heart. One of the main themes and story lines revolved around Charles Xavier and his struggle to deal with what he considered his failures. I loved and appreciated everything about how he was portrayed, the stark contrast between young and old, and the journey he went thru. My only complaint (and it's a small one) is he seemed to come around and get out of his funk a little too quickly and easily. While that worked well to keep the film moving and the story going, I felt it was too little and cheapened his depression and struggle.

Special Effects. The special effects were very disappointing. The heavy use of cgi was average and looked like a video game. The live actors were obviously on wires and did little to make you believe otherwise. The special effects looked like they did in the previous films from a decade ago. While the movie was more about story than visuals, this is a comic book movie and the visuals are still very important. They really dropped the ball on bringing anything new or different to the table.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

 Sentinels. I'm not sure why they changed the design of the Sentinel robots from the Jack Kirby bots of the comics to a weird hybrid of the robots from iRobot and the Gamilions from Space Battleship Yamato. They used the original design in X-Men 3: The Last Stand, and it worked beautifully.

Special Effects/Action. As I stated earlier, the special effects and action look like they did in the first two X-Men movies. It's been a decade. Couldn't they have brought something new to the table and made a few leaps forward? They didn't need to reinvent the action movie, but at least one scene that had me going "Wow! That was so cool!" would have been appreciated.


Overall, I thought this movie was excellent. The story was solid, the acting was top notch, the use of characters was impressive, and the integration with the other movies couldn't have been better. I give this movie a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

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