This week, I went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, a movie attempting to properly fire the X-Engine back up for their cut of that sweet Avengers money. There are millions of characters in the X-Cupboard, after all, and they were among the first entrants in the current run of super-movies.
So, hell, do a comeback, why not. But, oddly, this isn't a reboot or straight continuation of the excellent X-Men: First Class prequel. Instead, they're bringing back cast and director from the first two films and mashing everything together into an epic time travel story.
Wow. That's so comic book. I'm totally on-board. But will it be a good movie?
WARNING: Full spoilers throughout. And the ending is impressively weird, so if you've somehow avoided ruining it for this long, I'd keep going until you see it.
X-Men: Second Class?
Despite the returning of the Halle Berry/Patrick Stewart timeline dominating most of the promotion, this is far more a sequel to X-Men: First Class than older X-Movies in plot terms. However, thanks to the higher budget and return of Bryan Singer as director, the movie feels more like the old early-2000s efforts. It's a strange mish-mash, and I occasionally missed the less actiony character focus of First Class, but the driving plot keeps things moving, and I was never bored. Manages a more serious tone than the Marvelvengers movies without seeming dour.
As you may gather, there are a lot of characters in this movie. So many, to be honest, a lot of them don't get much to do. It's particularly frustrating seeing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart up there again, but without space to shine. Anna Paquin apparently had her entire subplot cut - I suspect the director's cut DVD of this film will be a good one. But really the old cast are just there to jack up the stakes for the First Class section of the plot.
Still, we get Peter Dinklage as a villain - puts a lot into a small role - along with some impressive Sentinel effects. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy have intense moments, as does Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. Future-X-Men (the new characters, rather than the returning cast) get cool fight-power-demo opportunities too, even if they stop short of developing personalities. As everyone says, the Quicksilver bit is great.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Wolverine
And Wolverine, yes, he is there. Central to the film for cash-based reasons, yet so inessential that Magneto literally wraps him in metal and tosses him into a river with twenty minutes to go, where he stays for the whole final showdown. I can't bring myself to get internet-furious about this, as Hugh Jackman is very charismatic and watchable in the role still, but nor can I pretend it doesn't feel a bit perfunctory. Still, manipulating events in service of the franchise is hardly new in these movies, and at least it doesn't derail the story itself much.
Indeed, shoving Wolverine centre-stage just because he's popular is precisely the sort of thing the comics have been doing for years, and you don't see me ditching them. Between the multi-character-cramming, the plot that demands a decent understanding of past movies and the straight-faced delivery of ridiculous codenames, this is one of the most comic-booky superhero films I've seen in a while. It manages to feel like a single movie rather than a TV episode, but still does a lot of shifting bits around the X-Men game board. Ambitious considering we're talking about a series which began over a decade ago.
(And again, I'm not complaining. Love me a good superhero comic.)
One More Days of Future Past?
The most superhero-comic thing in this film is the ending, though - and this is where I do real spoilers, so last chance to turn away.
Although it's not the whole point of the movie (which is good), a major effect of this time-screwing is to somehow erase the events of X-Men: The Last Stand from history, restoring the school and several dead characters to life. Now, that movie was awful and pointlessly destructive, I have no problem with this, but it's always a risk making this your big ending as it skates close to being self-indulgent. Fortunately there's enough meat to the story for this to just draw a laugh.
Also, it makes the meta-narrative of the movie great fun: director Bryan Singer reaching back in time to stop the X-Men movie he didn't direct from happening. Bryan Singer is Wolverine. Excellent.