X-Men: Days of Future Past

This week, we’ll take a look at the newest installment in the X-Men series, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and Jennifer Lawrence. It is rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, brief nudity and language.

In 2023, the world is in ruins, plagued by dangerous mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels. These robots, hunting down both mutants and the humans that aid them, have the ability to adapt and counter all mutant powers, leaving Charles Xavier (Stewart),  Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (McKellen), and the rest of the X-Men powerless. Logan/Wolverine (Jackman), is sent back into the past 50 years, to prevent Mystique (Lawrence) from triggering a series of events that lead to the creation of Sentinels. Logan must then find and convince young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) to aid him in his quest.

9 out of 10

As I’ve established, I love superhero movies. The X-Men series, however, has always disappointed me. X2 and X-Men were both solid, but nothing to write home about. The Last Stand and the two Wolverine movies were a mess. X-Men: First Class was the first time I thoroughly enjoyed an X-Men film. Regardless, tt seemed like X-Men: Days of Future Past was destined to fail. It was a sequel that featured time travel. That never seems to work out well. Yet somehow, Bryan Singer pulled a rabbit out of his hat and produced the best film this series has seen.

The best thing about the movie is unarguably the scene that features Quicksilver. American Horror Story star Evan Peters was a perfect fit, portraying Quicksilver with a cocky, lovable charisma. The scene where he is running around a room, changing the deflection of all the bullets and messing around with the slow moving scene around him sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Charismatic, action packed, and pure fun. The movie carries this tone, but does not lack in the serious, dramatic moments that make it so great. Singer manages to find the balance between the hilarity and tension that allows you to take the comic book movie seriously while also having fun doing it.

quicksilver

The inclusion of seemingly millions of different mutants was pretty cool as well. The beginning featured present day Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Storm, while flashing back to the classic Beast, Magneto, and Professor X, all regulated by the consistency of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. In the same way First Class introduced various mutants, Days of Future Past brought many new mutants into the picture, while also bringing back many from the old movies, including Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Storm, with cameos from Rogue, Cyclops, and Jean Gray. Its a lot of fun to see all these different mutants to some extent, and Days of Future Past did a really good job of preventing it from getting muddled and excessive. WIth so many mutants, you gotta be able to control how you use them, and Days of Future Past did so.

The movie did a great job of controlling its plot as well. Somehow, I was able to see past the confusion that time travel presents. The movie had a very distinct narration that allowed the audience to understand what was happening. There are some questionable questionable details (JFK’s a mutant??) and some unexplained plot points (what ever happened to Havok), but overall, I could very clearly understand what was happening (at least compared to other time travel movies). The intriguing plot, mixed with engaging, fun action sequences, a very clear and balanced tone, stellar overall performances from the entire cast, and a noticeable lack of Halle Berry (jokes), push Days of Future Past into the upper echelon of superhero movies.

In the end, there are a lot of questions. Some that were left unanswered, some that have set up the future series, and some that I’m still trying to rack my head around. Though the abundance of questions is slightly irritating, they lead to  many possibilities for future films. The X-Men series has essentially been granted the ability to start fresh without actually eliminating the events of the first few movies. Singer got rid of all the messy continuity issues with a simple flick of the wrist. The future, especially X-Men: Apocalypse, is looking really bright.
~Vig

9.5 out of 10

I love the X-Men. I love Wolverine. Love Professor X. And even (Despite my better judgement) Cyclops (Who happens to be my fave, yes).

What I don’t totally love is the X-Men movies.

Let me be clear, I love a good amount of them. A handful of them. Two of them. It breaks down as follows:

X-Men: Good. I like it. They got the characters spot on (Especially Wolverine, Magneto and Xavier). Its tough to say what I don’t enjoy about it but I think it comes down to this: it has less fuel than its tank can hold (In my eyes, you could say this about most of the films). X-Men is a pretty multifaceted series with a lot of ideas but this film kept it simple. Simple worked fine, though.

X2: Boom. Here’s the full tank. Ranks right up there with Spiderman 2 as one of the best pre-Dark Knight superhero endeavors. This one isn’t a step up from the first, its a goddang leap and then some. Cool and compact, this one was strong enough to carry all of the weighty ideas X-Men’s got.

X-Men 3: This one did not. Last Stand isn’t unwatchable, it’s just disappointing. It deflated the whole franchise. It siphoned 75% of the gas from that aforementioned metaphor-tank of our’s. And it’s mainly not disappointing because its bad at setting up all of the usual conflicts, it’s bad because it does but it just can’t deliver.

X-Men: First Class: This is the first X-Men movie I ever saw. Ho-lee God. I went because I saw historical figures and superheroes together in one film and I got all of that and so, so much more greatness. My brother and I (Two first X-Meners) were actually debating mutant politics at dinner after the showing. Need I say more?

So where does this one rank? Right up there with First Class.

Yeah, usually there’s a lot of buildup to a lukewarm or negative assessment in these things but, no joke, this was one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in three years or so and is definitely among the top superhero movies of the decade. Let’s review.

Wolverine has to go to the past to save the future mutants from extermination (Inter-franchise crossover, ahoy!) so he rounds up Prof. X and Beast and springs Magneto (Why? It’s loosely explained but Fassbender’s performance lets me buy it) with the help of a beautifully played Quicksilver. Nevermind that that past sentence alone could carry a two hour movie, that’s just the premise.

magneto

What follows, I can assure you, is pure X-Men, unleaded. This movie doesn’t dilute any of the serious topics with cheesy throwaways but it doesn’t lose any of its fun. It moves pretty briskly but never stops building up. And seeing these characters from two different era interact is every bit as rewarding as the Disney Marvel characters crossover in The Avengers.

No single character carries the movie because, mainly, there is no one under focus. Sure, we follow Wolverine but you’d be surprised how much focus isn’t on him,as much as we love him. It’s on the X-Men, plain and simple. Moreover, it’s on the mutants.

By the end, the continuity’s messed up but the mutants are all together and (With Apocalypse coming) I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
~Zach

IMDB: 8.1
Metacritic: 74
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

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The Wolverine

Hope everyone has enjoyed the beginning of the final month of 2013 (We’re closing in on Oscar season!!!) This week, we’ll look at the latest sequence in the X-Men series, The Wolverine, which just released on DVD. Directed  by James Mangold and starring Hugh Jackman,  it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language.

The Wolverine continues the saga of one of X-Men’s greatest heroes, Wolverine, as he travels to Japan to say goodbye to a man from his past that he saved during the attack on Japan in Nagasaki during World War II. Wolverine, aka Logan, is struggling with his immortality at this point, and is forced to face the fact that he loses his loves one and continues to survive. However, in Japan, Logan is pushed to the edge emotionally and physically when he faces a enemy who puts his immortality– and his life– at risk.

6 out of 10

As I’ve already established, I’m a fan of superhero movies. A big fan. However, the consistent mediocrity in the X-Men series really kills me. X2 and First Class are the only ones I have been (somewhat) satisfied with. The Wolverine is not any different. It is extremely ‘meh’. There’s really no other way to put it.

To be honest, I’m struggling to write about this, partially because it’s not too memorable. I don’t remember anything specific about this movie except for Hugh Jackman. It felt  separated from the world of X-Men, and even from the world of Wolverine himself. I missed the Easter eggs, the references, everything. I guess part of it is that he’s going by his real name, Logan, instead of Wolverine (unfortunately). X-Men Origins: Wolverine, while mediocre in its own sense, still showcased other mutants, whereas this film had one other… whose name I can’t quite remember (shocker!). I guess this is really a matter of personal preference, but I know I couldn’t have been the only one who was extremely disappointed in this.

None of the other characters were interesting either. The two Japanese girls, Mariko (Tao Okamoto) and Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who traveled with Logan/ Wolverine during the movie would have been fine as filler characters… Which is a bummer considering they were so big in the story. It’s unfortunate this movie didn’t have much of a supporting cast in terms of star power. Again, another matter of personal opinion, but to me superhero films should have star power, just because it’s so much better for audience enjoyment. The previous X-Men movies had famous actors such as Halle Berry, Michael Fassbender, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Jennifer Lawrence, along with the aforementioned Jackman. To emphasize, I’m not saying movies without recognizable actors are bad, but The Wolverine definitely might have wanted some more support for Jackman (who does do a great job, by the way).

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

Overall, the movie lacked a point. This would have been excusable if it was an action movie… but it only had like three fight scenes, one of which was just mundanely executed (final battle scene). Otherwise, it was too generic and predictable to be interesting. Basically, this is how it went:

Boy and girl run away.
They fall for each other.
Girl gets kidnapped.
Boy saves girl, but not before he faces extreme challenges.
Everyone lives happily ever after.

Sounds familiar? Thought so.

Regardless of how memorable it was– or wasn’t– there were a few scenes I did enjoy. The first 15-20 minutes were actually really good. The scene where Wolver– I mean Logan– went crazy on the guys in the bar was really enjoyable. It had the right energy and intensity the rest of the movie needed. However, it all went downhill from there once he went to Japan… Yikes. The rest of the movie didn’t have the same raw emotion and energy we saw from Logan in the opening of the movie, except one other scene; I felt that intensity in the fight scene on the train. That was excellently done and probably my favorite scene in the entire film. To quickly touch upon the graphics and editing, those were really good as well. It’s one of the only things you can confidently expect from a movie of this nature.

Overall, I guess I would label this movie a disappointment. It lacked a point and failed to keep my interest. Of course, X-Men Origins: Wolverine wasn’t much better, so I guess I have my expectations too high. Oh well. I’ll try my best to keep my expectations fair for X-Men: Days of Future Past.

~Vig

5 out of 10

Yeah, here comes the first truly negative review I give. Also, if you don’t know your Marvel franchise history, take a quick look or else this may be confusing:

This week, the trailer for the next  Amazing Spiderman was released. Both Sony and Fox (Who own Spiderman and X-Men respectively) have made it clear that they’re plan of attack is to copy Marvel before Marvel can do anything. It’s no shock. It’s all a side-effect of The Avengers. Hell, Marvel’s copying its own patterns at times.

marvel

I bring this up because, at times, it feels like we’re running the clock. The original series of Marvel films actually eased into each other believably whereas Sony and Fox’s attempts have felt kind of like blocks clumsily placed in order to try and build a coherent universe.

The Wolverine is a perfect model for this. The movies tries with all of its might to build a world around a character who has kind of worn his welcome. It’s tiring to see the same things. Wolverine owns people with his claws…except this time he has no one to work off of.

Does the movie do those repetitive scenes well? Sure. And if you know that its a fairly brainless endeavor, you’ll probably do fine. I, for one, can usually do that. It doesn’t take a lot for me to shut off my brain for an action film. But so much of this is so outright ridiculous that I laughed. I audibly giggled so much that I pity whoever was in front of me in the theatre. (SPOILERS: For example, the robot samurai was just too much).

But the attempts to be a hit Marvel film are bountiful and close together. It feels like a checklist at times:

“We need a post-credits scene ‘cause that’s what Disney did.”

“We need some angst. That’s what all those other Marvel movies did.”

“Let’s try and put some comedy in there. People liked that about The Avengers didn’t they?”

The movie has a great cast. Hugh Jackman is pretty synonymous with Wolverine and I have no complaints about him for the most part. I’m sure it was a daunting task putting your character into a new environment and he keeps Wolverine pretty un-corrupted.

And I’m not going to lie, they’re still able to make some excellent action scenarios. There is a fight on a train which works very well and it’s always easy to follow. The main problem, though, is that I lost investment after a while.At this point, we know what Wolverine is going to do. He’s Wolverine! Isn’t he? It’s just that “Will he get out of this?” point is moving a greater distance away from us.
But I have to be merciful. I have high expectations of hero movies because I have been exposed to so many great ones. This one gets an A for being a popcorn movie but otherwise it’s a placeholder for (Hopefully) better projects to come. The stakes are lowered and taken away.

wolverine on train

As somewhat disappointed I was with this, I’m still very excited for the next X-Men which will have a whole slew of characters that Logan can work off of which is when he’s at his best. Here’s to hoping its not a carbon copy of the Disney stuff though.
~Zach

IMDB: 6.8
Metacritic: 60
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%