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Saturday May 24, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday May 24, 2014 MYT 8:51:14 AM
By MICHAEL CHEANG
X-cellent, X-traordinary, and X-pertly done, director Bryan Singer makes a triumphant return to the X-Men universe.
THERE were several moments in X-Men: Days Of Future Past (DOFP) that made this X-Men fanboy want to stand up and cheer. However, there was one scene that make me not just want to cheer, but to take my shirt off and run around the cinema swinging it over my head like a footballer that has just scored the winning goal in injury time.
While I will not spoil that pivotal near-ending scene for you, let’s just say that it is a definite franchise-defining scene, one that not only made this arguably THE best X-Men movie to date for me, but also single-handedly saves the entire franchise from the doldrums caused by Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand.
For director Bryan Singer, there was much more at stake here than just continuing Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class story. After directing the first two X-Men movies, Singer left the franchise to go and direct the forgettable Superman Returns, passing the reins to Ratner, whose movie caused the franchise such irreparable damage that they had to reboot the whole darn thing in 2011 with First Class.
So, just like Wolverine going back in time to correct the wrongs of the past in this story, this movie is also about Singer effectively righting the wrongs that Ratner had inflicted on the X-Men, while bringing the two separate timelines (his own, and Vaughn’s) together into one single continuity.
DOFP is based on the legendary Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s iconic two-issue Days Of Future Past story arc in Uncanny X-Men back in 1981, which is still considered one of THE most definitive X-Men stories of all time.
In the future, the world has been torn apart by a war between humans and mutants. Mutants are being hunted to extinction by powerful robots called Sentinels, and only a handful of X-Men remain to fight back, namely Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Storm (Halle Berry), and led by once arch-enemies Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen).
In a last attempt to stop the war from ever happening, they formulate a desperate plan which involves sending Wolverine (or rather, his consciousness) 50 years back in time. Once there, he has to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the inventor of the Sentinel Program, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), and triggering the rise of the anti-mutant sentiment.
Once he gets back to 1973, however, Wolverine discovers that the younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is addicted to medication that allows him to walk but suppresses his powers, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is stuck in a prison under the Pentagon.
Bringing together two very different casts of X-Men is no easy feat, and Singer does it masterfully here, transitioning from the bleak dystopian future to the sunny 1970s effortlessly, giving both sets of X-Men very different but no less important roles.
As is wont to happen in superhero movies with this many characters, some of the characters do get sidelined somewhat (one, Anna Paquin’s Rogue was cut out of the film). Bishop is reduced to a few energy-sucking, gun-blasting scenes, and Kitty Pryde spends most of the time holding Wolverine’s head between her hands.
However, Singer still manages to allow each X-Man’s powers to stand out at least once – Iceman finally gets his ice-slide, both young and old Magnetos get to show off the might of their magnetic powers, and the way Blink uses her teleporting powers in battle is wonderfully executed. Also, this is the best depiction of Wolverine since X2, far better than both his solo movies combined.
The one that stood out most for me, however, is Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Although his screen time was fairly limited, he’s got one of the best scenes ever in the history of the franchise, all the way up there with Nightcrawler’s BAMF-ing assault on the White House in X2.
Joss Whedon will be tearing his hair out trying to think of something new for his Quicksilver in Avengers: Age Of Ultron after this.
Speaking of THAT other Marvel superhero team, there is a clear difference between this and Marvel Studios’ juggernaut. While the Avengers are just a bunch of superheroes coming together as a team, the X-Men are more of a dysfunctional family who spend more time fighting each other than other villains.
This dynamic allows for far more character interaction and development, which Singer plays up quite a bit here.
Case in point, his final act, in which he refreshingly chooses to dispense with the usual endless explosions and mindless city-wide destruction, and instead allow the characters to carry it through (even under all that blue paint, Lawrence is still a magnificent actress).
The movie is not without its flaws, of course, but let’s not nitpick over a few loopholes and loose plotlines. This is an excellent, expertly done addition to the franchise that exterminates the excesses of The Last Stand, and expertly excludes that film (as well as the disastrous first Wolverine solo movie) from any future sequels.
Speaking of sequels, remember to stay back after the credits for a sneak peek of what to expect in X-Men: Apocalypse!
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