Thursday, 29 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 Of the three current superhero franchises, the X-men is one which often takes a back-seat, letting the quality powerhouse of MARVELS cinematic universe and Spider-man's box office abilities take the mantle whilst it cleans up their scraps. Recently however, despite the increase of interest in superhero films, their quality has certainly lowered, leaving a gap in the market for the X-Men to seize. Unfortunately however X-Men Days of future past is simply another mark in the ever growing superhero genre, doing nothing to differentiate itself from the crowd.

In the mind-bending plot for this instalment we join Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian Mckellan) and Storm (Halle Berry) (but who really cares about her), amongst other mutants, fighting for their survival in an apocalyptic world in which their lives are threatened by deadly 'Sentinals'. To stop this world from ever existing Wolverine is sent back in time to alter the course of history, whereupon drama ensues. Discarding the immediate submersion of the audience into the plot, with near to no context whatsoever (leaving us confused more than anything), the opening quarter of this film is really quite impressive, unique and gripping. Usually we join our favourite heroes at a high point in their lives, loved by all, with the riches to match, here however they're in immediate peril,  putting the audience on the back foot, intrigued and surprised by the unfolding plot. This hits a notable change following one of the most well realised and cinematically impressive scenes in superhero film history, whereupon cock-sure, rebel Quicksilver (Evan Peters), breaks Magneto out of a high security prison. Without the prior knowledge of his character, within the performance of Evan Peters the scene is carried and his character is thrown in the faces of the audience, bursting with enthusiasm and charm. Quicksilver is by far the best thing about X-Men and before you know it he's gone... gone where...gone home...why, no one knows. This is quite simply lazy writing, taking the time and effort to build such a great character before discarding him, realising he was only needed for momentary plot conveniences before we are once again reunited with the cardboard cut-out heroes. This isn't however the only character to be frustratingly underused, no, there's a whole host of 10- odd heroes which we don't even get to hear speak or even know the names of. Introduced in a visually stunning opening scene we immediately relate to these new character who we presume will be built upon, but who are instead pushed to the background once the familiar heroes return thus making us care very little for and about them when their character arches grow.The poor writing however isn't just restricted to narrative conveniences and poor characterisation, the dialogue is also , at points, cringe-worthy as we listen to Xavier deliver a whimsical speech about 'life' and 'identity' for  what seems to be the majority of the film. This immediately takes you out the film as you take a minute out to sigh at the previous line of unrealistic nonsense.

On the whole, the plot is handled rather well, with the central idea of time travel, often murdered in Hollywood releases, being used quite intelligently and interestingly here, with relatively few continuity bugs. Furthermore for the most part it seems as though the X-men franchise has finally abandoned its reliance on star Wolverine, whom as interesting as he is, has been done, done and double done by the franchise, consistently leaving others in the dark. Here he seems more vulnerable and more human and thus more relatable, as the heroes are faced with the 'Sentinals', unstoppable beings who promise to finally cure the MARVEL virus of their films being so risk averse...oh wait here comes the ending. Too many times in superhero films has a grand and game changing event been repaired by a films ending and of course X-Men follows suit with perhaps the most obvious backhanded slap to the audience which Hollywood has ever given. Ultimately the films ending makes the whole films narrative lifeless, leaving you with no real feelings towards the film when you leave, feeling as though it was just...well.... pointless.

X-men Days of Future Past is certainly a disappointment boasting a stellar cast, with great performances throughout, but with no substance to back it up. The script is boggy, heavy and hugely misunderstood as we build bonds with new exciting characters, only for them to be instantly sidelined, despite our remaining craving. X-men is empty of emotion, story, character and direction.

5/10- Like a quickly deflating balloon, once fun and interesting, but ultimately dead and lifeless.

Calum Russell

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