Admittedly, I’m quite casual in the world of comic books. I usually rely on one of my local friends for information, but he wasn’t available to collaborate on a review. Luckily for me, you didn’t have to be a huge X-Men fan to enjoy this film. But, this begs the question, if you aren’t a die-hard fan, how good will this movie be for you?
Even though I’m relatively casual in the realms of comic books, I’ve been tracking this project for a while. From the moment that major details on cast were leaked from late ’12 to later ’13, I was amped! The basic premise got me fascinated too; dystopian futures driven by hatred and fear, various timelines, the 1970s, and Peter Dinklage!!! On top of that, the post-credits scene from The Wolverine made it all the better! From there, seeing the trailer in October got me hooked! I had to see this movie one way or another!
The plot revolves around a not too distant future where mutants are hunted like prey by super-powered constructs called “The Sentinels.” Those who weren’t slain were put into prison camps dedicated to the remaining mutants and their supporters. The last few of the rebellion are on the run as Kitty warns her past self of their failure. As such, she readies sending Xavier’s mind back to the point where the Sentinels began. However, he’s too physically weak to handle the strain, so Wolverine steps up. With his mind in the ’70s, he seeks out Xavier’s academy, only to find out that it was shut down after many of the mutants went rogue on their own agendas or were drafted into the Vietnam War. As such, Xavier’s been taking drugs that help him hide his powers. Wolverine does his best to convince him and Beast to stop Magneto and Mystique from unintentionally creating a worse world for mutants. Their first order of business is to release Magneto from his containment cell in the Pentagon itself! With the aide of Quicksilver, they bust him out. Meanwhile, Mystique has been busy in Vietnam freeing mutants from the clutches of the Sentinel’s creator, Dr. Trask (played by GoT’s Peter Dinklage!) However, this makes matters worse when he tracks down Mystique in Paris. Anxiety springs up as their actions were recorded on the news. Trask takes interest and grabs some of Mystique’s discarded blood in hopes of moving his Sentinels forward. From there, Wolverine continues to help Xavier regain his hope while the both of them hope to keep Magneto from swaying Mystique to do something she’d later regret.
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve watched the X-Men movies (and my memory span tends to be that of a goldfish), but from what I remember, we’re given some pretty solid performances. Young Xavier (played by) made the film for me, and no I don’t because his portrayal is fanart bait. He delivered a fantastic array of emotion in just a couple scenes alone, as his struggles and triumphs felt all too real. Young Magneto/Erik (played by Fassbender) provided a good back story through the portrayal, as we saw a more rowdy and angry magneto who would develop into the anti-villain we’ve come to appreciate. In fact, almost all the characters are driven by a very grey morality. No true villain is ever present (except Richard Nixon, haha) and as a result, we’re given sympathetic and relatable characters from every side. Sure, we’re going to cheer for the mutants, but there’s something almost admirable about the antagonists.
In terms of story, I’m rarely sold on time travel as a plot device. Although, the way this film used it was quite unique, as it’s only the conscious that drifts through the time stream. That didn’t stop Jackman from showcasing Wolverine’s anxiety and pain when his current body was back in the “dystopian future” timeline. That said, the first arch under this plot felt a bit weak. I’m vary weary of the “I come from the future” trope and felt the story wanted to get past that as soon as possible. Perhaps we could have seen Xavier’s reluctance to use his powers. Maybe Logan/Wolverine provides such a good bluff that, Xavier is forced to call him out on it… and thus, we can lead into the “future man” schtick. Though, it was used to wonderfully comical effect when Wolverine’s mind was first sent back… only to realize he was sleeping with a mobster’s daughter. After the first arc and the characters accept the whole “future” thing, the plot does indeed pick up. Each character’s plot is pretty fleshed out with a variety of motivations. Xavier wants Magneto to come to his senses and have mutants work with humans, Mystique wants to stop the leaders of the anti-mutant movement before they gain ground, and Magneto wants to avenge mutant kind and become the dominant race. As the story progresses, each plot develops in response to the conflicts around them. Mystique begins to question her motives, while Magneto’s become all the more reinforced. This boils down to an epic confrontation where Mystique is forced to attack Magneto out of defense.
Visuals wise, everything looked pretty darn good. The bleak future patrolled by the sentinels looked convincing, right down to the Warhammer 40k-esque grim architecture on top of skulls motif! Beyond the wastelands where the remnants of mutant and human lay, we see a glimpse at concentration camp like detainment centers for the remaining mutants and their sympathizers, creating a bleak allegory. The temple where that acts as the mutants’ last stand provides for a breath taking back drop. As the visuals became darker and darker, you could almost sense the futility of the last ditch effort at survival. This contrasted with the mostly sunny skies of the ’70s timeline resulted in a fascinating juxtaposition. Combine this with some truly epic mutant vs. sentinel action choreography, some superb cinematography, and you have some truly awesome cinema visuals! And typically, I’m critical of computer graphics, but here they complemented the more practical work effectively and created a unique style of their own when displayed by themselves.
There’s one more thing I wanna touch on and that’s Marvel’s ability to balance serious moments with the occasional bits of humor. Never should a superhero story take itself so seriously that we have another “Dark Age of Comics” like in the 1990s. Perhaps it happened sooner, but since The Avengers, I’ve noticed this relieving trend. In terms of scenes that gave the audience a snicker, there were a couple I enjoyed the most. Wolverine waking up next to the mob daughter was as awkward as it was wonderful! His subsequent reaction and responses make the scene priceless. Also, Quicksilver’s tampering in the Pentagon was wonderful. Whether it was the subtle touches like “mind the glass” or him blasting music as he sabotages the government security in a manner you’d only see in cartoons, his performances were truly something memorable.
Now, if you’re not too rehearsed on X-men lore, this film can feel a tad confusing and might lose you a couple times. As much as I applaud Bryan Singer for trying to approach it from a general audience perspective, one could say he could have gone a little further. But hey, my mother and father who “don’t really get most comics” comprehended the film just fine when they saw it a week after I did at the local theatre. None the less, it’s a film worth a look. Not only is it a great summer blockbuster, it’s a genuinely well crafted film for comic fans and casual film goers alike. In fact, it’s a great reboot of the series following the letdown that was The Last Stand! If you have the chance, check out Days of Future Past!