By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist May 27, 2014 at 2:42PM
Well, knock us down with a feather. We'd been positively fearing "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" from afar. It had a been a while since the franchise peaked, and on paper, the giant cast list seemed to promise another "X-Men: The Last Stand"-style mess at best. Plus director Bryan Singer's last film, "Jack The Giant Slayer," was by some distance the worst of his career, and early marketing materials made it look like 'DOFP' had a tiny scope that belied its budget (the second most expensive in Fox's history, after "Avatar"), and made it seem like some kind of mid-'90s vision of the future.
And yet, the film turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as you'll know from our review. One of Singer's best films, and the best X-Men movie since 2003's "X2: X-Men United," it's one that manages to be remarkably coherent and entertaining, given the potential pitfalls involved. That said, it's far from perfect. As is usually the case with these summer tentpoles, there's plenty of bad in with the good. So, as such, we've done our traditional post-mortem on the movie in detail: you can take a look, but be aware there are heavy spoilers if you haven't yet seen the movie. And you can let us know what you thought about the film in the comments section.
Quicksilver, Especially In The Pentagon Sequence
Evan Peters has impressed us for some time now as one of the regulars of the "American Horror Story" troupe, and he is given a gift in this role here. By far the wittiest and most fun of any of the mutants this time out, his Quicksilver is cartoony and extraordinarily useful, of course, while constantly displaying terrific timing both comic and dramatic. And that all comes to a head in what is probably the film's best stand-alone scene, in which the X-Men, having freed Magneto, now face a whole brigade of guards who open fire. Not just one of the best uses of extreme slomo/bullet-time we've seen in forever, and definitively the best use of Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle," Quicksilver's mischief comes through in how he solves the situation: through the casual tiny deflection of a few bullets, a couple of pantsings, and a "stop punching yourself" sight gag. It's not only a joy to watch him work, the payoff when we go back to normal speed is hilarious. One thing though—we guess he has to play Jim Croce extra slow to make it sound right to him?
While Michael Fassbender gets to be all flinty and hunt Nazis in 'First Class' and therefore stole a lot of the "OMFG he so cool" oxygen, we've always flown the flag for the reboot really being James McAvoy's picture. And he's even better second time out. By far the most conflicted character (Mystique comes close), here Charles Xavier, of all of them, is the most ambivalent and shaded of the X-Men, especially as Wolverine plays the all-out good-guy hero. Building the stakes for Prof X who we know will evolve into a creature of Patrick Stewart-levels of compassion and wisdom is a tricky business, but it really works here, as we see him ruining himself from the inside out, prey to gnawing doubt and guilt (though we could have done without Beast's explanation of Xavier really losing it because Vietnam). Xavier's adoption of the merciful position as regards the human vs. mutant battle is given texture and context, an active, costly choice, of which he is not at all sure. And McAvoy sells every shade of light and dark, turning in by far the film's most emotive and emotionally engaging performance, in a character more usually portrayed as a brain on wheels.
We have to confess, we've always lumped Simon Kinberg in with the Kurtzman & Orcis of the world: a young screenwriter who seemingly came from nowhere to become a big-deal writer and producer, who's generally stayed within franchise territory, and whose credits ("X-Men: The Last Stand," "Jumper," "This Means War") don't really instill much in the way of confidence. But credit to Kinberg (and the likely additional uncredited script doctors, though the credited scribe likely did the heavy lifting when it comes to structure)—what looked like a potential clusterfuck of an overstuffed cast and time travel plotting is relatively coherent and very watchable. Sure, there are incoherences and inconsistencies, but Kinberg makes the wise decision to keep most of the mutant cameos to a minimum, use the old-school cast of Stewart and McKellen et al. fairly sparingly, and focus up on Wolverine and the 'First Class' gang, and even the latter group have pretty much been pared down to the most interesting one: Charles, Erik, Mystique and Beast. Even the actual time-travel mechanics (likely inspired by J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek") make some sense. This was a difficult job, make no mistake, especially as the project came together quite quickly, so hats off to Kinberg for pulling it off the most part.