|The X-Men attempt time travel. Trippy.|
After the events of The Last Stand things have gone irrevocably bleak and holocaust-like. The last few surviving X-Men we know come up with a desperate final play, knowing that the events of the present hinged on one particular act in the past, they send someone back with a mission to prevent that act. And luckily for us, there's only one mutant who can survive such a journey, and therefore become the central character of the story -- Wolverine, of course.
|He's the best. Even without his shiny metal claws.|
And with Hugh Jackman at the center of your movie, especially as this classic character, you cannot go wrong. Never mind that un-killable thing, he's the only character sturdy enough to stay steady and unwavering as the complex plot shifts story lines around in a tangling mess hoping to emerge in the end with something pliable.
The focus is mainly centered on the young Professor X, going through a seriously uncharacteristically dark and difficult time as James McAvoy, and Magneto, Michael Fassbender, regular, normal, not-exactly-evil-but-definitely-misguided-and-rather-obtuse extremely complex and annoyingly likable Magneto. Also Mystique and Beast, characters who only became worthy of main-character attention once Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult were cast as them. In fact, if I were to order these characters by importance and screen-time, Lawrence would be second only to Jackman. And with her skill, that's how it should be. Peter Dinklage also gets a turn as a typical, but memorable villain.
|And they all turn in fantastic performances as we've come to expect of them.|
The rest are more of side characters, even the greats Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and while their storyline in the future does feel disjointed as you might expect, the characters and their powers are used creatively, make up good scenes and add to the suspense. That one mutant who knew how to think with portals made those scenes worth it singlehandedly.
The plot moved along at a quick and steady pace, and was involving and concise, if, at times a little too weighty and dramatic. It never went too far down that path to cause damage, but I certainly preferred the more fun, upbeat scenes. Like, for an example, every scene featuring Quicksilver. (Evan Peters) His character was brilliantly done, and played for comedy, and now I'm wondering how Age of Ultron could possibly top this with their version of the character. (I'm sure they'll surprise me too.) Anyway, the best of Quicksilver was unarguably the hilarious slow-motion bit where he casually saves the day in a fraction of a second. Unfortunately, he was too super-powered, and had to leave after that so there could be an actual plot for the rest of the film.
|Four cool dudes.|
And from there the rest of the film not being as balanced with comic relief veered over into seriousness, but didn't have sufficient content to ground it. It was still action-packed, sharp, clean, sensible, and filled with fine performances, but it seemed to all add up to nothing we haven't seen four or five times already, just with seriously cooler special effects -- and awesomer actors -- and those really wide 70's collars. Which, I suppose, makes it all worth seeing again doesn't it?
There was only one thing that really bothered me; lack of momentum in the characters. The character arcs were all more like circles because everyone got their due development, and it was all great, but at the end none show any actual progress. With the exception of Charles, who did have a marked change in character from beginning to end -- but not from end of First Class to the end here, which is the same difference.
|"A person's a person, no matter how mutated, and we should all live in harmony." Yes -- we know. Are there no other themes worth exploring?|
All these things make me believe that this film sole purpose was to be a connecting piece to combine the old and the new of the franchise into one, so they can continue from there on a new path. And that it does fantastically well, but the side effect is that it doesn't stand alone very well. As a piece of the franchise it's arguably the best yet, crafted well and with few flaws, and certainly succeeds in pulling the franchise out of a very deep hole. I honestly think it could have been more ambitious though, to band together and move forward into the future it creates simultaneously. It doesn't reach so high, but everything it does endeavor to do it succeeds in doing convincingly, and is well past a worthy installment for both sides of the franchise; as it sets the stage for a brand new future.