Mutant Equality?

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SPOILER WARNINGMarvel’s X-Men was one of the first of the recent big-screen superhero franchise movies. X-Men and X2 were very good, but The Last Stand was pretty weak. So the decision was made to reboot it and X-Men: First Class in 2011 made a pretty good fist of things, recasting James McAvoy and the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender respectively as Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. Now it’s 2014 and we have X-Men: Days of Future Past. Original X-Men director Bryan Singer has returned, directing the characters for the first time since 2003. Days of Future Past is loosely based on the Claremont/ Paul Smith story published back in 1981 and it is set in a dystopian future where the surviving X-Men are forced to hide out and in the 1970s, where a young Professor X and Magneto have the opportunity to prevent that nightmarish future from ever happening. Basically, it all hinges on Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and his robotic creations, the Sentinels. So where First Class tried to mimic James Bond and that iconic Sixties feel, here we have jumped head to the Seventies with Singer going for that decade’s atmosphere and ambience. Thanks to the split time periods, for the first time, we are able to see Stewart and McKellen and McAvoy and Fassbender in the same film. Singer also does some very clever things with the visuals, and a scene with Quicksilver (Evan Peters) that turns the whole bullet time thing on its head. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) holds both periods together as they decide he is the only X-Men physically strong enough to survive being sent back to the 1970s. The film does manage to channel that classic comic feel without coming across as patronising and remaining faithful to the source without feeling slavish. Fassbender is very good again as Magneto as is McAvoy as Professor X but Stewart and McKellen feel a little bit like bit players in their own story and Dinklage feels wasted here, as Trask is just a plot device at the end of the day. Jennifer Lawrence reprising her role as Mystique has an onscreen magnetism that is hard to argue with. It has been released in 3D but apart from the Quicksilver scene, it doesn’t lend a great deal to the overall experience. The post-credits stinger, pointing to what’s next in the rebooted X-Men franchise, is short and feels a little bit pointless. X-Men: Days of Future Past isn’t perfect by any means (its end feels a little rushed and counter to the film’s own internal logic) but it is an ambitious summer superhero film with some nice flourishes. It is good to see Singer back on X-Men. It will be dominating the box office on both sides of the Atlantic as you read this…

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CLAWS IN EFFECT?
Wolverine: Origins wasn’t a great film, to be honest but expectations for The Wolverine when it was announced were a little bit higher. Originally, Darren Aronofsky was attached to it but he left the project. Enter James (Identity, Cop Land) Mangold to helm it. So we fast forward to 2013 and The Wolverine has hit the big screens. The film begins well: we see Logan save the life of a Japanese soldier at Nagasaki. Then we flash forward to a Logan who is living rough out in the wilds of the US. The Wolverine starts in a very lowkey way, which is a refreshing change from the bombast of the usual superhero fare. But then it starts to take a different direction. Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukishima), who represents the soldier he saved during the Second World War. Apparently he is dying and he wants to see Logan one more time. So through guilt, he is forced to come to Japan but the real reason for the visit is far more sinister and so events are triggered which threaten Logan’s very existence. The original Frank Miller and Klaus Janson miniseries that this is loosely based on was a great story but obviously Hollywood had to mess around with it and so we have a film that starts strongly but gets more and more silly as it progresses. Jackman is good value as Logan/ Wolverine as always but the payoff and the final battle is particularly stupid. Also, the love affair between Logan and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) doesn’t have much time to ring true on screen and the 3D is pretty pointless as it doesn’t lend much to the experience. Mangold does offer some nice visual flourishes here though: the battle on the train is well directed as is the massive ninjas vs Logan fight towards the end. But it does feel that they have taken the character to a visually arresting setting and then stuck him in the same old jeopardy without using the Japanese setting properly. It’s not a terrible film by any means and it is an improvement on its predecessor. It also sets up things for X-Men: Days of Future Past with the obligatory post-credits stinger. But it does feel a little bit like a wasted opportunity. The Wolverine is a fun but forgettable summer blockbuster with some nice touches and a silly third act…