X-Men: Days of Future Past
For all his alleged legal woes, Bryan Singer sure does know how to steer this franchise continuing on the excellent ground work that Matthew Vaughn laid for X-Men: First Class and dovetailing into the Singer's own X1 and X2 (X3: The Last Stand is best to be forgotten). This was a comic book superhero movie made by a fan for the fans. But, having said that, it is not without his faults, but thankfully, what it lacked was entirely replaced by the serious amount of gravitas and star wattage that this ensemble has. And this is where this franchise will always rule over the Marvel and Avengers: Vaughn totally struck gold when he cast Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. Paired up together with the indomitable Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and throwing Peter Dinklage into the mix. The acting here elevates the movie beyond your standard popcorn summer fare (see Godzilla for a perfect contrast!).
Bryan Singer managed to capture the 70s era rather well with good authenticity and situational humour, and I liked how he found a way to bring a 21st Century fad - filming with your smartphone - into the 70s. That was a smart directorial choice. The pacing of the movie went along quite well and smoothly with only very occasional lagging, but that was saved by the phenomenal cast. Who can't see Stewart or McKellen read a phonebook for a few short minutes? Or Lawrence battling with self-doubt? Or Fassbender smouldering across McAvoy? In addition, a note must be made of the very excellent cold opening by Singer. That opening was stellar and had everything you would want from a comic-book superhero movie, and clearly set the story, the impetus and the ultimate motive for our heroes; and also grip the attention of the audience allowing them to know what was ultimately at stake (and how our heroes are desperately losing a battle).
Nonetheless. the story by Simon Kinberg, Vaughn and Jane Goldman, with screenplay by Kinberg, was also riddled with plot holes and illogical behaviours. However, Singer smartly overloaded your senses with visual effects and drama such that they just skim pass with nary a notice. Having praised this franchise over Avengers, this is where they will get knocked down a couple of pegs. Joss Whedon nailed the script. The banter and the dialogue here was boring, served no other purposes other than advancing the narrative, and bordering on pokey.
But after this, Whedon must definitely be feeling the pressure. Especially in one aspect that got my fellow audience applauding. How is he going to nail Quiksilver?? Evan Peters (of American Horror Story) simply stole the whole scene he was in. From what we have glimpsed of Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, those are going to be difficult shoes to fill. Pity that Singer and co. did not manage to include Scarlet Witch in, so for that, Elizabeth Olsen will be saved from comparison. Perhaps Whedon might be better off focusing on her rather than her brother in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.
Hugh Jackman was the weakest link of the main cast. He's lucky he had already been established as the embodiment of Wolverine, so he just had to swagger a bit, growl and fight to advance the story.
The main stars are the three from First Class - Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence. Lawrence reminded me of her character from American Hustle, but she was so much better here than when she was Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games). There's no doubt that Lawrence is a great actress, and she brought a vulnerability to Mystique that gave that character layers. Even underneath all the make-up and contact lens, she exuded self-doubt and conflict. Similarly, Fassbender managed to uncover a humanity beneath the veneer of superiority to justify Magneto's actions which actually makes his cause sympathetic and his behaviour possibly acceptable. Then we have McAvoy (that hair is way too distracting!) who had a different path - finding the humanity and hope that he once had when everything else around him had been destroyed.
Peter Dinklage - Tyrion Lannister - was also perfectly cast Dr Trask. Easily commanding his scenes, but sadly he did not have much interaction with the rest of the cast.
Of the old cast, other than Stewart and McKellen, only Ellen Page and Shawn Ashborne had slightly bigger roles. But the cameos from the rest sprinkled throughout were definitely worth it! (Spoilers Anything with Famke Janssen is instantly a lot better! End Spoilers)
John Ottman's score was appropriate but not a standout, and Newton Thomas Sigel's lensing had produced some gorgeous shots, but also none too outstanding.
Stay to the very end for the end credits for the next chapter of the franchise!