The Standard’s resident film reviewer Gavin Miller takes a look at the latest X-flick which could be ‘the best full stop’.
After Spider-man lacked bite and Godzilla provided a notable stampede – X really does mark the spot for the first great summer blockbuster of 2014.
Some say Days of Future Past is the best X-Men movie best since 2003’s X2, but it’s arguable the best, full stop.
Returning director Bryan Singer left the franchise after the first two films to helm the much-maligned Superman Returns, but now he’s back – and feels right at home with his band of mutants.
This time he’s returned with some of his old guard – including Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) – and combined them the with the last movie’s First Class – young Professor X (James McAvoy), young Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult).
Throw in some new kids on the block – including Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Bishop (Omar Sy) and Sunspot (Evan Canto) – alongside two wonderfully arcing past and present storylines, then you’ve got an X-hiliarting blockbuster.
We start in an almost dystopian, Terminator/Matrix-esque, present day, with mutant-killing robots the Sentinels taking out the last of the X-Men. With Kitty Pryde taking Bishop’s consciousness a small way back through time to try and stay one step ahead, they fight a never-ending losing battle in an attempt to defeat this virtually unstoppable menace.
Enter Logan, Professor X, Magento and co. who have a long-shot solution for Kitty to send the Wolverine himself – with his adamantium skeleton enabling him to be the only person strong enough – back several decades into the past to stop Trask Industries’ pint-sized power-hungry owner Bolivar Trask (Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) from establishing his Sentinel program.
But with Mystique gone rogue, McAvoy’s Professor X wallowing in self-pity and Fassbender’s Magento locked in a ridiculously secure prison – who are all needed to restore balance to the two timelines – Logan’s job in the swinging Seventies isn’t going to be easy, particularly as too much stress will break his consciousness and bring him back to the present.
And though this may sound like a complex storyline, it is brilliantly explained with strong, sometimes emotive, performances from the likes of McAvoy, Jackman, Lawrence, Fassbender and Hoult, with some exceptional action scenes – particularly headlined by Quicksilver’s sensational slow-mo prison break turn – and a terrific and compelling final battle.
Sadly Dinklage’s Trask doesn’t quite hit the spot as a villain – he’s simply not as menacing as in the comic-books – and several X-Men are sorely underused (Berry’s Storm is barely in it), but they are small deficiencies in a movie which pretty much oozes class from every pore.
Just like X2 was a bigger and bolder step up from the original X-Men film, this is a more epic step up from First Class – and continues the ever-increasing high standard of superhero movies on the big screen.
Singer has quite simply orchestrated one of the best ever – and can’t wait for him to bring on the Apocalypse next time round.