TBT – The Da Vinci Code (2006)

controversial, dan brown, films, fucking stupid, history, Ian McKellen, meh, religion, reviews, TBT, Tom Hanks

Two of my favourite quotations from the film critic Roger Ebert concern The Da Vinci Code. The first is from his review of the film National Treasure:

I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code.

The second from his review of Ron Howard’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code:

They say The Da Vinci Code has sold more copies than any book since the Bible. Good thing it has a different ending.

Along with a love of cinema and a need to criticise it, Roger Ebert and I have something in common. We have both read and hated Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. In all honesty, I read the book after I had watched the film. I knew about Brown’s book, of course, but I had no interest in reading it. I watched the end of the film one evening and was intrigued enough to pick up a copy. Brown’s writing is horrible and his over-reliance on cliffhangers and their ridiculous solutions is just awful. I can see why people love it; it’s a mystery that is easy to read and, subsequently, makes people feel clever when they keep up with/solve it. It’s all just trite though. Brown made a name for himself thanks to a controversial and preposterous subject. He gained readers because of his short chapters that always end on a cliffhanger. It makes my blood boil. I swear, one Dan Brown chapter ends with the cliffhanger of what Robert Langdon will decide to have for breakfast. Over the years, I’ve had so many arguments with people about this book but I often find myself being slightly less harsh on the film. I’ve never thought it made much sense. Maybe Tom Hanks really is such a charming man that he can improve anything?

I mean, I’m under no real illusion that The Da Vinci Code is a good film. It has an utterly ridiculous narrative and doesn’t provide any depth. It’s basically a film of exposition where you sit and watch people solve riddles that nobody else has a chance of solving. Decent mysteries are supposed to allow you to keep up with, if not get ahead of, the characters on screen. With The Da Vinci Code you’re always, at least, one step behind. Thankfully, though, it doesn’t matter. Whilst Tom Hanks’s first outing as Robert Langdon sees him break almost illogical riddles at breakneck speed, The Da Vinci Code also gives us Audrey Tatou’s Sophie who constantly asks everyone on screen to explain it. Sophie, in this case, is the audience… except she also happens to be shit hot at solving these seemingly unsolvable mysteries when she needs to. What The Da Vinci Code boils down to, is a couple of hours watching Tom Hanks and co run through various European countries and spend hours sat around giving lectures on history and religious legends.

Yet, there is something about being adapted into a film that makes the narrative work better than in the book. On screen, the pace set by Dan Brown’s endless chain of cliffhangers and impossible escapes means that plot is always moving forward. Or at least always moving forward after we’ve spent the requisite amount of time watching a PowerPoint presentation or something first. Unlike reading the book, the film doesn’t really allow you to think too much. There is always something happening so you can’t really start asking yourself pesky questions like “why did that character not just make things simpler?” or “what are his motivations for doing this?” or “why does the ending essentially just make the entire film unnecessary?” Ron Howard has, quite cleverly, made a film that never allows you time to pick apart the glaringly obvious plot holes until after the credits, by which time you’ve already let yourself get carried off in the insanity on screen.

Which is, if I’m honest, what always happens. I can hardly say that I find The Da Vinci Code exciting. I’ve hardly ever been riveted by it. However, I can’t deny that, if it’s on, I find myself unable to look away. It’s the mentality that makes you look at a car crash as you drive past. The same one that means, despite my huge, burning hatred for it, makes me occasionally want to sit down to watch Mama Mia. Although, I suspect that’s more of a weird S&M fetish thing than this. Whilst the narrative doesn’t really interest me in anyway, I am always glued to the screen. It could very well just be Hollywood’s Mr Nice Guy, Tom Hanks, and his magnetic personality. Or it could just be that this film is so bad that it’s clawing its way back to good again. I don’t know.

I’ve never thought much of Dan Brown as a writer of novels but he is a writer who can construct an intriguing plot. Yes, it’s exactly the kind of stuff you’d find weird people in tin foil hats writing on a message board at 1 am but that doesn’t mean it’s not watchable. Dan Brown shouldn’t be a writer of books but he can make a fairly decent shit film. You won’t come out of this film having a changed view on religion or having a completely different opinion about society because that’s not the point. No matter how seriously this film takes itself. This film with drag you, kicking and screaming, into its nonsense world and, without letting you stop for breath, whisk you along with it before you realise what you’ve got yourself involved in. Maybe, once the credits roll, you’ll feel ashamed with yourself. That’s natural. What you can’t deny, no matter how much you might want to, is that, at the time, you were kind of happy to be on that ride.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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I won’t say that I was predisposed to hate this film from the moment it was announced but I was always incredibly sceptical about it. The original animated version of the story is my favourite Disney film, one of my all-time favourite animated films, and, quite probably, one of my all-time favourite films… ever. It is superbly animated, well voiced, and pretty much perfect in every way. I love it… even with its questionable view of a woman’s role and the dodgy central relationship. As long as the pictures are so pretty I can work with it. So, it was always going to be a tough sell when it was being remade starring one of my least favourite actors ever. No offence to Emma Watson, who is a fantastic, intelligent and brilliant woman, but I just don’t think her acting has ever been anything to get excited about. So to have her taking the role of the Disney Princess that I idnetify most with kind of pissed me off. Especially when the audio of her ‘singing’ was finally released. Not the finest actor and in need of autotune to get through the songs? Who decided she should play Belle again? Anyway, I needed to see this film before I decided whether I disliked this film or absolutely detested it. So I did.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hate this film as much as I thought I would. I mean, I can’t say with any honesty that I loved it but there were parts of it that I thought were really well done. By the end I couldn’t help but get caught up in the story and wept with as much joy as I would have with the original. However, that could have something to do with the fact that this film is basically the same as the original animation. Remember that shot-for-shot remake of Psycho starring Vince Vaughn? Remember how necessary and wonderful everyone thought it was? No. Well, Disney clearly decided that it was a workable concept and did exactly that with Beauty and the Beast.

Which I guess would have been easier to take had it not been for the amount of hype that had been built up about it being an updated and modernised retelling. From director Bill Condon rabbiting in about LeFou’s “gay moment” or Emma Watson promising we’d have an empowered and feminist Belle, the stage was being set for an incredibly forward-thinking release from Disney. It all sounded too good to be true… and it turned out that it was. That “gay moment” that caused such a stir? Turned out that was a couple of blink and you’ll miss ’em moments where LaFou acted a little bit camper than normal. His sexuality was never explicit and it was definitely not a defining moment in Disney’s history. This wasn’t something worth shouting about. It was positive, maybe, but it needed to be more obvious to count.

Then there’s the whole feminist thing. Emma Watson didn’t turn Belle into a feminist; she’s always been one. The original film showed Belle pushing out against what was expected of a woman in her town and wanting knowledge and freedom. She stood up to the Beast and saved her father. The only real addition this time is that she makes her own version of a washing machine. Emma Watson celebrated the fact that Belle was an inventor herself this time but we really see little evidence of this. She does one thing and it’s actually a bit of a dick move on her part. She puts her machine into use and effectively stops anyone else doing their washing in the shared fountain. There could have been a much more empowered ending to this film where Belle, who sang of wanting adventure, didn’t just settle into marriage with a man who had locked her up only a short time before. There has been no attempt to add anything to Belle’s character in the slightest and, if you ask me, the change from animation to real-life has only made Belle seem like more of a brat.

It’s something I never thought when watching the original film but Belle is kind of a bitch. I mean she openly sings about her “provincial town” and the “little people”, which in this situation comes across as being massively negative, Yes, the townsfolk don’t seem to want to befriend Belle but she doesn’t really give them any reason to. She despises them and the lives they lead, It’s horrible. And I think a lot of that has to do with Emma Watson’s acting style. She doesn’t come in all bolshy and brash. She’s polite, kind and well-spoken. It’s not her difference that causes people to turn away from her but her attitude towards others. She talks about the Beast being “mean and course and unrefined”, well up until that point so was she. It’s stays so faithful to the original that it highlights flaws that we never saw in the first place.

The film is most unsure when it is recreating well-known moments. The scenes featuring the songs from the previous film all seem a bit awkward and kind of like those fan-made remakes you see on YouTube. Nobody seems quite comfortable, least of all Emma Watson, and it all feels a bit too uncanny. The songs focusing around real-people are clumsy and don’t flow as well on screen. There is too much going on and the direction seems to work against it. Then the big CGI filled ‘Be Our Guest’ was just an over-the-top extravaganza of computer imagery. It tries so hard to recreate the original whilst also proving that technology has moved on. It’s just a bit of mess.

As is most of the characterisation. It attempts to give them some adedd depth and backstory but it’s not always successful. Emma Thompson sounds like she could be a fine singer if she wasn’t also attempting to sound like a Cockney. It is something that Angela Lansbury managed effortlessly in the original but causes Thompson to spend most of her time “sing talking” instead of actually singing. The only word I know to describe it is the delightful German word “Sprechgesang”. Ewan McGregor, who we know is a great singer, also suffers due to his sketchy French accent. Luke Evans is a remarkable singer but fails to get to the funny side of Gaston and, instead, focuses solely on making him menacing. The original film was so great at mocking his masculinity to make him see even more pathetic. Here, he’s just a one-dimensional villain.

Of course, the worst offender of all is still Emma Watson who, as lovely as she may be in real life, just shouldn’t have played Belle. She’s too timid and doesn’t give the character enough stage presence. Yes, she has the beauty down and she loves books but very little else stands out about her interpretation. It’s Hermione Granger but less of a badass. Then there’s the singing. It’s not that she’s a terrible singer by any means but that Disney have decided to autotune the fuck out of her vocals. She’s not got the strongest voice (especially in a cast featuring the likes of Audra McDonald – who is criminally underused by the way) but it’s a sweet and delicate one that would have been more than up for the task. But that wasn’t good enough. So now it just sounds shit and it’s not her fault. They wanted a big name, I get that, but if they wanted a perfect singer too then Emma Watson wasn’t the girl for them.

I know it sounds like I hate this film but I didn’t. The problem was most of the things I loved about it were bits that were copied from the original so it doesn’t really count. The fact is, there wasn’t enough fresh and new about this remake. It is almost a shot-for-shot reshoot with real characters and CGI. There are actors, like Kevin Kline, who are never used to their potential whilst background characters are over-the-top and distract from scenes. The set-pieces are too brash and confusing in an obvious game of one-upmanship. The problem with this film is that it’s painfully obvious that this was a film made for profit and nothing else.

TBT – X2 (2003)

comic book, films, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Marvel, Patrick Stewart, review, X-Men

If you’d asked me before I saw Logan last week, which film in the X-Men series was my favourite I would have confidently answered “Bryan Singer’s second film”.  It took all of the good things about the first film but made them much better. It also has one of the best endings to a comic book movie ever. The fact that Brett Ratner fucked it all up is another story. It still remains a fucking awesome cliffhanger. X2 is a remarkable sequel that manages to break the rule that the second films always fair worse than their predecessors. It is clever, well written, well acted, and has some of the best action sequences you could hope for. This post marks the moment that I’ve finally posted a review of all existing films in the X-Men franchise. I’ve seen some great films and some not so great films. This remains one of the best. Had it not been for Hugh Jackman’s swansong this year, X2 would have remained the very best.

X2 picks up where Bryan Singer’s first film left off. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still trying to piece together his forgotten history thanks to the information Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) found in his head. Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been captured and is being held prisoner by the deadly Colonel Stryker (Brian Cox). Handily, Stryker was also the man responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton so, when Professor X and Cerebro are taken by Stryker for his evil plan, the mutton-chopped anti-hero is more than happy to help track him down. Unfortunately. he finds that he must accept help from the X-Men’s greatest foe when Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) breaks Magneto out of prison. Hence, the secondary title of this film: X2: X-Men United.

In keeping with the theme of the original comic books, Byran Singer’s film making certainly evolved between the making of X-Men and it’s sequel. The first one was criticised for being kind of unsure of itself and it was believed that Singer wasn’t the right man to make a big budget, Hollywood action film. Thankfully, he got more comfortable with the sequel and managed to create one hell of a film. I mean look at the fucking opening sequence. In a franchise that in recent years has given us the unforgettable Quicksilver prison sequence, the attempted Presidential assassination by new mutant, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) still looks fantastic today. It’s kind of breathtaking and really well made… and it was made 14 years ago when films effects were nowhere near as advanced as today’s. Something you can definitely tell whenever Wolverine stands in front of the green-screened Alkali Lake. But, the sequence where Nightcrawler evades Secret Service agents is just mesmerising.

This is X-Men but just that little bit more amped-up. It is bigger, louder, more ambitious and more exciting. Action becomes a key part of the film and there are several impressive sequences that range in size and complexity. It is a darker film without ever straying beyond it’s PG-13 status. After watching Logan I couldn’t help but wish that it had been the R rated wonder that the latter film turned out to be. We could have saved ourselves a lot of time. Still, X2 feels more comfortable being a comic book movie than X-Men ever did. It still has the same maturity that made the first film seem so good but it also understands that it needs to let got once in a while.

X2 is a longer film than the first and has a greater array of characters to introduce to the plot. These are mostly handled really well and there is never a sense that there are too many personalities on screen. Each of the X-Men get there moment to really show off their power and are able to reengage with the audience. In fact, it is only Lady Deathstroke that is really wasted here and even she gets a pretty awesome fight scene. I mean Cyclops is obvsiously given short-shrift here but I like to think that’s mainly because he’s naturally a little bit boring. Cool, don’t get me wrong, but not the stand-out player in anyone’s (comic) book.

What X2 does really well is continue the political and social elements that X-Men sets up. The film continues with the idea of segregation and a dersire to wipe out the mutant race entirely. It plays with themes from modern history and creates a story that is more than just good guys beating up bad guys. Considering it is such a huge blockbuster, the scenes that resonate the most are the more personal scenes that deal with these themes. Just take the scene in which Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) “comes out” as a mutant to his parents. It is such a clever, funny, and familiar scene that it gives the classic comic book heroes a more realistic and time appropriate feel. The script is incredibly clever and the actors all play their parts incredibly.

Although, I won’t pretend that X2 is perfect. There are problems with the final act and some loose ends are tied up a bit too quickly or roughly. It’s structure is a bit disjointed and there are certain elements that could have run smoother. However, it is without a doubt the best X-Men related movie to ever have been made… until 2017 that is..

TBT – X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

comic book, films, fucking awful, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, review, TBT, X-Men

It’s been just over 10 years since Brett Ratner’s addition to the series of X-Men films that Bryan Singer started back in 2000 and, without meaning to be too dramatic, it’s still painful that this film exists. I know that Days of Future Past went and deleted it from the film canon but that doesn’t make it any easier. I vividly remember going to see this film with my friends: I was 18 years old, full of hope and excitement at what the next instalment would bring. I left feeling utterly depressed and glad the whole thing was over. A lot of my sadness at the time revolved around the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Beast. I’ve always loved the character of Beast and was glad that he was set to be involved in this film. As a firm lover of Frasier I even, initially, didn’t mind the casting of Grammer; I mean Hank is an intelligent and peaceful creature so I could see where they were coming from. Upon leaving I was bemoaning the fact that Beast had been so utterly wasted. As the years went by my hatred for this film only grew and, had it not been for the even more appalling X-Men Origins 3 years later, I could easily say this was worst film in the whole franchise. And, for once, I’m not just being melodramatic.

I’m so irrationally angry at this films existence that I imagine writing this review is going to be hard so I’m going to simplify it and break it down into the good and bad points.

First, the good:

  • The Cast

This film’s cast does have quite a few plus points as the rest of the films have. Ian McKellen is always a delight as the villainous Magneto and, no matter how much better J Law is at acting, I think Rebecca Romijn will always be the ultimate Mystique. She’s sexy, weird and dangerous instead of endless inspiring and preachy. In terms of the rest of the cast, most of the regulars are just phoning in what little they get to work with but, alongside newcomer Ellen Page as Kitty, the main highlight has to be Famke Janssen as Jean Grey/Phoenix. She gets short shrift in terms of the Dark Phoenix narrative but Janssen is fantastic in the moments she gets to unleash the Phoenix. We deserved more of her.

  • Action sequences

Whatever you may think about Ratner’s directorial style you cannot deny that his action sequences are memorable. Yes, this isn’t always a positive (see the floating house/Xavier shaky jowls moment) but the danger room sequence and final Phoenix showdown are both pretty spectacular.

  • Political Elements

The film’s narrative isn’t exactly strong but there are some aspects that work really well. The attempt to bring in the political elements with the cure provides an emotional struggle for the mutants. It follows the strong human vs mutant struggle we’ve seen in previous films and provides some decent moments. Angel’s storyline, though rushed, has some great moments and Beast’s internal struggle works great (particularly when added to the similar themes in the prequels).

Now the bad:

  • It’s just not very good

There is a lot of shitty parts of this film that stand out. The continuity is all over the shop and the editing is just awful in places. This film isn’t all about the detail it’s just about getting the story told in the most exciting way. Day quickly becomes night, cars have lights on to make shots better and things aren’t where they’re meant to be. It all just shows a lack of finesse and care that these films had under the watchful eye of Bryan Singer. Plus, who ever cast Vinnie fucking Jones needs to get sacked. Hearing his awful cockney accent shouting “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch” was something nobody needed or wanted.

  • Too many characters

There are just too many characters stuffed into this thing that nobody really gets the development they deserve. Even big players like Jean don’t get enough to do and she spends most of her time standing behind people looking bored. The new guys are introduced and ignored until they are needed for a cool shot or funny gag later one. We needed to get to know these characters and care about them instead of see one execution of their power near the end of the film. We needed more Hank for fuck’s sake.

  • Terrible treatment of existing characters

Ratner was brutal in this film when it came to killing off existing characters. Not brutal in terms of number, per se, but in the way he did it. There was no respect for the key characters here and they are completely turned around from the people we know already. Xavier’s characterisation here is completely different to the one we knew and he spends most of him time being a huge dick. It’s almost a relief when Jean kills him off. But then she does and in a really understated way. However, he gets more of a look in than Scott who, thanks to James Marsden’s desire to follow Singer to Superman Returns, gets killed off in the most pathetic way about 10 minutes into the film. Then there’s fucking Rogue who went through 2 films worth of struggling with her identity only to get rid of her powers so she can have sex with Bobby. What kind of fucking crazy message is that to give young girls? Get rid of your uniqueness in order to land a guy: fuck that! It’s a horrible use of these characters.

  • The rushed Dark Phoenix Saga

X2 remains the best film in the franchise in my opinion and it so expertly set up the Dark Phoenix Saga that fans eagerly awaited X3. Of course, The Last Stand managed to fuck that up by gluing this story onto the end of the main mutant cure narrative. This means we only get about 15 minutes of real Phoenix force before everything is resolved. Considering this is such a huge event in the comics, The Last Stand really doesn’t do it justice.

  • Too much Wolverine

By this point in the trilogy it had become clear that Wolverine was the most bankable member of the cast and, as such, Fox had made him the main character. Which is kind of crazy. It also meant that almost every emotional aspect of this plot fell back to him instead of the people it should have done. Xavier’s death: how does Logan feel? Jean’s descent into evil: how does Logan feel? Mutant cure: how does Logan feel? Who gives a fuck!? I want to know who thought it was a good idea to take the Dark Phoenix Saga out of Jean Grey’s completely and give the emotional resolution to fucking Wolverine? I love Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as much as the next guy but this shouldn’t have been his movie.


By no means is The Last Stand the worst films ever made nor, thanks to fucking Origins, is it the worst X-Men film ever made. The problem remains that it was much worse than the two films is followed. Bryan Singer had made something great with his first two films. He not only set about placing X-Men firmly in Hollywood but also showed the great potential for superhero movies. Arguably, the focus of modern cinema could have been very different without them. So Ratner’s shitty attempt to follow in his footsteps is all the more painful because of the reputation he fucked with. Still, there are some positives. Mostly nothing to do with Ratner but, still, it’s good to know that we can find hope in anything.

TBT – X-Men (2000)

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Last week when I was blissfully celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest teen movies of all time, one of the greatest comic book movies of all time was also celebrating a milestone birthday. On July 14thX-Men, Bryan Singer‘s first step into the murky world of mutants, turned 15 years old. With Days of Future Past coming out last year and X-Men Apocalypse less than a year away, Singer really is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of superhero movies. Now I won’t lie to you, X-Men isn’t the best: it has been overshadowed by Singer’s second outing and, perhaps, by Days of Future Past itself.However, Singer brought together a fucking amazing cast and introduced Professor X’s squad of mutant heroes to the big screen. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there is no doubt that it is a film that deserves to be recognised.

Before he made X-Men Bryan Singer admits to not being a fan of comic books. Instead he was interested in making the film more human and pick up on the social ramifications of the introduction of mutants to the world. Since it’s release 15 years ago, Singer has continued to stick his toe into the waters of superheroes and, after a brief stop at the abysmal Superman Returns, has come back to take his rightful place at the head of the good ship X.
The strength in Singer’s first film comes mostly from the amazing cast that he brought together to bring to life the people that filled so many of our childhoods. Most notably were veteran actors Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. They have so much fun with their characters but, in the way they have with every role, never bring anything less than their A game. Without wanting to get too deep in hyperbole, these two were born to play Charles Xavier and Magneto. I love McEvoy and Fassbender as much as the next person but they’ll always be the understudies.
Although admittedly, the pair aren’t exactly given a lot to do. For this is, first and foremost, Wolverine‘s film. Yes, this was the film that turned Hugh Jackman from some Australian actor into a bona fide God in the geek world. Wolverine is angry, funny and fucking hard. Jackman became Wolverine and over the years I’ve become more and more worried that he’s lost his grip on reality. Seriously, have you seen how fucking huge he was in Days of Future Past? Someone needs to stop him.
The list of great actors is seemingly endless with the likes of Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, and Famke Janssen. However, none of them really get much to get their teeth into; Halle Berry in particular gets short shrift as Storm who is relegated to a portable wind machine instead of the badass she is in the comics. So X-Men does have a problem with it’s massive cast and a lot of the characters remain underdeveloped.
Well aside from Paquin’s Rogue who is a central part of the narrative. Magneto, a metal manipulator who resides in the pro-Mutant/anti-Human camp, sets out to create a mutant world by turning all of human kind into the freaks they fear. The narrative is pretty simple and, after a short introduction to Magneto and some other key players, it basically gets straight to the point. There is a bit of guff that could probably have been lost here and there but Singer’s film is actually pretty lean. It’s over far too quickly for my tastes.
You could, as Roget Ebert did back in the day, argue that the conclusion isn’t quite as dramatic as it ought to be. There is something of an anti-climax but it does the job. X-Menset out to introduce us these new characters. Whilst it doesn’t do it as well as it could, it is still a highly enjoyable film. You won’t be disappointed: just eager for more. What he maybe lacks in an explosive finale, Singer more than makes up for with quality. The production design is great, the special effects were impressive at the time, and there were some truly satisfying set-pieces to enjoy. X-Men, as a first step into this new world, was a strong and important film. I defy anyone to watch it and come out truly hating it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

fucking awesome, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, review, sequel, time travel, Wolverine, X-Men

(Sorry it’s another long one.)

As I’ve already spent time on here trying to prove that we owe a lot to Bryan Singer and his early adaptations of Marvels’ mutant heroes. Without the well-made and still brilliant X-Menback in 2000 we quite probably wouldn’t have been treated to such cinematic delights as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy, Joss Whedon’s Avengers and the revamped Amazing Spider-Man. Singer was the guy who, after the heartbreak from Joel Schumacher’s reign of terror, reminded us that comic book films could be great. The moment he stepped away from the franchise was when it all started to go wrong. So I have been on tenterhooks ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be back to direct this sequel to 2011’s acclaimed X-Men FirstClass. Add to that the fact that it would be an adaptation of the brilliant ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline and we have a painstaking wait for the release date on our hands. I watched the trailers so many times that I was acting them out in private doing my best P. Stew impression.

Singer’s film takes inspiration from the 80s storyline that saw Kitty Pryde’s consciousness being sent back to her past self in order to prevent a horrific dystopian future. However, with the dismal Last Stand showing Kitty (Ellen Page) to be only about 20, there was always going to be a problem creating a sequel to First Class that centred on her character. Step forward everyone’s favourite magnetic Canadian and we have a guaranteed hit with film audiences.

Opening with scenes of an apocalyptic future where a small band of mutants, some very familiar, are going to great efforts to avoid the deadly and now adaptable Sentinels. They are soon discovered by ex-headmaster Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and ex-villain Magneto (Ian McKellan) who have a plan to prevent the moment that started this horrific chain of events. Using Kitty’s newly discovered power to send people’s minds back in time, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to his 70s body to gather the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Eric  (Michael Fassbender) together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) fucking everything up by shooting the creator of the aforementioned Sentinels.

Queue plenty of 70s paraphernalia, including lava lamps, flairs and questionable hair styles. I read a review that suggested Days of Future Past didn’t have as much fun with recreating its chosen era as First Class did. Having seen the film twice I can only assume that the critic responsible missed the previous films historically accurate but fucking ridiculous misogyny and objectification of women. Singer does everything he has to do to show that Wolverine is back in time without needing to continually force his female cast to strip off unnecessarily.
Instead, Singer focuses on plot and has gone to great lengths to ensure that the potentially confusing time-travel narrative doesn’t get out of control. The two timeframes are handled beautifully and come together perfectly. The film’s climax, where the action jumps between past and future, is expertly conducted and provides the first time in 15 years that Storm (Halle Berry) becomes as awesome as she is in the comics. He has great control of the special effects and, unlike plenty of these films, doesn’t get bogged down with gratuitous action sequences. Under Singer’s firm hand, everything happens to help the narrative move forward. Of course there is the usual check-list of things X-Men clichés and there is something of a bloat of in-jokes to keep the hardcore fans happy. However, there are also so many fantastic things: the introduction of Blink, whose power is used fantastically in the future battle sequences; terrifying Sentinels; a sharp script and exciting cameos.
Without a doubt, the film’s stand out sequence is the scene in which the newly introduced Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is shown diffusing a tense situation in bullet time set to Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle’. It’s a fucking beautiful scene and is incredibly funny. Had someone told me prior to my first viewing that Evan Peters would have the standout performance in this film I’d have slapped them for being so absurd. However, the brief moments that Quicksilver is on screen show that the character has great potential in future films. So much so that I’m terrified of the way Marvel will handle the character in Avengers 2.  Peters made the character his own and I was genuinely sad when Xavier sent him on his way early on.
Since, despite having a cast of great names, of both the acting and comic book worlds, this film is all about James McAvoy. McAvoy made a fine start in First Class but was outshone by his more prominent co-stars. Here we see Charles Xavier as we have never seen him before: both physically and emotionally broken and without his powers. He rejects his purpose and is willing to turn his back on his future. McAvoy is mesmerising as he struggles to reconnect with the two people who turned their back on him. Even alongside the physically intimidating and much loved Wolverine, McAvoy comes out as one of the standout stars.
An even more impressive task considering the legendary Patrick Stewart, the name that will forever be synonymous with Xavier’s, is back along with his partner in crime Ian McKellan. Ever since the post-credits scene after The Wolverine (after which I felt compelled to applaud) I have been impatient to see their return. I have always appreciated the fact that these two classically trained actors have never approached this material in anything but a professional manner. Having Stewart and McKellen on screen in these roles is a fucking joy to watch and, during the films climactic moments, nearly had me in tears. It’s always great seeing amazing actors in roles that they clearly enjoy.
A quality that you can always appreciate about Hugh Jackman: no matter how terrifying his continually pumped body gets (seriously it’s beginning to worry me. Look how veiny he is in this film. Step away from the weights Hugh) he always has fun with the character. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a great deal to do here. Wolverine is left to take his shirt off and act as little more than the facilitator to the younger generation. This could have been worked with anyone being in his place but I guess it’s always nice to see the ole bone claws every now and then.
Wolverine goes back to prevent Mystique from assassinating Trask and causing the government to take greater action against the mutants. One would assume this would be good news for all J Law fans but I have to say I was utterly disappointed with the way she was used. Despite a few awesome fight sequences, Mystique had very little to work with. There is little explanation for her sudden descent into super villainy and no real attempt to further flesh out the character from the first film. There are hints at a relationship with Magneto and a tiny reference to her history with Hank but nothing to excite. J Law is really just going through the motions here.
This is something of a problem with the film as it has such a large cast to work with that many end up getting swept under the carpet. You know you’ve got too many characters when you introduce someone as fucking cool as Bishop only to have him do nothing. It’s fucking criminal. I mean Peter Dinklange is one of the greatest actors working at the moment and his casting as Boliver Trask, designer of the mutant killing robots that haunted all of our childhood dreams, seemed like pure genius. For some unknown reason Dinklage turns up for the odd political meeting where he spouts on about mutants and robots and then just stands around. I don’t understand what these people were thinking. Great actors deserve great roles even in the fantasy world of mutants, robots and time travel.
Likewise Michael Fassbender is once again unable to really get to grips with the supposedly evil Magneto and is only given one sequence of slight conflict. This is Fassbender’s second time playing with the mental manipulator and he has failed to come close to greatness he briefly displayed in the opening moments of First Class. This wasn’t Magneto’s film, I know, but there still doesn’t feel like there is any connection between Fass and McKellen’s truly villainous version besides their name and power. With an actor of Fassbender’s calibre you could create a fucking gruesome nemesis (I mean this is the man who appalled us in 12 Years a Slave after all) if only you gave him something to do besides making a football stadium float.

To be fair though the floating stadium is a pretty amazing visual. It’s the closest Singer gets to unnecessary but it stands for everything this film is about. Days of Future Past flirts with darkness in the opening sequence (we see death, destruction and a glimpse of mutant prison camps) but it is all about fun. It’s the film that comes closest to the feeling and tone of the original comics whilst remaining sophisticated and well-crafted.

It’s been just over a week since Days of Future Past was released in the UK and I’ve already had to fit in a double viewing. It’s safe to say that Bryan Singer has more than made amends for the disappointing Super Man Returns and returned to near enough his comic book best. Unfortunately, Days of Future Pastis, undeniably, a flawed film: it ignores some of its better cast members and characters and sometimes gets a little too self-indulgent. However, it’s exactly what it should be: an unashamedly joyous, exciting and well-made superhero movie. You finally get the sense that, after 15 years of trying to avoid it, Bryan Singer is finally comfortably with the idea of making a comic book movie and it’s entertaining as fuck.