Bridging the gaps in the ‘X-Men’ franchise
Long before the studio ever embarked on their Avengers or Fantastic Four cinematic franchises, there was a time the X-Men were the original assembled team of superheroes to bring about Marvel’s movie success. With X-Men 2 still holding up as the best film with Wolverine and co, 2011’s fairly average prequel-reboot attempt of X-Men: First Class involving a newly updated cast has now seen director Bryan Singer return to the mutant universe he knows so well to amalgamate the old generation with the new. Time travelling, 70’s government cover ups and the fate of the world on the line is all used to create the biggest time-straddling X-Men experience possible.
Fast forward to the future, a weapon designed to kill mutants is threatening the existence of our band of heroes, lead by Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen). Their only option? Sending the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to aid our once younger leaders (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) in eradicating this weapon from ever being conceived by military scientist Trask (Peter Dinklage). But with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) being hunted down to fulfil Trask’s plan, they find changing the past is easier said than done.
As a concept of gathering all our X-Men favourites, the film works really well. Firstly, the interactions between the older and the younger generations are great to see, McAvoy and Fassbender not only get the charm and the mannerisms of their counterparts but can stand firmly toe-to-toe with them. You have the blend of 70’s style and the atmosphere of a post-Vietnam politics in the Washington air, along with the vision of a baron desecrated future that has since taken a hold of the world. Whilst the future setting may feel like a wrap around for the narrative, there is just enough moments of our established heroes such as Storm (Halle Berry) and Kitty (Ellen Page) in there to keep the 70’s timeline stakes high.
Whilst some fans may feel there’s not enough of the older generation on screen, it’s important to understand this is first and foremost a sequel to First Class, and with the talent of McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence upping their previous appearance. James McAvoy plays the younger Professor X more fractured than before and comes to terms with whether he wants to save his physical or mental abilities in the midst of this great unrest. Even a heartfelt psychic moment with his older self pleading, “We need you to hope again” is greatly played. Michael Fassbender does menace, tension and increasing his quest for dominance with grit and frightening consequences, whilst Jennifer Lawrence injects more attitude to her character all the while battling an underlying fight with her own morale. All three give it their all, ensuring fans that, should this franchise continue, they are very much in safe hands with this new cast incarnation.
You also have Peter Dinklage as not so much a mad scientific character, but a man desperate to see normality and safety restored while slowly realising he is indeed monstrous in his own pursuit of ridding those he does not fully understand. His character essentially heads the political line that appears throughout all the X-Men movies that have addressed the co-existence of mutants. With this reboot series venturing through the past, it’s more in the influence in American political history with experiences in Cuba and now Vietnam that is incorporated just as effective as contemporary politics. But aside from that, there is still huge big set pieces and special effects to wow the experience, with jailbreaks and action orchestrated with efficiency and timing, making its 130-minute running time breeze along nicely.
With all its nonstop action and vast array of characters, there is a sense at times of character interactions getting lost in translation. Moments when the film doesn’t clearly state their intentions or reasoning for either good or evil that can become head scrambling, which is strange for a film involving the science of time travel and super powers to leave you with an absence of fully understanding character motivations. But the one stalwart is that of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, playing the pre-metallic claws and given the comedic lines and quips more than ever before, he’s able to perfectly bridge the gap between the past and the future worlds of the X-Men together on-screen. For this to be his seventh appearance as the same character without resorting to being undermined and tiresome at any point really is remarkable!
It’s a much better film than First Class and builds on the promise you seen from its main premise. Newcomers may find it too much to take in, but for the fans who’ve followed these films for many years it’s an entertaining mix of the old and the new, with emotion, humour and action all in abundance.