The X-Men film franchise has been a mixed bag. The original film helped set the standard for the burgeoning comic book film genre, whilst the second pushed it higher. Luckily the series survived both the disappointing The Last Stand and then the risible Origins to again impress with both First Class and The Wolverine.
First Class introduced a new, younger cast of mutants that many assumed would then move the franchise on. Not quite yet.
A really rather grim opening sequence gives us a good idea as to the stakes involved, and introduces us to the magic of time travel, allowing franchise protagonist Wolverine to tie together possibly the largest ensemble cast you’ll ever see. With all the marketing popping Hugh Jackman front and centre (and why wouldn’t they?) you’d be forgiven for thinking the film would centre around him. Wolverine is the only character capable of making the jump back in time, and he is the lens through which we get to see major changes taking place for other main characters. This turns out to be an extremely wise decision, as it gives us our Wolverine fix whilst not really making him the focus of the narrative.
With the cast of the original trilogy and the younger cast coming together it’s a lot to juggle, and a hell of a lot to take in. Unless you’re fully versed in the films it is a bit of a minefield, and even then it’s not easy. I came out with plenty of questions. But I’m a no spoiler review type of guy so I won’t go into those here.
Director Singer and writer Simon Kinberg do a great job of providing a lot of the characters with motivations and varying size story arcs. Unfortunately the older cast members, bar Wolverine of course, get the short end of the stick in a series of cameos. The time travel mechanic is used not only as an important part of this film, but effectively rewrites the film continuity. Who knows what X team we’ll end up with in the future.
Where the film truly excels is in action and spectacle. Somewhat surprisingly the best example of this is with a character that forces me to eat humble pie. Upon seeing the first image of Quicksilver I thought he looked terrible. Like an awful goth/glam rock combination. But to see him in motion, poking the cheeks of enemies whilst tasting spilt food and dodging bullets was a joy. Both stunning to look at and amusing. Magneto does his best not to be upstaged, showing off in spectacular fashion. The level of metal management he shows here is bat-shit crazy and I loved it. ‘Future’ fights are beautifully staged, with some very inventive combinations of powers shown off.
The entire cast do well with what they’re given. Whilst Fassbender more closely matching McKellen in his voice and mannerisms is great to watch, really the film belongs to both the McAvoy/Stewart pairing and Lawrence. They’re story is the real backbone and all show a believable change in their characters as they learn and grow. Jackman is effortless as Logan at this point, and he provides several entertaining time travel gags.
Be warned though, for a 12a there is plenty of swearing, which had me questioning the certificate and feeling quite the prude. Each cuss is very fitting for the characters at least. Just a small warning for anyone thinking of taking younger kids.
Though I enjoyed DOFP (far easier than typing out the full title), the amount of information, exposition, and moving between the two time frames didn’t give me a chance to settle. It’s a huge roller-coaster ride, but whilst I enjoyed it I don’t feel as though I really connected with it. As part celebration of the franchise and part a fresh starting point it is a success however. I’ll need more viewings to really decide where it stands in both the X-Men series and the genre.
For now though I can say that DOFP stands strongly beside The Wolverine and First Class, proving that there is plenty of life left in this franchise. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment is how it rinses out the sour taste left by less than stellar previous entries. I might be able to completely ignore Origins now, and for that I’m truly thankful.