THERE ARE NO woefully misguided creative mutations this time around. The X-Men franchise is back at full cinematic force.
With “X-Men: Days of Future Past” open this weekend, Fox is back to rivaling Marvel Studios at how to deftly adapt iconic comic-book characters for the big screen.
Not only is “DOFP” one of the top superhero movies in recent memory — packing as much big-screen punch as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” It’s also the best X-Men film yet.
The latest outing should silence complaints that no new sequels could be as good as the first or second “X-Men.” (Yes, “X3” was a disaster; fortunately, “X-Men: First Class” helped reinvigorate the franchise, putting it back on an upward trajectory.)
The success of “First Class” also provided Fox with a path to depart from the first three X-films like a distant memory. The filmmakers could have simply, but more shallowly, continued their reboot with newer, younger actors. Instead, with two X-Men movie universes at their disposal — and a cast of beloved original movie X-Men — Fox decided to do its own version of the oh-so-popular universe-sharing in films, while re-telling one of the great X-Men stories. The result: a brilliant move that pays off beautifully.
Is “DOFP” a carbon copy of the comic it draws its inspiration from? Fortunately, no (what fun would that be?).
The story basics are there, though: A grave situation lurks in the future for mutants. Someone has to travel back in time to stop an event that gives rise to the Sentinels’s take-over. Onscreen, is the character who goes back in time Kitty Pryde? No, but even though it’s Wolverine who gets the call here, we’re given a pretty logical reason as to why it has to be the adamantium man with the power of self-healing. (Thankfully, Kitty still plays a major role — and has some great Shadowcat moments, too).
It’s a testament to the richness of these characters that a franchise that almost destroyed itself can come back so strong. The X-Men have never looked better on film. And it looks as if they’re just getting warmed up for new adventures.
Here are 6 Things Comic Riffs took away from “X-Men: Days of Future Past”:
1. Quicksilver’s redemption
The Internet owes actor Evan Peters an apology. When the first images of Peters’s Quicksilver were released, the digital hordes voiced their disapproval: It looks nothing like Quicksilver. They got it all wrong. This isn’t going to work. The Quicksilver in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be better.
Well. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
First, the setting is the early ‘70s. How else is a kid decades away from the appearance of smartphones — and who’s living without Internet — supposed to look? Peter’s is a scene-stealer. Here’s hoping he’s in future X-Men movies. The use of his blazing super-speed is amazing to watch.
But wait — what’s the deal? Every fanboy knows Quicksilver is the son of Magneto. How do they work around that? Is it even hinted upon? You’ll have to see for yourself.
2. A master of magnetism — by any means necessary
In “First Class,” we are treated to Michael Fassbender’s take as ruthless Magneto. But in “First Class,” he was still a man torn between two sides, and wrestling with his longtime friendship with Charles Xavier; he also was a man who saw the potential evil in humanity and was weary of it. He was almost over the edge, but not quite.
So how is “DOFP” Magneto? Well, he’s had it with your insufferable treatment of his people. You don’t like mutants? He’ll give you a reason not only to hate them, but also to fear them. “DOFP” gives us the moment when Magneto goes from sometime friend/sometimes foe to the most dangerous man on the planet.
Humanity — and RFK Stadium — will never be the same.
3. At last, the Sentinels
Many X-Men fans finally get what they’ve wanted since the dawn of this franchise: Sentinels. The arrival of the gigantic, mutant-hunting machines doesn’t disappoint. The Sentinels of the future (fueled by a surprising power source) put on the biggest show. And as for their maker? Peter Dinklage (once you get past the fact that he’s not Tyrion time-traveling from another universe) brings compelling life to a character (Bolivar Trask) who, while important, may have been overlooked if played by anyone else.
4. Wolverine plays nice
Few fans gripe that the X-Men movies are “The Wolverine Show.” (Hugh Jackman can’t help it if he utterly inhabits the character.) Sure, he’s too tall, but Jackman’s Wolverine remains one of the greatest comic-book movie characters ever — up there with Heath Ledger’s Joker and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Jackman delivers another great performance in the role, while allowing others in the cast to shine, too. It’s great fun watching him interact with new actors portraying characters he’s already known in previous movies (Magneto, Mystique, Professor X). It’s said that Jackman was very happy with the final result that is “DOFP.” Let’s hope that means he has a few more Wolverine performances left.
5. That’s so Raven (Mystique)
Given her rise to A-list status, it’s guaranteed that Jennifer Lawrence has a crucial role in “DOFP.” Lawrence inhabits the same Mystique who was so close to Professor X in “First Class,” but here she’s got a mean streak. She’s not evil, but there’s a darkness growing in her; though she’s not aligned with Magneto just yet in this film, you can see things building to that.
6. Simply the best
The franchise is back to a place of elevated excellence. There are flaws, but there are also so many creative payoffs. And, of course, make sure you stay after the credits.
You can follow David Betancourt on Twitter: @adcfanboy.