Charles Xavier makes me want to be a better person.
His kindness and wisdom seems unconditional. Even when faced with overwhelming obstacles and hate, he still manages to persevere. He seems to exude this energy that says: “Everything is going to be just fine.”
When did this connection start?
Maybe it was Patrick Stewart’s portrayal. I’d watched the man for years as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” While Picard didn’t have that same gentleness, he was still a trustworthy force to be believed.
In 2011, James McAvoy took over the role as a younger Xavier, and although he humanized the character, he still possessed a certain grace and elegance. “X-Men: First Class” offered a look at the beginnings of our favorite mutant crew.
McAvoy and his crew returned May 23 in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Stewart and HIS crew returned as well. It’s a time-traveling tale that covers a 50-year span and tries its best to get as much done in the two-hour, 10-minute running time.
What went wrong? Why didn’t this movie exude the same confidence as Professor X? I’ll tell you, and it starts with the convoluted story.
AmandaNotes version: Xavier of 2023 (give or take) sends Wolverine (the franchise’s ever-present star, Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 in order to unite Xavier and Magneto of that time period (McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) in order to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from doing something dastardly and confirming for the world that mutants are evil and must be stopped. In the future, mutants are getting wiped out, and each faces impending doom.
Sound fun? Maybe in another timeline.
Bryan Singer returned to the helm for “Days of Future Past.” He directed “X-Men” and “X2: X-Men United” — the latter arguably the best of the entire franchise — before taking a leave of absence from a franchise doomed to have some dark days in the form of “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”
Singer was a producer for “First Class,” which offered a new look at the mutants we’d come to know. McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence took center stage in that film, which offered the perfect blend of humor, drama and action. It was fun and well-acted.
“Days of Future Past” tries to build on that same formula. Many of the same parts are there, but for me, it doesn’t jive quite as well.
McAvoy is as brilliant as ever. Gone is the boyish charm and elegance we’d seen before. Left in its place is a broken (literally) shell of a man, trying to find an ever elusive peace. Fassbender and Lawrence are under-utilized in this one. Lawrence is one of the most amazing actresses out there right now, but something just feels forced and stale in this one. Fassbender and McAvoy are brilliant together, when given the opportunity.
Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) hits the big screen as Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels — ginormous robots that can adapt to and exterminate each and every mutant they face. Dinklage is unemotional and bland as Trask. We have no clue why he hates mutants so much or what motivated him to be so inhumane. Trask is completely uninteresting and even the talented Dinklage can’t save him.
So, let’s say the acting is a step down from its predecessors. Point: “X-Men,” “X2: X-Men United” and “First Class.”
Aesthetically, the movie hits new highs. And some lows. The Sentinels are as impressive as I hoped they would be. In the 1970s, we’re given the opportunity to see the purple and silver behemoths, reminiscent of the comics. Fifty years later, the Sentinels are terrifying, unstoppable and just as imposing.
Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Mystique are both given makeovers. While Mystique’s design is slightly reminiscent of the decals you put in the bottom of your shower to keep from slipping, Beast’s look takes a step up. In “First Class,” he looked, believe it or not, cuddlier. Director Matthew Vaughn favored a more lion-esque look for the furry mutant. I wasn’t sure if he was going to growl or purr. For “Days of Future Past,” Beast is rougher. He truly looks like someone that might tear you apart at any moment.
And then there’s Quicksilver. Played by Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”), the addition of Quicksilver is one of the best moments of the movie. He’s fun, he’s quirky and he’s incredibly amusing. Using his amazing speed, Quicksilver offers up scenes that not only make us laugh but visually astound as well. Granted, it would be way more awesome if he wasn’t wearing a wig I could pick up for $9.99 at Party City and dressed all in cheap looking silver. But who’s judging?
So, we’ve got a mixed bag in this department. Point: No clear winner.
All of this would just fine with a well-told story, right? Comic book movies are notoriously hit-and-miss. No biggie.
However, “Days of Future Past” isn’t a well-told story. It raises plenty of questions that are left unanswered. Some people might call that brave. I call it lazy.
“Days of Future Past” is ulimately worth seeing. It’s a stellar cast, and they shine in this one. Oh, and Jackman is completely naked, if only briefly. And it was good. That’s arguably worth the price of admission right there.
It has its problems, but Singer has a nice return to the franchise. As a fan, it was just nice to see both casts merged together: “Two Xaviers in the same room!”
However, I also wanted fries with my meal. I wanted answers to my questions. Maybe I’ll get them when I sit down to see “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016.
Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times; she’ll also be contributing film reviews on a regular basis for Weekend. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend