What is there left to be said about a superhero movie in an age where seemingly every day sees a new release and a new announcement? Going right to the start of this modern age of Super-films it begins with the first in the X-franchise. Since that fateful day way back in 2000, there have been upwards of 35 of these movies released from both the big two – DC and Marvel – and from various independent institutions – not to mention countless spoofs and homages.
It is seemingly the closest Hollywood has come to having a real cinematic movement since perhaps the Halcyon days of the 70’s, when Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola were both packing cinemas and pushing boundaries. Unfortunately this Superhero phase of the Big H’s ever shifting output is more concerned with the packing cinemas element. The only boundaries being pushed are “how much money can we spend?” and “how much can we make?”
My expectations then, were unconscionably high for this latest X-instalment. The first reboot/prequel First Class was actually rather good, two of Britain’s most tantalising thespian exports going tête-à-tête in the form of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, our respective youthful Professor X and Magneto. Though the films villains and supporting cast were a little thin on the ground, the attention lavished on the central friendship and how their vastly different upbringings lead to their vastly different viewpoints, made the whole film worth a watch.
Fassbender and McAvoy return here but with diminished roles. They are joined to become a trio with Wolverine, the films link from future to past. He is in usual gruff form though his need to become mentor to the grief-ridden X gives Hugh Jackman a little more to bite on than in his previous excursions as the beclawed misery guts. His introduction back to the ’70’s, a brilliant riff on Terminator 2’s “I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle” may just be the best thing in the film
The only other highlight of the film comes in the form of Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask, although once again his appearance provides more questions than it answers. Chief amongst though is his disposition towards mutants. He does say at one point in the film that he wields not hate for mutants but “admiration”. Given his stature it is fair to presume that the character himself would have been subjected to similar singling out and abuse at the hands of “normal people”. If this is to be presumed then surely Trask would have both that admiration but also empathy for mutants the world over?
The likelihood is that Dinklage’s talents were the only thing discussed in his casting, not his height, a smart move considering that he remains among televisions highest echelons of acting brilliance, in perhaps the largest show on air at the moment. A retroactive scan of the script, a line or two perhaps could have smoothed over glaring holes and made for a cinematic experience more deserving of some disbelief suspension.
This goes for the whole of the picture. While parts stand out here and there, the apiece as a whole is missing something. For all the publicity on the vast cast being assembled, the central trio of Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto are the three characters with more than 10 lines, some characters, Toad, Storm, Rogue having 1 or less. Despite this, it is not even as though the film is crammed, in fact it can seem rather empty at points. Not enough is made of the ’70’s setting, the Sentinels are also few and far between and the central tension between X and Erik in their McAvoy/Fassbender guises is summed up in one begrudging game of chess and some surface-level bickering.
Unlike the with genres high points so far, Bryan Singer and XMDOFP are missing some of the key elements that made those films so successful. Joss Whedon’s supernatural ability for ensemble wrangling and zippy dialogue as seen in Avengers Assemble would lend this film a better balance. Likewise it never engages it huge cast of acting talent like Christopher Nolan did with his dark, powerful, real(ish) world realisations of complex heroes and villains in his Dark Knight trilogy. All I came away from DOFP thinking about was ways to gloss over parts, to fix this and that, just generally that the film had took much of a lot of things and too little of others. Altogether underwhelming.
– Ollie Drew