Review : X-men Days of Future Past (SPOILER KLAXON)

Rest easy fellow nerds for it has been done. The monster has been slayed. That which was wrong has been righted. The stain has been removed. I am of course talking about the abomination of X-Men 3. News has been coming in for the last few days from cinema’s all around the globe, X-men 3 is no longer.

independenceday

X-Men : The Last Stand is going down all around the world

It has been obliterated out of continuity and replaced by the very good and very enjoyable X-Men Days of Future Past.

To briefly give the plot of Days of Future Past. The future is a hellish nightmare where humans and mutants alike are hunted and enslaved/killed by Sentinels i.e. its the plot of Terminator (for the record this might sound sarcastic but I have no problem with this).

Using the time traveling mutant powers of Ellen Page (don’t know or care about her character’s name) they send Wolverine back in time to 1973 in order to prevent the creation of the machines. To do this they need to stop Mystique assassinating the sentinel creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) because, it was Trask’s murder that convinced the politicians to fund the Sentinel program (It’s like Mystique never saw Terminator 2 and so never learnt that killing Miles Dyson doesn’t stop Skynet).

This is a great set up for the film because, essentially the story is now a character piece about Mystique and whether she is going to go to the dark side or take a more righteous path and turn to the light side.

Mystique has always been one of the more interesting X-Men characters and not just because, she looks…

mystiqueWhat was I saying? I seem to have lost my train of thought.

Anyway Jennifer Lawrence really anchors this movie with a great performance as the enigmatic shapeshifter. The drama is basically centered around her.

Essentially it is Mystique’s movie and this really makes everything work. The fact that Magneto and Xavier have to relate everything through the prism of Mystique’s character and their relationship to her allows the film to be interesting throughout and move beyond the standard superhero fare. Unlike other Superhero films where the bits between action scenes are forgettable in DoFP they continue to be watchable.

This isn’t to say that DoFP is perfect though.

The film could have done with having more of an sense of scale and epic grandeur. The future we are told is the end of civilization but to give the audience a sense of scale and epicness of this the audience should have been shown more about how awful this future was.

Instead of having all the characters in Patrick Stewart’s timeline sitting around waiting they should have had them doing something to create a sense of the characters being hunted. This would have allowed them to show what a hellhole the future was. Essentially, they should have taken inspiration from Inception as well as Terminator.

Even worse than this though is the criminal under-utilisation of Peter Dinklage. Trask is essentially a Josef Mangele figure. He is pure evil. More should have been given to Dinklage to set this up. Not only would this have been cool but it would have given the plot another dimension.

It would have heightened the stakes in the Mystique assassination storyline. If the audience had been hit over the head to show just how evil Trask was then we could have been really rooting for Mystique to succeed whilst also hoping that she failed. Such tension could have lifted the film into the all-time classic bracket.

As it is I feel these ideas were not done in order to ensure that rating was kept as family friendly as possible. The suits didn’t want to make things too dark. It is the same reason for why there was no blood at all in any of the scenes where people are being horrifically stabbed or impaled on things. I understand the thinking behind this but that doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed by it.

Overall, there really is a lot to like about X-Men Days of Future Past and little to dislike. It is still obviously a superhero film but it tweaks the formula enough to be fresh and interesting.

To me DoFP is a more successful version of Captain America the Winter Soldier (reviewed here). It succeeds where Winter Solider failed though because it manages to keep its ambitious plot on the rails by anchoring the story in the characters and keeping the actions scenes contained.

I just wish though that they had been even more ambitious and pushed the envelope more to give the film a proper sense of the epic (notes this doesn’t mean bigger fight scenes). I would have even been up for the film being split into two parts so that Singer and co could have painted with a broader brush.

Ultimately, I would fully recommend seeing Days of Future Past. You will not be disappointed.

 

Review of The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

shadow of the windI went into “The Shadow of the Wind” not knowing anything about the book. I was unaware of its run away success. I picked it up after seeing it highly rated and on a good reads list of books about books.

I am a sucker for “forbidden knowledge” and stories about books that contain said “forbidden knowledge” so I was all in for “The Shadow of the Wind”. It was squarely within my wheelhouse.

Essentially, the book purports to tell the story of Daniel as he seeks to discover what happened to the author Julian Carax whose books are exceedingly rare after being mysteriously destroyed. Destroyed by a character who may or may not be the devil.

The book started off really brightly. The prose is great. Doubly so since it is translated from Spanish. I’ve seen some other people write that they felt it slipped into purple prose at times but I never felt that was the case.

During the first half of the book the prose was even so good that I felt genuinely unsettled although this may have been aided by the fact I was reading in the dark (yes I’m a big scaredy-cat).

Unfortunately, the final two thirds of the novel drop off a cliff. Instead of having the main character pursue the mystery Zafon has side characters narrate long dull flashbacks that reveal everything. These flashbacks bring the novel to a screeching halt.

On top of this Zafon repeatedly tells instead of shows and delivers clunky character development. We are told that the main character Daniel doesn’t like Bea. He sees a gorgeous woman from behind (what a perv!) and it is of course Bea. Shock! He is instantly smitten.

The rest of the plot contains similar poor storytelling. For example, we are told that we are only seeing things from one point of view and maybe just maybe, a side character guesses, Julian Carax’s father was not an evil SOB. From then on the father is a saint and the narrative treats him as such.

The most egregious example is the villain who we are essentially just told is obsessed with Julian Carax and Penelope. However, when we are shown his childhood there isn’t any build up showing him develop said obsession. Essentially the novel suggests he kills people because his mother made him wear a sailor costume to a party and he saw Julian and Penelope kissing. This of course just underlines what a poor choice it was to have everything revealed by flashbacks.

After a bright start “The Shadow of the Wind” really goes downhill. Worse of all though the writer of the book came up with the idea of a book cemetery in Francos’ Spain and didn’t base the whole book about this!