Wrapping around the plot contingency of time travel, Marvel spins a yarn which can cover up their minimal X-Men blights and reset for the betterment of the series. Gaping plot holes or otherwise, it’s comic-dom. Or in this case, real world comic-dom wherein JFK was assassinated by a magnetically charged bullet and Richard Nixon’s trick was spending trillions to build mutant killing hyper robots.
Enter an eagerness to blot out a dire present as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) jets through past generations via metaphysical mind tinkering, plopped into the ’70s where a conniving capitalist is beginning to thrust his Sentinel program in front of politicians. That’s bad if you’re a mutant, worse if you happen to enjoy the concept of civilization.
Future Past is rushed into action, blitzing through opening credits and using Professor X (Patrick Stewart) to dump expository information so the feature can slingshot itself into an era of sideburns and fierce facial hair. Groan worthy as this initial execution can be, Future Past is only in a plotting daze to implement its best attributes: Computer generated brawls, plentiful jump kicks, and a genuine appreciation for weighted character.
Despite spilling gargantuan set pieces, Future Past is built on X-Men cinema yore – mutant parables softened by occasional sight gags and destruction. As per the norm, this turns camera lenses toward Wolverine’s marketable narrative infrastructure, but still distributes crucial pieces of the time line to the imperative Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), a drug addicted young Professor X (James McAvoy), and the flighty Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
Less plot critical mutants such as Quicksilver (Evan Peters) are at least provided indulgent action-centric sequences. Future Past splurges on slow motion with outrageous benefits, including a space compressed kitchen clash which is visually interesting enough to outclass a third act baseball stadium levitation (and all of its scale). Some 20 some movies into the current Marvel film cycle, and these CG binges still produce creative special effects cinema.
Screenplay writer Simon Kinberg finds himself covering up his own work from X-Men: The Last Stand. While sprouting plot holes are inevitable – either in piecing together the X-Men saga itself or through an introduction to time travel – material enclosing any gaffes is enormous. Marvel’s current films are their own distractions, busy and hectic to diminish mistakes within the attention span of wide audiences. Future Past is not an exception.
Any loss in Kinberg’s work comes down to distancing this script from overt symbolism. X-Men may surface for universal acceptance amongst racial divides, but Future Past all but ignores angles of outright prejudice. It’s conflict because conflict sells. Here, it’s less an instance of physical differences than it is understandably terrified politicians whose homelands are being left in tatters through a war of abnormalities.
Political leaders hang their hopes on the mutant-spiting Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Thanks to Dinklage, Trask is Future Past’s center, birthing a villain without inherent super powers and dodging the usual story telling prat falls of laser beam slinging or explosively direct conflict. This offers room for Future Past to breathe, innovate a touch, and correct the X-Men’s feature film path.
Note: The following technical critiques are based on location experiences. Such reviews are not scored and should be considered as generalized guidelines given variations in theatrical projection/audio systems.
Future Past’s visual landscape is predominantly lit by day, impressive for something so thick on special effects. Such scenery displays a colorful warmth, where post production is kind to primaries and keeps them appealing. Contrast has pep and in the “future” segments wherein black levels turn essential, nothing is lost despite a colder locale. It should be noted some flashback scenes are hit with intentional processing which can seep into the ‘current’ footage as well. Medium shots can exhibit some evidence of sharpening with a few snippets of noise visible elsewhere. It’s not perfect, but detail is intense enough to override complaints.
Those who deride post-conversion 3D (and there are certainly reasons to dismiss the process) will struggle to write off Future Past’s work. Depth is supreme, and slow motion segments appear to have been crafted with 3D in mind. Objects float in visual space without any loss of background image density. Backgrounds also fall well behind actors with an exception allowed for a first act shot of Wolverine (which appeared to mix up background and foreground layers). Future Past is worth the added cost.
Audio purists have an opportunity to take in the spacious Dolby Atmos, an aggressive mix overloaded with substantial action to capture. This is a design with no lapses, and captures the scale intended by super hero spectacle. Magneto’s lifting of a stadium is brilliant as concrete cracks spread from front to back before lift off ignites all channels to host falling debris. It’s only one instance of where this mix excels as pure summer audio escapism.