The X Men franchise has been a bit puzzling. The first 2 films are in my top 5 comic book movies of all time. The second is my favorite. Then the third film and the Wolverine spin off fell extremely flat. The series did a great job of focusing on characters, being story driven, and making us care about what was happening to these mutants. The later two felt more effects driven, and like they were made to fill seats, not tell a story.
This 5th installment, a prequel, seems to walk a line between the two, as if it can’t decide what it wants to be. At some points it seems to earnestly be telling the story of young mutants coming to grips with who they are and what that means fro their future. At other moments (especially anytime January Jones is on screen) its seems like summer movie making at its typical (which bores me to no end). Some of the action scenes are way too over the top. Some are perfect (the one that takes place in the secret CIA compound being my favorite).
The plot follows Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr as the assemble a team of mutants to combat Sebastian Shaw, who is trying to start WWIII to weed out pesky humanity and leave mutants to rule the world. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender play both men to a T, and Kevin Bacon is a surprising joy of a villain. The team is made up of younger actors who have already had promising careers. Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence playing Mystique and About a Boy’s Nicholas Hoult playing Beast are examples. They all hold their own weight.
The problem is the story seems unfocused. There are definitely moments of greatness that bring back memories of those first two great films, but there are also moments that remind me of Dark Phoenix on Alcatraz Island, and I roll my eyes.
The saving grace of the film is that it hits all the right emotional notes at the end and that it does not shy away from letting the audience identify exactly what is driving each of its characters. Their decisions may all fall into areas of gray, but they are making decisions that are set before them at the outset.
Its a fun, summer movie, with its flaws, but that has a rewarding end, and sets up the originals nicely.