Sometimes, low expectations pay off.
I skipped the second movie in the unnecessarily protracted trilogy of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies because I found the first one laborious and lumbering. In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jackson & Co. mistake a lengthy running time and an enormous budget for grandeur and momentum. The narrative progresses listlessly, with an endless opening sequence that establishes the characters and plot in painstaking detail, lengthy battle sequences that neither advance the plot nor illuminate the characters, and an inevitably inconclusive ending that left me with little enthusiasm for one more round, let alone two.
Midway through X-Men: Days of Future Past, the seventh in a seemingly inexhaustible series of movies derived from Stan Lee’s X-Men comics, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (James McAvoy) are under threat from a group of men with guns in a high-security prison facility embedded deep below the Pentagon. They’re flanked by Quicksilver (Evan Peters), an upstart blessed with the power of unparalleled expedience. When it becomes clear that Magneto’s metal-bending and Professor X’s mind-melting won’t be enough to stop the suits from gunning them down, Quicksilver rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.
The result is the movie’s most wonderful sequence, a dazzling and witty exploration of a superhero’s power rendered with panache and style by director Bryan Singer. Time slows down so that the only thing moving at normal human speed is Quicksilver, who trots around the room rearranging the floating objects. With a flourish, he positions the bullets away from Magneto and Professor X, balls a man’s outstretched hand into a fist and even takes a moment to taste-test some soup. When Quicksilver is done, the scene snaps like a rubber band back into place, and the action resumes.