X-Men: Days of Future Past: Movie Review
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage, James MacAvoy, Michael Fassbender,Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Bryan Singer
After six previous X-Men movies, including a recent reboot of the series with a younger cast, X-Men: Days of Future Past arrives at a time-bending moment for the series, complete with a return from one of its most famous directors.
Set in dystopian future where the robot Sentinels are hunting down the mutants, eradicating them and any potential humans who could possess the mutant gene, the pressure's really on for Professor X (Stewart) and Magneto (McKellen). They've joined forces to try and prevent their kind being wiped out in a scheme which could only have come from the comic book 101 of time travel.
Deducing that if they go back in time to 1973 when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) was about to assassinate Boliver Trask (the man responsible for the Sentinels programme), they can prevent this future from ever happening. So, Logan aka Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) is despatched back to the past to try and save the day - but Wolverine's got bigger problems on his hands because his trying to unite the younger Professor X (MacAvoy in self-loathing, drugged up phase) and Magneto (Fassbender) comes at a time where the pair couldn't have been more apart...
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the X-Men movie that many of the fans have been waiting for.
Stripped free of necessary exposition and explanation of the characters, Singer's deft and pacy return to the genre sees a return to the comic book action and rich emotion, which has appealed to so many (but may leave some non-fans feeling a little alienated this time around.)
Sly humour permeates parts of this action movie that teeters dangerously close to pompous sci-fi at the start. Singer brings all the players together well and adds in a few new elements to show he's still got the mutant sparkle that's needed - a dazzling sequence which shows off American Horror Story star Evan Peters' turn as Quiksilver is the pure highlight of the whole piece. Using the faster than light flippant kid to break out Magneto from under the Pentagon (where he's been imprisoned for assassinating JFK) is a master stroke of Singer's - during one brief sequence alone, Singer brings the joy back into the superhero genre which has wallowed in dour for so long. As Quiksilver takes on the prison guards in a light speed slow-mo sequence, there's slapstick, danger and amusement in high dosage. (Though the real headscratcher is why such a valuable asset be left behind on a key mission...) Also, Singer does a great job of introducing a stand out new character into a crowded ensemble.
Which is perhaps just as well, because the older versions of the X-Men themselves are a little sidelined in the piece, with the danger never quite reaching the high stakes you'd expect. It's curious because given they face extinction, there's very little for them to do after a high-octane opening. And it's a shame given the calibre of talent involved, but when the story is as stuffed as it is, something has to give. Equally, some kind of explanation as to why Trask is so opposed to mutant kind would be good - despite Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage playing him to perfection, a murky motive is never forthcoming. And the final end sequence becomes a little heavy handed and cluttered to have too much resonance for such an iconic comic book arc.
Thankfully, though, these niggles do not come at the cost of the action, which for 7 films in adds new set pieces to entice and impress throughout. Of the X-ensemble, McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence and Jackman more than deliver on their characters, with each adding to their past outings. Equally, the script gives nods to the fans but doesn't alienate those willing to work through the elements of past movies.
All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is an X-Men movie for fans to savour; while the stakes have never been higher for the series and its characters, director Bryan Singer doesn't lose sight of the smaller, more intimate moments to provide a blockbuster spectacle that's as spectacular a winter blockbuster as you'd hope for.
(Make sure you stay to the end of the credits, to witness the first look at X:Men - Apocalypse, and your first chance to see the original mutant, En Sabah Nur....)