X-Men: Days of Future Past

Review by Chris Blohm @chrisblohm

Directed by

Bryan Singer

Starring

Hugh Jackman Jennifer Lawrence Michael Fassbender

Anticipation.

Bryan Singer returns to the director’s chair for the biggest X-Men movie to date.

Enjoyment.

A giddy rush of superhero thrills, spills and epic set-pieces.

In Retrospect.

A franchise reborn.

A cast of thousands join together for this romping and witty superhero sequel from Bryan Singer.

The latest instalment of the stubbornly enduring X-Men franchise plays like a multi-million dollar victory lap. Epic in scale and ruthless in execution, Bryan Singer’s superhero slam-down is a slick, exhilarating entertainment that successfully fuses both the original and First Class universes for the very first time. And if it doesn’t quite match the watertight narrative perfection of X2, then so what? There are enough set-pieces – some of them dazzling – to warrant continued attention.

The film kicks off in the grimmest of futures. An army of murderous robotic overlords, the Sentinels, has taken over the world, decimating most of civilisation and enslaving the survivors. The remaining X-Men, led by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen), convene to send hirsute bruiser Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time.

His mission? To prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating evil genius Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) therefore negating the requirement for Trask’s anti-mutant Sentinel programme. In order to do this, Wolverine will need the help of 1970s Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). There are just two problems: the Professor’s a drunk, and Magneto’s imprisoned several levels below the Pentagon. It’s all in a day’s work for our gruff hero.

As you can imagine, this requires a hell of a lot of exposition, and it’s to screenwriter Simon Kinberg’s credit that much of the heavy lifting is whipped off with an unexpectedly light touch in the film’s opening scenes. That leaves Singer to get on with the good stuff, and there’s plenty of that.

An introductory melee twixt the X-Men of the future and the all-powerful Sentinels sets the tone, with Singer revelling in the powers provided by his expanded cast list. Take, for instance, the teleporting skills of new addition Blink, who evades capture using an elaborate sequence of portals. The effect is eye-popping, and the action more frenetic and perilous than before.

Later on, we’re introduced to the lightning fast Quicksilver, played by American Horror Story star Evan Peters. He gets the best scene in the film by a country mile, staging an audacious prison break in super-advanced bullet time. His ability to “freeze” a room and pick off his assailants one by one is deployed to joyous effect. Of the returning cast, the ultra-masculine triumvirate of Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender get the most screen-time. Jackman looks like a mountain these days. Fans will be pleased to note that his performance in this film requires both gratuitous nudity and brutal claw action. We don’t really learn anything too new about Logan this time around. The script requires Wolverine to act as a plot device, and that’s what he does.

McAvoy is fun as a down-and-out version of Charles Xavier, who gets the film’s most fully realised character arc as he evolves from disillusioned junkie to charismatic leader. But the star of the show is Fassbender, who uses Days of Future Past to transform Magneto from revolutionary idealist into all-round super-villain. He is a transfixing actor, the kind of performer who could stop you dead with a glance, and his presence elevates the material. Seeing him wreak havoc during the movie’s humongous finale is a treat.

Singer occasionally, however, bites off a little more than he can chew. He expands the mutant universe to such an extent that many of these new faces – and quite a few of the old ones – get stuck in the periphery. In particular, many of the female characters get sidelined. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, appears to be starring in a stand-alone movie, one that occasionally collides with the very masculine action taking place elsewhere. Ellen Page appears briefly as Kitty Pryde, reprising her role from 2006’s sub-par effort The Last Stand. As the mutant whose ability to send people through time instigates the whole shebang in the first place, Pryde should be a key player in Days of Future Past, but all she really has to do is sit there and hold onto Jackman’s face for a couple of hours.

To be honest, some of them make the final edit by what appears to be the skin of their teeth (here’s looking at you, Anna Paquin). Remember when comic book movies would feature one hero and maybe one or two villains, and make them fight it out in the middle of a shonky backlot? In the post-Avengers landscape, more is definitely more, though not necessarily better. The same holds true here.

As a result of this excess baggage, X-Men: Days of Future Past perhaps lacks the steely-eyed focus of Singer’s previous two entries. Nevertheless, it’s an ambitious, thrilling and fitfully witty blockbuster. Clever, too, as Singer and Kinberg seize their chance to cheekily relaunch the entire enterprise from scratch, creating an alternative timeline through which to weave prospective new strands. Time travel can be a hoary old conceit, with paradoxes and plot-holes aplenty, but it’s also a remarkably convenient one. Bring on the Apocalypse.

Published 21 May 2014

Tags: Comic book movie Hugh Jackman Jennifer Lawrence Marvel Michael Fassbender X-Men

Anticipation.

Bryan Singer returns to the director’s chair for the biggest X-Men movie to date.

Enjoyment.

A giddy rush of superhero thrills, spills and epic set-pieces.

In Retrospect.

A franchise reborn.

Read More

X-Men: First Class

By Jonathan Williams

Not the phoenix like rebirth the X-Men needed, but a shot of adrenalin to the heart nonetheless.

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Meet the costume designer who made Magneto’s helmet

By Little White Lies

Sammy Sheldon Differ also shows off Russell Crowe’s sword.

X-Men: Apocalypse

By Adam Woodward

The third instalment in the rebooted comic book franchise is a colossal failure on every conceivable level.

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