Film Review: 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past'
Opened: 22 May 2014
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
Director: Bryan Singer
Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker
After a helpful upswing for the X-Men franchise from director James Mangold’s The Wolverine there is a great deal of pressure on new release X-Men: Days Of Future Past to cement these gains after the mixed reception of its predecessor X-Men: First Class. With the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair and a to-die-for award winning cast, expectations are running high for the ‘ultimate X-Men ensemble’ movie.
A brilliantly contrived plot places Raven (played soundly by Jennifer Lawrence) once again at the centre of the action as a key antagonist, with Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) trying to stop her from assassinating weapons maker Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). The major twist to this tale is that Xavier only knows about her plans because Wolverine (do I really need to tell you he is played by Hugh Jackman… for the last 14 years!) has travelled back from the future to warn him that her actions lead to the end of the world – it’s big boy stuff! I would normally agree with most folks’ gut reaction: ‘that sounds like a mess’; but far from it, X-Men: Days Of Future Past (DOFP) is beautifully paced, scripted and directed with such agility that these massive concepts are made easy to digest and even enhance the action of the film with impressive vigour. So, a huge sigh of relief and definitely a pat on the back for everyone involved; the horrors of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are now forgotten, quite literally. Using the time travel reboot button (last seen in the sexually charged nerdgasm Star Trek (2009)) DOFP obliterates some of the previous wrongs of those aforementioned films, but you will have to see the movie to discover exactly what they are.
The action moves back and forth between the 70s, where our three main heroes Xavier, Wolverine and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) struggle to prevent a future, where simultaneously, the cast of the original movies: including actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry and Ellen Paige are holding off the unstoppable Sentinels to protect Wolverine while he time travels! <gasps for air> The four new characters added to the future roster (Bishop, Blink, Warpath and Sunspot) are barely given a moment to develop but this is very much a reflection of their situation, as they are depicted surviving moment to moment in a total dystopian future. The only small criticism is the very limited number of mutants in the core storyline set in the 70s and the apparent pointless deaths of a number of the First Class alumni.
The 70s nods to costume, soundtrack and even use of film stock footage are executed effortlessly and pile credibility onto an otherwise fantastical story. An unmistakably high level of film craft and a knowing sense of humour are ever present, keeping the action layered at all times and never overcome by its own sense of importance. The visual effects of the battle sequences and set pieces, particularly in the future, are finally where they have always needed to be for this franchise. The Sentinels of the past are perfectly cartoonish but still retain a sense of impending danger while their future incarnations pose a more sinister proposition, being somewhat reminiscent of the Dementors of Harry Potter’s world.
Overall the cast are breathtakingly brilliant, with particular acknowledgement going to Fassbender, McAvoy, Jackman, Stewart, Shawn Ashmore (as Iceman) and Evan Peters who is probably best known as a cast regular of Ryan Murphy’s creepy TV extravaganza American Horror Story. Peters plays the mutant Quicksilver, who well and truly steals the show with his special effects heavy action sequence set at the heart of the Pentagon. Easily replacing Nightcrawler’s opening to X-Men 2, this is by far the best set piece the franchise has ever seen; smoothly choreographed, ingeniously thought out, and executed with a generous serving of Bathos. We can only hope he returns to his father’s side for the next instalment due out in 2016, stay till the end of the movie to glimpse a look ahead to, X-Men: Apocalypse.
There will be a great deal of geek debate about whether this movie surpasses other fan favourite X-Men 2 but be in no doubt that it is definitely up there and achieves much loftier ambitions. It was given an almost impossible task list: to set up the future of the franchise, correct past wrongs and still be a brilliant movie. Unlike some others of its genre (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Iron-Man 2 come to mind), it succeeds in every one of these categories and sets a new bar going forward; this franchise has finally evolved!