Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past – 4.5/5

Director: Bryan Singer
Certificate: 12A
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page
Running Time: 131 min
Plot: In a future X-universe that looks like the Tron Grid (except it’s purple), the Sentinels – instantly adaptable 20 ft tall robots impervious to most methods of attack – have hunted down and killed almost every mutant on Earth. In a last ditch effort, Magneto (McKellan) and Professor X (Stewart), among a handful of other survivors, send Wolverine (Jackman) back to 1973 to prevent Mystique (Lawrence) from setting events in motion that lead to the end of the world as they know/knew it. As if the time line of the X-Men canon wasn’t complicated enough…

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X-Men: X-citing

X-2: X-cellent

X-Men: The Last Stand: X-asperating

X-Men: Wolverine Origins: X-terminate!

X-Men: First Class: X-onerating

X-Men: Days of Future Past: X-TREME!

Here’s the skinny: In 1973, Mystique (J-Law) kills a midget weapons developer named Trask (Stark anagram!), played by Peter Dinklage, to prevent his planned regime of terror against the mutant race. His assassination startles President Nixon into giving Trask’s proposed Sentinel robot program the go ahead; by 2023, almost all mutants are dead, along with the majority of the general populace. Now allies in their old age, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to harness Kitty’s (Ellen Page) powers to send someone back to that terrible time and change the course of history. Since Wolverine (Hugh Jackman – ripped isn’t even the word!) is the only X-man physically capable of withstanding the journey, off he goes. Waking up in New York in his old (or rather, younger) body, pre-adamantium phase, he sets about his mission of uniting the disparate X-men and saving the day of future past. And if you’re wondering why he isn’t killing Charlie in Nam’ despite doing that exact thing at that exact time in his Origins movie: * shrugs *

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Watching Wolverine putting the band back together is an effective preamble; McAvoy’s Xavier, cloistered in his dilapidated mansion, is a powerless alcoholic (Days of Future Pabst?) while Magneto dwells in the deepest dungeon of the Pentagon and Mystique has gone rogue. After an acceptable level of jibber-jabber and a couple of bust-ups with Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Wolverine has explained things and ostensibly got everyone together as bubs again. Trask is still on task however, so the X-men (+woman) must try and prevent disaster by dint of pacification at a Paris peace treaty. It goes not well.

As acting in superhero films goes, Days of Future Past is top of its class. The sharing of the two characters Prof X and Magneto between the four finest British actors alive (Fassbender, McAvoy, Stewart and McKellen) gives the film such gravitas that every other element, no matter how ludicrous, has credibility. A telepathic face-to-face encounter between the old professor and the new – ‘We need you to hope again’ – is downright scintillating; you look forward to these moments as much as you do the spectacular action blow-outs. Helping out too are cast members both green and seasoned, including Halle Berry’s Storm, Bishop (Days of Future Rast(a) – he has dreads) and Blink (Bingbing Fan), whose portal firing abilities make the Sentinel fights thrilling to behold. Quicksilver (Days of Future Fast), played by Evan Peters – the drooling fanboy from Kick Ass – brings a lot to the X-shaped table too, using his super-speed for what is definitely the greatest use of slow motion in cinema history. The tag team tactics seen in Avengers Assemble’s New York battle are used again here, but to a much more complex and elating degree. Mystique is the only weak link; most of her solo moments feel ineffectual given the scale and seriousness of what the rest of the team are up to.

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Throughout DOFP, Brian Singer majestically juxtaposes the old mutants making their bitter final stand with the cataclysms unfolding in 70s Washington DC. One side is paying for their sins of omission (or massacre, in Magneto’s case), desperately fending off the Sentinel attack as though guarding the darkened gates of hell, while the other side is locked in an heroic struggle with fate so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Fassbender’s Eric is the unstable, stadium destroying maniac to McKellen’s wizened, holistic counterpart, and the jump cuts between the two create a strong sense of consequence across the simultaneously occurring dimensions.

Many fans may always love X-1 the best, but this is the first film which truly feels like a living, breathing realisation of the X-Men comic book universe. Days of Future is a blast, and to top it off Singer has even managed to wipe clean the slate so horribly stained by The Last Stand and X-Men: Origins.

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