X-Men: Days of Future Past Review
When the cast was officially presented at Comic Con 2013 in San Diego, the fan base cheered and screamed in pleasure. We were presented with a time travel story featuring both the cast from First Class and the first X-Men trilogy, new characters and an increased budget. But, has the flick managed to survive the huge hype that surrounded it?
What’s It About? In the apocalyptic year 2023, killer robots have hunted mutants to the point of extinction. Desperate, the X-Men send Wolverine’s mind (Hugh Jackman) into his 1973 body. His goal is to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and consequently prevent a chain of events that would lead to an apocalyptic war. In order to do so, Wolverine has to reunite Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), old friends who now hate each others guts. To complicate things further, Magneto is held prisoner in probably the most secure prison in the entire world. All as the X-Men fromthe future try to avoid being exterminated by the lethal Sentinels. Easy peasy.
Verdict? The story kicks off with a brilliant set piece. Remember the prologue in X-Men 2? Just wait until you see this brawl between super heroes and some huge indestructible Sentinels. With maybe a little too much exposition after the awesome opening that is the prologue, the screenplay takes the audience back and forth between the 70s and the future to tell the full story. Beyond the magnificent action sequences the screenplay takes care to construct interesting dramatic arcs for almost all the characters. Humour also plays a large part in the movie: there are in-jokes, taunts and even smart history references throughout the whole film. (Do you want to know which mutant was involved in the assassination of JFK?) The task of managing such a huge ensemble cast in the screenplay must have been a hell of a piece of work and although the story tries to give enough screen time for all the members of the cast to shine, the core of the story is Wolverine.
Nobody could play Wolverine the way Hugh Jackman does and, film after film, the actor has come to nail the role. In X-Men Days of Future Past, the story develops through Wolverine’s actions and decisions, and it is Wolverine who guides the audience through the journey from present to past and back again to the future.
Backing Jackman up is Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender, with a character that fluctuates between good and evil; Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence has a central role this time, going from a supporting baddie in the first films to a key player in this installment. As usual, Lawrence delivers a strong performance as the blue-skinned mutant, however it is James McAvoy who threatens to steal the show. His brilliant take on a man who has lost everything he cared about is probably one of the best performances of the entire movie.
Even more of a surprise though, comes from Evan Peters‘s Quicksilver, a new addition to the cast, and his character will leave audiences wanting more from this charismatic persona. Peter Dinklage, on the other hand, feels underused. The potential of a cool antagonist such as Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw was there, but not in this script where neither the director nor the actor seem keen to make this character great. Bolivar Trask’s motivation seems vague and we never get to understand his motivations or from where his hate of mutants originates.
Lacking a great antagonist, director Bryan Singer focuses on the Sentinels as the main threat. Singer, who gave up the director’s chair to Brett Ratner and Matthew Vaughn on the previous X-Men films, seems to have recovered his blockbuster mojo. It feels as though Singer never should have left the X-Men universe. He might like those shots where the camera flies from one interior to an exterior “without a cut” just a little too much, but he has a great eye for action. Singer and his team did a great job on some major scenes such as the Paris set piece with its mix of hand-held, period footage and some more cinematic widescreen shots, the climactic finale in Washington with a special guest appearance from President Nixon, but the scene to look out for is the slow-motion kitchen scene in which Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce plays on the speakers. Smart, funny, visually stunning… brilliant!
With the bad guy focus on the Sentinels, they really do feel as huge, threatening and indestructible as they should. Somehow they evoke echoes of the Sentinels in The Matrix and their attack on the Nebuchadnezzar.
As good and fun as the flick is, X-Men Days of Future Past isn’t quite perfect. There are some minor holes in the script such as when did Magneto and Xavier team up? Also, with such a huge cast to fit into the film, some of the characters feel a little incidental with Storm, Quicksilver and even the old Magneto and Xavier not getting enough screen time.
Final Words: Despite its minor faults, X-Men Days of Future Past is the definition of a summer blockbuster: thrilling, fun, visually amazing and incredibly entertaining. Probably the best superhero movie since The Avengers.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is in UK cinemas on 22 May 2014.