X-Men: Days Of Future Past


Reviewed by: Michael Pattison

X-Men: Days Of Future Past
"What makes this film so enjoyable is the chemistry that holds its ensemble together."

Survival is the order of the day in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Not only does its narrative begin with our beloved race of mutants facing imminent obliteration, but the film itself also follows a string of underwhelming entries into the Marvel Comics film franchise, including two Wolverine spin-offs and Matthew Vaughn’s prequel X-Men: First Class (2011). As if to acknowledge a need to retain the commercial viability of the series at the same time as rescuing its critical credentials, Bryan Singer returns to the fray 11 years after he directed the second film, after which many claimed the series entered a decline.

Tellingly and conveniently, this latest outing is both a prequel and a sequel, taking place immediately after the events of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and, through a time-travel narrative, continuing the character arcs set up in Vaughn’s predecessor. It sneakily allows Singer and co. to have it both ways, inviting back the old guard as represented by Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman while undoing the would-be finality of The Last Stand and thus securing a potentially endless future of prequel/sequels—as well as another decade of paycheques for James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and whoever else is willing to lend their acting chops to this smart, much-loved franchise.

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As in Days Of Future Past, McAvoy plays a young Charles Xavier (whose older self is again played by Stewart). He is visited in 1973 by Wolverine (Jackman), a mutant sent from the future by Xavier himself in order to prevent rogue mutant Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating military scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Xavier and Wolverine enlist the help of Magneto (Fassbender), an old pal turned villain who is currently serving a life sentence for his alleged involvement in JFK’s death. If the mutants don’t prevent the assassination, Mystique will subsequently be caught and experimented upon, and the human race will be able to replicate her DNA in order to create fierce creatures capable in the future of annihilating everyone—including mankind.

And so begins the eternal tussle: Xavier appealing to people’s tolerance, Magneto succumbing to distrust of everyone who might harm the mutant legacy. Continuing one of the few things First Class seemed to get right—in short, that Magneto’s the most interesting character here—Days Of Future Past’s middle third seems to rest with Fassbender’s tortured, even reluctant villain, as he begins to wreak havoc with a mercenary loyalty to nothing but his own species’ survival. Who could blame him? Fassbender, never a very good actor to begin with, is likeable because his solo scenes are kept to a minimum.

Indeed, what makes this film so enjoyable is the chemistry that holds its ensemble together. Surprisingly and rewardingly, more bombastic action set-pieces are comparatively sparse. Singer has much more fun with the sequence in which the mutants break into the Pentagon and bust Magneto out of his prison cell there—with, in one hilarious moment, life-saving assistance from a young Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Likewise, placing the bankable Wolverine (and equally bankable Jackman) into the period setting brings several instances of comedy, such as that in which he first meets Hank aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult); many others are based on the anachronistic confusion caused by Wolverine’s displacement, owing to his own rapid ability to heal as well as his glacial ageing process. Whatever will they do when Jackman himself begins to age?

Probably cast someone else. Or CGI his crow’s feet out. Or kill the character off only to resurrect him in some other form. Such is the way with these films. Who cares about all the other quibbles, such as that niggling notion that even mutants have to have killer physiques? This qualm is especially the case for female mutants, of course—in First Class, Raven/Mystique is slower to accept her own mutant identity than the target demographic who doesn’t mind at all if she keeps to her redheaded, blue-skinned natural (i.e. naked) appearance. Indeed, to hell with overthrowing the US government, to hell with institutional racism and to hell with all that other insidious filth: acceptance is easy, if you want it. Oh, and nice tits and arse, love.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2014
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Wolverine travels back in time in a bid to change history.
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Director: Bryan Singer

Writer: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Evan Peters, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Morgan Lily, Bingbing Fan

Year: 2014

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK


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