Wednesday, 21 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Fourteen years after the first X-Men movie hit our screens, original director Brian Singer is back at the helm (to the delight of comic-book fans), and seemingly eager to get this franchise firmly back on track in the only way he and the writing team know how: a 1970s trip back to the future. Sounds groovy, right? But the real question is, does Singer succeed in getting us to dance to his new tune?

Seventh in the X-Men movie line, Days of Future Past introduces us to a world years from now (2023 to be exact), in which robots called Sentinels are wiping out every mutant in sight. In order to stop their impending extinction, fan favourite Wolverine must go back in time - to a world of roll-necks, bell-bottoms and flower prints - to try to rewrite the future so that humanity (in all its forms), can continue to flourish under the watchful eye of Professor X. Tough job, but Wolvie is clawing for it.

As the almighty Sentinels and mutants go head-to-head en route for the final showdown, it’s evident early on that we’re in for a tale of two halves featuring cast members old and new. Having heard the plans for an all-star, packed shindig, I did wonder how Singer would manage to juggle so many balls. X-Men: First Class boasted a rejuvenated cast and was a resounding success that breathed much-needed life back into a dwindling franchise, while adventures after X2 relied too heavily on Wolverine, neglected other key players, and suffered with subpar screenplays. What Singer has opted for here, then, is a sequel and a prequel, wheeling out the Seniors, led by Patrick Stewart, for the future dilemma, and calling upon the First Class (and Wolverine), controlled by James McAvoy's Xavier, to ultimately sort it. Unsurprisingly, Singer handles it all beautifully - like John Travolta under a glitter ball, jive talkin’ and stayin’ alive.

Apart from Wolverine who’s busy bridging the gap (with the aid of Kitty Pryde), the other character in full focus is Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Since her first outing in a lighter shade of blue, Lawrence has won an Oscar, been nominated for another, and taken centre stage as the heroine in The Hunger Games trilogy, so it’s no wonder a lot of the weight of this instalment was thrown onto her shoulders. I must confess that Rebecca Romijn is my favourite of the two blue ladies (dude, where’s her cameo?), but Lawrence handles all the ass-kicking action sequences with aplomb, and is a worthy young and impressionable predecessor.

Alongside Mystique - actually trying to stop her from killing the villain (Peter Dinklage, of Games of Thrones fame) - we also have Nicholas Hoult, reprising his role as Beast, McAvoy (who starts off proceedings in a real funk), and Michael Fassbender, who excels as mini-Magneto. More time with Ian McKellen and Stewart would have been nice. Little attention is paid to the newer X-Men of the future, and the two minutes spent with Halle Berry’s Storm are two minutes too much; their combined screen time could have been given to these two great Brits.

Additionally, while it’s important to set the scene and emphasise what’s at stake, the flashbacks to the apocalyptic future eventually do start to annoy and distract, and only end up accentuating the kinks in the Seniors’ armour. 

But, overall, these faults do not stop Days of Future Past from being another Singer success. With fantastic set-pieces (shout out in particular to Evan Peters’s Quicksilver), a stellar cast, and a strong script, this is a magnificent number seven, and right up there with X2.


(for Fortean Times)


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