X-Men: Days Of
Future Past *** 1/2
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters
Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he helped launch (he directed the first two instalments of the X-men’s cinematic forays, of which Days Of Future Past is the seventh entry, also counting the two Wolverine movies) and teaming with writer Simon Kinberg, adapts (albeit, quite freely) one of most well-known and beloved of the Marvel mutants comic book adventures, as chronicled by plotter/artist John Byrne and writer Chris Claremont. And, boy, does he deliver.
The movie – which brings together the casts of the original series and the younger versions that were brought to us in the terrific quasi-reboot X-Men: First Class – is a densely plotted time-travel tale of a group of mutants (some familiar, some new) in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future battling for their very survival against killer robots known as the Sentinels. The future motley group of mutants includes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Storm (Halle Berry), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Bishop (Omar Sy) and Warpath (Booboo Stewart). Their only hope lies in Wolverine (in the original story it was Kitty Pryde) travelling back in time (actually, he doesn’t physically travel back in time but has Kitty send his psyche to inhabit his past self) to prevent a certain event from occurring, an event which will result in the Sentinels being created by the scientist Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage, from TV’s Game Of Thrones).
Wolverine, with a younger Beast (Nicholas Hoult) in tow, has his task cut out for him – he has to bring together the warring Professor Xavier (played by James McAvoy in the past) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender as McKellan’s younger version) and get them to work towards the same goal. Not only that but they also have to bring the vengeance-driven Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) under control as well as recruit a young Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to help engineer a prison break from the Pentagon. The latter is at the heart of probably the most crowd-pleasing sequence in the film as Quicksilver, capable of moving at almost the speed of light, gleefully not only dodges bullets but rearranges the projectiles as well as the hands and feet of the Pentagon guards, all before the slugs can reach their targets – all of this presented to us in super slo-mo. The scene truly captures the joy of being young and feeling invulnerable (or possessing a super-power). And it all reaches a humdinger of a climax – set both in the past as well as in the future (as the Sentinels close in on their quarry) – where you truly fear for the fates of the future X-Men.
The movie features terrific performances from most concerned. Only McKellan looks tired but Jackman appears rejuvenated after his solo Wolverine adventures and there’s nothing that Jennifer Lawrence can’t sell. The two take centre-stage and a bigger chunk of screen-time (reflecting their current star-power in Hollywood) than the other cast members. But McAvoy and Fassbender also have plenty to do and they bring a sense of gravitas to the proceedings. The special effects are mostly top-notch too – I loved Blink’s portals, for instance.
The last scenes of the movie will have most of the fans of the series chortling with glee. Not only do they include some smile-inducing cameos and effectively reset the button for the franchise but they also wipe out the most egregious of the missteps of the X-Men: The Last Stand, the financially most successful but also the most critically derided entry (other than X-Men Origins: Wolverine) in the series. There’s lots of other stuff thrown in to please the hard-core fans too, such as the appearances by X-Men comics creators Chris Claremont and Len Wein in an early scene as well as the casual reference to Quicksilver’s parentage, something that should pay-off in future entries in the series.
Where the movie loses out somewhat is in some irritating and unexplained plot points. For example, how is Xavier alive in the future (Jean Grey incinerated him in The Last Stand)? And why don’t Wolverine, Beast, Xavier and Magneto take Quicksilver along with them for the final showdown, after all he’s just demonstrated in the Pentagon how useful his powers can be? But these quibbles aside, Days Of Future Past is a superb summer entertainer as well as being an intelligent one – it should please old fans and new ones alike.
Cut to chase: X-citing and X-hilarating but not quite X-cellent.