Thursday, 29 May 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014): Review

X-Men: Days of Future past is a 2014 comic book movie. Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) and starring James Macavoy (X-Men: First class, Filth), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Shame) and Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine, Prisoners). The film unites the cast of the original X-Men movies and X-Men: First Class and is both a sequel and a prequel.

The film begins in the not too distant post apocalyptic future where the Sentinels have taken over the world butchering Humans and Mutants alike. A small band of Mutants still survives led by the older versions of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian Mckellan). They decide that the only way to save the world is to send Wolverine (Jackman) back in time to the 70s to prevent this grim future from occurring. This involves stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel inventor Trask (Peter Dinklage) and avoiding the chain reaction of hardline anti-mutant measures that result from this. However, this is much easier said than done (although not really) as Wolverine struggles to unite the idealogically opposed Xavier, Magneto and Mystique.

A couple of years ago I had never seen an X-Men movie and, not really being a comic book movie fan, I wasn’t really tempted. Then I was convinced to give First Class a try, mostly on the strength of Macavoy and Fassbender (undoubtedly the finest actors of their generation) and the overwhelmingly positive reviews and boy, was I bowled over. After having gone back and checked out the originals I can confirm that First Class smashed a fairly low bar set by the original trilogy with Macavoy and Fassbender playing the central characters with far more passion and gusto. This divide clearly continues into the sequel with Stewart and Mckellan (legendary actors in their own right) given very little to do in the future segments and being accompanied by an always redundant Ellen Paige and a Halle Berry performance that may as well have been CGI.

However, that is my only real criticism of the film as once we get back to the 1970s the cast are on top form. Something that was really fresh about First Class was the period setting and the way that the characters are integrated into real life history, in the last film this was the Cuban missile crisis and in this one it’s the end of the Vietnam war. This of course carries over into the fashion and the costume design again gives you a fresh canvass to work with and a way to stand out against other blockbusters. Something I also really appreciated was the young Charles Xavier sub plot where a miracle drug has allowed him to walk but has resulted in the loss of his psychic powers, serving as an allegory for drug addiction. This gave Macavoy plenty to work with as far as the character development and although, by comparison, Fassbender plays out a pretty repetetive part-time-villain trajectory (as seen in First Class) he still manages to dominate any time he's on screen.

Whilst not quite delivering the refreshing surprise that was First Class, Days of Future Past is a satisfying and thought provoking entry that continues to elevate the franchise far above any other Marvel property. I've said it before, but this decade is truly being defined by the intelligent blockbuster reboot and the revived X-Men franchise is wisely sticking to that formula. Continuing with the characters and period feel established in First Class but with enough of the original trilogy to lure in any nostalgic fans, Days of Future Past is as intriguing and exciting as it's title suggests.

***** 5 stars

What did you think of the film? Did you like the inclusion of the original cast?


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