Starring: Hugh Jackman (Prisoners), James McAvoy (Wanted), Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Nicholas Hoult (Jack the Giant Slayer), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings)
Director: Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects)
Writer: Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand)
Runtime: 2 hours 11 minutes
Release Date: 22 May (UK), 23 May (US)
The X-Men film franchise has had its ups and downs over the past 14 years, with quality ranging from some of the best comic book movies out there to some of the worst. If only there was a way to fix all of these issues, getting rid of the plot holes and misconceived storylines that the lesser films have given us. Or is there? Bryan Singer, the man who started it all, has come back to the series to tie together two timelines and adapt one of the most beloved storylines from the comics in Days of Future Past. With such enormous hype and insurmountable goals, can this seventh instalment be as good as it possibly sounds?
Having read the original “Days of Future Past” storyline, I can say the film’s plot is certainly not a direct adaptation but does take a lot of the key elements as well as the spirit of the tale; comparable to how X2 was a loose adaptation of “God Loves, Man Kills”. But as a story on its own, it works tremendously well. The time travel element is a welcome addition to the X-Men flavour and it never feels like a cheap gimmick, evoking both The Terminator and Back to the Future in execution and style. The film is packed to the brim but it never feels overstuffed or weighty like some comic book movies do, and the pacing is so air-tight that it both breezes you through the story and leaves you wanting more (in a good way). I only have two minor gripes with the plot. Firstly, I felt the balance between the two timelines was a little imbalanced. Once Wolverine (Jackman) travels back, it’s a long time before we see the future cast again and they unfortunately don’t get as much to do. What we do get is great, but I would have loved to see maybe just a few more character moments or another action scene with them. And secondly, the method of time travel isn’t really explained too well: Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page) has suddenly gained the power to send people’s consciousnesses back in time with nary an explanation. They could have maybe put a few lines in to explain this, but they don’t and it bugged me a bit; it felt like little more than an excuse to keep Kitty an important part of the plot (as in the original story, she was the one who got sent back in time). But besides these niggles, Days of Future Past is a rollicking good time and one of the better stories from the X-Men series, especially with its sentimental ending that could easily move devout fans to tears (it nearly did fore me). By the way, there is an after credits scene, but unless you’re a serious comic nut you are going to have no idea what it means (perhaps even more confusing to the uninitiated than Thanos’ appearance in The Avengers).
What the bad X-Men movies always forgot is that, at the heart of it all, the series is an ensemble piece about these complex and interesting characters and not just an excuse to throw special effects around. Days of Future Past remembers this key fact and makes it the centre of the entire piece. Whilst Wolverine is a key part of the story and Jackman himself is still as ace in the role as ever, the real focus still remains on the main trio from First Class: Xavier (McAvoy), Magneto (Fassbender) and Mystique (Lawrence). Their characters and their triangular relationship is so fundamental for the film to work and thankfully it does. McAvoy delivers the standout performance of the film, portraying a Charles Xavier far more bitter and sorrowful than we’ve ever seen. His contemptible attitude makes him almost unlikable at points, but McAvoy manages to balance it out well enough that we don’t forget the kind man we know he was and will become again, as shown in a wonderful scene where he meets his future self (Stewart). Fassbender and Lawrence’s characters have certainly advanced much more towards their characters’ demeanours in the original trilogy, but also still keeps those slivers of humanity that made them so sympathetic in First Class. It’s these three that really make the movie what it is and, not to detract from everyone else in the movie, that’s how it really should be. As cool as it is to see all these characters from the comics, X-Men shouldn’t be treated like a Roland Emmerich film with a cast of thousands of unimportant characters. When it comes to the other mutants in the story, they all play their part but none of them detract from the core cast nor do they feel like wasted fan service like certain characters did in The Last Stand or Origins. In terms of new players, the key ones are Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. Dinklage is always great to watch and he delivers a fine performance, though as an antagonist he lacks the menace of, say, Brian Cox’s Stryker from X2. Peters doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, but when he’s there he’s one of the film’s surprising revelations, adding some clever and much needed comic relief to the proceedings.
Days of Future Past is easily the most visually distinctive of the X-Men films. The design of the apocalyptic future owes as much to Terminator as the film’s plot does, but it feels just unique enough to separate it from that classic franchise. Plenty of detail has also gone into the 1970s section of the film, creating a similar atmosphere to First Class with a slightly different twist. The action sequences continue to find new ways of exploiting all the impressive powers on display, key highlights being Blink’s (Fan Bingbing) ability to create portals (any fans of the Portal series will clearly have some fun here) and Quicksilver’s superspeed. The cinematography manages to keep these two disparate eras distinct but unified, as well as making fun use of Super 8 footage during certain scenes. The visual effects are better than ever, and it’s so wonderful to hear John Ottman back doing the score and to hear a remixed version of his excellent theme from X2.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best of the franchise, ranking up there with X2 and First Class easily, as well as one of the better comic book movies in recent memory. It weaves a great story that respects the source material whilst giving it a new spin, the cast put in tremendous work in both big and small parts, and it reveres the series’ past whilst remembering its mistakes and leaves you with a warm nostalgic feeling inside. The franchise could easily stop here and I would be satisfied, but they are continuing and as long as they stay this consistently good I think we never have to fear anything as horrible as Brett Ratner’s dirty fingers ever again.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10