Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Lawrence
Rating: M – Science fiction themes, violence and infrequent coarse language
Release Date: 22 May, 2014
Critics Verdict: Awesome. A classic superhero blockbuster with all the right moves.
Stephen A. Russell for Thelowdownunder says: “Delivering a solid filmic entry into the X-Men cannon way back in 2000, Bryan Singer went on to kick it out of the park with his action-packed sequel, X2, successfully ramping up both the big blockbuster effects and layering on the emotional depth. His subsequent decampment from Marvel to DC for Superman Returns marked a terminal decline for the X-series, with Brett Ratner’s dismal X-Men: The Last Stand and two decidedly average Wolverine prequels.
After Matthew Vaughn’s swinging 1960s-set X-Men: First Class resuscitated the franchise, skilfully weaving a younger cast into the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, Singer is back on board with the follow up, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and he’s back on form too after last year’s unmitigated disaster Jack the Giant Slayer.
Moving the prequel players into the 1970s, just as the Vietnam War comes to a juddering close, this outing actually kicks off in a not-too-distant dystopian future, with a shattered New York City’s Central Park turned into an enormous prison camp for mutantkind and their human supporters, with obvious parallels to Erik Lensher/Magneto’s holocaust camp origins.
Countless souls have been slaughtered by a phalanx of super-advanced, shape-shifting robots dubbed the sentinels, which can turn mutant powers back on the outlaws. A small band of renegades, led by Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat (Ellen Page) and Bishop (Omar Sy), resist, working some timey whimey stuff that delivers them to a Chinese mountain stronghold where old enemies Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) have called a truce and formed a plan.
As well as blipping handily through walls, Kitty can somehow send a mutant’s consciousness back through time into their younger self. Only Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has the strength/healing properties/fan base to allow his mind to be shunted back all the way to 1973. It’s here that he’s expected to recruit the younger iterations of Xavier (James McAvoy) and a Pentagon-imprisoned Magneto (Michael Fassbender) so they can prevent Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing sentinel designer Bolivar Trask, played by Game of Throne’s magnificent Peter Dinklage, therefore sparking off the anti-mutant distrust that leads to said dystopia.
If it all sounds a bit head-scratchy, fear not, because despite the dual timelines and franchise mash-up, the screenplay by Simon Kinberg zips along surprisingly easily and, like X2 before it, allows plenty of rich character interaction to sit side-by-side truly epic action sequences. In the past, McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence adeptly convey the emotional tug of war between Magneto, X and a clearly conflicted Mystique. In the future, McKellen and Stewart’s real-life bromance exudes charisma, and there’s a deftly handled bridging moment shared between Stewart and McAvoy.
The final act pulls out all the stops in both timelines, with awe-inspiring carnage. Despite the inherent darkness, there’s a healthy dose of ballsy humour here too. A trippy lava lamp/waterbed combo heralds Wolverine’s arrival in the 1970s, and his unsuitability for diplomacy is underlined in a great scene set in Xavier’s abandoned academy, with Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) on hand for a rumble.
The ripple effect of what happens in the 1970s neatly allows for a little tidying up of the rather less impressive plot points of X-Men: The Last Stand, though I’m still a bit befuddled as to how the Prof made it into this future when he clearly died in said flick, but with all the wibbly wobbliness going on we can probably assume history has been changed several times and give them a pass card. Also, in comic books, no one stays dead long.
There are a heap of cameos, prompting concerns the entire endeavour would collapse in on itself under the weight of too many mutants, but Singer and Kinberg commendably keep things under control. Strong enough to entertain the uninitiated, there are geeky nudges aplenty for those in the know, both to Marvel’s cannon and even to Star Trek and Star Wars.
Page is, as ever, spunky, and thankfully Halle Berry is all but silent, relying instead on Storm’s visually stunning weather powers. Sadly, Fan Bingbing is also practically mute as Blink, though her super-cool portal-opening powers outshine all, including fan fave Bobby/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore).
The arrival of super-speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters, American Horror Story) is particularly welcome, with the jaw-dropping breakout from the Pentagon rendered in glorious bullet time. There’s also a nod to his sister Wanda/Scarlet Witch, both of whom will be played by different actors in Joss Whedon’s upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, though it’s doubtful Sony and Marvel will play ball and allow these franchises to truly cross over any time soon. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Whedon’s choice for Quicksilver, has a lot to live up to.
This is by far the best X-Men movie to date, surpassing even Singer’s own X2, and there’s a glorious post-credit teaser for bad times to come that frankly can’t come soon enough.”
Variety says: “Not since 2003’s “X2: X-Men United” has this filmmaker tapped so effortlessly into his talent for comicbook gravitas, his ability to mine emotional resonance, pop poetry and (crucially) sly humor from material that could otherwise have veered into strained seriousness or high camp.”
The Vine says: “X-Men: Days of Future Past is the most effective, charming and articulate film in the entire series; combining the casts of both the old-school and new-school film lineups, we now officially have our X-Men back. All of them.”