Whereas First Class tied its personal battle between Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier into the Cuban Missle Crisis, Days of Future Past ties its key plotline around the overwhelming presence of mutant-murdering Sentinel robots in an apocalyptic future. A bit different then.
It also uses this future to bridge the gap between the two timelines in which X-Men is now set, taking the casts from past and present and mashing them into one big team.
It pans out well, and Bryan Singer looks back to his X-Men 2 best in the director’s seat of this action-packed effort. The post-apocalyptic world where mutants and humans alike are on the down sees Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return alongside some impressive newbies, the most exciting of which is Fan Bingbing’s Blink – a character who sets about defending earth by playing Portal in real life. While McKellan doesn’t get as much screen time as he could have done with, Stewart does get the chance to provide some great speeches and face off against former self McAvoy in a scene handled with aplomb.
The Sentinels which lie at the core of the future’s problems are appropriately simple, badass, and hard to evade, and the horrible stormy weather conditions – why can the apocalypse never happen on a sunny day? – are still sculpted well enough to avoid total cliché.
Of course though, the bulk of the movie takes place in the 1970s, where Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is sent back to right some past wrongs and subsequently stop the Sentinels in the future. Jackman’s return as the hard-knuckled Logan feels a little fresher this time around too, despite the audience overdose received from his spin-offs – his jokes work well, he doesn’t overdo the stage presence and despite his claws being bone rather than metal, he handles his fight scenes like an absolute badass.
Needless to say, McAvoy and Fassbender are both impeccable as the arch-rivals gunning for similar targets with vastly different tactics. McAvoy plays the Professor who has abandoned his ethical aims in search of a bowl of ice cream and a James Blunt album – he’ll be waiting a while if he’s in the 70s – but Fassbender steals the show as the villainous vigilante self-assigned to save the mutant race at any cost. Whereas in First Class he finds himself in the middle of history in Cuba, this time around Magneto decides to write history himself by closing in the White House with the shell of a baseball stadium. Just your average day at the office then.
The appearance of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver to break Fassbender out of his maximum security prison – where the prison is and what he’s in for add a nice extra quirk– is definitely another highlight. Peters’ super speedy character looks like your usual brat-come-good character when we first meet, but his comedic value is so much more. A slow-motion scene where he takes down four shooting officers and has extra time to mess around is undoubtedly one of the kickers in the film.
A special mention must also go to Jennifer Lawrence. The actress gets increased stage time as Raven-turned-Mystique, and the confusion, anger and sorrow of the character are portrayed well in her acting. Although I may be a bit bias, because I am kind of in love with her. (Please call me if you read this).
On the down side, Peter Dinklage, while increasingly sinister as Sentinel creator Tyrion Lannister, err, I mean Dr. Bolivar Trask, isn’t quite given the back story or justification the audience need for his hatred of mutants. Likewise, alongside the likes of McKellen, the future X-Men aren’t given enough screen time individually. The reason Blink stands out is because she’s an awesome fighter, and that’s pretty much all that cast get to do. Even Halle Berry’s Storm barely gets a line.
All in all though, the time travel is handled well, the deadlines imposed nicely, the acting is magnificent and the story grips you to your seat.
Verdict: On the back of a disappointing run out with The Amazing Spiderman 2, it’s nice to see Singer stepping up to the plate, hitting a home run here and showing how superhero films should be handled. New, exciting, action-packed and clever. A real winner.
Note: After the end-credits, mega mutant Apocalypse makes an appearance, so you’re going to want to stay around for that. But it’s a Marvel film, so you should already know this.