REVIEW: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: BRYAN SINGER / SCREENPLAY: SIMON KINBERG, JANE GOLDMAN, MATTHEW VAUGHN / STARRING: HUGH JACKMAN, JAMES MCAVOY, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, HALLE BERRY, NICHOLAS HOULT, ELLEN PAGE, PETER DINKLAGE, SHAWN ASHMORE, EVAN PETERS, JOSH HELMAN / RELEASE DATE: MAY 22ND
Returning to the cinematic universe he helped to launch in 2000, before abandoning it in favour of the flashier tights of Superman Returns, Bryan Singer, like a cinematic Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, has managed to put right that which once went wrong in Fox's franchise, after Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand left it in such tatters that Fox rebooted it so hard it ended up in the ‘60s!
As in the comic book series of the same name, Singer starts his tale in a dystopian future, one in which mutants are rounded up and killed by advanced "sentinels", seemingly unstoppable techno-organic killing machines.
Thanks to a handy early warning system devised by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) whereby she shifts fellow mutant Bishop's conscious back in time a few days prior to any Sentinel attack, a band of mutants from the previous films, as well as some fresh blood, have managed to survive, but the war is all but lost. Seeing potential in her newfound ability, Professor X and Magneto opt to send a mutant's mind back to a key point in the past, to prevent the creation of the sentinels. Thanks to Hugh Jackman's box office draw, Wolverine is selected to go back, (along with the fact that he is the only one who could survive the trip thanks to his healing factor). Once he goes back, both the changed past of 1973 and the nightmare "future past" will proceed together in lockstep to twin climaxes, until he returns and whatever changes he was able to effect, if any, take hold. Wolverine must now find Professor X and Magneto, stop the "unfortunate event", save the world and do all this before the sentinels find the mutants in the future and without losing his cool or he'll slip back... to the future!
With Days of Future Past Singer seems to have pulled off the first on-screen "retcon" of a cinematic comic franchise (as opposed to the off-screen reboots we’re all accustomed to), ignoring much that was lamented in Ratner's film, while setting the franchise back on its "correct" path. He retains many of the hallmarks of his first 2 films, down to the lingering "X" in the 20th Century Fox logo at the start of the film, while taking full advantage of the weight of the First Class cast. While mutants abound, this is truly the story of Charles (Professor X), Eric (Magneto), and Raven (Mystique), the state of their relationships from the first film, how time has battered them and where they can allow themselves to go next.
This approach leaves some casualties in its wake, as some of the less famous cast members from First Class are disposed of off-screen with terminal consequences. It is heartening however, to see old favourites such as Storm, Iceman, Kitty Pryde and Colossus return, even if some are merely reduced to sentinel fodder. The newer mutants, including the long awaited appearance of Bishop, are also used to fill out the numbers but little else. That the film can still be praised in spite of this, speaks to the quality of the central cast and the action and surprises throughout.
Singer doesn't ignore X3 completely, using Logan's relationship with Jean Grey in a similar fashion to last year’s The Wolverine, but those hoping for answers to how Xavier returned from the dead or Magneto got his powers back will be left wanting. The jump to the 1970s is handled well, with the main characters in some surprising situations, and Nixon, Vietnam and JFK's assassination at the end of the ‘60s factor into the story too.
The action and effects are handled expertly and as with previous X-Men films and comics, there is speechifying, unlikely alliances, sudden betrayals and the dénouement will have fans of the original movies swooning. With this and The Wolverine, Fox may have finally gotten to grips with its corner of the Marvel cinematic universe, an impression that is cemented further once the post credits stinger for the next film in the franchise is revealed!
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10
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