Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Good news film fans and X-Men fanboys-Bryan Singer is back in the director’s chair for X-Men:Days of Future Past. After helming the first two films in the X-Men film franchise (X-Men in 2000, and X-Men 2 in 2003, respectively), he passed the series’ reigns over to director Brett Ratner, who released the justly maligned X Men:The Last Stand in 2006. It took five years for the stench and distaste from that film to wear off, but in 2011, steadfast X-men comic book and film fans were rewarded with a solid prequel from director Matthew Vaughn, entitled X-Men: First Class. Exploring the birthright, upbringing and unique origins of beloved characters Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Vaughn’s prequel injected magnetic energy to the franchise once more. With X Men: Days of Future Past, Singer returns to the universe that he helped create cinematically, and expertly melds his and the cherished characters’ filmic past with the promising present.
The film opens in the not so distant apocalyptic future, with most of the world’s population having been slaughtered by Sentinels, government-funded, mountainous mutating machines that were initially created to destroy mutants and the humans that sided with them. In New York, Moscow, and China, the few mutants still alive (including Halle Berry’s Storm and Omar Sy’s Bishop) are valiantly fighting to not grow extinct but hope is fading rapidly. While barricaded in a church-like hideaway, former adversaries Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) concoct a last ditch attempt to save mutantkind and mankind. With the powerful aid of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who has the ability to magically incept minds to time travel, they will send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to halt the creation of the Sentinels. Travelling back to the lava lamp days of 1973 he must put the “band” back together, as it were,
With a central time-travelling plot device, screenwriter Simon Kinberg is able to deftly rewrite history, both political history, and that of the X-men franchise. The film garners big laughs when Magneto professes to have accidentally killed former President JFK (who, as it turns out, was a mutant all along) and, inexplicably, President Nixon is portrayed as reasonable, even a tad heroic. The comedic moments are by far the film’s greatest strength, with the highlight (by far) being the all-too-brief dynamic presence of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. Once his character is no longer needed (not before introducing his sister, comic book fan favourite the Scarlet Witch, of course) the film quickly runs out of steam. Even with the world seemingly close to an end in the future setting, the stakes never feel very high. The story far too often falls back on the complicated love triangle between Lawrence, McAvoy, and Fassbender’s characters (despite McAvoy and Fassbender having more sexual chemistry between them than either of them do with America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence).
Thus, the final hour of the film seems strained and unnecessarily long (though baseball fans will chuckle and be temporarily amused at the Montreal-set baseball stadium being literally moved through the air to Washington). As with the recent Star Trek Into Darkness, the film redeems itself in the end (prologue? epilogue?) with invited nods to its franchise’s cherished past. I look forward to seeing where Bryan Singer takes the franchise from here into the future.