With the future torn apart by war, Wolverine must go back to his past self to unite the mutants and rewrite history.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an ambitious thing. It aims to not only present an entertaining summer blockbuster but unite the casts and plot lines of both the original X-Men trilogy and 2011’s X-Men: First Class.
With fairly inevitable time travel in the mix, a massive cast and stakes that have never been higher in the history of the franchise, there was a definite chance of it all becoming a torrid mess of cross-cutting and plot-holes. And yet, somehow, it’s actually works.
It all comes down to a series of smart choices, born out of the partnership between X-Men veterans Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg. As director and writer they’re familiar enough with this world that they can fall back on recognisable tropes from the previous movies while also knowing exactly how far they can stretch things before they break.
One example is the tone – the opening moments set in the future are a neon holocaust, drawing from disturbing World War II imagery as much as they do on elements from James Cameron’s Terminator films. But when the action switches to the 70s, the tone does too – everything from the purposefully skewed saturation of the colours to the character bits which definitely lean more in the direction of comedy.
This portion of the story is almost gleefully self-aware, spicing the narrative with touchstones from history or X-Men canon and never afraid to throw out a one-liner or two. But it never feels out of keeping with the rest of the film because the earlier setting features a younger cast and the theme of hope is a constant throughout the whole film.
It doesn’t hurt that the franchise has assembled an incredible cast over the years. Hugh Jackman remains the linchpin and he’s a pro at grounding these movies by now – not to mention looking ridiculously muscly in the 70s.
It’s tough to find screentime for everyone, and the future war characters get short shrift but others get their chance to shine. This is especially true for James McAvoy who has a less rigid character this time and really gets to let loose, to dramatic and comic effect. Fassbender is solid and there are no weak links in the bunch, though Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t really get that much to do despite being central to the plot.
Days of Future Past has the slick production values and quality CG you expect from a movie costing north of €200 million but it also delivers on the action front. Bryan Singer has conjured up some top drawer spectacle in the past but outdoes himself here. The future war has scenes of scale that are great to behold while the moments in the 70s are more intimate and often stunningly well crafted.
The standout sequence has to be a moment where Quicksilver (played by Evan Peter’s) assists in a Pentagon breakout. It’s rousing, jaw-dropping and filled with self-aware humour. Singer has topped the opening sequence in X-2 with this one – so much so that it scored a spontaneous roar of applause during my screening.
There’s a lot going on in Days of Future Past and it can all get a bit mind-boggling but there’s always a sense of forward momentum. The desperate struggle in the future adds a sense of urgency to what’s happening in the past and we get to see the real consequences in often vicious detail. These mutants are fighting for their lives and the intensity hasn’t been seen in the series before.
For my money, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best film the franchise has yet produced – free of the need for origin stories and mature enough to deal with a truly dark story without giving up on lighter moments. Its pure entertainment, brilliantly told with an amazing cast and stunning spectacle, and features one of the stand out action scenes of the year
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