Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Wolverine is sent back in time from a dystopian future to prevent the annihilation of mutants.

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Bryan Singer, 2014

A group of mutants in the future is fighting a losing battle against the uberpowerful, adaptive Sentinels. They’ve developed a system using the abilities of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), which include sending someone’s consciousness back in time. Magneto/Erik Lensherr (Ian McKellen) and Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) have hatched a plan to send the Professor back in time; however, it’s decided that only Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has the healing abilities to be able to go back that far. His mission: to reunite the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) in 1973 to prevent Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from setting the world on the path to the dystopian future controlled by Sentinels. She’s on a mission of her own: to kill Sentinel mastermind Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), who has experimented on and killed a number of mutants to create his robots. With that volatile combination of mutants, things unsurprisingly go awry, and Wolverine struggles to set the future on a more positive track.

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Throw everything you know about the X-Men out the window. This seems to be the message of Fox and Bryan Singer in making this movie. Clearly the dystopian future presented in Days of Future Past exists in an alternate universe from the one we remember from that abomination The Last Stand, because where were the Sentinels that were invented before 1973? It’s also a giant reset button. There are plot holes you could drive Erik’s stadium through, and the more diverse characters get very little screentime. But hot damn, is it entertaining as all get-out. This movie radiates with the fun and energy and moral dilemmas missing from the last few X-Men outings, and it’s a thrilling ride. The mutant powers are cool (there is a genuinely brilliant scene with Evan Peters’ Quicksilver) (as opposed to Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, who will appear in Avengers 2 next year), and Magneto grandstands in traditionally OTT fashion. The set pieces are great, and it’s so much fun to watch mutants work together as well as against each other. Even though you more or less know how it’s going to turn out, it’s still fascinating to watch, and I couldn’t even be mad that it retconned almost everything we’ve invested in for the last few years (one of the less pleasant comic book tropes).

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Acting powerhouse and professional cutie Jennifer Lawrence on set.

For all his personal faults, no-one understands how to make a movie about the X-Men better than Bryan Singer. He knows the ins and outs of their powers and how to make the most of them, the personal relationships that make them interesting, how to frame an action sequence packed with characters. This film retains the focus on the relationship between Erik and Charles (both their younger and older selves) that was the core of First Class, but expands that to include Raven as her own person much more than that film. Her story is particularly interesting, as she tries to carve her own path that isn’t dictated by the men who think they own her. She gets a lot of the most badass scenes (see her pin a guy against a wall with her foot to his throat), and I imagine they wouldn’t have been able to do this with a lesser actress than Jennifer Lawrence in the role. (I liked the little Katniss braid moment, too.) McAvoy and Fassbender continue to be excellent, with James McAvoy killing it throughout this film as Professor X at rock bottom. The cast is just astonishing, though some are desperately underused. The threats feel real, and everything looks good, though I would have loved a bridging film about the modern X-Men fighting the Sentinels with more for Blink (Fan Bingbing) and the other newbies to do (I highlighted Blink because her power is SO FUCKING COOL, but Omar Sy’s Bishop is pretty neat too, even if I don’t have a clue what he does). There are a few emotional notes that don’t quite hit as a result of the lack of interest in their story. Still, overall it’s a great ride with a terrific cast, a very enjoyable film.

X-Men: Days of Future Past on IMDb

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