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REVIEW: X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer – 2014)

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When the one-two punch of X-Men First Class and The Wolverine steered the X-Men franchise away from the disappointing Origins and the downright abhorrent X-Men: The Last Stand, fans began to hope that Marvel Studios good example had set the other studios on the right pathway. Add the return of the franchise’s prodigal son, Bryan Singer, and Oscar winning screenwriter Simon Kinberg adapting one of the defining X-Men comic arcs; the stars have aligned for the X-Men’s answer to The Avengers.

In a future when humanity has unleashed the mutant hunting sentinel menace to ‘cleanse’ the world, the remaining X-Men must attempt to shift the course of the past to fight for their right to a future. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) sends Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness from the future to intercept the shapeshifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating sentinel inventor Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). To succeed he needs to enlist the help of Charles/Professor X (James McAvoy) and Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

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Singer and Kinberg are so fiercely intent on cleansing the Brett Ratner stain off of the franchise once and for all. The focus of DOFP seems to be to flesh out and emphasise the criticality of all the characters betrayed by Last Stand; Mystique (Lawrence), Charles (McAvoy) and Erik (Fassbender). After humanising Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), eviscerating Charles (Patrick Stewart) and (figuratively) castrating Magneto (Ian McKellan) there’s a lot of work to re-establish their importance to this enduring brand. Lawrence’s Mystique shows much more influence and purpose than simply being relegated to a disguised (and ‘sexy’) henchwoman. McAvoy’s Charles shows imperfections and a genuine battle with being burdened with his god-like telekinetic power. Fassbender’s Magneto continues to display the plethora of ambiguous shades of his character’s morality. Singer and Kinberg are acutely aware that the key theme for the X-Men franchise thus far is an almost Darwinian inevitability that the mutants and humans (or those working with a fundamentalist throes for humanity) are going to crash into each for special survival. One could absolutely say that they have a lot more in common with the science fiction genre than perhaps their other spandex wearing counterparts. However, DOFP isn’t content with this being the myopic battle for the future of humanity’s evolution, it’s reconciling story threads and closing this chapter of the franchise.

In such an eclectic ensemble there are not only a bunch of amazing performers but DOFP sees almost all the core characters hit their stride. Jackman wears Wolverine like a second skin at this point. It seems that with each film he adds not only surgeon like timing to Logan’s laconic barbs but an inch of pure muscle to his entire body. Warning: there may be ‘adamantium’ implants in Jackman’s butt cheeks. James McAvoy is redefining Professor Charles Xavier before our very eyes. Taking the sage calm and endless wisdom and revealing the burdens of such an epic power takes the character to unforetold destinations. Sitting as the ‘white hat’ totem for the X-Men’s good guys is frustratingly one note, despite what Sir Patrick Stewart can bring to the role. Seeing him unravel, desperate for the bliss of a quite mind gives him a humanity barely seen in the character. While Sir Ian McKellan introduced us to Erik Lehnsherr it’s Michael Fassbender that imbues Magneto with such an effortless intensity that you truly begin to see the potential of one of the biggest bad guys in the Marvel stable. There is never going to be enough time of these four guys, interacting as these characters to quench your appetite for their awesome.

Like any film juggling an ensemble of this size you invariably are disappointed that particular characters don’t get enough screen time. You do get the time to get into the characters but the overarching story demands more involvement from essential core characters than those on the periphery. For example, the suitably serious epic tone of DOFP was totally refreshed by the brief presence of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. In a film loaded with such serious ‘issues’ he’s like a little escapist exhale, diving into a wonderful ability in the hands of such a mischievous and playful kid is just consistently joyous.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is an extremely satisfying closure to this chapter of the X-Men universe.

[rating=4]

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg (screenplay/story), Jane Goldman (story) & Matthew Vaughn (story)
Starring:
Hugh Jackman … Logan / Wolverine
James McAvoy … Charles Xavier
Michael Fassbender … Erik Lehnsherr
Jennifer Lawrence .. Raven / Mystique
Halle Berry … Storm
Nicholas Hoult … Hank / Beast
Anna Paquin … Rogue
Ellen Page … Kitty Pryde
Peter Dinklage … Dr. Bolivar Trask
Shawn Ashmore … Bobby / Iceman
Omar Sy … Bishop
Evan Peters… Peter / Quicksilver
Josh Helman … Maj. Bill Stryker
Daniel Cudmore … Colossus
Bingbing Fan … Blink
Adan Canto … Sunspot
Booboo Stewart… Warpath
Ian McKellen … Magneto
Patrick Stewart … Professor X
Lucas Till … Havok
Evan Jonigkeit … Toad

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