Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen
The story of X-Men: Days of Future Past pulls heavily from Chris Claremont’s comic book arc of the same name. Some changes are made, largely due to the timeline issues that the X-Men series finds itself suffering from, but large parts of the story remain the same. This movie opens in an apocalyptic future, where the last remaining mutants are being hunted down by giant Sentinels. Amongst the survivors we see Professor X (Stewart), Magneto (McKellen), Wolverine (Jackman), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Storm (Halle Berry), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), and newcomers like Bishop (Omar Sy), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart) and Blink (Fan Bingbing). We soon come to learn what exactly caused the world to become so war-torn.
After an impressive opening battle that introduces the Sentinels as near-unstoppable beasts, it’s decided that somebody must be sent back in time, via Kitty Pryde’s powers, to stop the event that triggered this bleak future. Said event is the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the creator of the Sentinels, by a rogue mutant that sees Trask’s death as getting even for the slaying of certain characters from First Class. Still with me? I hope so. In terms of going back in time, it becomes clear that only Wolverine and his healing factor would be capable of making the jump back. Of course, it also helps that Jackman is the poster boy and most popular character of the whole X-franchise, plus the series’ timeline makes it impossible for Kitty Pryde, the time-traveller in the comic arc, to do the jump here.
Upon arriving in the ‘70s, Logan finds himself in the First Class world, where he has to try and bring Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender) together in order to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from killing Trask. In this post-First Class world, though, the two are at odds. It also doesn’t help things that Xavier is seemingly a drunk with no powers and that Erik is locked up deep inside the Pentagon. Will Wolverine be able to change the events of the past in order to create an alternative future?
So, now that all of the plot explanation is out of the way, is the movie any good? I’ll be honest, as a huge fan of X-Men: First Class, I was a tad hesitant to see that 20th Century Fox weren’t going to do a straight-up sequel to that, instead choosing to bring together the First Class cast and the cast of the original “present day” X-Men movies. It also didn’t help when the initial promotional push for the film was, at best, uninspired. And then there were those horrible looking early shots of Evan Peters as Quicksilver, known here as Peter Maximoff, that looked just so out of place for the character and for the world that exists in these movies. Thing is, when the final few trailers dropped, my interest did get piqued a little.
I can happily report, X-Men: Days of Future Past, despite much trepidation from me, turned out pretty darn good. The film shines when it’s centred on the “present”, and Michael Fassbender is again brilliant as Erik/Magneto. Similarly, McAvoy shows a great range of emotions as the younger Charles Xavier, and it’s good to see Nicholas Hoult back as the younger Hank McCoy/Beast. Even more to my surprise, one of the best moments of the movie revolves around Quicksilver’s brief appearance in Singer’s X-return. Yes, it’s a very different version of Quicksilver to what we’ve seen in the comic books over the years, but this version of the character works really well in the ‘70s setting of that part of the film.
In terms of the “future”, we don’t actually see all that much of those moments, with the future scenes essentially bookending the film. All of the actors in those scenes do fine with what they have, and personally I loved seeing Shawn Ashmore back as Bobby Drake/Iceman. These are well-worn, weathered versions of the X-characters that we were introduced to in the first three X-Men movies, and they’re in a world that has seen so many of their peers fall. And in the Sentinels, it feels as if the film has a very serious threat, with the opening moments showing just how powerful these seemingly-evolved beings are. It’s also pretty cool to see the Sentinel design progress as time goes on, although just how they capture new powers is a little indulgent of Singer’s film.
Another topic of concern from me was the return of director Bryan Singer. After helming X-Men and the brilliant X2, Singer left the franchise in favour of directing Superman Returns. Whilst he’s served as a producer on some of the other X-movies, this is his first time back in the director’s chair. Given how great a job Matthew Vaughn had done at creating a whole new X-world and X-characters with X-Men: First Class, there was a little bit of concern that Singer’s return would see the focus taken away from these younger versions of the characters. To the director’s credit, the majority of his film centres on said younger cast members.
In terms of cast members, there are a lot of names on show here. As well as a plethora of names already mentioned in this review, there’s additional returns and appearances from plenty of other characters from the X-Men’s comic book world. Whereas X-Men: The Last Stand had a load of characters and suffered for it, Singer manages to balance everything just right here. Sure, some of the bigger names may find themselves with restricted screen time, but the future of the franchise is clearly in the hands of McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, Hoult et al, so why not focus the majority of the movie’s running time on them?
All in all, Days of Future Past offers an impressive movie with some exceptional moments. It doesn’t quite have the verve, swagger and excellent score of First Class, but it’s the perfect remedy to the timeline issues that have been caused by the various X-Men movies over the years. If the older “future” cast are done with the series, Days of Future Past is a decent send-off. For the younger cast members, the film is a great continuation of what began in First Class. Somehow, Singer has managed to rectify a host of the X-series’ issues, whilst also continuing the fantastic groundwork laid down by First Class. And even better, it’s also great to know that Michael Fassbender will be returning as Magneto in the already-confirmed X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.