Friday 17 November 2017

Movie review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence (12A)

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique in X-Men: Days of Future Past

Maeve Richardson

There’s little doubt that Bryan Singer, in returning to the X-Men series 14 years after directing the first movie and its sequel, wanted to undo the mistakes made by Brett Ratner in the disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand.

He basically completely ignores it to cleverly bring the characters from his original and Matthew Vaughn’s superb prequel together.

In the near future, the world has been decimated by war. A government-controlled army of lethal robots (Marvel, always with the robot armies) called Sentinels has all but wiped out the mutant species, while the X-Men, led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his longtime ‘frenemy’ Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), fight a losing battle.

Attempting a new strategy, our heroes decide to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time — a nifty new trick Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has learned — so that he can enlist the help of a young Charles and Erik to prevent the Sentinels ever being created. Next stop, 1973, and here is where we pick up from the events of X Men: First Class. Keep up at the back there.

In the 70s, young Charles has given up hope of changing the world, while Erik (aka Magneto) is imprisoned thirty floors below the

Pentagon. After a breathtakingly fun prison break played out in slow motion, the trio (with Erik and Charles at each other’s throats) set out for Paris to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence in full-body blue make-up) from assassinating the creator of the Sentinels (Peter Dinklage, underused).

Her plan to stop the war is in fact what causes it, and in a complex but enormously fun plot we’re treated to an alternate history of the end of the Vietnam war, the Kennedy assassination and Richard Nixon’s shenanigans, as well as some satisfying nods to the original two movies.

Singer has lots of fun with the 1970s setting in Days of Future Past, and it’s refreshing to know this series isn’t afraid to have fun. Since The Dark Knight trilogy, it’s been the ‘done thing’ to keep it super serious. Not so here. While the complex relationships between the large cast are emotive and genuinely compelling, there’s plenty of humour on show.

One major drawback is the aforementioned robot army; for all the clever storytelling and satisfying pathos, there’s still a feeling that we’re hurtling towards yet another CGI showdown. But in the end it’s the drama that wins out, making X-Men: Days of Future Past not only improve on pretty much everything that’s come before it in the series, but also rather cheekily undo much of the events of The Last Stand. 1980s-set X-Men: Apocalypse is already set for Summer 2016 and the traditional post-credits sequence offers a little glimpse of what’s to come, so stick around for that.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday’s Irish Independent

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