Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Josh Helman with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan
Plot: In a far future, the mutants have been all but wiped out by Sentinels and it is up to Wolverine (Jackman) to go back in time and find the disillusioned Xavier (McAvoy), Magneto (Fassbender), and Mystique (Lawrence).
Two years ago, if someone told me Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Ellen Page AND the god who is Hugh Jackman were going to be in the same movie together, I would have laughed in their face. Even now, I am kind of expecting the universe to implode through awesome at any given moment.
There is a line in the X-Men film, where Beast turns to Xavier and Wolverine and expresses doubt with the mission. There is a theory, he claims, that time is a stream. They can throw a pebble into the stream to cut the water off, but eventually the stream will regain its original course. This could be a neat analogy for the X-Men movies. The first two were amazing pieces of cinema, Bryan Singer breathing life into the comic book movie that Joel Schumacher kicked to the dust with two awful Batman movies. However, like comic book franchises before it, when the original director left, that original charm could not be matched. Last Stand stumbled and Wolverine’s two stand-alone films finished the descent, as the franchise looked ready to curl up into a ball and die. Then First Class emerged (a Phoenix from the ashes, if we really want to embrace X-Men symbolism), and the stream began to correct itself. With Days of the Future Past, we are not only back to the quality that we started at, but Singer has come out with the best X-Men film to date. Without a shadow of a doubt, Days of Future Past is a phenomenal movie.
The easy flaw to pick out here is the common one with X-Men; there are too many characters. However, when dealing with the original X-Men movies, this is a problem we are always going to get. I can blame First Class and the Wolverines for failing on this measure, as they had no excuse when it came to losing focus, however, when we are dealing with the future X-Men and the past X-Men, a bloated cast list is going to happen. However, even if not all of the mutants get equal screen time, they get their time to shine. The future mutants rarely feature, but when they do, they are beyond impressive. Blink, who has the power to create portals in time, amazes from her first appearance, creating some amazing set-pieces. Ellen Page’s Shadowcat’s new powers are intriguing and mean that the actress is not as wasted as I feared. Over in the past segment of the movie, Evan Peters has a single fight scene, but he almost steals the show with it. Peter Dinklage has few moments to shine, but his monologues provide their own spark, flexing his acting muscles and scene-chewing talents. Even Wolverine knows when to stand back and let the newer mutants on the block do their thing. Hugh Jackman has had the centre of the stage for so long now, it is a testament to both Jackman and Singer that they have the confidence to let the most-loved mutant relinquish lead role responsibilities. And the movie does not suffer from it.
The main focus of this movie is the younger Xavier and Magneto, who turned heads in First Class. This is a wise move, as they have the most development to get through. Wolverine is strangely without development, as we see him in the far future, the finishing point of his character, able to tone back on his rage. This was a nice touch and reflected nicely by Jackman. This also gives McAvoy and Fassbender the space to shine here, feeling far more comfortable with the relative roles. In a bulging cast, filled with some of the most spectacular actors of our generation, James McAvoy is the star of the show. His character is not the Xavier we remember, broken by the events of First Class, yet he always keeps that presence we associate with both Professor X and Patrick Stewart. His performance, at points, broke my heart and the moment where the past and future Xavier collide could become of the most iconic scenes of the X-Men franchise as a whole. Fassbender is also excellent here, filled with the cynicism and cold-hearted logic that we remember him to have. His character is amazingly unpredictable and he has the audience glued to the screens. The other two mutants who get a bit more time to shine than the others are Mystique and Beast. Mystique’s character has become even more interesting, as we see her caught between the sweet Raven from First Class, yet on the road to becoming the genocidal terrorist from Singer’s movies. Beast is much tidier than we remember. The CGI is finally worthy of the character, he fights with the best of them and Nicholas Hoult is much more confident in the role. He was a joy to watch.
But it is Singer’s careful orchestration that needs the most praise. This is a storyline that is always a few steps from crumbling in on itself and Singer never lets that happen. He takes the original comic, which has a lot of story to get through in itself, but plays with the idea, so the second act breaks from what we expect and keeps us hooked. For example, Bolivar Trask and Mystique might be the clear cut villains here, but there has only ever been one big bad in the X-Men universe, and when he reveals his true colours, it is fantastic to behold. But it is the finishing touches that really make this movie. We have no idea how it is going to turn out and the final twenty minutes are glorious. Singer has so much understanding of both the original comics and his own vision, so when his concepts are put into practice, it is great to behold. X-Men has never been this good.
Final Verdict: Singer takes a lot of material on, but he never misses a beat. The master has returned and has brought the original X-Men glory with him.