Writer: Simon Kinberg
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry
Running time: 131mins
The lowdown: Following the first class First Class and the wild The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past confirms the franchise has rediscovered its X-factor. A time travel save-the-world plot unites the original series with the First Class reboot, delivering a blockbuster to sink your claws, mind and mutant streak into. A high-wattage cast and Bryan Singer’s dynamic direction ensure that in a world of Avengers, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman, Superman, etc, etc, X still marks the spot where it all began.
The full verdict: This mutant gene is versatile. After the franchise was brought to its knees with The Last Stand and showed serious signs of distemper with (deep breath) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it looked to fresh hosts for rejuvenation.
First Class was an alternate reality triumph in the Watchmen tradition and The Wolverine ventured East to Japanese yakuza thrillers and giant robot movies (as well as Frank Miller’s original comic).
Days of Future Past is inspired by an influential 1981 two issue story, but Bryan Singer’s approach to its “mind projection and layers of reality” structure carries a healthy dose of Inception DNA.
Plus Watchmen muscle memory with references to Vietnam and Nixon. No Japanese gangsters or ninjas this time though.
An easier-to-follow-than-it-sounds plot pitches the surviving X-Men of a post-apocalyptic world against lethal Sentinels, giant cyborgs originally programmed to destroy mutants but who have turned their fire faces on all mankind.
The opening Sentinel battle is the series’ best beginning since X2, and brings back Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman from The Last Stand, plus X-Men alumni Stewart, McKellen, Berry and Jackman.
Rewriting history being the only hope for peace, mutant extraordinaire Kitty Pryde must transport Wolverine’s mind back into his 1972 self.
His mission: to unite sworn enemies Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender). Their mission: to stop Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique assassinating Sentinel creator Boliver Trask (Game of Thrones’ Dinklage), thereby averting the subsequent mutant genocide.
First time behind the X-megaphone since part two, Singer has lost none of his mutant mojo. Critical brickbats hurled at the supposed incoherence of the dual timeline plot are undeserved; Singer confidently manipulates both past and future events, mirroring the two Sentinel heavy climaxes with assured mastery.
And Wolverine’s “getting the gang back together” mission is a fun plot staple for any series on its seventh outing. Particularly a trip to the Pentagon to bust out Magneto, incarcerated for being a little too close to a certain grassy knoll one day in November, 1963.
After The Raid 2, X-Men: DOFP delivers the year’s second best kitchen based action set-piece, with a literal bullet time slice of wizardry as newcomer Quicksilver (Peters) nonchalantly disarms Pentagon lackies literally in the blink of an eye.
But, the standout moment is the first public X-skirmish. Set against the Paris Peace Accords that officially ended the Vietnam War, it’s thrilling, inventive, and a reworking of the original X-Men’s train station smackdown, rebooted with 14 years of FX evolution (and an inflated budget).
McAvoy and Fassbender again impress as the younger counterparts of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, McAvoy carrying the movie’s emotional weight while the action is supported by Jackman’s superhumanly broad shoulders.
Fans worried that this Magneto will be a pale imitation villain, fear not. McKellen may be pally with future X-Men, but Fassbender’s past incarnation has surprises in store.
The only disappointments are that aside from a brief scene with McAvoy and Stewart, the old and new X-Men are mostly kept to separate timelines, and Quicksilver’s show-stealing cameo is way too swift.
But, with Star Wars now under the auspices of Disney, Fox needed an ongoing blockbuster franchise to keep the coffers full. Some smart retconning later to tidy up loose ends left by The Last Stand, and this is X-actly what Days of Future Past has delivered.
Roll on Age of Apocalypse.