X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Genre: Action

Director: Bryan Singer

Writer: Simon Kinberg, story by Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart

Running Length: 131 mins

Synopsis: The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The beloved characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from the past, X-Men: First Class, in order to change a major historical event and fight in an epic battle that could save our future.

Review: To say that X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the better installments in the X-Men franchise seems to be faint praise, given that there have been a number of clunkers in the seven films thus far. So let’s rephrase: this is the second best movie in the franchise so far (the first by far still being X-Men: First Class), and since it features actors from the original trilogy, also manages to more or less flush out the bad taste that remained after the rather terrible X-Men: The Last Stand.

Days of Future Past is not a perfect movie – it has way too many characters doing nothing, the dense plot requires a working knowledge of the X-Men universe to make head and tail of. However, it belongs to a rare breed of superhero movies where the action takes a back seat to plot development. While the action is fine in Days of Future Past (the most notable being an imaginative, series-best scene where Quicksilver uses his powers to get the mutants out of a tight bind), it is when some of the key actors get a chance to flesh out their characters where the movie shines.

There’s an impressively long list of mutants featured in Days of Future Past, but almost all of them are nothing more than wallpaper – this sadly even includes seasoned thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the future age Professor X and Magneto. Hugh Jackman is given top billing, but even his Wolverine is reduced to doing nothing much except be the plot device that marries the two timelines in the film. As for the minor mutants, the only ones who are really given any significant screen time are Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Quicksilver, the rest seemingly present just to perform a technical demonstration of their powers – the most egregious example being Fan Bing Bing’s Blink, who didn’t even seem to get a single line of dialogue.

Thankfully, Singer does give the key actors in X-Men: First Class their time in the sun, and the film benefits immeasurably because of this. The trio of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence do most of the heavy lifting in the film, and it is not a stretch to say that the movie is successful largely due to their presence. Michael Fassbender once again reigns supreme, and his portrayal as Erik/Magneto is easily the strongest (and dare I say, most magnetic) amongst the trio. There’s a tragic quality about Erik Lensherr which Fassbender is able to bring out, both within and without his costume – a pretty rare occurrence for superhero movies.

Having watched the film in 2D, it’s hard to say if 3D would add to the viewing experience, but it does not look like to be the case. While the quality of the CG in any action blockbuster worth its salt (or its $200 million production budget in this case) is a given, there are spots in the film where the visual effects do seem a little sloppy, particularly the finale sequence, easily the weakest scene both visually and in the grander scheme of things.

Bryan Singer was the director who truly established the end-credits sequence in superhero movies, and it’s no surprise that there’s one such scene in Days of Future Past, an obvious teaser for the already announced X-Men: Apocalypse. Having reboot the franchise’s beginnings with X-Men: First Class, and now resetting the present X-Men universe with the time travel premise in Days of Future Past, the X-Men franchise is now at its strongest in its entire 14-year cinematic history. Hopefully Apocalypse will be able to continue the streak and not waste the build-up when it arrives in 2016.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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