Review: X Men: Days of Future Past
Unless you're a loyal fan of the comic adaptation genre, you may be feeling a little fatigued or even disillusioned by the thought of another X-Men movie.
Admittedly, it's probably because Marvel seems to put out a new superhero story every couple of months, and we're only just recovering from being slammed by Captain America's shield and strung up by Spider-Man's webbing.
To be fair, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the first in a few years, since Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn took audiences on a trip back in time to the true origin story of the mutants as they first found one another in X-Men: First Class (2011).
And he did a great job, casting young British heavyweights James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the young Professor Xavier and Magneto respectively, and laying out a convincing tale of How Things Came To Be. It was incredibly satisfying to watch the youngsters get to grips with their accursed talents and transform into their young adult selves. With a witty script, exhilarating set-pieces and a terrific set-up, First Class transported Vaughn from his status as Guy Ritchie's right-hand man (back when Ritchie was still an exciting filmmaker to watch) into a worthy director in his own right.
I've not kept up with the political wranglings that determine which Hollywood maestro gets to direct which tentpole movie, but for some reason Vaughn wasn't picked for the Future Past team, losing out to the franchise's first director, Bryan Singer. This is still great news - Singer made his mark with The Usual Suspects, one of the greatest crime movies of modern times, before helming the first two X-Men films. He wisely gave up his director's chair for the following movies (including the Wolverine spin-offs), perhaps one reason those seemed to lose panache as the 2000s rolled by.
So it's nice to see Singer's still got it, capitalising on Vaughn's fresh take to deliver a tale which (appropriately) ties the series' early history into where we find it now.
The conceit of Days of Future Past is an oldie but a goodie: a team member (here Hugh Jackman's Wolverine) is sent back to 1973 to warn the juvenile versions of Xavier and Magneto that unless they get over their feud and join forces, an historical event to be perpetrated by one of their own will have an irreparable effect on their future, resulting in the internment and extinction of the beleaguered mutant population.
With McAvoy and Fassbender back on screen, still calling each other Charles and Erik (a sweet touch which at times serves to ground their predicament and their fine acting in something altogether more human and serious than your typical comic book scenario), we're treated to more "origin" moments, including the thrilling introduction of Quicksilver, whose ability to move like lightning is demonstrated in an exhilarating scene which actually sets the bar too high to be reached thereafter. Jennifer Lawrence, whose Oscar nominations stack up during each X-Men hiatus, plays a key role once again as Raven/Mystique, effortlessly wonderful whether sporting a pout and a blonde hairdo or bringing down several US marines with one high kick.
As in First Class, the 1970s make for an aesthetically enjoyable era to be transported back to, with waterbeds and lava lamps and a great soundtrack to boot. One particularly nice touch is the use of 16mm cameras to render civilian footage of the mutants fighting in the streets of Paris, evoking the Zapruder film of JFK's assassination (which is also cleverly referenced in the script). Well-paced and well-acted, although the story meanders slightly in the middle - it is by all accounts still gripping, aided no doubt by Raven's incessant shape-shifting which keeps us on our toes. And to top off the excellent casting, we get Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage as the baddie entrepreneur, Bolivar Trask, resplendent in oversized glasses (and not a cloak in sight), his voice as deep and menacing as any Bond villain.
With the Inception-like layers of past and present (evoked all the more thanks to Ellen Page's presence), some of the plot threads may not have the strength of Spidey's web, but Days of Future Past is a great-looking, thought-provoking continuation of the mutants' tribulations.
Sunday Star Times