X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Film & TV, Silver Screen May 27, 2014

This time last week, the prospect of watching the Godzilla reboot excited me more than the idea of sitting through the latest addition to the un-quellable menagerie that is the X-Men franchise. You have to admit, the sight of former Brit footballer Vinnie Jones dressed up as Juggernaut in the third X-Men film, The Last Stand, was enough to leave an enduring mental scar in any viewer’s brain, and the less said about the varying Wolverine biopics, the better.

Such an insipid demise to a once promising Marvel franchise was – thankfully – curve-balled with the 2011 release of X-Men: First Class, an instalment that managed to surpass every X-Men film before it with its exceedingly talented cast (let’s face it, the character portrayals of the prior films failed to court much depth), the historically woven plot, and the obliteration of practically all romantic filler. Brian Singer has honed his directorial technique to laser precision, and perhaps it is a lesson better learned that straying away from Singer results in pure drivel, with he having directed the best of the series – X-Men, X2, First Class and now, Days Of Future Past.

As a social media addict (Generation Y, we’re all condemned) it is poignant that, in sitting to view this film this writer had very little knowledge of any plot point other than the splicing of two generations of actors in this franchise into a single film, which – for all pretences – appeared as little more than a superficial and shallow attempt to induce nerd-gasms in the most devout of comic-book fans everywhere. The initial – and visually impressive – onslaught is so jarringly futuristic that by the time Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) order Wolverine a weekend vacation to the 1970’s, it proves a welcome respite from the character’s pending demise by the mutant hunting sentinels.

Whilst giving Hugh Jackman the opportunity to adorn paisley next to his mutton chops is an amusing enough reason to partake in time travel, it transpires the fate of the future world balances on the peaks of his greased back hair as a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) plots the murder of scientist Bolivar Trask (the ever brilliant Peter Dinklage) as he experiments on mutants to construct anti-mutant technology. What follows is a disorienting ricochet between future and past; conveying time-travel is never easy, and with intense audience affection for 90% of the characters onscreen it is difficult to strike the correct balance between the nostalgia saddled original generation and their strutting, younger counterparts. Consequently, it results in a two hour onslaught overstuffed with big name personalities with not enough of the good meat to go around. Scraps are handed out to the likes of Halle Berry (Storm) and Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat), whilst the more quizzical inclusion of the original Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) are so trivial that any actor could have portrayed them without making much of a difference.

Alternately, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender – as young Xavier and Magneto respectively – appear to have the opposite issue. Whilst they are more than deserving of their screen time, much of their dialogue morphs into essential inaction, for despite its great instances of spectacle, this is primarily a film of more talk and less action, however by the time credits role the poignancy of Days of Future Past, however disjointed, is more than apparent.

There was something a little melancholy in seeing aged and injured Ian McKellen (not a plot spoiler, folks) that makes the viewer feel this would be the last time we, as an audience, would encounter the original mutant movie actors all together, onscreen, at the same time. Perhaps, in hindsight, this is the reason so many agreed to be little more than faces in the crowd, and whilst it is refreshing for high-salary actors to be willing to do so, you cannot help but feel as though the more acclaimed of the cast are not exercised to their full potential (Dinklage is given scandalously little screen time for a main antagonist, whilst it’s a case of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ in regards to Evan Peter’s excellent turn as Quicksilver).

With the “present” timeline having effectively died a bloody death with The Last Stand, Days of Future Past acts as a homage to the previous cast, effectively erasing the clumsier plot points of the past, and smoothly handing the gauntlet to McAvoy and co to explore the earlier sagas of the X-Men world. Forget what came before, Days of Future Past takes X-Men into a new era.

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