X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

The Introspective Retrospective

The mutants go all thoughtful in this still action-packed, if problematic, ‘inbetweequel’. The acting is solid and great scenes abound, but at times it feels too rushed.

12A, 131 min

***1/2

Mild spoilers follow.

The time has come. The time for the X-Men to do a time-travel film. In 20somethingsomething, major cities are burnt-out wrecks, and the remaining mutants, including old Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen), are forced into hiding by merciless robot mutant-killers The Sentinels. On the brink of extinction, they do the only thing they know how to do – they draft in Hugh Jackman, who appears to be following in the footsteps of his character Wolverine by having not aged a day for the past ten years (if indeed the process ever begins).

In this much-anticipated ‘inbetweequel’, which follows on from the events of X-Men: First Class, everyone’s favourite clawed immortal has his consciousness shot back into his 1973 body to try and stop the event which will ultimately lead to the end of mutantkind. In comes the time-travel, in comes the younger cast. In the words of Amy Pond (yes, another thing entirely, I know), this is where it gets complicated.

In the ’70s, Young Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), who has let his hair grow long, let his Scots beard roam free (relatively), and seemingly developed a penchant for psychedelic floral shirts, mopes around his mansion with only Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who is now a glorified blue furry butler, for company. His one-time best pal Erik, now going by Magneto (Michael Fassbender), is as much of a wannabe revolutionary as ever. The scene when he and Xavier finally end up in the same room as each other for an extended period is, predictably, explosive.

But strangely, the character dynamic has completely shifted between First Class and now. The chalk-and-cheese, rage-and-serenity aspect of Charles and Erik’s friendship, a big part of what made the prequel so compelling, is largely missing from this instalment. Instead it focusses on Charles and Raven, AKA Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and interesting though their relationship is, it doesn’t have the same dramatic pull as the mind and the metal. The former friends are barely together during the film anyway – Magneto is left to do his own thing for most of the running time. And unfortunately the day has finally come when his one party trick of being a sneaky backstabbing git is starting to wear thin. You can tell that he will go haywire, and he has nothing new to do this time around, just brood, move some metal and manage to pull off a purple outfit. He does, however, appear to have worked on his accent since the last film. In the latter half of First Class he lost the clipped, public school tone and went decidedly Father Ted. Here he’s a fully-fledged young Ian McKellen all the way through. All the jawing isn’t to say that Michael Fassbender is bad in the role, far from it, but he just doesn’t have much to work with this time.

But I digress. That is one niggle with Days. Another could be that ‘villain’ Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, Lord of the Awesome and Protector of the Realm), inventor of the Sentinels, is barely in the film enough to register. Yes, we hear that he ‘did some bad things in his day’, but he doesn’t really do anything that terrible in the film itself, so it doesn’t really work. I spent half the time wishing he’d do his best Tyrion.

However, I do actually like the film in several aspects as well, so I’ll leave the mouthing off for now. Some bits don’t work, but Days does deliver on creating a dark, serious comic-book film which is all about change and whether or not it is possible, and it should be praised for that. And also, as only the final trailer prior to release really indicated, it is actually fun at times. The scene in which new mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) uses his super-speed to help break Magneto (who is needed, you know, for the plot and things) out of jail, is a fast-paced jolt of adrenalin. But one of the best things about the film is that it carries on what was started in First Class in playing around with history. Despite what it sounds like, this isn’t done in a throwaway fashion, but is witty and adds to the action. In the prequel, the Cuban Missile Crisis was implied to have been averted (and Nuclear War very nearly started) due to mutants on the beach. Here … it’s too brilliant to say, but you will laugh.

Having gotten over my problems with the lack of Fassbender, I do acknowledge that what is done here with Charles and Raven is good for the series, and for resolving some long-time unresolved issues – the climax in particular is basically a reset button. The time-travel aspect also helps with this, as they flit back and forth with relative ease between storylines. However, some plot threads are left hanging, with parts of the story left unexplained, and therefore the film, to me, felt incomplete – like a mission statement which will only work if it is carried forward. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of this venture. It could have been tauter, but instead it is too open, ending too abruptly, giving the feeling that it’s got too much left in the tank.

Overall, going backwards has been a good move for giving the X-franchise a bright future. I just, for some reason, expected more from it – personally, Days could have used its central conceit to greater effect, but ended up wasting some of its own borrowed time. Next time I hope the team’s claws are sharper.

 Alex Nicholson

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