A few weeks back I watched X-Men: First Class, mostly in preparation for seeing Days of Future Past.
Though I quite enjoyed X-Men and X2, The Last Stand was pretty awful (“I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”), and X-Men
Oranges: Tangerine Origins: Wolverine was probably worse. I haven’t seen The Wolverine, but since I’m not a raging Japanophile (no offence to any raging Japanophiles reading this) it probably wouldn’t have set my world alight.
Marvel’s cinematic universe has raised the bar, and whilst I wasn’t blown away by First Class it certainly had the ongoing potential to do some exciting prequel work. So bringing it all back to not only the original film cast but putting it into the future is a little on the brave side.
In a dystopian future, mutants and the humans sympathetic to them are hunted almost to extinction by adaptive hunter-killer robots called sentinels. Charles Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) seek out Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1970s in order to unite their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the creator of the sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
And that ought to give you a taste of just how star studded this film is. Pretty much everyone who has featured in an X-Men film makes an appearance here, even if it’s just for a second. What is surprising, though, is that it doesn’t really detract from the film.
I don’t have much criticism of Days of Future Past, to be honest. It was a solidly entertaining film, and the writing shone distinctly. As a link between the two time periods of the X-Men on film, it worked brilliantly, using Wolverine (of course…) as its link.
In the “future”, I thought that the dystopian aesthetics were bang on. All dark colours, with the characters’ costuming making sense for once as part of an all-out war. And the battle scenes with the sentinels managed to tread the line by being satisfying without being overbearing.
But the real action is in the past. Predominantly this is a sequel to First Class, giving the younger cast that the first film didn’t fully manage to. Fassbender is, again, an excellent Magneto, dripping with gravitas and the all of energy that his older counterpart has lacked. McAvoy I am less sold on, but he was given more emotional development here, and Mystique actually has more character than she ever has before, in the hands of Jennifer Lawrence.
The surprise winner in the acting and character stakes, though, is Evan Peter’s Quicksilver. The kleptomaniac super-fast mutant is portrayed as a joking, ADHD-esque teenager, and once scene in particular is just gleefully fun. And in a film which does go as dark as this, that sparkling wit and self-awareness that its core purpose is to entertain is very welcome,
Time travel is difficult, and even when it is successful as entertainment it doesn’t always make a great deal of sense. So it’s a little surprising that, within the confines that it sets up for itself, Days of Future Past actually seems to.
There is a lot going on here, and a lot that I could go into great detail on, but this is a review and not an essay. I wish that these films would dispense with opening (and closing) voiceovers, as they are mostly redundant, and when they aren’t they are lazy storytelling. But that is a very minor criticism.
Days of Future Past, therefore, was a success. It was fun, yet rose to the more serious challenge set down by Marvel’s own films. But what it did, more importantly, was to close the book (I strongly suspect) on the “original” cast, and give the “new” cast a solid grounding to take charge of the franchise from here on out. And there is a lot of reason to feel very optimistic about X-Men: Apocalypse.
In a very competitive world of superhero films, the X-Men have emerged once again as a strong contender.