X Men – Days Of Future Past (2014)

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Among we fans of comics, the “Days of Future Past” storyline is regarded as one of the best story arcs of all time. The X Men of the future (along with all mutants, really) are being driven to extinction by the Sentinel robots of Bolivar Trask, who are equipped with the ability to adapt to any mutant attack. To try and prevent these horrific events from happening, the X Men send one of their own into the past and they try to rally the troops there, to prevent the Sentinels from ever being used, and to stop the kidnap of the mutant whose DNA gives Trask the information he needs to make the robots indestructible.

Due to the relative stature of the stars they got for the individual roles, there’s been a few tweaks to the original story, not that it really matters. Huge Jacked Man and Jennifer Lawrence, as Wolverine and Mystique, are probably the two biggest names here, while Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde (the central figure of the comics) is more a plot device than a character. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The enormous benefit from this storyline, from the filmmakers’ perspective, is you can have two separate sets of actors, thus doubling the star power. Professor X and Magneto are played in the future by real-life best friends Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen and in the past by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy – the chemistry between these two sets of actors (and with Lawrence and Jackman being particularly fun interviewees) has made the publicity tour something actually worth not avoiding, for once.

Anyway, Wolverine has to go back in time to inhabit his own younger body (given the gulf of time between the future and past in this film, he’s the only person who’d both be alive in 1973 and physically able to cope with the journey), then convince the scattered remnants of the X-Men to stop the crucial event, the thing that causes the world the film starts in to be so bleak, which turns out to be Mystique killing Trask. So we get action as they try to bust Magneto out of the prison underneath the Pentagon; meeting with young versions of many notorious characters, and also tracking the activities of Bolivar Trask as he tries to get his robots made. Peter Dinklage as Trask is brilliant with what he’s given (which isn’t a lot), but that should probably go without saying at this point. The cast in the future try to protect Wolverine’s time-travelling body while waiting for the inevitable Sentinel attack; and the cast in the past try and find Mystique and change her mind.

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After being thoroughly bored by the last two X-Men related films I saw (“X-3” and the first “Wolverine”) this is a decent return to form for them, and its ending promises interesting times ahead for these films. If they keep producing them, that is, which given the hefty price tags attached to their cast list would have to be a fairly substantial undertaking. Although the 1973-era storyline is clearly the main one, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the future one too, with McKellen and Stewart as the two standouts, but plenty of easter eggs for us comic fans, as well as a strong cast to base future films around (including Shawn Ashmore as Iceman and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde).

What’s a bit less thrilling is the conclusion. Without spoiling it too much…well, I don’t think I can. All I will say is, for her tiny tiny role in the film, Anna Paquin is really highly billed in the credits. Turns out there’s a substantial plotline with her that’s been completely cut, and if she’d been in it I think it would have improved both the balance between the two timelines and made things make a bit more sense. I think the problem is, when the stakes get high enough, there’s no possible way it can end badly, which ruins the tension (and all the stuff that’s happening in the future) and it being a superhero film even if someone dies you know they’ll be back for the next one…but that’s not a particular flaw with this one, more a flaw with all of them.

I feel I’m letting my film-reviewer brain say too much to my film-fan brain, because this film was enjoyable and fun and had lots of great set-pieces and performances. I just feel a few tweaks to the editing of the last section of the film would have paid dividends, and can’t shake the feeling there was something a little broken deep in the mechanics of the movie. But you’ll definitely still enjoy it.

Rating: thumbs up

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