X-Men: Days of Future Past – The return of the ‘astonishing’ X-Men? – Review
The future is never truly set
Bryan Singer’s departure from the X-Men tarnished the franchise as the sequels and spin-off failed to meet the dizzying heights of X2. However, X-Men Days of Future Past (DOFP) signals the return of Singer and the beloved franchise. Singer builds upon the successful’First Class’ and gives his rendition of the fan favourite comic book arc; Days of Future Past. DOFP is undoubtedly one of the best X-Men films and arguably one of the best comic book films ever made. It’s clever, it’s charged with emotion, the acting is superb and the action is relentless and varied. DOFP hails Singer as the saviour of the X-Men franchise as he signals the return of the ‘astonishing’ X-Men.
The plot of DOFP is based upon a comic book arc of the same title, it’s a fan favourite. Some altercations have been made but the premise remains intact. In the future the Sentinels are unstoppable forces which seek to wipe out the mutant race, thus creating a dystopian world. Wolverine is sent back in time to alter the cause of history thereby ensuring the Sentinels fail in eliminating the mutants. It should be said that this isn’t just another Wolverine movie, it’s more about younger Mystique and Xavier. I think this is where the film really comes into its own, it’s more of an X-Men movie as opposed to just being fixated on one character. Screen time is evenly distributed and each character pulls their weight to deliver a strikingly good film. Rather like the Avengers did, DOFP taps into the mindset of each of its characters and develops them to an extent that is unheard of in a comic book film. Time Travel films are notorious for being convoluted and difficult to follow, but Days of Future Past is simplistic and its concept is very easy to grasp thus making it accessible for not only fans, but newcomers alike. The time travel concept is masterfully executed and this is welcomed as a breath of fresh air.
As with any X-Men film the action has to be top-notch, it is. Days of Future Past is a stunning spectacle which is full of extravagant action scenes which never get dull. The best example I can give of this is a scene involving Quicksilver which is truly remarkable, it is filmed incredibly well. Whilst being a set action sequence it is injected with humour and is highly stylized. It’s something we, the audience, haven’t seen before and I think this makes the film even more appealing. The delightful action reaches out beyond Quicksilver’s witticisms. The eery future world boasts some of the best action I’ve seen all year, it’s clever and a true feast for the eyes. It’s reminiscent of the style of Avengers, i.e. teamwork to take down the foe, only X-Men does it better as it elevates the action to a whole other level. I’m not a fan of CGI, but X-Men utilises these effects to the best of its ability and the pay-off is a remarkably good looking film. The action and CGI is all superficial as the true driving force behind this film are characters and the extraordinary actors portraying them.
X-Men understands that the action compliments the story as Singer gives precedence to the plot and its characters. I have never been so emotionally engaged with a comic book film as I was with DOFP. Underneath its veneer of action lies an emotional core which is powered by the acting. What made ‘First Class’ good was the chemistry between James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, what makes DOFP exceptional is the extension of these characters. Whereas Fassbender stole ‘First Class’, McAvoy steals DOFP in what is one of his best performances to date. He is never off, his range of emotion is constant to the extent where we engage with him more than anyone else. His character overcomes issues holding him back from fulfilling his potential in what is, ultimately, the conquest of hope. McAvoy epitomises all the themes of this movie; hope and redemption. It is so reliving to finally have a Marvel film which isn’t fixated with action, DOFP is story driven and its apparent. This is not to say that the action isn’t present, it is. But Singer paces this film perfectly as the action is always used to develop the story and never for anything else. It’s all relevant. As ever, Hugh Jackman embodies Wolverine – he is the Wolverine. The old cast return and give stellar performances especially Patrick Stewart. For me, Jennifer Lawrence as well as McAvoy steal the show. Lawrence is so watchable and her portrayal of Mystique has only grown since ‘First Class’. Mystique is finally a fleshed out character, she’s devastating whilst at the same time struggling trying to find harmony. Peter Dinkglage plays Boliver Trask and he does a good job, his intentions of protecting humanity are plausible and not too far fetched. The script is as sharp as ‘First Class’, its interesting, engaging and occasionally funny. Simply put, DOFP excels because Singer finds a balance that so many superhero films failed to get right. Singer balances the emotion, the action, the plot and acting. He does so impeccably well, so much so that the acting and the subsequent level of motion makes DOFP stands out against its rival superhero counterparts. The acting level in DOFP makes it feel more like a movie rather than just another bland, mindless superhero film.
No criticism this film is receiving is valid. Singer’s come under fire for making the film “convoluted and confusing”, to which I should say it isn’t. What is more poignant, is the fact that this film is very rapid and the audience have to pay attention to fully understand what’s going on. This isn’t a criticism as I find the film more engaging because of this. Singer has also been criticised for not introducing the secondary characters well enough. But, the point is that they are secondary characters put into the film so that a set-up is present for “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016 and this film does a terrific job of setting up the next film via its mysterious post credit sequence.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a triumph and most definitely one of my favourite films I have seen recently. It’s clever, emotional and engaging. In DOFP Singer proves that he is the only man suited to make a worthy X-Men film that rivals those churned out at Marvel Studious. Everything about this film works and I have no criticisms, nor do I think any criticism is valid. The X-Men are back in form, in what is a truly astonishing film.