Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen
Running Time: 130 minutes
Release Date: May 22nd
In the not too distant future, the world is not a warm, welcoming place for mutants or humans. An evolved cabal of exterminating automatons called Sentinels have reduced the world to a crumbling Judgement Day-esque wasteland. The X-Men, what’s left of them anyway, are in a constant loop of trying to course-correct things in a macabre, Groundhog Day scenario. With all attempts ending in decapitations and impalings, they decide to send one of their own back to the tipping point of the problem — an assassination of a human by a mutant in the 70s — and alter it. In the comic books, an older Kitty Pryde is sent back into the consciousness of her younger self, but with this being an X-Men movie and Ellen Page not being Hugh Jackman, Wolverine is nominated instead.
Bryan Singer’s return to the series was much anticipated after his work on X2 was the bar setter that countless sequels, spinoffs and prequels failed to clear, and he handles it all like he never left. His juggling act of servicing an enormous cast and execution of action are both clever and assured. Second and third tier mutants like Quicksilver and Blink — whose teleportation effects will no doubt have someone somewhere calling for Singer to direct a Portal movie in all-caps — end up with the finest moments; the former taking a pot-shot at matching the incredible Nightcrawler opening from X2. The Sentinel design, both past and future, is spot-on and helps push the boundaries in terms of violence in comic book movies.
Sirs Stewart and McKellen are on their fourth and fifth X-flicks to date so it’s to the credit of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender that their interpretations feel just as lived in on their second time out. Fassbender’s Lehnsherr has all the cold and calculated malice of his future self but can erupt with the fire and brimstone only afforded to a man in his youth. As Charles Xavier, McAvoy makes the biggest shift, transitioning from playboy to dependent recluse to mutant doyen; he’s not allowed be as demonstrative or grandstanding as Magneto, yet his tortured performance is just as strong.
You could be forgiven for forgetting that Jennifer Lawrence’s character is in fact a nude, blue-scaled shapeshifter given the amount of time she spends playing Jennifer Lawrence but it certainly works. Mystique has been made the most intriguing mutant; a driven and unpredictable ass-kicker that’s caught between the gravitational pulls of Xavier’s and Magneto’s ideologies. A warped love triangle exists between them all — the addition of a chameleon only pushes it into weirder territory. The casting of Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask is spot-on too; just like the mutants, he’s different too but his genetics don’t let him control metal or minds.
The central conceit is a clever hook for the movie, a sequel to the fun, period dress-up of First Class that can shoehorn in the franchise’s biggest star and add some window-dressing from the original series. It doesn’t always deliver, mind. The future dwellers get short shrift, essentially relegated to the same fate of all those on the Nebuchadnezzar in The Matrix while Neo was off becoming digital Christ. And considering the fastidious nature the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has become for the defacto for interlinking stories, for goodness’ sake don’t try and figure out why Wolverine has metal claws again.
Still, after over a decade of just passable movies in the X-verse, it’s with genuine warmth that Singer is welcomed back. Days of Future Past works as both a rebirth and continuation of the series and, most importantly, a retcon mea culpa for all that came after him.