Director: Bryan Singer. 20th Century Fox/Marvel/TSG/Bad Hat Harry et al. 12(a)
Cast & credits
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer.
Writer: Simon Kinberg.
Camera: Newton Thomas Sigel.
Music: John Ottman.
Sets: John Myhre.
Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen, James Marsden.
Set in a dystopian future when a war between mutants and humans has all but destroyed the planet and killer robots seek to destroy all in their path, the X-Men send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent scientist Dinklage from pushing the go button on his murderous robots.
Currently doing a box office bonanza despite the headlines generated by director Singer being questioned for alleged sexual assaults on an underage male (see Daily Mail article here) that give this ‘coming out’ (for mutants) story an uncomfortable topicality. Fassbender even implores any mutants hiding in the closet to ‘come out’ to their human foes.
Easily the most intelligent and emotionally perceptive of the X-Men series if not the most satisfying (for me, that has to be the witty and vicious X2 with the wonderful Brian Cox as Colonel Stryker) this picks up where First Class (2011) let the side down, with a rip-roaring series of incredibly realised set-pieces, smart humour, confident acting all-round and non-stop action. It is a crowd-pleaser with it’s brains in the right money pocket.
Singer is at least a director who can command a mainstream audience’s interest and pique their attention, difficult when one opens their film on a powerful, apocalyptic vision of the future with a distinctly morose narrative. Here he apes/pays homage to the great Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) in swiftly efficient fashion – and there will be other parallels with that film as we progress (time-travelling heroes; a woman, in this case Lawrence, who is the unwitting saviour of the world; robots with savage killing skill; blinkered scientists out to make a name for themselves).
The writing team (including the Brits behind Kick-Ass, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan) have ensured there is also a decidedly adult tone. Despite the 12a rating here in the UK, there is a healthy smattering of blue language and a lingering (and rather pleasing) shot of a butt-naked Jackman checking himself out in a regrettably not-quite-full-length mirror help satisfy the grown-ups.
For retro fans, the seventies settings and humorous references that pepper the film will delight. The music is well chosen and fun, the gawky fashions and colour scheme are not too putrid and Dinklage proudly sports a porn star ‘tache. Perhaps this should have been called X-Men: The Disco Years.
The performances are well judged with just the right mix of over-earnest posturing and sensitive affectation (McAvoy and Fassbender, for instance, who are never less than watchable in anything they do), particularly Lawrence as the catalyst for the action who is proving herself with each film to be a more confident and interesting screen presence. They are helped by the sardonic, comic-book humour that alleviates the wordy/technical garble that is the dialogue.
These are largely focused on the more mature members of the cast. Esteemed theatrical veterans McKellan and Stewart have no trouble batting away such nonsense and focus on turns that are imbued with integrity and knowledge with aplomb, but Jackman, Berry and (in teeny-tiny roles) Janssen and Marsden seem unsure and awkward.
Films that rely on flash-back tread a fine line between smart plot structuring and irritating/confusing stop and start. Days Of Future Past manages to traverse this successfully, despite the annoying reliance on slow-motion during the main action set-pieces and the mutants ‘crossing-over’ of super powers that is not only baffling and at times confusing but eventually palls. Thankfully, the whole is greater than the sum of those negative points.