The kitchen sink – ★★★★
Bryan Singer returns to directorial duty in the X-Men franchise for the first time in eleven years and he does his very best to make up for lost time by jam-packing it full of references that fans of the series – young and old – will love.
The plot is rather convoluted so bear with me a moment. The film opens in 2023 with big roboty flying “Sentinels” set up to destroy all the mutants. Luckily Shadowcat (Ellen Page) has the ability to send people back in time by a short time so does her magical time/space/consciousness bending and sends Bishop (Omar Sy) back in time to avert disaster. Despite this, mutant destruction still feels imminent and Magneto (Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) decide that they need to send someone way, way back in time to the 1970s to stop the Sentinel program from ever getting started. Who could withstand the physical danger of such a journey? No one else but our favourite never-aging, singing star of Broadway – Mr. Wolverine.
Still with me? So we’re now back in 1973 (though with frequent Avatar-style switches to Wolverine on a bed with Shadowcat controlling his mind as the Sentinels get closer), and Wolverine has to re-unite the young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and get them to help him stop Trask (Peter “Tyrion Lannister” Dinklage) and his Sentinel program. Also in the mix are Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast/Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). At this stage you’ll note we’re midway into a second paragraph and yet X-Men: Days of Future Past’s runtime will have only hit the twenty minute mark… You’re bound to feel overwhelmed and flustered as you try to work out what the endgame is, but thankfully now that all the chess-pieces are in place the film settles down.
At the film’s heart is the tragic character of Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and her evolution into Mystique. Fans of “#jlaw” could have had reasonable complaints that she didn’t feature enough in the flawed but enjoyable X-Men: First Class. There are no such complaints here as we’re given plenty of time with her as we’re allowed to revel in the coolest part of any X-Men film – the character switcherooes as Mystique (be it in the form of Lawrence or previously Rebecca Romijn) changes form.
Equally enjoyable to behold is the performance of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. In a movie of very cool characters and actors, he is the cream of the crop and truly exudes awesome. To be Frank, he is firmly back in the running for Spooool’s 2014 Man of the Year.
Sadly, even after the film settles down after that explosive opening twenty minutes, it still continues to be a little disjointed and may lose casual fans. In any great blockbuster if someone shouts at you “WHAT’S GOING ON?”, then you should be able to instantly tell them in one sentence what’s happening, but here it’s not always clear exactly what everyone is trying to do. This seems like a fairly contradictory complaint when we preach about how simple and one-dimensional our blockbuster plots think they need to be (*cough* Godzilla *cough*), but the film will warrant a second viewing to fully get to grips with every little nod and reference in here.
Bryan Singer has always known how to create tension and a sense of peril and the action set-pieces here are second to none. The brief time we spend with Quicksilver (confusingly played by Evan Peters here, but by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in next year’s Avengers: Ultron) is a real treat as he’s also the only brand new mutant properly showcased here, one of the best ten minutes showcases of a mutant since Nightcrawler’s stunning White House attack in X2.
It’s undoubtedly one for the fans and the brilliant conclusion pulls on the heart strings and draws out nostalgic feelings for the original two films that you may not have even known you had. The X-Men films now feel like Bob Dylan albums whereby each new one is greeted with reviews of “the best since ‘Blood on the Tracks'”. With this logic in mind, it’s hard not to rate this as the best effort since 2003’s X2. With Singer remaining on-board as director for 2016’s 80s-set X-Men: Apocalypse, hopes will be high he can do even better.
Released across Ireland on May 22nd 2014