Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men franchise after a decade away, and he’s back in some serious style with the seventh and best instalment, X-Men: Days of Future Past.
With the world in pretty much total ruin thanks to the unstoppable mutant-killing Sentinel robots, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) must return to 1973, 11 years after the events of First Class, to change the future. However, before he can start putting things right, he has to bring Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Professor X (James McAvoy) back together “at a time when they couldn’t be further apart”.
After stepping away from the final installment of the original trilogy to direct Superman, Singer is back with a vengeance to steer the series back to where he left it. Matthew Vaughan, with the help of Singer as producer, did manage to pull the franchise out of the slump it was in after The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine, with his semi-reboot X-Men: First Class. It was with a re-energised cast and story that Singer was able to take the reins and make something special again.
Helped along by superb performances all round, with Jackman, Fassbender, and McAvoy as the driving trio, Singer manages to create something gritty, but with the same wit and humour that we know and love. When we meet our protagonists, they aren’t in the best of shape; Wolverine no longer has his trademark adamantium claws, Charles Xavier is a drunk depressive, and Magneto is once again – or for the first time? – In a plastic prison, though this time it’s deep beneath the Pentagon.
Jennifer Lawrence is as devious as ever as shape-shifter Mystique, and is in reality the focus of the film. While Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and his Sentinels are very much the antagonists for the most part, it’s Mystique who Wolverine was sent back for; to stop her from killing Trask. As a shape-shifter, she also holds the key to allowing Trask’s sentinels to adapt to the mutant’s th.ey are hunting – a feature you’re all too aware of after the first twenty minutes of the film.
One of the most questionable characters in pre-release marketing, Evan Peter’s Quicksilver, is in fact the focus of one of the most enjoyable scenes in the film. His super speed is used to run along walls, taste soup, and take out a whole room of guards in slo-mo, all while listening to Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle. It’s a sequence that Nightcrawler would be proud of. However, the best scene comes when, struggling to believe in the cause, McAvoy’s Charles Xavier comes face to face with Patrick Stewart’s. It’s rousing, emotional and a testament to both actors.
The film bounces around between past and future, and moves at serious pace. At times this does risk becoming a little taxing to keep up with, but the story is solid enough to hold everything together. Being backed up by some of the best and most glamorous characters – and actors – in the Marvel universe is always helpful.
There’s a lot of story and too many characters to get through in the 130 minute run time, which leaves some parts feeling a little thin, most notably in relation to the old guard in the future. While most of our favourites are there, it seems a waste to have Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore and Halle Berry together again without giving them some proper screen time. Peter Dinklage’s marvellously moustached Bolivar Trask could also do with a bit more development, especially on the origin of his deep hatred for mutants.
Nonetheless, Singer is back with something bigger and better than ever, and with no signs of holding back on Apocalypse, I for one will be following wherever he takes the X-men next.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is out on DVD now.
Daniel de Kretser, Film critic at Seroword.