Monday, 26 May 2014
Review: X-Men: Days Of Future Past (UK Cert 12A)
Comic-book movies sometimes get a raw deal. They're perceived as low-brow popcorn-fodder, a sit-back-and-watch-things-go-boom experience. Basically, they're lumped in with Michael Bay films. However, that is far from the truth. Comic-book movies deal with huge themes- love, trust, truth, faith, death- and are much more than just a vivid spectacle. Captain America: The Winter Soldier plays out like a paranoid 1970s thriller with added superhero, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 deals with loss and betrayal, and now X-Men: Days Of Future Past asks questions about the nature of history, fate and destiny.
In a future ravaged by war, mutants and their sympathisers are hunted down and ruthlessly exterminated by massive killer robots known as the Sentinels. A small group of mutants- led by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen)- have a plan to end the war. Using Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) powers, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to 1973. He must reunite a separated Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) and, together, they must stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) at the Paris Peace Accord which ends the Vietnam War. Trask's death and Mystique's subsequent capture are the tipping point which brings about the war. But can they change the past?
It's a truly epic piece of film-making. Singer's direction is slick, the big action set-pieces look amazing (the opening scene featuring a Sentinel attack on a mutant camp in Moscow is just absolutely breath-taking) but the smaller, quieter character moments also work- there's a fantastic scene between McAvoy and Stewart as the younger generation meets the older which is just sublime. The period detail of the 1970s is nicely realised- there's a great opening sight-gag involving lava lamps and waterbeds which raised a giggle- and the soundtrack is also worthy of mention (taking in Eartha Kitt, Roberta Flack and Jim Croce).
Performance-wise, there's absolutely no complaints. Given that the lion's share of the action goes to Jackman, Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence, it's no surprise that they're all at their A-game here. This is the seventh time Jackman's played Wolverine and he completely inhabits the character every time. McAvoy's performance is stunning, as he goes from a wreck of a man to the man we know he can be. Fassbender is smooth and suave and there are echoes of McKellen in his tone. Lawrence is just superb as Mystique- she is the tipping point, the fulcrum. There's a lot of weight on her shoulders but she handles it with aplomb.
Other performances worthy of note are Peter Dinklage as Trask- what could have easily been a cardboard cut-out stereotypical villain is given nuance and heart by Dinklage, making Trask almost likeable- and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy, acting as nurse and companion to Charles. There's also a sterling performance by Evan Peters as Quicksilver, a superfast mutant who helps reunite Charles and Erik in what is one of the most inventive and funniest scenes in the film. There are also a few lovely and unexpected cameos towards the end that I won't spoil and a post-credits scene that gives a tantalising glimpse at the next film (due in 2016).
Be warned, though: this is not a film for people new to the X-Men franchise. You need to have seen the previous films (and, sadly, I do include X-Men: The Last Stand in that) to really have a handle on the what and why. For example, a lot of the pathos that comes from Professor X and Magneto's relationship- despite being immaculately played by Stewart and McKellen- is based on knowing what they've previously been through (as it's only given the most cursory of mentions). Similarly, some of Wolverine's angst might seem a bit confusing if you don't know what's happened to him. Also, given the large cast, despite an extensive run-time of 131 minutes, some characters feel a little underused- Halle Berry's Storm, for instance- whilst the vast majority of Anna Paquin's scenes as Rogue hit the cutting-room floor.
So, with the caveat in place that you need to have seen previous X-Men films before seeing this one, I would heartily recommend X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Engaging, epic and excellent.
Rating: 5 out of 5