X-Men : Days of Future Past  (2014)    77/100

Rating :   77/100                                                                     131 Min        12A

This is perhaps not only the best of the X-Men films, but I’d definitely consider putting it into my top ten superhero films in general, a success that has to be accredited to the wonderful ensemble cast, an exciting story with a lot of soul searching for many of the characters, and the return of director Bryan Singer to the franchise, who helmed 2000’s ‘X-Men’ and ‘X2’ (03) but then dropped out to concentrate on his Superman reboot (which has since been rebooted), with Brett Ratner taking the reigns for ‘X-Men : The Last Stand’ (06).

Following the original trilogy came ‘X-Men Origins : Wolverine’ (09), ‘The Wolverine‘ (13) and ‘X-Men : First Class’ (11), and here we find a story that interweaves the threads of all the films thus far, as we see a glimpse of what the Earth looks like in 2023 with war raging between mankind and mutants, together with those who took up arms to defend them – a war that ravages the whole of humanity and yields scenes not dissimilar to James Cameron’s Judgement Day. Mechanoid hunters called sentinels, that can detect the mutant gene (a version of one of them appears in the training room in The Last Stand), have proven decisive in the conflict and the last remaining X-Men plot one final desperate attempt to avoid annihilation, by sending Wolverine back in time to 1973 to the very point of the sentinel’s deadly inception of power in an effort to change history and create a better future for all.

There are a couple of fairly unexplained and egregious continuity errors (unless we are dealing with alternative universes, which remains a possibility), most notably following on from events in The Last Stand and The Wolverine, but they can pretty much get away with it because in the former something was hinted at (not explained in that movie was the fact that the comatose patient we at one point see being cared for by Moira MacTaggert {played by Olivia Williams, and then Rose Byrne in ‘X-Men : First Class’} is in fact professor X’s twin brother who was born brain dead, prof X having no doubt devoured his mind in the womb) and, well, they’re X-Men, and in the latter what they changed was rubbish to begin with so it was a good idea to ditch it. Despite the time travelling shenanigans the story holds its own really well, with only the occasional bit of dialogue that could have done with a few tweaks, and the various character arcs at play are all pretty satisfying and should all resonate with audiences despite their variety and the extreme scenarios, as with a lot of sci-fi and fantasy it is after all the human weaknesses, problems, relationships and fragility that ultimately determines whether or not it finds a place in the viewer’s heart.

The special effects look great, as too do the real props made for the film, with the costume and makeup department really outdoing themselves. The score fits the film well, and Peter Dinklage provides just the right amount of screen presence and gravitas as the primary villain Bolivar Trask (an interesting choice of name, given it is most famously attached to Simón Bolívar who liberated much of Latin America from imperial rule – also relating to the story, in The Last Stand Bill Duke’s character is defined as Secretary Trask). Some of the enormous cast are as follows: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Bingbing Fan, Shawn Ashmore, Daniel Cudmore and Booboo Stewart, with Bryan Singer making at least two cameo appearances in the background.

There’s one post credits scene right at the end, and for a bit of trivia this is reputedly the second most expensive film from 20th Century Fox after ‘Avatar’ (09) and one of the primary producers is Lauren Shuler Donner – wife of Hollywood legend Richard Donner, who of course directed the original ‘Superman’ in 78. There is an episode of Star Trek the Original Series on TV in one of the scenes, which no doubt plays on the fact the comics did on occasion interlink the worlds of Star Trek and the X-Men and interestingly a book exists, ‘Planet X’ (98), that crosses over their universe with the Next Generation’s, and when Xavier and Captain Picard meet one another they remark how much they look alike, but it was published before Patrick Stewart was signed on to play Xavier (he, of course, also played Picard in the Next Generation and its subsequent films).

Speaking of crossovers, there is now a link between the films of all three different companies making major adaptations based on Marvel characters, with this being advertised at the end of Sony’s ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2‘ (reportedly as a condition of Fox freeing up director Marc Webb to work on his second Spiderman film, but oddly Josh Helman, who plays William Striker here, also has an uncredited appearance as Striker in the movie) and here we are introduced to the character of Quicksilver, called Peter Maximoff in the film, who can also be seen in one of the post credits scenes of ‘Captain America : The Winter Soldier‘ (here he’s played by Evan Peters, but in the Winter Soldier he’s played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, ironically the two played close school pals in superhero flick ‘Kick-Ass’ 2010, whose director Matthew Vaughn helmed First Class and helped write the story for this … so many connections), although that isn’t quite the whole story with that character ….

(note the remarkable correlation between the advertising poster for the film shown above, and the national flags of Scotland and England, especially with the blue cross over Scotsman James McAvoy’s face as it is – is there a hidden referendum agenda within X-Men? If so, are we, the Scots, the mutants? I quite like that idea – possible weak but nevertheless useful powers to have: Johnny Five’s ability to read entire books in two seconds and remember everything, the ability to tell that human females are diseased by their eyes glowing red and also knowing what part of their cycle they’re on, perfect control lucid dreaming with real-time special features, being able to breath fire … )

P.S. Having watched this more than once now, I can’t be sure but I think Mystique at one point actually turns into Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Also, curiously, in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (98) Johnny Depp has the line “Both Kennedys murdered by mutants”, something briefly alluded to in the film …

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