X-Men: Days Of Future Past Review

A spoiler-free review of Fox’s latest X-Men flick. No, really, I’m not going to spoil anything. I promise.
It’s important to note before I kick off that I’m a long-term X-Men fan. Not just of the films, but the characters as a whole.
I can keenly recall having heated arguments about who should be cast in an X-Men film on rec.arts.comics way back when the concept of an X-Men feature film seemed like a fanciful notion. I can recall digging through back issue bins in Forbidden Planet way back when they were on Denmark Street; those are issues I still own today. I did somewhat fall away from the franchise around the turn of the century, because there’s only so many variant chromatic covers a man can stand.

Hugh Jackman appears to have his dancin' shoes on. My money's on Peter Dinklage in this fight.  (Picture credit: TCL)
Hugh Jackman appears to have his dancin’ shoes on. My money’s on Peter Dinklage in this fight. (Picture credit: TCL)

These characters matter to me, and any opinion I have on the films is going to be impacted by that passion, especially because it’s been a bit of a rocky road for Marvel’s mutants of late. X-Men was an excellent start, X-Men 2 was even better, and then… well, there’s The Last Stand, and Wolverine: Origins, both of which were woeful.
That might even be too generous an appraisal, now that I think about it. X-Men:First Class and The Wolverine were improvements, but they weren’t without their flaws. We’re also stuck in a situation where thanks to movie wheeling and dealing, we’re more or less guaranteed a new X-Men film from now until the heat death of the universe, simply so that the rights don’t revert back to Disney, where they’ll undoubtedly never shift ever again.

A film which was going to try to tie all the disparate X-Men movie strands together, and especially one that wanted to tie the X-Men of the first three films in with the wonderfully sixties world of First Class was always going to be a tall order. Further tying it into the classic “Days Of Future Past” storyline that played out in Uncanny X-Men 141-142, even if only for the sake of the name was a taller order again.
The good news, from the eyes of this jaded old comics fan is that I think they’ve done it, but it’s not a film that’ll suit absolutely everybody, and I should be able to explain why without spoiling too much of the plot, which does twist and turn a fair amount.

So these two mutants and a mad scientist walk into a bar...  (Picture credit: TCL)
So these two mutants and a mad scientist walk into a bar… (Picture credit: TCL)

If you’re keen on seeing Days Of Future Past, you could do a lot worse than to rewatch the rest of the films, particularly First Class, so that some of the smaller references don’t just wash over you quickly. There’s some very nice nods to both film and comic history, one or two of which had me punching the air in excitement, but if you don’t spot them a few plot points could start to become a little hard to follow.
What surprised me in Days Of Future Past weren’t the performances I was expecting to stand out. Hugh Jackman’s very comfortable in the role of Wolverine, and he’s perfectly fine without standing out. So too is Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, given a little less to play with here than in First Class. Peter Dinklage works well as Bolivar Trask. Anna Paquin’s performance is fun, and I’ll leave it at that.
Peter Dinklage at the Melbourne premiere of X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Peter Dinklage at the Melbourne premiere of X-Men: Days Of Future Past

The standout for my money is James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier. Again, without wishing to spoil too much, it’s a very different and nicely nuanced performance (for a superhero flick), especially considering he’s effectively acting against the Patrick Stewart version of exactly the same character.
As a total aside, the one thing I recall from those usenet arguments of so very long ago was that everybody wanted Patrick Stewart as Xavier. He’s still good in the role, as is Ian McKellen as older Magneto.
The settings — a dystopian future and the 1970s are nicely realised, although there’s a lot more attention paid to the 1970s era. It’s fun in the same way that the 1960s, slightly Bond-esque setting of First Class worked so well.
As you’d expect for a superhero film, the action is hyperkinetic, but it largely avoids the trap of being fast just for the sake of it, meaning you can largely follow the action and its logical consequences at any point in the film. There’s enough of a break for either exposition or light comedy to keep things moving at a brisk pace, and unlike, say, The Wolverine, there were never points where I felt as though I was sitting through a long movie.
The premiere did attract a very sizeable crowd, however. (Picture credit: TCL)
The premiere did attract a very sizeable crowd, however. (Picture credit: TCL)

But — and it’s quite a pertinent point — I get these characters. I get the injokes, I remember the references to films gone past, some of which I can’t talk about too much for fear of spoilers (I may do a spoiler commentary a little later on, when I’ve thought about some of them a little more) — but I have an existing passion for this franchise.
If you don’t, and especially if you went into this movie completely cold, you could very easily miss the whole vibe of the film, and find it quite unsatisfactory and muddled. I think that’s a mistake, but I could totally see it happening.
If you’re a long term X-Men fan, however, the good news is that the magic is back. X-Men Days Of Future Past does a great job tying all of the X-Men movies together — yes, really, all of them — and keeping you engaged for its full 131 minute running time.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past officially opens in Australia on May 22nd.
Alex Kidman travelled to Melbourne for the X-Men Days Of Future Past premiere as a guest of TCL

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