Movie review: X-Men Days of Future Past
It is the year 2014, and this is a vital notice for those too young (or dim) to know any better in our present, and those in the distant future seemingly oblivious to the cinematic goings-on of years gone by. Heed these words and remember them: there was a time, in our histories, where films existed without a superhero involved. Strange but true.
It sounds an extreme statement, but it does feel like every other film release these days was born from the pages of a comic. What's worse is that they're now strutting their super-heroic stuff on TV too, with the likes of Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and more on the way with the up and coming Gotham, Agent Carter and The Flash joining the fight against evil and that on the small screen.
And who would have thought that the X-Men franchise, that began fourteen years ago now, would be a grand-daddy of the genre, with this title marking the seventh release in the on-going series.
It hasn't always made for great entertainment, as last year's woeful The Wolverine sadly proved, which managed to bluntly take the 'super' out of the superhero genre, resulting in a mind-numbingly dull affair in the process.
The great thing about superheroes however, is their ability to save the day, which is exactly what director Bryan Singer has done with this latest X-Men outing.
It's sometime in the future and the X-Men are having a bit of a rough time of it. A smart alec in the past, Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) came up with an idea to create Sentinels – bulky robots with the propensity to seek out and destroy all mutants. These robots are now causing untold inconvenience to Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and his mutant chums; even teaming up with his nemesis Magneto (Ian McKellen) isn't proving particularly useful.
It seems that the one, pivotal moment in history that acted as a catalyst for their current woes dated back to the seventies, when Trask was murdered by Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) in an attempt to prevent his Sentinel programme from ever taking off. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and despite her good intentions, it clearly didn't work.
Future Prof X and his gang have been banging their heads together, trying desperately to come up with a plan that could save their lives. If only they could travel back through time...oh hang on...apparently Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) can do that, sort of. She has the ability to project someone's consciousness back in time. If only they knew someone who could withstand the physical pressures of such a procedure...oh wait...it turns out Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) can, being that he's virtually indestructible.
So with Pride's help, Wolverine finds his consciousness projected all the way back to 1973, into his younger self. His mission? To alter history by preventing the death of Trask, and thereby saving them all in their futures. It's not going to be the easiest of tasks, which is why he will have to enrol the help of some old, younger friends, including Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult). An even bigger challenge than that though, may well be convincing Charles that for them to complete their task successfully, they're going to need the services of his old mucker Erik/Magneto the young (Michael Fassbender), but they're not exactly on speaking terms, which is their first obstacle they will need to overcome before getting round to saving the world.
With so many films in the X-Men series already out there, it's understandable that some might be starting to feel a little fatigued by the series. They should definitely give this one a chance however, as it's possibly the best one yet.
What they also may have done, somewhat inadvertently, is created a new breed of film, which would be suitably appropriate for a film about mutants. The franchise thus far has been a mix of prequels and sequels. By involving both the present and the future, and flitting comfortably back and forth between them, this film could quite possibly be the world's very first sprequel (© Boom 2014).
Sure the story is on the preposterous side, but considering the entire series is about a bunch of mutants with special powers, none of what takes should be taken seriously.
It's no surprise to see that Singer has chosen to make more of Jennifer Lawrence in the Raven/Mystique role; after all, she is one of the hottest commodities on the Hollywood block, so it would have been daft not to.
And obviously the notion of time travel allows you to have your mutant cake and eat it, by having the younger and older selves of the same character appear in the same film. So with Stewart, McAvoy, McKellen and Fassbender all on board, you've got a built in crowd pleaser right there.
It's good news for Jackman too; his solo efforts as Wolverine are such boring endeavours, but he really gets to shine in these more collaborative efforts. He also happens to be the glue that holds this film together, by being the constant between the past and future.
Singer has also crammed the film with a huge amount of mutants, probably more so than any other X-Men outing, which has got to be a good thing and is bound to please die-hard fans.
Despite the silly science of it all, the film thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously. It's frantic, furious fun from the outset, and remarkably cohesive, considering. Another bonus is that it works well as a standalone film, so you don't necessarily need to have seen any of the films before it to appreciate it.
Quite possibly one of its greatest achievements however, is that the notion of viewing yet another instalment – X-Men: Apocalypse, pencilled in for 2016 – doesn't fill us with dread, off of the back of this effort, which is no mean feat.
All in all, happy days indeed for fans of the series and superhero flicks in general.
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