Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry
Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the X-Men film franchise and I don’t know why. I love superheroes, both in comic-book and movie form, I love the idea of the X-Men in general, but somewhere along the line I just feel as though the films got it wrong. So why am I making ‘Days of Future Past’ the first film to review here? Because this should be the film to salvage my interest, the saving grace in what, for me, is an average series of films. That, and the fact that I got the DVD for Christmas maybe.
‘Days of Future Past’ is based on the classic comic-book arc from the X-Men series, a complex story of time travel and parallel universes, which provides director Bryan Singer with the difficult task of portraying this effectively whilst avoiding any confusing butterfly effect dilemmas. Luckily for Singer, this story also presents him with the opportunity to bring together the blockbuster casts from the original trilogy, and the successful ‘First Class’ team. The legendary Hugh Jackman reprises the role of Wolverine with which he has become synonymous, but in my opinion he embodies the issues I have with the franchise. Nothing personal against Jackman, but his character is guilty of being cheesy and at times cringeworthy throughout the series, and DOFP (Days of Future Past) is certainly no exception. A lot of the music used within the film just adds to this, even the classic 70s tunes produce a cliché atmosphere rather than setting the scene as intended. The use of retro filters and handheld camera footage during the Paris fight scene however, prove to be one redeeming stylistic technique, adding an authentic feel to the events in 1973.
Similarly to ‘First Class’, where the mutants affect the course of history during the Cuban Missile crisis, Singer this time portrays the mutants as catalysts in the Vietnam war and the assassination of JFK. There does seem to be a heavy focus on American Imperialism in DOFP, more so than in previous X-Men films, which I think creates an interesting foreshadow to the apocalyptic scenes from New York and China in the future. These stunningly haunting landscapes form the setting for one of the great triumphs in the film, the depiction of the ominous Sentinels. The special effects used throughout are undoubtedly impressive, culminating in the epic final battle in China, where the sentinels run riot in Avengers-esque proportions.
Also carrying over from ‘First Class’ is the great chemistry between Fassbender and McAvoy, with McAvoy in particular excelling himself in the role of a lost and apathetic Charles Xavier. An emotional and absorbing performance gives life to the story of Xavier through his struggles and sacrifice, to become the benevolent and powerful professor we all know. Unfortunately, the development of the character of Mystique is another downfall for the film. For some reason, I just can’t buy into the sense of danger and ruthlessness Jennifer Lawrence is intending to present. Maybe it’s because she’s blue from top to toe and practically naked, but I find her scenes become a little slapstick and exaggerated.
Which brings me to the crux of the issue, I think the X-Men movies are lost somewhere on the spectrum between lighthearted, family, action film and dark, dangerous, superhero movies. A combination of big action scenes with silly gimmicks only serves to produce an odd viewing experience. The ‘perfect’ timing of the predictably happy ending concludes everything nicely, butremoves any of the ambiguity which (for me at least) provides the thrill of watching a film.