By rights, there is really no reason that Days of Future Past should work. The film is overstuffed with characters – both new and old – some of which have a collective amount of dialogue shorter than this sentence, simply there to battle through set-pieces or chuck referential winks to the audience when they can. So what’s stopping this from being another Last Stand? Well, for starters this century-skipping epic is being handled by Bryan Singer, the man that introduced cinemagoers to this particular comic book world 14 years ago. Having been there through the highs and lows of the series he helped build, Singer now takes the torch that was dampened by Brett Ratner, relit by Matthew Vaughn and fuels it with elements from both of their chapters with incredible results.
Based on the X-Men story arc of the same name, Days of Future Past drops us into a time where mutants are on the run from giant robots called Sentinels, whose sole objective is to seek out the specially gifted and wipe them off the map. Naturally the last pocket of resistance is led by Xavier and his team who plan to travel back in time and stop the Sentinel program before it’s begun. The only nut tough enough to handle the trip is Logan (Hugh Jackman in his seventh appearance as the metal-laced mutant) who must persuade Xavier and Magneto’s younger selves to unite against Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man behind the mutant hunting machines. Unfortunately timing as they say, is everything and unfortunately Logan is sent back ten years after the events in Cuba, when neither Charles or Erik are on speaking terms, forcing old wounds to reopen but hopefully in turn set the future on a different path than the one he’s come from.
As you can imagine with such a massive cast and two timelines to manage, Singer has a lot of plates to spin thanks to a tightly woven script from Simon Kinberg (with the aid of First Class alumni, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn) and does so effortlessly, hitting the ground running with a full on Mutant v Sentinel scrap littered with fan favourites of both the big screen and comic book series. Here we get a Terminator-esque tomorrow only with heroes that fight, freeze and portal-hop into action against the machines but much like Cameron’s classic, the focus isn’t on the future (no matter how star-studded it may be) but the past, resting again on the newest recruits to the series who still feel just as strong as when they appeared in First Class.
The heart from the bittersweet bromance between Erik and Charles continues beating in Days thanks to Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. The difference this time around is shifting attention from the vengeful master of magnetism to the now broken telepath, who has lost his way in the world. Both deliver just as they did before, keeping the attention and taking it away from Jackman for a change, who is instead stood on the sidelines, rarely popping his claws and instead looking on at the young men who are becoming the two he knows so well. As for the supporting talents, the likes of Nicholas Hoult as Beast and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique aren’t as far on the front line as they were before, a strange move considering that these two have just as rocky a history as their mentors and Raven/Mystique is such an integral part of the story for reasons that can’t be divulged here. As for the new faces, one pleasant surprise is Evan Peters as scene-stealing speedster, Quicksilver, whose charm and fast-paced antics are worth the admission alone. It’s safe to say having taken off first in the role, he’s going to give Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s take on the character for Avengers 2 a real run for his money.
The biggest slip-up in this near-perfect inbetweequel though, lies with its proposed villain. Any Game of Thrones fan would expect that Peter Dinklage would have been handed a role to really throw his talent in to but unfortunately Sentinel-maker Bolivar Trask isn’t as bad as he could, and maybe should be. As a result, there’s no real antagonist in the piece, leaving the large and lethal Sentinels to take the flack instead, which is in no way a bad thing. In retrospect, perhaps the big bad of this particular instalment (as with many year-jumping stories) is time itself, a tough beast to overcome not only our heroes but for its filmmaker to tame as well. Thankfully Singer and Kinberg’s script has mastered that prickly plot device as well as ironing out wrinkles in the series which should leave fans happy and ready and waiting for starting a fresh new future altogether.