The X-Men franchise has had it’s ups and downs. From Bryan Singer’s first two films, which started the franchise off with a bang, to the awful clusterfuck that was The Last Stand. It seemed to be finally starting to find it’s way again by going into the past and providing origin stories in X-Men: First Class. The follow up Days of Future Past now attempts to combine the two timelines, taking the classic cast of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and co and combining them with the new guns in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.
The films start in the future, where mutant and human kind is being hunted to near extinction by a group called the Sentinels, robots originally created to deal with mutants, but who have now adapted to kill not only mutants, but those that help mutants and people who may one day give birth to mutants. Following a thrilling opening fight scene we are introduced to the idea that Kitty (Ellen Page) has the ability to send people back in time, allowing them to avoid attack by the Sentinels by never being there in the first place. This gives Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan), who have been thrust into alliance by recent events, the idea of going back in time to change the past and prevent the Sentinels being built. The one problem is, anyone being sent that far back would be ripped apart, that is apart from the self-healing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Upon returning to the past Wolverine’s mission appears simple, he must stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering Bolliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) and being captured afterwards, an event that allowed them to experiment on her blood and adapt the Sentinels to deal with mutants powers. Unfortunately for him, the past he is going back to is a very different time, one when Professor X, or Charles as he is still going by, is essentially a junkie who has given up on the world.
The plot obviously doesn’t work all the time. Time travel movies never do and there are a few moments where you just have to accept it and move on. If you have the ability to ignore all of that, which let’s face it you are watching an X Men movie so you probably do, this is actually a cracking good film. Right from the first minute there is something on screen to keep you entertained and gripped to the action. While on the surface Wolverine appears the central character, it’s really McAvoy’s Charles who steals the limelight and the aforementioned actor proves he can stand in the shadow of Patrick Stewart, by making a character that could be pathetic and angst ridden, likeable. While you want him to snap out of it and sort himself out, McAvoy’s performance makes sure that you are always sympathetic to the issues of the young Professor X.
Elsewhere the acting heavyweights that make up the X Men world hit all the buttons in the way that we have come to take for granted. Special mention should be given to Peter Dinklage however, who show’s that even outside of the Game of Thrones universe he is solid gold. His portrayal of Trask isn’t the simplistic bad guy we often see in these movies. Trask’s ambition are genuinely what he believes is best for mankind and in several moments we see a tender side to him that makes him sympathetic. The action set pieces hit the mark all the way through, but the real crowning glory is a moment of brilliance involving new mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who disables a group of guards in a leisurely fashion due to his ability to move at such speeds that the rest of the world positively slows down.
Days of Future Past is everything a blockbuster should be. Fun, thrilling and yet intelligent enough that it never insults the audience. Yes there are some glaring pot holes and anyone who didn’t stay right to the very end of The Last Stand will be confused as to why some people are even alive, but if you just forget all of that for a moment and take this as a film that stands on it’s own legs, it easily stands up there with the highlight of the series, X2, and in many ways may surpass it.