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New Release Review - X-Men: Days of Future Past

Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973 to foil an assassination plot.

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Omar Sy, Shawn Ashmore, Bingbing Fan, Evan Peters




Adapted from a 1981 comic book storyline, this fifth X-Men installment begins in "the future", a post-apocalyptic landscape, not unlike that of The Terminator, where mutants are being hunted down and killed by robot assassins, not unlike those of The Terminator, crafted from a non-metallic material, rendering Magneto's (McKellen) ability to manipulate steel useless. Said robots are the creation of scientist Bolivar Trask (Dinklage), whose death at the hands of Mystique (Lawrence) in 1973 led to a global anti-mutant campaign. In a plot not unlike that of The Terminator (was James Cameron reading comic books in 1981?), Wolverine (Jackman) is sent back to 1973 to foil the assassination. Doing so will require uniting the younger versions of Professor Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender), mortal enemies at that point in time.
The trailers for this latest superhero sequel suggested its multi-generation spanning plot might well be something of a mess. To the credit of Singer and his writers, this isn't the case and we're given a relatively simple plot. In fact, Wolverine aside, the older incarnations of the mutants only feature in the movie's futuristic bookends, which make for the weakest and least inspired parts of the film. The vision of the future presented here is a remarkably lazy one, filmed on sets that appear to have been reconstituted from a Canadian TV sci-fi show, one that was cancelled in 1998 at that.
Thankfully, things pick up when old sideburns 'n steel claws (though said claws are rendered as wood here to make him impervious to Magneto's powers) wakes up in 1973 New York, complete with cheesy wah wah riffs on the soundtrack. The tone of the movie's first half will likely divide audiences. Where the previous installment, First Class, did a clever job of weaving its characters into Cuban missile crisis era America, the representation of the Vietnam era on show here often veers uncomfortably close to Austin Powers with its disco balls and paisley shirted heroes. That said, if you can handle some cheese in your comic book movie omelette, it's a fun ride. It's in this portion of the movie that we're dealt the film's trump card: Evan Peters as Quicksilver, a mutant with an incredibly useful ability to move a thousand times faster than humans. This leads to the movie's one great set-piece, as Quicksilver uses his unique talent to break Magneto out of the Pentagon, where he's imprisoned for his role in a key moment of US history.
Unfortunately, Quicksilver disappears from the film immediately following the breakout, though his skills would seem to make him a highly desirable ally, and the movie falters badly as a consequence. Around the hour mark, when fresh popcorn has turned to unpopped kernels, the movie takes a seismic shift in tone, switching from a fun caper to yet another emo-fest. The final set-piece is a particularly bland one, even by the standards set by recent comic book movies, involving the Whitehouse and a football stadium. If the superhero genre is to survive, and Hollywood certainly seems determined about keeping it alive, its writers need to come up with third acts that feature something a lot more interesting than buildings being thrown around.
5/10


Eric Hillis

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