Thursday, 15 May 2014

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

If you could go back in time and prevent Bryan Singer from abandoning the X-Men franchise and leaving it in the grubby, suspiciously-smelling hands of Brett Ratner, would you? Think of the misery that could be avoided by simply transferring your consciousness into your younger self and having a quiet word in the younger Singer's ear. You could also suggest that he steer clear of parties where booze, drugs and young men are in plentiful supply, but that's neither here nor there.

Well, Singer can't erase the existence of X-Men: The Last Stand, but he's done a bang-up job of erasing our memories of the blip in his X-tenure by returning to the franchise in glorious fashion. Imagine Timothy Dalton playing James Bond again: X-Men: Days Of Future Past is almost that good. Taking the cream from the casts of both old and new incarnations of the X-Men, Singer has churned up superhero butter, and it's virtually fat-free. Which would make it rubbish as butter, but quite good as a film. (Note to younger self: think metaphor through more carefully before writing this review)
"What? What have I done now? Well yes, obviously, but APART from that?"

Kicking off in a shitty future where mean and nasty (but well cool) robots called Sentinels are wiping out Earth's few remaining mutants, X-M:DOFP skips over immediate plot holes like a carefree schoolgirl: why is the future so balls? It wasn't that bad at the end of The Wolverine, was it? And how come Professor X is alive again? Because SHUT UP, that's why. This is a franchise with such a tenuous grip on reality that it once featured Vinnie Jones, so frankly it can pretty much get away with anything now. And so no sooner have you begun to ask yourself if Ian McKellen has introduced a vague Irish tinge to his accent to make up for Michael Fassbender's vocal wrestling in X-Men: First Class, than boom! It's 1973, and future Wolverine's mind is in past Wolverine's head admiring his younger cock and balls in a mirror.

Singer is super-efficient at setup here: the wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff is swiftly dealt with so the fun can begin, and he smartly avoids all that laughing-at-those-silly-1970s that, in a lesser director's grubby, suspiciously-smelling hands could have taken up most of the first act. Composer John Ottman is allowed the briefest flirtation with a wah-wah pedal, while costume designer Louise Mingenbach pitches everyone's clobber with authenticity, not flamboyance. Only a surfeit of awesome sunglasses and one magnificent hat threaten to tip the balance, but everyone looks so cool it's impossible to complain.
Collars were big in the '70s, apparently

Split into two halves (a clear-cut men-on-a-mission movie followed by a hectic, slightly messier hour of action), X-Men: Days Of Future Past veers between intelligent social commentary and balls-out superhero brilliance almost as well as Singer's previous X-flicks. The tremendously-monikered Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) represents that distasteful but powerful part of society determined to instill fear into others by convincing the world that mutants are the enemy (it's possible he edits the Daily Mail in his spare time), while his army of automated killing machines may be called Sentinels, but you'll probably recognise them as drones. Meanwhile there's all the Wolverine-led carnage you'd hope for, plus a contender for scene of the year in a corking introduction to the talents of Quicksilver, a new character written and played to perfection after so many lacklustre mutants have come and gone in the past.

It's a little flabby in its final act - some daft business with a football stadium is bafflingly OTT - but when the flab is being perpetrated by the likes of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Hugh Jackman, it's hard to complain. The star of the show, however, is Bryan Singer, and his continued involvement in this eternally youthful franchise is to be welcomed and encouraged. Bring on the Apocalypse.

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