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x-men-days-of-future-past-poster2014

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage

Like a phoenix stumbling out of the ashes, X-Men Days of Future Past reunites the usual suspects for a propulsive but hollow reboot.

Every year a new franchise tent pole props up a new corner of the Marvel cinematic marque and seals the fate of modern cinema to be one bound by ubiquitous adaptation. This omnipresence of films belonging to the comic book gene pool has rendered any other entrants to the box office mutant-like anomalies.

The same exuberant rule exists in the titular future of the latest X-Men entry. Machines, equipped to the CG-teeth with pseudo-science can detect the presence of the x-gene and distinguish a mutant from a comic book nerd or human. In the post-apocalyptic future, these Sentinels hunt down and kill any remaining mutants – the majority of them having seemed to survive the horrors of both the war and X-Men 3: The Last Stand.

Here we find Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) recruiting the help of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) who has been using her powers to send Bishop (Omar Sy) back in time to warn them of Sentinel attacks before they happen. Defended by Halle Berry and a slew of other expensive extras, the team send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the ‘70s to prevent Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique killing Bolivar Trask (Tyrion Lannister), the special effects artists behind the army of terminators. Wolverine must reunite the younger Professor X and Magneto so that they may bring down Mystique together and prevent the war from ever beginning. Or something like that.

After the Brett Ratner helmed ‘disaster’ souring what was once a charming if inconsequential series, the cast and crew of this multi-generational opera seem overly keen to rectify that slight miss-step. With a sweeping, all inclusive story there’s enough references levelled at every character, prop or bit of scenery ever glimpsed in an X-film for fans to overdose on the gratuity.

Inventive action sequences put the mutant’s powers on full show and many, such as those with Evan Peter’s all too briefly glimpsed Quicksilver, are propellant highlights. Some smart dialogue and an infinite, capable cast render this a thoroughly watchable entry into the saga.

For the most part however, it’s difficult to become immersed in the film’s overstuffed narrative as contrived exposition bombards the fourth wall to breaking point. Wolverine, we are told, is the only character capable of surviving the trip back to the past. (Wolverine also happens to be the only character to have his own spin-off films but who knows, I run the risk of being cynical). Apparently serving some sort of criminal sentence bound in the role of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman flexes those muscles once again as though his scenes were all taken from the previous entries in the series as one of cinema’s blandest heroes. There is nothing new to see of Wolverine here, in past, present or future.

Affirming the continuity of the whole saga, which until now had strayed wildly, the film also sees the X-team save themselves from some dizzying continuity. Reconciling all the past films to some extent, Singer seems pleased that like Quicksilver, he’s momentarily stopped time and made the necessary adjustments to the bullets flying in his direction. However, unclear character motivations (such as Magneto’s readiness to change allegiance almost between scenes) highlight glaring plot holes and key character motivations are left largely unexplained. As final scenes also reveal changes to the canon, it seems that unlike Quicksilver, Singer has missed a bullet or two on the way.

At the end of the film, as the audience remained glued to their seats for that final enigmatic end of credits teaser, the future of cinema is laid bare. In our post-Avengers future we’ll queue endlessly for films released at increasingly brief interludes; comic books blasted across the screen as though it were as continuous as a television. And we’ll forget whatever future we could have had.

Superman may have returned to his beloved franchise but he hasn’t come away completely unscathed. Having somehow survived extinction and with the X-Men travelling uncertainly back to the future, this film adds to its own confused canon amidst the shadow of the Iron Man curtain.

★★

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