X-Men: Days of Future Past (12A/PG-13, 131 mins)
Director: Bryan Singer
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For those not yet tired of mutant superhero action, here then is the seventh movie set in the X-Men universe. Some have been great, some have been misfires, but the series was shaken up a couple of years ago by X-Men: First Class, which showed us younger versions of the well-worn characters as they were in the 1960s.
Days of Future Past is a sequel to that prequel, and is being sold on the fact that it brings both casts together, so we get Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as original and young Charles Xavier, and ditto Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik/Magneto. The one constant has been Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), because he doesn’t age.
The X-Men believe it can be changed and so come up with a plan to send Logan (or his consciousness at any rate) back to the 1970s to stop the chain of events that led to the creation of the Sentinels. In a nutshell this means stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the scientist (Peter Dinklage) who initiates the programme.
But of course it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that, leading to difficult decisions for many of the X-Men. This is a film that’s always more interested in its characters than its action, and that has to be thanks to its director. Bryan Singer hasn’t directed any of the films since X-Men 2 in 2003, but he shows why he was the right choice to return with a guiding hand, grounding it in the choices made by its protagonists while also being in complete command of the sprawling narrative.
The set pieces aren’t just elaborate displays of special effects and action, but driven by character and plot while moving the story forward at the same time. Generally the films end up turning into the Wolverine show, which as the original trilogy and two Wolverine spin-offs have demonstrated, can get a bit dull after a while. But this is the Mystique show, and everything depends on her.
There are a couple of niggles, generally to do with plot points that might find you asking “why?” a couple of times. If you attempted to draw a line through the chronology of the previous films, you’d probably find the timeline has been a bit squiffy anyway, so as with all time travel movies it might be best to just not worry about it. And Stewart, McKellen and co in the future end up getting a bit sidelined.
But there’s real-time danger and darkness linking the future and the past, and the stakes are massive. And thanks to the numerous highpoints and an ending that could possibly be described as perfect, in most regards this is as good as superhero movies get.