X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

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4 stars
Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) takes the future into the past with this sequel cum prequel that is lodged between X-Men and X-Men: First Class as well as coming both before and after X-Men: The Last Stand. Confused? You won't be once Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart – Star Trek franchise) and Magneto (Ian McKellan – The Hobbit) sit and explain the plot to a bemused Wolverine (Hugh Jackman - Prisoners). It's a good thing they do given the potential for time shifting confusion in this chronologically challenging epic. In short, some time in the future our world has come to an apocalyptic end because of decisions made in the 1970's. Wolverine is the only mutant with the capacity to travel back in time and fix the problem before it starts.

And it's quite a problem. Hedging his bets on national xenophobia and an appetite for national security, Dr Trask (Peter Dinklage - Game of Thrones) creates a robot army capable of destroying mutants without collateral human damage. If he can get his hands on DNA from shape-shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games), his army would become invincible, and in Xavier's future, that's exactly what has happened. In his past, Wolverine arrives to convince the young Professor (James McAvoy – Filth) that to avert an apocalypse, Raven must be kept from murdering the doctor. Problem is, she's a force unto herself, one hell bent on killing Trask. It's a problem exacerbated when young Magneto (Michael Fassbender - Shame) amplifies her anger and takes on the US government himself.

What could have been more digital slaughter in a multiplex roster overflowing with destructive comic superheroes (Spiderman and Captain America among them in recent weeks), X-Men: Days of Future Past is a surprisingly mature film. It takes its cues not so much from revenge, though that features heavily, but from forgiveness. Hope. New Testament comparisons are plentiful. Consequently this is a character heavy story buoyed by four spectacular set pieces. It gives Singer plenty of scope to let the X-people flesh out their world – it explains Magneto's anger, Xavier's fundamental trust, the dissolution of their friendship – and in doing so gives us plenty of reasons to invest emotionally. The X-world just got a whole lot larger, and more interesting.

What's more, it's a film full of treats as it expands X-iconography while toying with recent history: waterbeds, lava lamps, Captain Kirk and Nixon's fondness for tape recorders. If you thought President Kennedy was killed because of civil rights, think again. This well judged sense of humour plays best in a scene with the insanely fast teenage Quicksilver, a scene of gripping Matrix-influenced slo-mo flair. The rest of Singer's production is no less enticing as he uses all kinds of stylings to give the film greater depth – from a seamless, sparkling future to the grainy super-8 flavour of the 1970's.

In the middle of it all is Wolverine, equipped with bony claws, a stack of crisp one-liners and a narrative requirement to hold his patience. Good luck with that. The rest of the mutant notables (significantly Anna Paquin, Omar Sy and Halle Berry) are given fairly thankless (contractual) participation, yet they do help flesh out the X-Universe as young Xavier, Magneto, Raven and Beast (Nicholas Hoult – Warm Bodies) fight to save the future. It's compelling stuff, and with no small thanks to Singer, X-Men: Days Of Future Past is the year's best super-hero epic to date.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Events, George St, Sydney, on 19 May 2014
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CAST
Hugh Jackman
James McAvoy
Michael Fassbender
Patrick Stewart

DIRECTOR
Bryan Singer

SCREENWRITER
Simon Kinberg

COUNTRY
USA

CLASSIFICATION
M

RUNTIME
131 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
May 22, 2014
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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) on IMDb
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Stacks Image 56