X-Men: A treat for fanboys

X-Men: A treat for fanboys

The latest X-Men offers up another reason for mutant pride, finds David Rooney

By (AP)

Published: Sat 24 May 2014, 3:45 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 6:29 PM

While it’s more dramatically diffuse than the reboot and lacks a definitive villain, Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is shot through with a stirring reverence for the Marvel Comics characters and their universe. And it ups the stakes by threatening nothing less than the genocide of the mutant population, among them faces old and new.

Hardcore followers will have a geek field day dissecting the challenging pretzel logic of writer-producer Simon Kinberg’s screenplay. The central premise comes from the 1981 Uncanny X-Men comic Days of Future Past, in which Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her consciousness transference powers to go back from a dystopian future and rewrite history.

Singer opens with present-day scenes of a desolate, burnt-out New York, where mutants and mutant-sympathising humans have been rounded up in internment camps.

The mutants escape and regroup in the rubble of an ancient Chinese monastery with Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry).

Threatened with extinction, the mutant holdouts hatch a plan to return to the post-Vietnam Paris Peace Accord of 1973, when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killed Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a U.S. military scientist developing the Sentinels programme. Mystique was captured and experimented on, with the transformative powers of her DNA tapped to perfect the Sentinels.

Wolverine’s ability to heal makes him the only one able to withstand the 40-year time jump. Kinberg’s script milks humour out of sending the least diplomatic of the X-Men back to convince the younger Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender) to join forces and stop the assassination that triggered anti-mutant hysteria.

Perhaps the film’s standout sequence features the much-discussed new addition of Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver (American Horror Story regular Evan Peters). The rights dispute that kept the character out of previous films has been resolved, allowing him to appear in both the X-Men and Avengers franchises, albeit without cross-referencing.

Fassbender’s young Erik/Magneto again shows riveting self-possession and charisma to burn - not least when he’s standing astride the roof of a moving train in bellbottoms while tearing up railway tracks. But this movie belongs to Jackman and Lawrence.

Logan/Wolverine has possibly never been more compelling. In his seventh turn in the role, Jackman brings powerful physicality, laconic humour and depths of sorrow beneath his gruffness that make him an unusually nuanced figure for a sci-fi action movie.

Switching from her honourable Hunger Games heroine into badass mode with supreme ease, Lawrence is sensational, whether slinking around in Mystique’s body-hugging blue reptilian skin, displaying the shape-shifter’s balletic fight skills or adopting seductive human form.

It’s hard to imagine fanboys having too much to grumble about here, as Singer has pulled together an ambitious, suspenseful screen chapter that secures a future for the franchise while facilitating continued reinvention. Audiences should sit tight through the end credits crawl for an enigmatic signoff scene that provides a taste of the next installment, X-Men: Apocalypse.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart,

Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage

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