Looking Back At X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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To prepare for the arrival of Apocalypse, Tom Pheby revisits X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

Like so many fans of the X-Men, I was bitterly disappointed when Jean Grey lost her marbles and killed off Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in Last Stand. His performance alongside Magneto (Ian McKellen) were the highlight of the first two films, and the third in the trilogy suffered as a result once the dynamics shifted towards Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Not that there was anything wrong with old spikey hands or Jackman's portrayal of the character, it just lost its edge along with a less interesting, patchy and distracting story.

Wolverine is a key element of any X-Men film, but in my mind he's not the glue that holds it together, that's the preserve of the more senior mutants on both sides of the divide. So what a relief, normal service was resumed with Days Of Future Past (even though it was not exactly the most catchy title ever), when Hollywood broke all the rules and raised Xavier from the dead. Of course, Bryan Singer is involved and that makes a significant difference, no one understands this franchise better than he and as a result of his involvement as director and producer I felt better about it all before I'd even viewed the first frames of film.

In the past I have tended to worry when characters are not only duplicated but merged with past and present, it can become just an exercise to pull both sets of fans together and is generally financially motivated. Unless it's absolutely spot on its a futile pursuit, like spinning plates on sticks whilst trying to make sandwiches, but I can guarantee that this is not your run of the mill sci-fi flick, or an excuse to print money. What it does achieve very successfully, is to open up the franchise with a clever, well crafted and intelligent script that leaves the door wide open for more films in the series. It's two hours of jam packed story telling, not an effects filled extravaganza as in the past (although there's enough there to entertain).

Days Of Future Past successfully explores the key relationships between characters and is more than a nod towards the comic version (Uncanny X-Men 1981). A word of warning: if you are going to attempt to see this without watching any or all if the other films, especially First Class, it may be a baffling experience - no less daunting than trying to tell Stephen Hawking that his calculations are incorrect. You'll still find action, adventure, effects and humour - Days Of Future Past is certainly a case of something for everyone - but it won't be enough if you don't know a Wolverine from a Tamborine. My advice to you is don't bother watching if you are the latter.

Days Of Future Past is set ten years after X-Men: First Class, and straddles over two eras as the heroes attempt to save the mutants from extinction. Civilisation has been destroyed in a robotic war at the hands of the Sentinels. These giant metal hunters are not too dissimilar to the Terminator in many respects, as they are equally brutal and relentless in pursuit of their victims. This situation forces Xavier and Magneto to agree (for once) on the way forward, or is that backwards? By sending an X-Man or X-Woman back in time to the 1970's to disrupt the activities of the Sentinels inventor, Dr Task - played by the excellent Peter Dinklage. Magneto is never totally committed to whatever he's agreed, you'd think Xavier would learn that much at least but the old rascal never fails to entertain.

So far so good but this plan relies on the contribution of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), a telepath who has to send someone's consciousness back to the relevant period. And wouldn't you know it, that someone turns out to be Edward Scissorhands beefier and buffer brother - Wolverine. In the comic version it was Kitty herself that hopped back in time but she was always going to be a peripheral figure here. To reverse everyone's fortunes, Wolverine has to link up with the younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), but there seems to be a bit of a problem - McAvoy's Xavier has spiraled into disillusionment/depression, not to mention destructive self pity, whilst Fassbender's Magneto is contained in a secure cell, deep beneath the pentagon, plotting away until he's set free. What happened to Guantanamo Bay? Too cushy!

Of course there's always a degree of danger using time travel as a story device, and it does tend to come under intense scrutiny. At one point in the film I did suddenly think, what if old flick knife fists succeeds? Surely it will have an impact on the history of the X-Men themselves? Undoing their past and interfering with future events, but what the hell! That's time travel for you. Just remember it's entertainment, these things can become like the itch you cant scratch if you go beyond a certain point, so take what you need and ditch the rest.

To satisfy any feelings of nostalgia you get to experience some of the 70's fashion indiscretions, such as the sound of flairs flapping together, desperately bad hair, platform heels and big chunky collars - all of which are totally hilarious. This is set against the background of the Nixon administration, which lends itself to a nice cheeky cameo. Historically, when Tricky Dicky wasn't bugging he was bombing, and it's interesting to entwine the events of the time with clever fiction for entertainment purposes, Bryan Singer does this effortlessly.

Anyway, Dr Task was assassinated by Xavier's former favourite, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). It would appear her own particular gift is to distract the audience at every opportunity by appearing almost naked and so increasing the average males pulse rate - Bravo! The death of the Dr causes massive mutant resentment and hatred, it signals the start of the conflict with devastating consequences.

There are several additional characters who seemingly appear at the drop of a hat, serve no real purpose and disappear without introduction or explanation. Although this could be fruitfully expanded on, it would be at the expense of losing control of your leg muscles by turning it into a three or four hour film, so we'll settle for what we have. The whole thing accelerates on the arrival of Quicksilver (pun), played by Evan Peters, who injects genuine fun into the proceedings and you'd have to be pretty dumb not to imagine that he wont return at some point, or maybe he has done enough to star in something outside of this format?

Days Of Future Past is an energetic, vibrant, stylish and dramatic outing, incorporating old and new with excellent results. Digging deeper into the characters, their failings and flaws, whilst serving up dilemmas that makes the viewer become more attached to them. In short, for any fan (old or new) it's a must see film. One that leaves your mind spinning and whirling for a good hour after you've left - I felt fairly exhausted by it all, but in a good way. It's not perfect, but then what is? We can nitpick about this and that but X-Men: Days Of Future Past has enough in the tank to meet the expectations of most, and is certainly worth the price of a DVD/Blu-ray - it's one you'll watch again and again - or you could just donate the money to Jennifer Lawrence as a clothes allowance!

The wounded dog that was Last Stand, looked to be making a decent recovery in First Class. I'm happy to report that after Days Of Future Past he's finally in good health.

Now, bring on Apocalypse...

Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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