And for its next trick, Marvel Studios reboots the X-Men film saga, by mashing up the series' "original" timeline with the First Class prequel of 2001, thus giving rise to an entirely new, alternate continuum. It's a Terminator-like twist that, admittedly, shows some ingenuity, but whose tone flails far too much between overt seriousness and retro playfulness and, above all, suggests a cynical, somewhat despairing tone, an attempt to extend the characters' life cycle beyond the current glut of super-hero movies which has pretty much become the only thing in Hollywood's mind.

     Director Bryan Singer may have done wonders in the first two big-screen outings for Stan Lee's Marvel mutants thanks to his brooding, historically-grounded take on the characters' reluctant heroism and existentialist dilemmas. But that moodiness doesn't fit as easily the tonal shifts required by Simon Kinberg's script, positing an alternate future where the mutant population has been all but wiped out by the Sentinels, state-of-the-art robots attuned to its genetic signature (shades of The Matrix here). From this future where sworn enemies Professor X and Magneto (played by the returning Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) have made common cause, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the moment in time when it came into existence: 1973's Paris Peace Accords, where the shape-shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) kills the robots' inventor Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and, with her capture, sets the Sentinel programme off. The trick is that Wolverine has to convince the younger Francis Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, reprising their First Class roles) to unite to help him stop Raven and use the consequent "butterfly effect" to prevent the future apocalypse.

     Thus, Mr. Singer cuts back and forth between the flashily retro, James-Bondian period extravaganza of the 1970s and the dark, dystopian future where only a handful of hidden mutants remain. The futuristic bookends are in line with the symbolic, weighty approach Mr. Singer perfected in his two series entries X-Men and X2, but so much time has passed since its novel approach that they now come off heavy-handed and derivative. On the other hand, the seriousness of these stakes casts a dark shadow in the more straight-forward central seventies action sequences, mostly expertly presented and, even, occasionally clever, but whose levitating-stadium climax pushes the film into over-the-top territory in a way far too reminiscent of Brett Ratner's ill-fated third instalment The Last Stand.

    Above all, there's a strong feeling that, for all its narrative time-traveling ingenuity, Days of Future Past is no longer something that makes organic sense within the X-Men universe but merely a cynical studio reboot with an eye on the financial bottom line. One that is certainly done with a little more care and attention than usual (with Mr. Singer bringing together the same crew he started in the series with), and one that puts to good use the collective talent of a cast that is certainly pulling its weight (but that is, overall, given very little to work with, since most of the "original" series cast is reduced to brief cameos or, in Anna Paquin's case, has been all but cut out of the film). But it's, basically, a film too far in a tiresome assembly-line of cookie-cutter super-hero adventures.

USA, United Kingdom 2014
132 minutes
Cast Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
Director Bryan Singer; screenwriter Simon Kinberg; based on a story by Jane Goodman, Mr. Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn; cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (colour, widescreen); composer and editor John Ottman; designer John Myhre; costumes Louise Mingenbach; effects supervisor Richard Stammers; producers Lauren Shuler Donner, Mr. Singer, Mr. Kinberg and Hutch Parker; production companies Twentieth Century-Fox, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners' Company and Simon Kinberg Productions in association with Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment Finance, Ingenious Media and Down Productions
Screened May 16th 2014 (distributor press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 9, Lisbon)


Dan O. said…
If for no other reason, it's worth your time because it completely wipes X-Men 3 off the map with a big middle finger. Good review Jorge.

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