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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Year: 2014
Production Co: Bad Hat Harry
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Simon Kinbeg/Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughan
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Famke Janssen, James Marsden

I have to be honest in admitting that the denouement of this film felt like a bit of a cheat on a par with the didn't-really-happen climax of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. When a very major character died in the final battle I thought it was just the Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones effect at work, overturning the old conventional wisdom about movie deaths.

But at the flick of a wrist, everything is put right (come on, it's a major midyear blockbuster – surely that's not a spoiler) by an act taking place in the distant past.

It's the present day and the mutants have nearly been wiped out, the earth scoured by a war fought by a robot army called Sentinels. The few remaining mutants know they have to band together or die out. So, led by old enemies Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Eric Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), the usual suspects (see what I did there?) of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry) and a couple of others find their way to a stronghold in a snowy mountain range in China.

Kitty (Ellen Page), Bobby (Shawn Ashmore) and a few you've never seen before are holed up there, using various tricks to fight off the Sentinels when they attack, Kitty using her superpowers to send someone back in time so they have advance warning to clear out. It's kept them safe for awhile, but both time and Kitty's strength are running out.

The old guard decide to stop the war before it begins by sending someone back in time to prevent the decisive event. In the early seventies, a jittery US congress was reluctant to fund the Sentinel program put forward by scientist Trask (Peter Dinklage). Considering him a major threat, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated him during the Paris peace talks ending the Vietnam War.

It convinced humanity mutants were dangerous and the Sentinel program was signed into being, leading to the current world of death and destruction.

Only Wolverine - with his healing powers - can withstand being sent back as far as the seventies to find Mystique and stop her. Once there, he has to convince the younger Charles (McAvoy) to help him find his former sister, but the latter is a drunk, bitter cynic who's lost his powers thanks to a drug that gives him his legs back.

After finally convincing Charles and Beast (Hoult) to join him, they know they're going to need Magneto (Fassbender), leading to one of the coolest set pieces in the whole franchise as they bust him out of a top secret plastic prison below the Pentagon.

The race is on to find and apprehend Mystique before she can kill Trask, and all the while Wolverine tries to keep the egos and powers around him on the mission, darker forces are building.

It might indeed be the best X-Men film of the franchise so far, but without the presence of X2 that wouldn't have been much of an achievement. It's also a Fox and not a Marvel film, the rights resting with the company before Marvel became a studio that was snapped up by Disney (the same situation Sony is in with Spider-Man), and while it might be the premise rather than the studio or director behind the film, I enjoyed it much more than the Marvel moving that have choked screens the last few years.

It's not the usual superhero origin story/superhero battles latest threat to the world story. As far as I've seen, the X-Men universe has always been about their personalities jostling amongst themselves rather the same generic hero-saves-the-world crap. It's inherently less limiting and gives a scriptwriter and director a much bigger canvas to paint on. Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn have done so here, and they've managed a huge number of characters well, realistic (within the confines of the X-Men world) effects and a nimble narrative to boot. It just felt all too convenient wiping the entire history of the rest of the series clean.

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