Bryan Singer is back at the helm of the X-men franchise. He opens to a massive exposition dump, but this is preferable to an extra 40 minutes on the run time. And it’s quickly forgiven as he efficiently introduces us to a small band of mutants by showing their powers in a battle against Sentinels. Who are at this point similar to the Destroyer from Thor. The team working together informs us of what their powers are and how they work. It also sets up Kitty Pryde’s surprise power that she can send people’s consciousness back in time. The small band rendezvous with the Patrick Stewart lead X-men, including Magneto to discuss a plan of action.
For those that know the source material, it provides simply a base for the storyline. There is a lot more different than there is similar to the comic series. But Singer is not shy in saying that he wasn’t a lifelong fan of the X-men. That doesn’t stop him from being the best at handling these characters. The mutants work out that the chain of events that lead to a horrendous war that has imprisoned and destroyed mutants was set of by Mystique killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage.). Trask was leading a military program to develop a defence against a perceived threat from mutants. It’s pleasing to see an enemy motivated by something other than personal vendetta’s or world domination. To prevent this from ever happening they elect to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time.
Singer is also tasked with the team as fronted by James McAvoy. With strong, grounded performances from McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence he had absolutely no problem. Watching them together throwing themselves into the role on such a huge scale was spectacular. Singer has also still kept the main thrust of the X-men movies. The divide between the X-men and the Brotherhood Of Mutants, as well as between mutant and humans, ultimately comes down to those that have hope and those who don’t. Even with constant attempts to destroy mutants, Professor X still believes that one day they will be able to live peacefully amongst humans. In this movie there’s a long time before we see any hope.
Wolverine’s first challenge comes in convincing a Charles Xavier, that has been emotionally destroyed by losing his best friend and childhood friend to an evil cause, that there is a future where they can work together. But the most interesting encounter is with Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who is required to break Fassbender’s Magneto out of prison. Peters and Singer have created an on screen Quicksilver that gets the hyperactivity of the character and is hilariously funny. He is also integral to one of the best superhero action/combat sequences we’ve seen. Your move AT Johnson/Whedon.
Evidence that Singer doesn’t have an affinity with the comic book series is also shown by the bastardisation of Magneto’s powers. This has been occurring across the series; since when can Magneto change the properties of metal. That’s a personal gripe and it does allow for one of Singer’s go to set pieces; someone lifting something inconceivably heavy. Which is at it’s best in Days Of Future Past.
The 70s Sentinels aren’t particularly notable and become background to the mutant characters. I think “space age polymer” is meant to be shorthand for don’t worry about it. Lawrence pulls off the elusiveness of Mystique, McAvoy portrays a conflicted Charles Xavier with great effect and Fassbender perfectly captures Magneto’s sheer uncompromising terror and willingness to cause havoc. This movie could lead to an interesting dynamic between Mystique & Magneto that we’ve never seen before.
Verdict: Bryan Singer shows us he’s the best at creating a coherent, captivating X-men storyline and creates genuinely interesting characters. With powerful and gripping performances by an incredible cast of successful and exceptional actors to boot. With the right guidance the X-men franchise could become a force to be reckoned with.