Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Based on a Graphic Novel by: Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage
Running Time: 142 min (Rogue Cut) 126 (Theatrical Cut)
BBFC Certificate: 12 (although the commentary is rated 15)
I like to moan about super hero movies. There seems to be an endless stream of them nowadays with these extended universes and such, so I've grown very tired of hearing about them. 90% of online chatter seems to surround the latest super hero movie trailer or casting news. Personally I couldn't give a s**t about most of it and become a snob hiding in the corner with my indie movies and classic re-releases. However, despite my grumbling, I've actually enjoyed most of the super hero films I've seen during this decade-and-a-half boom.
One of last year's super hero movies that I liked quite a lot was X-Men: Days of Future Past. So when I was offered a chance to review the new Rogue Cut of the film, I decided to break away from my usual snooty high-brow/classic/cult posts to join the mainstream.
I won't go into too much detail about the plot for X-Men: Days of Future Past as most of you will already have seen it. Basically, in the future, the world is a bleak and desolate place, particularly for mutants who are being hunted and killed by the all powerful Sentinels (big evil robots that can take on mutant powers). The X-Men have a plan though. They send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the subconscious of his 1970's self to change events surrounding Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), Charles Xavier (a.k.a. Professor X, played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (a.k.a. Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) which led to the development of the Sentinel programme, spearheaded by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
What The Rogue Cut adds in its 16 extra minutes, alongside a couple of minor changes here and there, is, as you might have guessed, a role for Rogue (Anna Paquin). She was a major character in the first couple of films, but was left on the cutting room floor when Days of Future Past hit cinemas. In these re-instated scenes she is saved from experimentation by Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Bobby/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) so that she can help the wounded Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) keep Wolverine in his former subconscious.
This new chunk adds a bit more meat to the future scenes, which before felt largely like bookends. There's a fair amount of extra action too as the Sentinels are hot on their trail and it helps pave the way towards the climax. It's also a nice touch to see Professor X and Magneto working so closely together. However, you can see why the scenes were removed as they're not as vital towards the central plot and do draw the film out to a considerable length. It's certainly never boring, but in this new form I did start to feel the film dragging its feet a little during the quieter third quarter.
As for reviewing the film as a whole, I enjoyed it a lot. I've always got a soft spot for time travel movies and generally find the concept naturally makes a plot intriguing. This is no different and, thanks to setting some sturdy ground rules, the film doesn't suffer from too many flaws in logic like many time travel movies. The film's villains are given believable motives too, so they're more rounded characters than your usual world-domination seeking megalomaniacs.
There are a lot of characters and the plot has the potential to get overly complicated, but writer Simon Kinberg and director Bryan Singer juggle things very nicely. There are a couple of info-dumps here and there, but they're easy enough to follow and feel necessary. As for characters, the core drama is focused on a smaller group so works quite well and the other characters are used more as showcases for some cool new mutant skills. There are plenty of clever and fun uses of their talents, in particular Quicksilver's (Evan Peter) super speed. A standout set-piece in the film involves him saving the lives of three of the main cast members during a standoff against armed guards. Running through the scene where everyone else is moving in ultra slow motion, he re-arranges everything around him to stop anyone getting killed and let his partners escape.
I love the Sentinels too. They're genuinely threatening towards our seemingly indestructible heroes, so scenes in which they feature are pretty intense and occasionally quite frightening. The look of the future world helps with the mood too, as everything is very dark other than the glow of the mutant and Sentinel powers doing battle against each other.
The film's not without its flaws though. There's a lot of soul searching going on between Xavier and Raven which can be a bit hit and miss, occasionally throwing in some greeting card sentiments. I'm not sure they needed two characters struggling to 'discover their true self' as it slows the pace down a bit before the climax kicks in. I felt McAvoy's performance wasn't always entirely effective either. He's generally strong, but a couple of his line deliveries are pretty hammy. One in particular (“they all come back!”) made me laugh out loud.
Overall though, the film works very well and I had a lot of fun with it the first time I saw it in the cinema as well as the second time watching it in this longer cut. It's a blockbuster that delivers the thrills, but also offers an involving storyline to back them up.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut is out now in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray + Digital HD UV, released by 20th Century Fox. I saw the Blu-Ray version which looked and sounded great as is to be expected for a modern big budget release like this (although some companies do make silly/lazy decisions from time to time).
The original theatrical cut had already been released on DVD/Blu-Ray etc. with pretty bog-standard extras. These haven't been replicated. Instead Fox have put together some nicely substantial ones. For starters you get the option to watch the theatrical cut if you'd rather. You also get a different commentary for each version. Singer and producer/writer Simon Kinberg talk over the theatrical cut and Singer and composer/film editor John Ottman over the Rogue cut. I haven't had chance to listen to these fully yet, but I've listened to Singer's commentaries on the first two X-Men films and they were great so I imagine these are well worth a listen too.
On top of the commentaries, you get a 52 minute documentary, Mutant vs. Machine. This is very comprehensive, covering most aspects of the filmmaking process. The contributors talk in surprising detail about the next film in the series too. Not enough to spoil anything, but enough to whet our appetites.
The other major feature is X-Men: Unguarded. This is a half hour roundtable discussion of the film and series with Singer and Kinberg hosting along with almost all of the star studded main cast. It's very odd to begin with, as everyone looks a bit uncomfortable with the format. However, the group eventually ease into it and it's interesting to see such a collection of big names all together in this setting. It certainly makes a change from the usual backslapping, fake-sounding talking heads interviews you get with the stars. Because this is done in one take (with a bit of cutting here and there I imagine) it feels more natural. Jackman comes in 10 minutes late for starters!
Another interesting special feature is the Second Screen App. With this you can sync an app on your mobile phone/tablet to act as a second screen during the film. This allows you to see concept art and designs etc. whilst you watch. I tried it briefly and it seemed quite a cool way of viewing the standard galleries. It was a bit slow and clunky though, but that was probably because I was viewing it at my parents' house who have a terrible internet connection.
You also get a preview of the new Fantastic Four film and some other bits and pieces, rounding out quite an impressive set.