In a future in which the X-Men and all mutantkind are being exterminated by the Sentinels, one last desperate throw of the dice sends Wolverine back to the 1970s to try to stop one key event from taking place…
I’m old enough to remember reading Chris Claremont’s original story on which this is based when it first came out – which was only a few months after the end of the Phoenix storyline. A lot has been changed for this version – not least the identity of the person sent back through time – but it’s still one of the best X-stories I’ve encountered, and makes for a terrific movie.
For those who don’t know their Colossus from their Quicksilver, and their Storm from their Rogue, you seriously don’t need to worry. A glorious opening battle shows all the future X-Men in action so you can see their powers operating; most of them are barely sketched as characters – even the future Professor X and Magneto, played as ever by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, are not really given a great deal of characterisation – but it doesn’t matter. They’re the ones who are in peril, which leads to some great intercutting in the final act between the “contemporary” 1970s battle and the climactic 2020s combat.
The focus of the tale is firmly on Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, with strong support from James McAvoy’s younger Charles Xavier (occasionally a little too whingy) and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy (the Beast), as well as Michael Fassbender as an earlier Magneto, and Evan Peters as Quicksilver – who gets one of the funniest moments in the movie as he prevents a massacre.
For the non-mutants, Peter Dinklage makes a good Bolivar Trask with Josh Helman never quite pushing William Stryker as far as I’d expected – flashbacks to the older Stryker (Brian Cox) almost have to do the work for him – and Mark Camacho giving us a believable take on Richard Nixon (and, of course, as Mystique when she’s impersonating the president).
It’s an all-action movie and seems to play fast and loose with the X-Men movie continuity while respecting the characters. I may be wrong, but it seems as if the events of, at the very least, The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, have been overwritten by what happens here and it’s probably a good thing that the X-Men films haven’t been incorporated into the main Marvel Movie Universe!
If you enjoyed either X2 or X-Men: First Class, chances are you’re going to love this; it lacks the deeper moments of the most recent Wolverine movie but, most appropriately for a time travel film, the 123 minute running time passes in a flash.
Verdict: A triumphant return to the franchise for Bryan Singer: a worthy sequel and prequel in one. 9/10