Film of the week reviewed: X-men - Days of Future Past
- Credit: PA
Past and present collide in a hazy blur in a muscular sequel, which ushers Bryan Singer back into the director's chair for the first time since X-Men 2 in 2003.
Familiar faces and new additions to the mutant fold jostle for attention in Simon Kinberg's script, which indulges in a spot of time travel to strengthen ties between the X-Men and Wolverine franchises.
Days Of Future Past delivers on the eye-popping spectacle including a breathtaking slow-motion action sequence in which a mutant (Evan Peters), who can move at superhuman speeds, diverts the trajectory of bullets before they reach the intended targets.
There is plenty of soul-searching too for the characters, who must make personal sacrifices for the greater good if the mutant race is to survive a sustained assault by hulking robotic hunters.
In a dystopian 2023, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his kin including Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) stand on the precipice of extinction.
The Sentinel programme, conceived by scientist Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), has almost wiped out the mutant population and any human sympathisers using an army of highly skilled automatons attuned to mutant DNA.
It's only a matter of time before the Sentinels track Xavier and the surviving mutants to a mountaintop temple in China and complete the extermination.
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One glimmer of hope remains: if Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) can harness her abilities and propel Wolverine's consciousness back to 1973, they might be able to stop alluring shape-shifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Trask.
This is the pivotal event, which lights the fuse on the Sentinel programme under the administration of President Nixon (Mark Camacho).
While Xavier and co prepare to fight the Sentinels, Wolverine's consciousness slips back to flare-trousered 1973 where he seeks out young Professor X (James McAvoy), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
Professor X agrees to divert Mystique from her ill-fated path but the best-laid plans of mice and mutants often go astray and vengeful Magneto senses an opportunity to change the course of history in favour of the super-powered minority.
'Killing one man isn't enough,' he tells Mystique.
'It never was for you,' she responds coldly.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a solid and highly enjoyable chapter that doesn't get too bogged down in bamboozling science, letting protagonists do the talking with their claws and amazing abilities.
Jackman's hirsute brawler provides the narrative glue between parallel time frames and he shamelessly panders to fans with some gratuitous nudity.
McAvoy and Fassbender trade physical and verbal blows while Oscar-winner Lawrence performs impressive gymnastic feats in figure-hugging blue make-up that leaves little to the feverish imagination.
The blitzkrieg of slick digital effects melds seamlessly with live action elements, although there are few concessions to the 3D format.
A tantalising end credits teaser hints at what fans can expect from X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.
*** (3 Stars out of 5)
For reviews of this week's other releases, including Blended, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return and Postman Pat: The movie, see the Event Supplement in today's EDP and Evening News.