ROLE SHIFT: Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (M)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page
Director: Bryan Singer
Screening: general release
IN the X-Men series, psychology is an important part of the spectacle.
Its mutant heroes might have cool, physics-defying powers, but what they think and feel is crucial.
And underpinning it all is a contrast between two central characters and their ways of approaching the world: Charles Xavier/Professor X is a teacher and conciliator, and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto a man of action and aggression.
They’ve been friends and they’ve been enemies; in X-Men: Days of Future Past they are both.
To begin with we see them in old age, played once again by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and they’re allies – but in this time-travelling film we also see them as their younger antagonistic selves, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (as was the case in X-Men: First Class).
We begin with a near-future that looks particularly grim.
Huge mutant-seeking machines known as Sentinels are hunting them down, with devastating success.
The decisive moment, it turns out, was in 1973, when Raven, aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), the blue-bodied shapeshifter, decided to turn assassin. She targeted Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the scientist who masterminded the Sentinels.
It seems this misfired, and rather than saving mutants her action had the opposite effect.
A plan is hatched to go back in time and change the course of history, courtesy of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who has the ability to transport a person’s consciousness and allow it to inhabit the body of his or her younger self.
The delegated time-traveller is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
His task – a suitably paradoxical one – is to save the man who wants to destroy him and his kind.
Back in 1973, Wolverine wakes up on a water bed with a lava lamp in his line of sight and a mission that looks almost impossible.
Mystique is mad as hell; Xavier is a shadow of his former self; and Lehnsherr is in heavily guarded solitary confinement.
It’s hard enough getting them together in one place, let alone convincing Mystique to stand down.
The film has a slightly episodic narrative, a series of set-pieces strung together, with an interesting adversary rather than a villain – Dinklage brings a sense of conviction to a slightly under-developed character.
The scenes in the future, with battling mutants under fire from the Sentinels, don’t feel as character-driven as the ’70s sequences do, even the action-oriented ones.
McAvoy does the hardcore emoting; Jackman – playing a less irate Wolverine – is laconic; and Fassbender is coolly decisive.
Lawrence, in head-to-toe near-naked blue flesh, tends to look like a special effect most of the time.
There are a few moments that will only make sense to franchise devotees, but they don’t affect the story all that much – they might add to a sense of confusion, however.