Time and time again: X-Men - Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow micro reviews

I love a good time travel movie, but typically they tend to be more obscure productions on the periphery of the mainstream given their complexity and brain-straining ambition. So I was particularly surprised when TWO of this year’s biggest American Summer blockbusters – one of them already a massive superhero project – chose time travel (or control) as their central concept.

X-Men: Days of Future Past
Essentially bridging X-Men 1-3 and prequel story X-Men: First Class, each with large casts of their own, you don’t get much more complex (at least on paper) than this Marvel comic adaptation, based on the Days of Future Past storyline. With mutants facing extinction in the near future, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has his consciousness sent back to his body in the 1970s in order to prevent events that will ultimately trigger the genocide. This involves reuniting a disillusioned young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

Those unfamiliar with the X-Men cinematic universe will find no entry point to the franchise here. Dozens of fan-favourite characters make appearances (many just glorified cameos), and the film’s cast is stuffed with famous faces. X-Men fans though will probably require multiple viewings to fully appreciate all the visual references squeezed in for their pleasure.

Days of Future Past could have felt bloated and cumbersome but miraculously, along with inserting plenty of humour, it stays sleek, focused and fast-paced – with a conclusion that elegantly cleans up the universe in preparation for another huge tale lifted from the comics, and teased in a post-credits scene.

Highlights in Days of Future Past includes Evan Peters’s ADHD Quicksilver, the wonderfully inventive fight scenes involving portal-generating Blink (Fan Bingbing), Mystique’s contortionist combat style and the overall production design, which is not short on nods to the comics.

Still, though, I think I continue to prefer First Class more. Days of Future Past is inconsistent in terms of what events it insists happened in earlier X-Men films, and personally I developed a frustration-triggered headache trying to accommodate certain things and exclude others from the timeline.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Edge of Tomorrow
Not a sequel, though based on Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow takes the Groundhog Day concept, and gives it a science fiction spin.

An ill-prepared communications officer (Tom Cruise) finds himself on the front lines during Mankind’s last stand against a powerful alien force dubbed Mimics. Our hero promptly dies, only to reawaken before the battle. He dies in combat again, wakes, and so the cycle continues. However, this weird turn of events gradually transforms him into a highly skilled soldier with the secret to defeating the Mimics.

Since the release of Groundhog Day back in 1993, dozens of films and TV series have used the time loop plot. Usually the results become quickly tedious, as the audience is forced to watch the same events replayed over and over. Edge of Tomorrow, though, actually manages to avoid the tedium trap. The audience is trusted to assume the same things happen off-screen while new events – ones that advance the plot – are depicted. And all the while, at least until the very end, there is a pleasing sense of logic as to how time is treated.

This isn’t to say that the film isn’t packed with loads of other rewards for the viewer. Think what you want about Tom Cruise but the man has excellent taste in terms of action blockbusters – and here he doesn't play a cocky Chosen One for once.

Despite not being based on an interactive franchise, Edge of Tomorrow has a strong video game vibe about it – that same sense of repeat-and-master that any gamer will be familiar with. For the non-gamer crowd. Edge of Tomorrow is highly satisfying in terms of its inventiveness. For the first time in ages, on-screen aliens are actually frightening, depicted here as something like frenzied robotic octopi with a penchant for burrowing. Meanwhile, Emily Blunt is an ass-kicking delight, a “strong female character” rounded out by the fact that she comes with her own time loop-related emotional baggage.

Edge of Tomorrow is loaded with pleasant surprises. Just a pity about the ending though.

4 stars out of 5.


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