The unfortunate fact of the matter is that about half of the previous “X-Men” films weren’t very good — sure, the first piece of the franchise was enjoyable enough, “X2” was pretty good and “First Class” was a big surprise, but the rest of them? Can anyone honestly say that they enjoyed either of the Wolverine standalone films? For Xavier’s sake, in “X-Men Origins,” there’s a scene where Wolverine jumps off of a motorcycle and slices the blades off of a helicopter … blades that were rotating in the wrong direction.
However, the newest “X-Men” film, “Days of Future Past,” has stepped up to its highest ambitions, bringing forth a big-scale story that merges casts from both the original trilogy and “First Class.”
Set in an apocalyptic future, savage robots known as Sentinels have waged a war on the world, murdering every mutant in their path, and enslaving the human race without the mutant gene. The remaining mutants left, including Professor X, Magneto and Blink to name a few, go into temporary hiding. They decide their last resort is for Kitty Pryde to transport Wolverine back to the 70s to prevent Mystique from assassinating the scientist that develops the Sentinels, which would eventually wage war after his death.
With a cast this large and diverse, and such a potentially convoluted, time-jumpy plot, there was reason to worry that we wouldn’t see enough of those fan favorites, and that, while totally enjoyable, the film might be dominated by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. Well, fret not – the balance is perfect. While the majority of the storyline does take place in the absolutely groovy 1970s, there’s just enough McKellen/Stewart bromance to keep the fans pleased.
Sure, Shadowcat’s powers and personality were a little butchered, and Bishop didn’t get the time to be the futuristic badass he deserved, but the inclusion of new mutants Warpath and Blink made those sins forgivable — especially considered the wide array of actors at director Bryan Singer’s disposal.
Of course, the real star of the past-portions of the film is thankfully not Hugh Jackman (because who needs another Wolverine movie?), but Jennifer Lawrence as the shape-shifter Mystique. Mystique’s journey through the obviously analogous anti-Mutant politics of the 1970s (facing up against Peter Dinklage’s absolutely time-period-perfect Bolivar Trask, a weapons designer and ardent mutant-phobe) is utterly compelling, as someone who can look like anyone navigates the already troubling notion of identity, against a backdrop of Xavier’s nonviolence versus Lensherr’s radical antihuman philosophy.
Likewise to Lawrence, Evan Peters is great as Quicksilver, even for starring in only a few scenes. When photos of his costume were released, fanboys were up in arms about how goofy he looked. Fear no more, because in a surprising twist, the super-speed mutant has some of the best scenes in the movie. We won’t spoil what happens in them, but lets just say that Joss Whedon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson have some serious work cut out for them in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, in order to match what Peters and director Bryan Singer brought to the character.
As the director of the first two “X-Men” movies, Bryan Singer makes a formidable return to the franchise that he helped create. With even higher ambitions and more passion for “DOFP”, he succeeds in translating these aspects into a sublime handling of the film’s many characters and timelines.
The action is amazingly fast-paced, as mutants of all kinds are put in dire danger of the mutant murdering robots known as the Sentinels. Any scene that involves Magneto features some of the most memorable images, especially in the dramatic climax where the past and future timelines are face-to-face with the army of Sentinels.
Further props are also owed to Simon Kinberg, because the job of writing a script for a film of this scale is a colossal challenge, which he managed to pull off. He injects the right amount of action, well-timed humor and emotional weight to the most complex characters, all of which director Singer converts to the big screen with firm precision.
Whether you come out of the theater screaming “Magneto was right!” or murmuring “We need you to hope again,” either way, for comics fans and film buffs alike, “Days of Future Past” was a win on all fronts.
And please, do yourself a favor — stay after the credits.
RECOMMENDED: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has the complete package of a great superhero blockbuster: great characters and acting, strong writing and a huge abundance of thrilling action sequences.