Way back in the year 2000, after watching the very first X-Men, I couldn’t imagine that the film would spawn a seven movie franchise. It was a quiet action film with strange pacing and way too many characters. Of course, that’s the strength of the X-Men in general, with its cast of thousands, invulnerable to actors declining to reappear, character deaths, and even reboots. Much like the comic books that inspired it, the X-Men films have gotten a bit lost along the way when it comes to series continuity, and Days of Future Past is unashamedly a maintenance project. Bryan Singer returns to the franchise and does a fine job of making plot threads and loose ends make sense and erasing most everything that Brett Ratner did. It works as a movie, too, but that almost seems like the secondary function as our heroes and Fox executives look ahead to an endless parade of sequels that will assure that Wolverine never gets to team up with The Avengers.
In a distant future, an X-Men team lead by Bishop (Omar Sy) and Shadowcat (Ellen Page) are on the run from killer Sentinel robots that have eradicated most of the world’s population, Terminator-style. In order to prevent this future from happening, Shadowcat must send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to gather Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a heavily depressed Professor X (James McAvoy) in order to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and causing the nationwide panic that brings the Sentinels into being. Along the way, the team enlists the help of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to free Magneto (Michael Fassbender) from a prison underneath the Pentagon for crimes against the US.
In Theaters: May 23, 2014
Runtime: 130 min
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Page, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Official Site: http://www.x-menmovies.com/
That plot summary wasn’t even close to including the entire cast, and that’s part of why this movie works better than some of its predecessors. I’ve read the comics, and the X-Men line has always been a world all onto itself, a confusing mass of old and new characters dealing with major events from 20 years ago or changing their powers for seemingly no reason. This movie captures that spirit all too well, to the point where I don’t think I could suggest going into this one without having intimate knowledge of the past films or the comics that inspired them. There is way too much going on for a newcomer to grasp, even in this supposed reboot. Still, this is the type of X-Men story that I personally have been waiting for on the big screen, a vast, world-expanding epic that references everything in the franchise without losing the thread of its own narrative.
The film does lose the thread somewhere, and thats in it being a sequel to First Class. Even though the majority of the film takes place in that time period with young Professor X and Magneto, the stories and conflicts set up for them in First Class are pretty much sacrificed to make connections to the original X-Men trilogy. Most of the younger mutants introduced in First Class are killed off screen or reduced to cameos in this film, which is disheartening to any fan of what that film was trying to do. It also leaves the past X-Men’s ranks pretty thin for the NEXT sequel, with the only potential recruit being Quicksilver, whose all too brief role in Days of Future Past is probably the highlight of the film. He brings the humor and wit that First Class did so well in what will surely be a breakout performance in the films to come.
Enough talk of the franchise, though! Days of Future Past is the best mutant movie yet in terms of portraying comic book action on the big screen. They’ve had plenty of practice, but those CGI wizards have boiled it down to a science, and the scenes where Bishop and his future team are fighting the Sentinels are incredible set pieces. Also, since this is a time travel picture, Brian Singer has some fun by repeatedly killing off characters and then bringing them right back to life. It’s always good to see that these heroes aren’t invincible, even if you know that they are going to make it to the end credits. The movie’s pacing drops down to zero in the middle, a problem that a tighter editing might have solved. However, considering that Rouge’s entire role in the film was placed on the cutting room floor, except for a brief cameo, perhaps this is the best you can do with so many characters to follow.
Many fans thought that The Last Stand would be the death-knell for X-Men films going forward, but Days of Future Past shows that there is a bright future ahead for Marvel’s merry band of mutants. This is doubly evident when compared to Spider-Man’s attempted world building over at Sony. Unlike ‘dudebro’ Peter Parker’s take on web-slinging, Days of Future Past shines because it sticks closely to its source material, which includes retcons, unexplained resurrections, and way too much backstory. Comic book fans will delight in all the obscure characters that pop up throughout the film, and fans of just the movies will have plenty to research before X-Men: Apocalypse hits in a couple of years. As a comic book fan myself, I must admit that the in-depth talk of continuity between films with my buddy as I exited the theater was proof enough that X-Men: Days of Future Past is X-Men done right.