Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Simon Kinberg
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
As anybody that has ever watched the X-Men series knows, the films have a very inconsistent history when it comes to quality. For every good movie like X2 or X-Men: First Class, there have also been borderline unwatchable ones like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand. For that reason, it was slightly difficult to know what I was getting myself into when I walked into the theater. Thankfully, with Bryan Singer back at the helm, the franchise appears to have finally made a triumphant return back to it’s glory days.
In the year 2023, the X-Men are being hunted by a group of robots known as the Sentinels and are on the brink of extinction. In a last desperate attempt at survival, they decide to have Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time to 1973 to prevent the Sentinels from ever being constructed. According to Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) the turning point came after Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Instead of stopping the construction of the Sentinels however, Trask’s death only further convinces the humans of the robots necessity. On top of everything else, Mystique gets captured and her DNA is used to make the Sentinels virtually unstoppable. Wolverine is tasked with getting the young Charles (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together to stop Mystique from completing her plan.
Wolverine faces an uphill battle once he makes it to the past however when he finds the young Charles to be a shadow of his former self after the events of First Class. He takes a serum that allows him to walk again but it also contains the serious side effect of neutralizing his powers. Even worse Magneto is being held in a maximum security prison underneath the Pentagon for allegedly assassinating John F. Kennedy.
I’ve been a fan of Bryan Singer for years, but after last year’s underwhelming Jack the Giant Slayer, even I was beginning to wonder if he might’ve been losing his touch. Fortunately, he was more than able to prove me wrong. Singer gives his best work in at least a decade and as a result the film has outstanding special effects and action scenes that with any luck will one day erase the terrible memory of watching Wolverine chopping down a CGI ladder. I’ve never really been much of a fan of Simon Kinberg’s writing, however I’ll give him some credit for writing a good script this time around. Days of Future Past will more than likely open a large can of worms as far as series continuity is concerned. In spite of that, Kinberg gives us some great dialogue to go with an even better and surprisingly suspenseful story (why he couldn’t have done this with The Last Stand is anybody’s guess).
Jackman may have top billing here but once the plot gets set into motion, Wolverine mostly becomes a minor character as the focus shifts to young Xavier. First Class may have been Magneto’s film but in Days of Future Past, Xavier is front and center. Of course, we already learned from First Class that he was far from a perfect human being. His rich upbringing and not ever really having to deal with the same kind of persecution as Magneto or Mystique (mostly using his abilities to hit on women) kept him from ever really relating to either of them which is what ultimately leads to his falling out with both.
These failures have rendered him bitter and cause him to become a recluse. As the film goes on though, we do see some glimpses of the great leader Xavier will one day become. Days of Future Past serves as a fantastic transition from the naive and slightly arrogant Charles that we saw in First Class to the wise, hopeful and empathetic Professor X that we’ve seen in the almost countless mediums over the decades. While this comes at the price of developing the other characters (not even Magneto is fully immune to this), his part is written so well and McAvoy gives such a stellar performance that the film is as a whole is still spectacular.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Days of Future Past is Quicksilver (Evan Peters). The buzz on Quicksilver going in was less than positive due in no small part to his terrible costume. Surprisingly though, his brief presence in the film is the most entertaining and funny part of the movie. He’s not really what you would call necessary to the plot but the character is done so well, it’s hard to care about it very much. I fully expect to hear some rumors of a Quicksilver spinoff film any day now.
The only real complaint I have is the way they go about excluding the less popular characters from First Class. Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly anxious to see characters like Banshee, Emma Frost and Azazel again but killing them off in between films (and barely mentioning them) just doesn’t feel like the right way to go, especially considering the flack they’ve gotten in the past for killing Cyclops off screen in The Last Stand. Making it all the more disturbing is a scene where Mystique breaks into Trask’s office and finds autopsy photos of her fallen comrades. I’m sure the purpose of this was to make Trask look more like the villain but the whole thing felt morbid and unnecessary.
While Days of Future Past isn’t without it’s flaws, Singer’s skillful direction makes the easy to enjoy and those flaws easy to forget. The franchise has been on some shaky ground over the last few years but after watching Days of Future Past, there is little doubt in my mind that it’s now in good hands and back on track.