I was never much of an X-Men fan growing up. I never read the comics, though I did watch the 90’s cartoon. Still, the film reboot in the 2000s gave me hope with X-Men and X-Men 2, only for that hope to be dashed with the release of X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I saw the best mutants of my generation destroyed by bad marketing, starving for creativity, hysterical, naked…
Fortunately, X-Men Days of Future Past is the cinematic solution we’ve been waiting for.
Based on a comic miniseries by the same name, Days of Future Past is the story of how advanced robots called Sentinels have hunted both mutants and non-mutants to the brink of extinction in a bleak future. In a desperate move to prevent the nightmare scenario from occurring, Professor Xavier and Magneto send Wolverine back in time to 1973. His mission is to bring a despairing Xavier and imprisoned Magneto together, so that they can stop Mystique from committing an act of murder that brings the Sentinel program forward.
One of the most common complaints about the recent X-Men films is how much of the spotlight has been devoted to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, who takes the place of Kitty Pryde from the comic series. However, in this film, he’s effectively part of an ensemble cast. You have James McAvoy playing the young Charles Xavier, balanced by Michael Fassbender’s brooding Magneto, and balanced further still by Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, whose choices are more central to the film’s resolution than Wolverine himself. It’s helpful to see Wolverine as more of the catalyst rather than the central character and key to all the world’s problems.
Other good performances worth mentioning include Peter Dinklage, who plays Dr. Trask with the cold precision I’ve come to enjoy in his role as Tyrion on Games of Thrones, and Josh Helman as a young William Stryker, eerily capturing Brian Cox’s take on the character in X-Men 2. And by far, the most enjoyable comedic performance goes to Evan Peters, who plays Quicksilver. Hands down, he has the best and funniest scenes in the whole movie. His takedown of the guards in the kitchen scene has to be seen to be believed (you’ll know it when the Jim Croce song starts playing).
The CGI is top-notch in Days of Future Past, from Quicksilver’s rapid-fire talents to Magneto’s raw power to the incredible speed and strength of the Sentinels. The opening sequence is a little action-heavy, but it does an excellent job of showing the audience what these Sentinels are and how deadly they can be, even against a variety of differently-powered mutants. There’s even a brilliant sequence of showing people from the 1970s filming a public brawl between mutants, using a very grainy tone to capture that infamous Zapruder film quality.
I suppose, in a way, this Fox-produced film feels more like a movie that Marvel Studios would put out as part of their Cinematic Universe saga. It has an amazing cast, a wonderful blockbuster appeal, some great dialogue and fight scenes, and a feeling like it’s part of a much larger story (even with a very intriguing post-credits scene). This is one of the best X-Men stories around, but it also has its own merits as a great summer blockbuster.
X-Men Days of Future Past is in theaters now and available through 20th Century Fox.
Bibliography: X-Men: Days of Future Past (film). Directed by Bryan Singer. Produced by Bryan Singer, Lauren Schuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, and Hutch Parker. Screenplay by Simon Kinberg. Story by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, and Jane Goldman. Based on Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Perf. Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart. 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners’ Company. US release date: May 23, 2014.