The X-Men movie franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, but with 2011’s X-Men: First Class, I felt like the series had created its best story yet, and reminded us all why we fell in love with the X-Men in the first place. And now, X-Men: Days of Future Past hopes to continue the good that was started in First Class and simultaneously set up a whole new future for the series.
And for the most part, it suceeds. Days of Future Past is a big, exciting, and thrilling movie that attempts to combine the characters we know and love from the first three X-Men movies with their earlier counterparts first introduced in the part prequel, part reboot First Class. The result is an enjoyable, action packed ride, but one that occasionally falls victim to its own ambitions.
The plot starts out in a grim future, where an elite legion of robots known as the Sentinels have enslaved mankind in the name of ‘safety,’ and are closing in on the last of the surviving mutants, who are the only hope the world may have for peace. But the odds are slim, and Professor Xavier, along with some old and new faces, decides that something else must be done to save both the past and the present.
Outnumbered and overwhelmed by the sheer strength of the Sentinels, Xavier tasks Kitty Pyrde, who apparently has time travel powers now for some reason, with sending Wolverine back into the past in order to reunite a younger, more arrogant Xavier with currently imprisoned Magneto in hopes that their combined strength will be able to stop the Sentinel threat before it ever happens.
With a premise as complicated as that, it’s understandable to see why I was nervous about just how well it could play out in a two-hour movie. Bryan Singer manages it fairly well though, and he maneuvers through the many character motivations and story arcs with skill, and you can tell that he feels very passionately for all the characters he’s working with. However, the actual execution of the plot leaves a little to be desired.
I almost had to think of Days of Future Past as a transition for the franchise, as Singer uses the time travel aspect of the plot to, quite simply, wipe the slate clean for the series and allow himself the freedom to take the franchise someplace new with his next film X-Men: Apocalypse. But to erase the disastrous effects of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Last Stand, sacrifices had to be made.
Primarily of which was the fluidity of the story. Since there are two separate timelines and at least a dozen different characters, some of which exist in both distinct timelines, it’s far too easy to get lost in the intricacies of the plot and I spent a good portion of the movie just trying to figure out what it was I was watching and why it was supposed to be important to the plot.
The characters were always great, however, and just being able to see classic X-Men like Storm, Colossus, and Iceman back on the big screen was enough to plaster a smile on my face. And while their screen time is limited, being able to see Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart back as Meganeto and Professor X again was almost worth the price of admission alone.
This is where Days of Future Past truly excels. It somehow manages to juggle a large cast of colorful characters and simultaneously give them all their own time to shine. Jennifer Lawrence is even more convincing as Mystique this time around, and the moral conflict she’s personally tasked with creates for some real compelling drama, especially when she gets to play off of James McAvoy or Michael Fassbender.
In fact, it’s these two brilliant actors who carry much of the film’s weight on their shoulders, and I loved seeing their relationship developed even further than it was in First Class. McAvoy’s portrayal of Xavier is a lot more raw this time than it was before, and seeing the famous Professor X struggle with his own abilities and responsibilities characterized the character in a way that was both fresh and compelling.
Even though he might not have had as many scenes with Fassbender this time around, it was still their scenes together that packed the most punch. Fassbender is a powerhouse, and he another great performance as Magneto that felt just similar enough to Ian McKellan’s to fit with the story, but also unique enough to stand on its own. This was never more evident than in a particular scene aboard an plane that left me literally speechless.
However, one of the issues I have with Days of Future Past is that it has a disappointing lack of a true antagonist. Yes, we do get the Sentinels, and they are legitimately terrifying, but they can hardly act as the film’s only villains. This is where Peter Dinklage’s Dr. Bolivar Trask was supposed to come in.
As the inventor of the Sentinels, Trask plays an important role in the overall plot but he’s never fully realized as a villain. The same can be said for Magneto, who is defined as neither a hero nor a villain in both of the timelines he’s present in. Without a clear cut antagonist for our heroes to go up against, the film loses some of its luster in the final climax, as the stakes are left a little too murky.
Still, the movie does so much else right that I find it hard to hold its mistakes against it for too long. Every character is given plenty to do, and it still baffles me that Singer was able to do justice to the characters we all know and love while also introducing newcomers like Blink and Bishop, who only occupy a few scenes yet still make an immediate impression and eat up the glorious action scenes they’re given.
Perhaps the best new addition to the X-Men movie franchise is Evan Peter’s Quicksilver, and even though he was victim to some internet doubt thanks to his slightly goofy costume and TV ads, he literally stole every single scene he was in and I sincerely hope we get to see much more of him in future installments.
Even Wolverine is somehow able to stand out amongst so many new characters, and despite starring in every single X-Men movie so far, the plot still gave him plenty of new material to play around with, and I really don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of seeing Hugh Jackman in the role. My only disappointment was that he got stuck with his bone-claws from Origins for most of the movie, and I really hope they go away soon.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an explosive and exhilarating summer blockbuster that is sure to excite fans everywhere. It’s not perfect, and the dizzying plot and lack of a proper villain hold it back from reaching the heights it could’ve, but there’s so much fun to be had with it that it’s hard to hold its mistakes against it for too long. And the more I think about it, the more I want to go and watch it again.