on May 23, 2014
The X-Men – at least in comparison to other comic book characters, like Batman, Spider-Man, or The Avengers, have never been the most popular heroes on the block. Sure, they’ve enjoyed a great deal of box office success, grossing $2.3 billion with six films, yet not one of those films generated the sort of overwhelming interest you’d expect from comic book movies. If anything, the one major takeaway from the X-Men franchise is the propulsion of Hugh Jackman’s acting career (which now appears to be slowly shying away from the Wolverine character that’s made him so undeniably popular). But, in the aftermath of Marvel’s The Avengers, superhero group movies are becoming all the rage – prompting the biggest group team-up film to date in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
PLEASE BE AWARE THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR PLOT SPOILERS – IT WON’T RUIN THE MOVIE FOR YOU, BUT IT WILL DETAIL THE EVENTS.
Byran Singer returns to the director’s chair to helm the prequel/sequel, Days of Future Past – which features an all-star cast, including Hugh Jackman as the mutant, Wolverine. In a dystopian future dominated by mutant (and human) seeking robots, called Sentinels, the remaining members of the X-Men – including Wolverine, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and a handful of others, reach the conclusion that in order to avert this desolate future, they must send one of their own back in time to make a drastic change to the timeline.
The change in question is the assassination of an industrial scientist, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). In the past, believing she was doing the best of mutant-kind, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killed Trask, but in the process ended up being captured by the government. Her DNA led to the creation of an adaptive and nearly impervious sentinel program that eventually wiped out the majority of both mutants and humans. In order to prevent this assassination of Trask, Kitty Pryde praises Wolverine’s futuristic mind back in time to his younger body in the 1970s.
Once there, Wolverine approaches a youthful, drugged-out and wayward Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), with the hope of convincing him, along with Beast (Nicholas Hoult), to help stop Mystique from carrying out her assassination plot. However, they also require the help of the angry master of magnetism, Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is currently incarcerated for murder. However, breaking Magneto out of prison is a dangerous maneuver that may in fact come back to haunt the X-Men, and inadvertently create a worse future than the one already dominated by the Sentinels.
Days of Future Past is arguably the greatest X-Men comic book storyline ever told (depending who you ask, of course) – so, naturally, the film adaptation comes with a high amount of expectation. Truthfully, it’s difficult to balance the excitement and anticipation leading up to the film with the initial reaction following its viewing. But, it’s fairly easy to say that it’s the best X-Men film in the entire franchise (which is definitely saying something, especially since X2 was such a strong film). A few of the previous X-Men installments (mostly The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) left a bad taste in the mouths of fans (present company included) – and even strong outings from The Wolverine and X-Men: First Class were not enough to quench the thirst for a stronger X-Men movie.
Nevertheless, Days of Future Past is all it should have been and more – combining characters from the original trilogy with the new class. Though the story is time travel oriented, it’s not one of those tales that will leave your head spinning with all of its twists and turns. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg manages to balance a complex storyline with the inclusion of several high-profile Hollywood stars. Director Bryan Singer, who did a tremendous job on the first two X-Men films before leaving the franchise, proves he should be the only individual allowed to direct the franchise (though his current personal issues may make that an issue in the future). He’s able to perfectly blend the old characters with the new characters, and properly allots screen time to the point that you don’t feel as though any of the main players are short-changed.
The Wolverine is still the commanding character that he always been, and it’s indisputable how vital Hugh Jackman is to the franchise. Much like his career, Jennifer Lawrence has, in similar fashion, propelled herself into one of Hollywood’s highly coveted actresses, which worked out perfectly since Mystique is the real main antagonist of the Days of Future Past comic book storyline. Her onscreen chemistry is at its peak anytime she’s involved with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. The dynamic between these two characters is one obviously filled with anger, affection – possibly even an unrequited love. Hopefully future X-Men films will delve deeper into their unique relationship.
James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and Peter Dinklage are just as compelling in their respective roles, but outside of them, the film is filled with little more than overextended cameos from Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and a variety of other familiar faces. And, I won’t lie – I was happy to see the roles of Halle Berry and Anna Paquin reduced to next to nothing. Honestly, their severely diminished screen time allowed for a newcomer, like Evan Peters (as Quicksilver), to steal the show – using his character’s quippy one-lines, eye-popping super power, and fresh plot involvement to create a new fan favorite. Comic fans know he’s the son of Magneto – so Quicksilver’s remark to Magneto about his mother knowing a guy that could control metal is a fanboy’s easter egg delight. His involvement in future X-Men films is a must!
Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past is arguably as good as Marvel’s The Avengers – meaning it’s in the conversation for the best comic book film to date. From start to finish, this prequel/sequel never falters or loses its direction – keeping its focus on the goal at hand instead of losing itself to character domination. The storyline deviated slightly from the comic book story, using different characters in modified roles – yet the concept remains the same (though Wolverine's classic comic book death scene is greatly missed in this film form). The stars are aplenty, the action is effective, and this is simply a flat-out awesome summer blockbuster. Best of all, the end result gives the X-Men franchise the “Star Trek” alternative timeline treatment, meaning the possibilities for future stories is limitless – and without restriction. In essence, the future of the X-Men franchise has never looked so bright.
P.S. – Don’t miss out on the scene after the credits, which introduces the villain of the next film, Apocalypse. The sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, hits theaters in May 2016.