Film Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The X-Men movie franchise is entering its fourteenth year. Time flies, doesn’t it? We’ve now had six films showcasing the troubles of our favorite mutants existing in a world that fears them. Some have been well done, such as X2 (2003). Others – like X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – not so much. With increasingly mediocre sequels, the series was at risk of over-saturation, and some may argue that has already happened. But X-Men: First Class (2011) and The Wolverine (2013) seemed to have turned things around. That much needed shot of life appears to have come in this seventh installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Bryan Singer – the original director who kicked off the franchise – returns to the helm here. Along with screenwriter Simon Kinberg, Singer has attempted to right many of the wrongs that came about with the other sequels. Essentially, this film has us hitting the reset button and starting off fresh. I’m not exactly sure how this fits with the rest of the entries in terms of continuity, but it’s clear they are trying to wipe the slate clean of prior mistakes.
The plot is an adaptation of the “Days of Future Past” story arc, one of the most well known in the X-Men comic book universe. Here, we have some of the original cast members – Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Halle Berry as Storm, and of course Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine – fighting a losing war in the not so distant future. Powerful machines known as “Sentinels” have been programmed to kill mutants with extreme prejudice. All seems lost for our heroes, except for one last opportunity. Using the powers of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Logan is tasked with a dangerous mission: to have his consciousness transported back into his younger body in the 1970s, when the Sentinels were first introduced by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), and stop the events leading to their development.
Whew, that’s a lot to take in. But fortunately, the writing and directing keeps things simple, not convoluted as time travel stories so often do. This premise allows the newer cast from X-Men: First Class to join in on the fun. Once Logan is sent to the past, he must recruit the likes of young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help him. But things are not very peachy during this time. Xavier is still reeling from the events of the prior film, and Magneto is imprisoned inside (of all places) the Pentagon. All the while, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is hell bent on a personal crusade that could ultimately affect the histories of everyone involved. Problems are never easily solved here, are they?
This is a very ambitious story, incorporating many different faces across two different timelines. Singer and Kinberg do what they can to balance everything out, but the sheer size leaves many factors on the wayside. There are a number of new characters, but the main players are relegated to Wolverine, and the 70s versions of Xavier, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique. The script is so plot heavy that most of the dialogue is used for exposition. Logan, who has been the face of the franchise since the beginning, drops back as a point of view character. New mutants, such as Blink (Bingbing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Bishop (Omar Sy) show incredible powers, but nothing beyond that. Evan Peters, who plays the fast moving Quicksilver, absolutely steals all the scenes he’s in. His one big action set piece will leave audiences wishing he played a bigger role.
The best thing here is the development of young Charles Xavier. James McAvoy does a superb job capturing this broken man. All the promise he once had was stripped away, leaving him in a state of hopelessness. This is the person who was to bring the X-Men together, and serve as a bridge between mutants and the rest of society. Instead, he’s become a hermit, locked away in his mansion and filled with self-loathing. McAvoy plays him with tangible doubt and fear, aware of the stakes but unsure of his ability to push through his own barriers. I hope the filmmakers continue to utilize this actor in future sequels; he’s become a highlight of the whole franchise.
Singer directs the action with deft consideration to choreography and space. He often uses extreme slow motion (even still shots) to amplify a particular moment. The Sentinels (both past and future) have a sleek design. They don’t really look too menacing, but once they start hunting, their efficiency is well displayed. And Kinberg’s script moves the story along at a brisk pace, knowing when to inject a good one liner or when to take things deadly serious.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is not a perfect film, but it’s a pretty good one. It acts as a jumpstart to a series that needed fresh legs to stand on. This comes as perfect timing. As the post credit sequence hints, things are only about to get bigger from here on out.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsjtg7m1MMM&w=560&h=315]