The X-Men movies have a troubled past. Three out of the six previous films have been critically ripped apart. Yet in spite of their dubious quality, each of the X-Films have done extremely well commercially. Basically, no matter how bad we might say the franchise has gotten, there’s still a desire to see each one. I know I still watch these movies hoping they’ll nail it someday.
But where does that leave the seventh film in the X-Men series, Days of Future Past? After rebooting the franchise, rebooting Wolverine’s origins, changing directors multiple times (and will sadly have to do that once again thanks to recent unfortunate events), and creating a continuity so convoluted no one knows what’s going on anymore, Days of Future Past has quite the mountain to climb.
Luckily for both fans of the X-Men and fans of comic book movies in general, Days of Future Past says “F**k all that” and delivers the best X-Men film to date.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Days of Future Past takes place several years after the events of The Wolverine (or if it makes it easier, after the events of X3: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class) as the mutant population has dwindled down to a few thanks to an army of machines called the Sentinels. Pushed to the brink, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) decide to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time to the 70s (shortly after the events of X-Men: First Class) in order to connect with their past selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively) and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from setting the war torn future in place.
This is the most comic book-y, comic book film to date. As such it’s a treat to fans who’ve stuck with the series’ long run of films. Unfortunately if you haven’t seen First Class, and may be jumping in because of the original trilogy’s actors returning (or if this is somehow the first X-Men film you’ll ever see), then you’re going to be completely lost. Although the film is the most successful use of the “reboot” term in Hollywood (as it essentially hits a giant reset button), it heavily relies on your knowledge of past information. I couldn’t help but notice that the person next to me at my screening had to explain who every character was to his significant other. I know that won’t be the case for everyone, but this film moves fast, and there’s no time left for catch up.
But as mentioned, DOFP is a celebration of the X-Men films’ long run. Every character is present (or mentioned) as it sets a new timeline for the films. There are lots of names thrown out there (names fans will recognize for sure), yet somehow each character gets time to shine. Director Bryan Singer takes his knowledge of the franchise (X-Men, X2) and makes the most out of what little screen time each character gets. In fact, even the new additions (notably Blink, Quicksilver, and Warpath, with Quicksilver being the true standout) don’t feel like an afterthought like some mutants have felt in the past films. And the action scenes present also utilize the most out of each mutant’s abilities (which hasn’t really happened since X2). I was initially concerned when I learned DOFP would have over 30 characters in total, but this juggling act is in fine form.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how goofy everything would seem if all of these crazy ideas weren’t anchored by great performances. Expanding on their chemistry from First Class, McAvoy and Fassbender tune in to their characters more than ever. There’s a welcome darkness to them as off-screen events have driven them further apart. While not much is said about what happens to them between the events of the previous film and the sequel, filling in the blanks is easier to do when there’s such a strong emotional current. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t stay in the past forever and the shifts to the future highlight some of the weaker aspects of the series, but luckily the brunt of the film is spent with the right people. The future is there mainly for kickass action scenes.
However, my main problem with the film lies within its logic. Lots of moments happen that we’re just supposed to accept. It’s where the comic book logic kicks in (remember, it’s the most comic book-y film) and we’re supposed to accept that people suddenly have powers they didn’t have before, that certain drugs work certain ways, that Wolverine won’t call Storm by her real name even if he does that for everyone else. But as I find myself typing this, I realize that most of my problems are trivial. Watching the film (other than noticing a few scenes could be trimmed down for brevity) I really didn’t have these issues. I was able to say “Sure alright” quite a bit. but then again, I’ve stuck through all seven of these.
You’ll have a great time with Days of Future Past if you’re able to just go with the flow of the film and not really think about what you’re seeing — so it’s sort of like the best and earliest films in the series. A fun romp with goofy elements throughout that ultimately succeeds because you’re having so much fun watching things unravel (double that fun if you can catch all of the comic book and continuity references). You’ll just have to do your homework first.
Matthew Razak: The real strength in X-Men: Days of Future Past is not its action or its time traveling paradoxes, but the fact that it hones in on the characters and doesn’t let go. While replete with cameos and small parts for almost every X-Man who has ever been on screen this film is really about Professor Xavier, Mystique and Magneto with Wolverine acting as a guide. By focusing on the issues and people of X-Men and not on the power the movie succeeds, especailly thanks to its fine cast. Definitely the best of the X-Men films while being both thought provoking and entertaining. 87 — Exceptional