X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a reminder that with the right passion and in the right hands a comic book movie can still be thrilling and wonderful. This film is an all-out spectacle with visual panache and competent storytelling. It manages to weave in elements from the four previous X-Men films without being overbearing, hokey, or cluttered all while telling a unique story that makes sense within the context of the universe. It is a glorious return to the characters for Bryan Singer and fans of superhero movies should embrace this reunion with open arms.

The story is set in the future where mutants and humanity have both been ravaged in a war with robots known as sentinels. In a desperate last ditch effort, a group of mutants including Professor X, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Wolverine, and Magneto attempt to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time so that they can prevent the sentinels from ever being built. This allows Wolverine to seek out the younger versions of characters as they were portrayed in X-Men: First Class. To say much more would be spoiling some of the fun so I will let it be.

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There will undoubtedly be backlash over some aspect of the time-travel plot. There always is. For me, in a universe where people can control metal and turn into blue hairy beasts I was able to let the time travel elements fly through with no objection. Suspension of disbelief is required for just about everything involved in an X-Men movie so I don’t understand why time-travel logistics would be a point of dissent. Bryan Singer handled the time travel as well as can be expected and it never seemed to defy its own internal logic so I never had a problem with it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to bring back nearly every actor to appear in an X-Men film, but the focus is clearly on five main characters and an antagonist. Wolverine, played for the 642nd time by Hugh Jackman. Professor X, mainly the James McAvoy version. Magneto, again the younger version played by Michael Fassbender. Mystique, played by America’s darling Jennifer Lawrence. The young Beast as portrayed by Nicholas Hoult. Finally we get to the antagonist- Bolivar Trask, played by Peter Dinklage. Trask sees mutants as a threat to humanity and develops the sentinels as a protective measure. Part of the brilliance of this film is that there is no mustache-twirling evil plot. Everyone is at odds with everyone else, but solely due to their beliefs. Everyone acts in accordance with their character. It is a masterful juggling act by Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg to keep everyone involved in meaningful and realistic ways without resorting to contrivance and convenience.

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Especially against the backdrop of the recent deluge of lackluster comic book movies X-Men Days of Future Past stands as a vibrant epic as well as an effective emotional drama. Man of Steel managed to deliver some minor thrills during its superhero moments, but fell flat on its face during character moments. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a wonderful love story that was routinely sidetracked by uninspired superhero moments. This new X-Men film marries both beautifully. We are invested in the drama of the characters which makes the superhero action bonanza scenes more thrilling. It is invigorating to get a comic book movie that lets the drama play out in ways that make sense to the characters and not just as an excuse to show things blowing up.

I have an up and down relationship with the X-Men movies. I was lukewarm on the first film, but X2 is wonderful. X3 had moments that were ok but otherwise it was a pretty mediocre film. Wolverine: Origins may be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen and the sequel didn’t fare a whole lot better with me. I did, however, quite enjoy X-Men: First Class, but it seemed like an offshoot more than an official entry in the series. I had major concerns heading into Days of Future Past seeing that I only really enjoyed 2 of the 6 films. The fact that it rivals X2 as the best in the series speaks volumes about how well made this film is.

I will finish this off with one criticism and one praise. The only true flaw I felt throughout the movie is that every character speaks either in speeches or exposition. There is very little banter or small talk. Every line is laced with meaning. It is a credit to the script and the actors that the lines don’t come off as forced. My praise is for every moment that Quicksilver is on screen. Quicksilver is a minor character in terms of the plot, but he has one magnificent scene that is breathtaking, original, funny, and majestic. Quicksilver’s one scene is worth the ticket price alone and is very reminiscent of the Nightcrawler opening scene from X2. I truly hope the future X-Men films find a way to utilize more of Quicksilver.
Just at a point when I was starting to tire of the endless superhero cacophony here comes Bryan Singer’s X-Men. It is a fun film with something to say and I hope that other studios take notice so that maybe we can get a bit more films like this and a bit less like Man of Steel. Grade: A-

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