The X-Men series has definitely been hit or miss for me. I feel much more affection for the X-Men characters than any of the other comic book series being produced now. Growing up, X-Men was by far my favourite and one I read religiously. I was so much more invested in these characters and wanted their films to be as good as the books I grew up reading.
Days of Future Past is definitely one of the higher points of the X-Men movie series. Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he helped build after a brief sojourn making an underwhelming Superman film, and it is like he never left. All of the X-Men films helmed by Singer have been top class. Only the ones he wasn’t involved in have been a debacle (I’m looking at you X-Men 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Any comic reader worth their salt knows about Days of Future Past. It is one of the most iconic stories in the X-Men’s history, and was always going to be a challenge to adapt. Thankfully, the creative team behind this film has done an outstanding job, while also being able to continue the stories that begun in the very solid X-Men: First Class. Another positive of this film is, due to the time travel aspects involved, they are able to almost reboot the series. Which means that some of the poorer received instalments no longer happened and we can start giving X-Men the solid stories they deserve.
The story is somewhat complicated. In the near future, mutants are hunted by killer robots known as Sentinels. A small team of X-Men are constantly on the run from these robots, fleeing from place to place at a moment’s notice. Eventually an older Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) find their former students and hatch a plan to reset the future. They plan to use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) time travel powers to send Wolverine back in time to before the Sentinels were created and prevent it from occurring. The only problem is that Wolverine has to get a younger Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together when they could not hate each other more.
The movie is exciting, as expected in any action film. What sets it apart is the performances of McAvoy, Fassbender, and Jackman. By now, Jackman knows Wolverine and how to play him. I’m sure it is like putting on an old suit for him. I may not be the biggest fan of his casting, as he could not be further from the comic book character I loved, but even I can’t deny that he does a good job as Wolverine and is entirely committed to the role. Fassbender and McAvoy are terrific as the old friends turned foes who must come together to help prevent a terrible future that neither even really believes will happen. Jennifer Lawrence also returns as Mystique, who has a much bigger role to play in the film than many would expect. This is mostly to capitalise on the massive popularity of Lawrence following the Hunger Games series. She does a fine job, but does feel somewhat shoehorned in.
The highlight of the film for me is busting Magneto out of prison. There is an awesome slow motion sequence involving Quicksilver (Evan Peters). It is by far the most unique and fresh scene I have seen in a comic book in some time.
Days of Future Past ticks nearly all of the boxes I need in a comic book film. It has great action and enduring characters that you care about. It doesn’t quite match my unrealistically high expectations for the franchise, but I am not sure any movie can. Not unless someone plucks Jim Lee’s early 90s artwork off the page and puts it directly into a movie.
The X-Men movie franchise is one I’ve always really liked. I didn’t grow up reading the comics or watching the 90s cartoon, so the original trilogy released around the early 2000s didn’t bother me as much as it did some of my friends. However, it’s clear that these newer quasi-reboots are so much better than what was done before, and Days of Future Past raises the bar even higher than First Class did.
Of course, I’m predisposed to like Days of Future Past to some extent. It’s a time travel story, with the cool twist of Wolverine’s present consciousness being transported to his 1970s body. This diverges from its comic inspiration (in that story Kitty Pryde is transported back in time), but I like the internal logic this switch creates. It makes sense that Wolverine would be the perfect candidate for this mental journey, even if it is partly an excuse to introduce Hugh Jackman into the X-Men origin stories.
Jackman fits in well with this new group of actors. It would have been so easy for the story to revolve around him at the expense of everyone else, but at times Wolverine is more of a background character. He is our entry into Xavier, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique’s past, but it’s still very much their story.
One of my favorite parts of Days of Future Past is that we’re introduced to a whole host of new mutants (new in the context of the movies, anyway). The most prominent new player is Peter Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver. He’s super fast and super sarcastic. He is also given one of the funniest and most visually stunning sequences in the movie– a slow motion “fight” scene set to Jim Croce’s uber-mellow “Time in a Bottle.” When I first saw this movie I was very skeptical of this scene’s inclusion. It felt like a sub-par rip-off of Guardians of the Galaxy, especially given its atypical-for-a-superhero-movie music choice. But on successive viewings, I concede that it’s a great fit.
Another stunning fight sequence opens the film. New mutants Blink, Sunspot, Warpath, and Bishop fight mutant-targeting robots known as Sentinels, with the help of old favorites Kitty Pryde, Iceman, and Colossus. I love this scene, not only for its awesome visuals and time travel-bent conclusion, but because the characters involved finally display the diversity I’ve always wanted from the X-Men franchise.
For a story that so obviously echos real life social conflicts such as racism and LGBT rights, its casting has been overwhelmingly white and male. The opening scenes of Days of Future Past correct this in many ways. There are women, Asian, Native American, black, and Latino actors comprising this group. The X-Men finally feel as diverse as they would be in real life… and then the rest of the movie revolves primarily around white men. *sigh*
This is my only criticism of what is an amazing addition to the super hero genre, one I hope will be rectified by future installments. Not that Xavier and Magneto are not compelling, complex characters deserving of having their story told (I’ve always been in the “Magneto is just misunderstood” camp), but the world of the X-Men is so much larger than these two.