I wasn’t very impressed with Bryan Singer’s last CGI-heavy flop ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’ and when it was announced that he’d return to the X-men franchise to direct Days of Future Past I nearly threw my copy of First Class under a bus. I would have much preferred if Matthew Vaughn (director of Kick Ass, Stardust and of course X-men: First Class) had taken the gig. Thankfully he was still involved in the writing process for the film and it shows. It’s no secret that the franchise has been pretty underwhelming in the past, but what X-Men: Days of Future Past seeks to do is put things back on track, which is rather fitting because that is exactly what the story entails. Wolverine is not only sent back in time to guide the Xmen from the past, but also to connect the future of the franchise to it’s successful First Class reboot.
Based on the Chris Claremont /John Byrne Uncanny X-Men comic of the same name, we kick things off in a dark dystopian future where mutants are dying like characters in a George R. R. Martin novel at the hands of the Sentinels. These deadly mutant killers are the creation of a paranoid scientist called Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). The mutant population’s only hope for survival is to send Wolverine back in time to the 70′s so that he can put a stop to the Sentinel program, thus ending the mutant genocide before it even begins. In order to succeed in his mission he has to convince a now bitter, drugged up and powerless younger version of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) that moping about his mansion isn’t a very constructive use of his time. On top of that, he also has to locate the now-estranged Mystique, at a time in her life when she is on the verge of becoming the deadly villain we’ve seen in the first 3 X-men films. In order to stop her from taking this dark path they’re going to need help from Xavier’s oldest friend. The problem with that is: (A) Charles is still pretty pissed about getting his legs ‘Fassbent’ and (B) the younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is now locked in a high security prison located deep within the Pentagon.
If you’ve watched any of the X-men movies and enjoyed them, you’ll be fine.
The Bottom Line
As is the case with most of these properties, this film doesn’t follow the comic book story-line upon which it’s based to the tee. The writers have instead used the time travel element in such a way as to try and fix the mistakes that were made in the previous X-men films. The choreography, stunts and action are executed very well and with the inclusion of some new mutants we get to see some very impressive powers put to good use throughout the course of the movie.
Blink’s (Fan Bing Bing) teleportation abilities and Sunspot’s (Adam Canto) fiery destruction are expertly portrayed on screen and audiences will be blown away by their heroics. Colossus is also one of the film’s highlights and is utilized much better in this film than in previous installments. Wolverine does what he can without his adamantium claws for the most part of the film, but the real breakout star here is Quicksilver. This speedy mutant will be familiar to X-men aficionados and his debut on screen in the Pentagon escape is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Thankfully, Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is now more in line with Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique from the original trilogy and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) has also done a great job here. Unfortunately they’re both let down by some obvious CGI during their transformation scenes, which leave quite a bit to be desired. The (not-so) big, blue Beast still looks like something that’s been washed up on shore in a bad episode of Baywatch Nights.
The film moves along at quite a fast pace and manages to give most of it’s returning cast members their time to shine on screen. The new cast members however are the more interesting additions to the film, so it’s a pity that we don’t get more time with them. We aren’t given much in the way of Bishop here, which is a shame because he is much more interesting in the comics and the minute Quicksilver has left the picture you’ll be left wanting more of the fast-talking speedster. In the comics it is in fact Kitty Pride who takes a leap into the past to set things right, but Fox would never let that fly because Wolverine is their money-maker, which is why they’ve made him the focus here once again. Jackman is to Fox what Robert Downey Jr. is to Marvel Studios, but his performance is so good here that I’ve decided to forgive him for those stand-alone Wolverine movies.
In the X-men TV series, there is a haunting scene involving a sleeping Jubilee being snatched from her bed by the gigantic hand of a Sentinel that comes crashing through the roof of her home. That has always been the epitome of what a Sentinel was to me and sadly, they’ve gone in a very different direction here. These Sentinels from the past are not that big and quite frankly, not that impressive. The future Sentinels on the other hand are very deadly and also quite scary. As far as superhero movies go, Days of Future Past is more mature in tone and subject matter than The Amazing Spiderman 2 and it is also a better picture. My biggest gripe with the film is also a general gripe with the blockbusters of late. Their need to constantly bombard us in the last hour with every trick in the CGI book is growing tiresome. Bigger is not always better, but I suppose this is how film makers are trying to draw a crowd nowadays. Were it not for the menacing presence of Fassbender’s Magneto, this finale would have been a flop. I would have liked to have seen more of the older Professor X and Magneto from the future, but I guess when you’re on such an urgent mission their isn’t really much time to stop for a nice cup of tea and a chat.
As the saying goes – “You can’t please all the people all the time” and with such a huge fan base it was never going to be easy to bring these stories to the screen. As a standalone film that ties First Class to Singer’s version of the X-men, this film works quite well, which is fine because that’s exactly what they’ve set out to do. As far as repeat viewings go, I wouldn’t mind sitting through this film again and my final judgement is that it is a worthy follow-up to it’s rebooted predecessor.