I would like to begin with a bit of telepathy; I would like to, but since I don’t have that ability, let’s try a little deductive reasoning. I know two things about you: you have internet access, and you are clearly interested in reviews of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Knowing those two things, I can presume that, in the days and weeks leading up to the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, you have heard some variation of the following critical comment: “X-Men: Days of Future Past is the X-Men movie you’ve been waiting for.” That sounds good, right? It’s catchy, and it gets the point across; I can’t agree with it, however. X-Men-Days of Future Past is not the X-Men movie I’ve been waiting for; the X-Men movie I was waiting for was a movie on-par with Bryan Singer’s previous installments in the series: X-Men and X2. What I got in X-Men: Days of Future Past is a movie that surpasses both of those films. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the X-Men movie I didn’t even know I was waiting for.
Beyond whatever else has been going on in his life, one truth has been held self-evident: Bryan Singer can direct an X-Men film. He’s done it three times, now, and each time has been an improvement over the last. Don’t get me wrong; I think Matthew Vaughn did a very good job with X-Men: First Class, but it’s just not on this level. As I alluded to, though, Singer even upped his own game with this one; with Days of Future Past, he has truly captured a comic book on film, even more so than what Joss Whedon was able to do with The Avengers. I know that’s a cliche line to throw into reviews about comic book movies, but I’m being entirely sincere. Of course, the commonality between the two films (The Avengers and Days of Future Past) is that they are primarily about a group of characters who have already been established in previous films, so there is a question as to how coherent the interplay between the plethora of characters may be to someone who has not seen the previous films, but as is also the case with The Avengers, Days of Future Past layers on an entirely standalone plot which can be followed by any viewer and which complements the underlying subplots that have now stretched across several films.
If you’ve reached the point of reading this review, you likely know the general plot of Days of Future Past, but I’ll place it here for posterity, anyway: In the future, the X-Men are fighting a war against the Sentinels, and they are on the verge of losing. Okay, I’m going to stop right there for a moment. The fact that I can type that sentence about a movie, that I just watched, is phenomenal. The Sentinels, guys! On film! Live action film! Anyway, this war with the Sentinels is ongoing… and the Sentinels are awesome, by the way; they’re not as large as I would like, but they are genuinely frightening, as they should be. Anyway, the war is almost over, with The Sentinels winning, so a plan is devised to send Wolverine back in time, Terminator-style, to stop things before they start. That’s not spoilery, since all of that has been plastered all over the internet for months, but I’ll stop there. Basically what follows is a fantastic, globe-trekking thrill ride that manages to avoid shoehorning almost any unnecessary, forced Hollywood tropes into a comic book story. It’s action, it’s suspense, it’s emotional drama, it’s psychological drama; it’s so many things.
I’m a sucker for time travel stories, and I enjoy seeing the different fictional takes on the pseudoscience behind it. It’s very easy to do time travel lazily, however, and it always makes for a waste of time (pun intended) for everyone involved. Days of Future Past deftly weaves its way through several time periods, several settings, and several incarnations of several characters in a way that not only manages to be coherent (which is fucking difficult in itself) but also rewards several tiers of those viewing the film: those for whom Days of Future Past is their first X-Men film, those who have seen all of the X-Men films, and those who have not only seen all the films but are also knowledgeable about the source material; and the way these tiers of rewards are blurred together is so seamless that you won’t even be aware of the information you’re missing, if you’re someone who doesn’t know about the comics.
I won’t go into detail on every character and every actor, but I will say that I was legitimately giddy (yes, giddy) upon seeing the likes of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, and the rest of the returning cast from the first X-Men film trilogy. That giddiness was nothing, however, compared to how much joy I felt seeing Bishop (Omar Sy) on-screen. You don’t even know; I was 10 years old again. Then, of course, there’s James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicolas Hoult returning from X-Men: First Class. They were great; it is particularly interesting to see McAvoy’s performance as a lost Professor Xavier, and I will say that I feel the Magneto shown in this film (that of Michael Fassbender) is, I think, the closest I’ve seen the films get to the Magneto I’ve always seen in comics and on the various animated series over the years. Two final people I’ll mention are someone I can’t possibly not mention: Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. Is it a meaty role? No, but he’s Peter Dinklage, anyway. And Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Much has been made about the look of this character, and I’ve maintained that it would probably look less weird in the context of the film; I was right, and the character looks completely fine and makes total sense, within the context of the film.
The centerpiece of the film is, once again, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Now, I know a lot of people have been suffering from Wolverine fatigue, after all, Jackman has portrayed the character seven times, now. I was right there with you, and I was thinking maybe it was time for Jackman to leave the character be; that was before I saw Days of Future Past. After seeing this, I’m on board for seven more. I mean, I liked James Mangold’s The Wolverine more than most (especially the opening scene), but it didn’t do a hell of a lot to dispel the fatigue. Days of Future Past captures the tortured psyche of an “immortal” better than any of the previous film incarnations of Wolverine; maybe I’m more susceptible to feeling that strongly about it because of my affinity for time travel and my sentimental romanticization of what it means to be a time traveler and/or an “immortal”, but I’ll gladly take that.
All in all, Days of Future Past is the best X-Men film, yet, and although it’s coming hotly on the heels of what could be considered the best comic book film, yet (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), I think there’s an argument to be made that Days of Future Past belongs near the top of that list, too. If you’re someone who is on the fence about seeing Days of Future Past because maybe you’ve seen X-Men: The Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine–or even X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine–and felt underwhelmed and unwilling to give this series another chance, see it. I absolutely guarantee you will not regret seeing this.
Now I just can’t wait for X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016. Oh my god; Apocalypse, guys!