Published on May 27th, 2014 | by Dan Gvozden0
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – REVIEW
In the 11 years since Bryan Singer directed X2: X-Men United the X-Men series of films has changed quite dramatically. The primary cast of X-Men, established in the first film, saw their cinematic reputation tarnished by Brett Ratner’s deplorable X-Men: The Last Stand, sullying both critical and audience receptions to the characters. In the meantime, Bryan Singer’s reputation as a top-tier director has been thrown into question, after the dismal results of Superman Returns and Jack the Giant Slayer. Now, a sex-abuse suit has landed at his feet and the entire film community is watching and waiting on the results.
It seemed that both Bryan Singer and the wonderful world he created in the first two X-Men films were never to return to their former glory and would never answer the promise hinted at when X2: X-Men United’s credits first began to roll. Certainly, the X-Men series had begun healing itself, with successes like The Wolverine and X-Men: First Class, but would it ever be the series, helmed by Bryan Singer, that it deserved to be?
These thoughts of the past must have plagued the minds of the producers at 20th Century Fox as they scoured over stories to tell in their ongoing series. It seems like no mistake that they stumbled upon the fantastic “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The time travel story must have appeared as a perfect opportunity to tie both of their X-Men series together, heal old wounds, and lure in Bryan Singer, a director to whom time travel would sound most appealing.
In this version of the classic story, humankind finds itself slaves in a dystopian future after the initiation of the unruly Sentinel Program, a creation of the late Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) who sought to eradicate all mutants. A band of mutants led by a Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) is operating in secrecy but they know their time is limited. So they opt to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 (it’s comics!), into his old body, to change the one event in their past that activated the Sentinel Program: when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated Bolivar Trask. To do so, Wolverine will have to do the most unlikely of things, restore Charles Xavier’s belief in himself, break Magneto out of a prison under the Pentagon, and reunite them to stop Mystique, a romantic interest for both men.
X-Men: Days of Future Past asks for a lot of buy-in from its audience: mutants get new powers, characters are brought back from the dead with no explanation, and Wolverine has adamantium claws again. After an astonishing action sequence that showcases the X-Men in a way that fans could only have ever dreamed of, the film gets bogged down in an enormous exposition scene that serves to lie out the complicated machinations of this story’s plot. It is a lot to ask of an audience and X-Men: Days of Future Past just barely manages to escape the set-up.
However, the rest of the film more than makes it worth the prologue and showcases Bryan Singer as the top tier director that he used to and remains to be. The film successfully unites the X-Men: First Class storyline with the original X-Men series in a really satisfying way that feels organic and dramatic. The even more amazing thing about the script is the way that it quickly erases the existence of all the mistakes that the series has made up to this point and establishes a timeline wherein the best elements of the X-Men movie adaptation survive. To those just watching the film blindly the work will feel invisible but to those who have followed the series closely over the years, aching for a return to basics, X-Men: Days of Future Past will feel like the cure to cancer.
The film is hugely entertaining and satisfying because of how it is able to balance its opposing forces. The film showcases some of the best action the series as seen to date but also features some of some the best attention to characters and their motivations. The film feels like modern, gritty superhero films but also like a retro piece, bright and fun. This is particularly demonstrated in a wonderful heist sequence involving a mutant that can run lightning fast and what it would be like to see the world from his vantage point. It also features a world-ending threat that is determined by a simple moment that feels decidedly not cataclysmic. This makes the film feel heavy with stakes and tension but also personal and focused. The film doesn’t conclude with a battle between two super-teams but between two conflicting ideologies and one character’s interpretation of them.
X-Men: Days of Future Past competes with X2: X-Men United for the top-spot in the X-Men movie franchise and restores Bryan Singer’s prestige in the world of cinema. In a film this tonally and visually variable, with a huge assortment of characters (young and old), and a storyline that is meant to connect two franchises while moving the whole series forward a lot could go terribly wrong. When Professor Charles Xavier opines, “Is the future truly set?” he could be lamenting the path the X-Men movies were headed. Fortunately for audiences and fans of the X-Men universe alike, the answer is no. The future can always change with the right talent.
X-Men: Days of Future Past does the unthinkable, it undoes all the errors in the X-Men franchise while pushing the series forward in an incredibly entertaining way.