Year of Release: 2014 Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen.
As a sequel not only to 2011’s X-Men: First Class, but the first three X-men films as well, Days of Future Past had many acts to follow, some notably better than others. This film had to serve not only as a grand finale to the first series, but also lay the groundwork for future films in the current series. I do not envy the scriptwriters who had to put together a coherent story that connected several films which were originally not intended to be connected.
The way that the filmmakers achieved a follow-up to four (or six) previous X-Men films from different timelines is fairly ingenious. When a war with mutant killing machines, the Sentinels, has nearly eradicated the mutants and any humans who might one day give birth to a mutant, Professor X and Magneto, (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) having reconciled their differences, have Shadowcat (Ellen Page) send Logan (Hugh Jackman) back in time to find their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage), during which she would be captured and her DNA used to implement Trask’s design for mutant killing Sentinels.
Sending Logan back in time consists of Shadowcat projecting Logan’s current consciousness onto his 1973 self, where armed with the foreknowledge of the future, he can persuade the other X-Men to change their actions, thus altering history and causing the Sentinels never to come into existence. While he is at it, Logan’s rewriting of history will also cause X-Men 3, which everyone hated, never to have happened.
In addition to undoing the storyline of X-Men 3, Days of Future Past somewhat feels like an apology for that film. Bryan Singer, who left the franchise after X-Men 2, returns to direct, and he is at the top of his game. He stages the action scenes with a sense of fun, never obscuring the action with chaotic editing, and for the most part keeps the action on a reasonable sized scale. The louder, noisier, ever increasingly violent excess of last summer’s Man of Steel is not on display here. There are a couple very large set pieces, but those seem believable within the world of the film, and they occur at logical climaxes. It does seem that some mutants, notably Quicksilver (Evan Peters), are powerful enough to solve almost any problem, which raises the question as to why they don’t use their powers towards the film’s end, but that is an oversight which is fairly easy to forgive amidst the enjoyable display of mutant powers that we do see.
Days of Future Past brings together what is probably the largest cast of superheroes in any recent film, and all of them manage to be memorable, even if in a few cases that is due more to special effects than character development. However, the central figures: Wolverine, Professor X, Beast, Magneto, and Mystique all well written, they have very good chemistry with one another, and the actors turn in convincing performances. For that matter, the entire cast gives it their all, and they are a joy to watch. Quicksilver’s major action set piece is hilarious, and it makes very clever use of slow motion, something I have not seen in an action film in a long time.
Being a time travel film, there are naturally some discontinuities. The generic script has to mildly contradict previous films at some points, and the ending raises more questions than it answers, even if it does permit one mutant to reappear in sequels he might not otherwise have been in. Despite the minor flaws, X-Men Days of Future Past is an exciting, intelligent superhero sequel during a time of uninspired, by the numbers superhero films that left me looking forward to the next outing with these characters.
Content Advisory: Fleeting rear nudity, quasi-nudity throughout, a mildly suggestive scenario, much action violence, some crass language and one strong vulgarity. MPAA rating: PG-13
Suggested Audience: Teens and up
Personal Recommendation: B