Thanks to the incredible framework established by Bryan Singer in 2000 with X-Men, and the successful prequel directed by Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past works exceedingly as a thrilling, superior sequel within the expansive roller coaster of the X-Men cinematic universe. Successfully cleansing the palette of past franchise mistakes, Singer successfully unifies two timelines to create one of the most compelling superhero films of all time.
In the year 2023, ten years after The Wolverine, the world is in complete disorder. Giant mutant hunting robots known as Sentinels rule the Earth, placing those with the X-gene in internment camps or exterminating those who defy them. Mutantkind is more or less wiped out except for a small pocket of resistance who have been kept alive thanks to Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) ability to teleport the consciousness of mutants back in time to deliver warnings before Sentinel attacks.
Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Storm (Halle Berry) rendezvous with Kitty and the other mutants in hopes they can travel back to 1973 to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), the inventor of the Sentinels. In the wake of his death, a flurry of mutant oppression snowballs into the menacing, T-1000-esque mutant-power adapting Sentinels of the future.
Because of the physical strain on the mind – Kitty is only able to send back mutants a few days at most – it is determined that Wolverine is the only one capable of going back in time 50 years thanks to his healing factor. In order to find and stop the shapeshifting Mystique, Wolverine will have to unite a distraught Xavier (James McAvoy) and an imprisoned Magneto (Michael Fassbender); both of whom have not been on good terms since the Cuban missile crisis from First Class.
Loosely based on the X-Men comic’s two issue story arc published in 1981, Days of Future Past takes creative liberties to freely work in the confines of the X-Men cinematic universe that has been developed over the past 13 years. Since Kitty did not exist in the First Class movie universe, and it is she who travels back in time in the comics and here it is Wolverine in the movie, DOFP relays the same plot points and themes eloquently.
When dealing with time travel, integrating the history of six previous films can become messy; especially when four other directors – Brett Ratner, Gavin Hood, Matthew Vaughn, and James Mangold – have helped to try and raise your baby. However, DOFP skillfully incorporates the best and worst of what has been established to present a coherent narrative for this particular story. Purists may be upset that Singer and the writing team of Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn haven’t followed the franchise to a tee, but the end result makes such an impact that the handful of inconsistencies are easily forgivable.
As much of this is Wolverine’s journey to save the classic X-Men – who really grows as character after everything he has learned – much of the weight of the story is placed on Mystique as she’s caught in a
love triangle of ideology between Magneto and Professor X. The emotional ties between the three were fabricated very well in First Class, and the time between then and now is told through tense scenes of exposition, making Mystique’s decision to kill Trask all the more difficult, but narratively enriching.
Jackman, McAvoy, Lawrence, and Fassbender command your attention through their acting prowess, expanding these preexisting characters to great heights. But one of the biggest surprises of DOFP is newcomer Quicksilver (Evan Peters), many of whom, including myself, felt would be a strain on the already bloated cast of mutants. Peter’s quirk and embodiment of the Quicksilver is refreshing in a film loaded with intense and dark subject matter – there are shocking deaths that are beyond anything we’ve seen in superhero movies before. In fact, Quicksilver’s presence is the charm and wow factor that makes up one of the many reasons why Bryan Singer’s X-Men so enjoyable.
Not only does Quicksilver’s one action sequence eradicate all doubts about the character and shush even the harshest of haters, all of action scenes are a sight to behold. The opening fight scene with Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Sunspot (Adan Canto) against a pack of future Sentinels is so groundbreaking that it sets the bar even higher for the superhero genre.
The direction and fight choreography is so fluid, jaw-dropping, and remarkably visual that it’s hard to believe the same man directed Superman Returns and Jack the Giant Slayer. And the fact that Singer can introduce new mutants without any verbal explanation of who they are, where they come from, or how their powers work is astounding. No hands are held, it’s all show and no tell. We know these are mutants, they have powers, and each and every one of them gets their moment to shine to help understand their place in the action. Blink, especially, is the standout mutant whose portal powers are exciting and fun to watch.
Despite all of the wonderful moments of pure joy and exquisitely constructed tension, DOFP comes with its fair share of head scratching moments. There are many questions that are never answered in terms of franchise continuity. How did Xavier get his body back after X-Men: The Last Stand? How did Wolverine gain his adamantium claws again after The Wolverine? Where did Kitty’s sudden ability of time travel come from?
DOFP doesn’t spend its time to go into these finer details and would rather thrust you right into the thick of it. Singer does not treat his audience as idiots. This will surely irritate some who place Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe up on a pedestal. But if you can get past these little conveniences, and accept their purpose to serve the story, it will be a more pleasurable experience because of how concise and well paced everything is.
The main concerns I have with DOFP is the motivation behind Trask’s rationale against mutants and young Magneto’s game plan. Although Dinklage does an excellent job at portraying Trask, other than his belief that mutants will wipe out humankind, there is no clear reason as to why he thinks this to be true. There is no evidence supporting his claims. And then Magneto’s brash decision to escalate the violence in the final third of the movie and bring the fight to the White House during the Sentinel presentation is both poorly thought out and irrational.
Since Singer’s departure from the franchise after X2: X-Men United, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a glorious homecoming to the man who practically built the foundation for modern superhero movies. If X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine left a bad taste in your mouth, Days of Future Past is a giant middle finger to those weaker entries. Pushing two separate X-men timelines a thousand steps forward and not looking back, fans of the X-Men films can breathe a huge sigh of relief due to Singer’s brilliant vision and storytelling abilities.
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X-Men: Days of Future Past was directed by Bryan Singer with a run time of 131 minutes. This film has been rated PG-13 For strong crude and sexual content, language throughout, some violence and drug material