I was lucky enough to slip away and catch X-Men Days of Future Past the other day.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Rated PG-13
“The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.”
Finally! I was beginning to give up hope for the summer season. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t, Godzilla was barely in his own movie, and Neighbors was just plain boring. X-Men Days of Future Past is a wonderful start to the summer.
Bryan Singer returns to direct this, having left after the first two installments (i.e. the good ones). I would rate this one as between the first and second one in quality, with X-Men 2 being the adamantium standard for the franchise.
Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was exactly what you don’t want. As with Spider-Man 3, the powers that be decided that more was better (and I don’t mean more quality). Sure, comic book fans got their first looks at The Beast, Angel, Juggernaut, and Ratner’s version of the Dark Phoenix saga but it was all amped up to 11. They threw in more characters, more battles, more explosions and somewhere along the way story, character development, dialogue, and sense flew out the window.
X-Men: The Last Stand was at least better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) which was basically The Last Stand with a single X-Man and a quarter of the budget. The Wolverine (2013) overcorrected by making it all about the story and turned the Frank Miller comic into a snoozefest. The best scene in The Wolverine is the post-credits sequence alluding to Days of Future Past.
Matthew Vaughn, a writer on Days of Future Past, was handed the directorial reigns for X-Men: First Class (2011), an interesting reboot of the franchise. The story is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, necessitating younger versions of the X-Men. I am sure this allowed them to save enormously as instead of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, etc., we got a talented cast of newcomers.
Michael Fassbender is amazing as younger Magneto. James McAvoy is quite good as young Professor X, in spite of the magnetic Fassbender. A pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence is also excellently cast as Mystique. First Class has a few problems but is overall quite solid.
Days of Future Past is wonderful though not without its flaws. It assumes that you have at least seen X-Men 1, 2, and First Class. If you have not, you’ll have some catching up to do. Even with that knowledge, there are a large number of new mutants whose stories we are not given. We just see them in action periodically.
The movie belongs to Magneto, Wolverine, Professor X, and Mystique and the story keeps the focus squarely on them. Other mutants are in various supporting roles, with good roles for Beast, Kitty Pryde, and several surprises along the way.
While there are plenty of action sequences in the film, Singer underplays them. The focus is always kept on the story and the action sequences often develop the storyline. I did not find any of the fights to be showstoppers but all are good.
The reason Days of Future Past is so good is the overall story and the interactions between the main characters. Many of the post-modern mutants are not developed at all, just shown in combat. Many of the surviving First Class are not present here at all. Yet the story is full and rich and once again we are treated to multiple characters who see the same problems but have vastly different approaches to resolving them.
The acting is exactly what you would expect from accomplished veterans Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, and relative newcomers Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, and James McAvoy.
There is a single post-credit scene at the very end of the credits. It apparently sets up the next movie without featuring any of the known characters. In my opinion, it isn’t worth staying through the credits. Still this is far better than Amazing Spider-Man 2’s coda which was a scene from this movie.