Director: Bryan Singer (Valkyrie, Superman Returns, X-Men, X-Men 2: X-Men United)
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 131 min.
One would think that after successfully re-launching the X-Men with a new A-list cast a couple of years ago, the studio would stick to that cast but as is common with comic books, it seems that creators are always jumping around timelines, characters and stories, it’s only appropriate that a sequel that brings director Bryan Singer back into the fold would not only involve time travel but also include nearly every member, past and present, of the X-Men movie franchise. Looking on the surface, you’d think this is the movie to end the entire franchise rather than a next step.
X-Men: Days of Future Past opens somewhere in the 2020’s in a future that is dark, ugly, foreboding and just generally unpleasant. Kitty Pryde and her team of mutants are fighting apparently unstoppable robots who are able to adapt to the mutants they are fighting. Most of the mutants die. Except they don’t because jump forward a while and Pryde is now meeting up with Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine and Storm to explain her time-travel tactic. Everyone on screen seems to follow the explanation (though I still don’t really get it) and a plan is hatched to send Wolverine back to the 70s to change the past which will also change the future – they hope – for the better.
It’s a lot to take in and though that opening fight sequence is totally badass, it’s a rather awkward way to set-up the fact that Pryde has developed this neat time travel trick that could be the answer to saving not only the mutants but humanity as a whole. Thankfully after this little hiccup, Days of Future Past moves on at a stealthy rate, balancing two stories without letting either of them overrun the other but the central story is definitely the past and the movie is far more concerned with the events developing in the 70s than with the impending doom of the future.
As someone whose X-Men education is limited to Joss Whedon’s run on “Astonishing X-Men”, a handful of additional comics (namely the two Chris Claremont issues from which this story is based) and the movies (there’s also a vague memory about a Saturday morning cartoon…), I always liked that the mutants were a visual representation of the outsiders; the kids and adults that didn’t really fit in anywhere finding a place where they belong. It’s a great message and one of the reasons I have such a soft spot for the franchise but even more than in previous instalments, Days of Future Past feels like a story of “us” against “them” fatality; a warning that being different isn’t the only thing to be frightened of and that humanity’s need to be in control will ultimately lead to our destruction.
In the mix of this end of world story are the personal tales of individuals dealing with their own struggles namely Erik and his well meaning but misguided attempts to save mutant kind, Charles and his inability to deal with loss and Raven and her struggle to forge her own path. The central character’s stories, particularly that of Charles, are well developed and there’s a real sense that despite the fact they’re fighting to save the world, first they have to fight through their own insecurities and troubles.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine (let’s be honest, regardless of how many versions of the other X-Men there are, there can only ever be one Wolverine at a time or the universe will implode) is a really great addition to the powerhouse duo of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (there’s almost more to oogle at in this movie than in Magic Mike) and despite all the doom and gloom and the downer personal struggle stories, there are moments of joy peppered throughout Days of Future Past. Some of it is situational (the 70s are a constant source of material though Wolverine in the 70s is even better than current day Wolverine) but the best moments, and the only sequence that garnered applause and woots from the otherwise silently enraptured crowd, come with Quicksilver in tow; I wish there was more of him but it’s clear why they didn’t use him in a movie that is already well stocked with interesting characters. One of the things I love about this instalment is that there isn’t a lot of unnecessary baggage and characters that are there “just because they’re cool.”
There’s a lot to love here and though the time travel aspects are rickety, the good of X-Men: Days of Future Past far outweighs any quips, all of which are minor. As far as I’m concerned, Bryan Singer can (and should) keep making X-Men movies until the end of time.
X-Men: Days of Future Past opens Friday, May 23rd.
PS. I’m sure this isn’t your first rodeo but just in case, stay through the credits for your X-Men Apocalypse stinger.