If there’s one superhero franchise I’m a sucker for, it’s the X-Men. Yeah I know I said last week I was looking more forward to Godzilla, but trust me, X-Men are a close second. If I’m being totally honest, the X-Men are probably my favorite superhero franchise to get a movie. I love Wolverine, and Jean Gray and Emma Frost and Colossus and Storm and Nightcrawler and Xavier and Angel and Iceman and Blink and Pyro and Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat/Sprite/whatever the hell she’s calling herself now. I love the concept and the style and the stories and the characters. I love it when it’s weird and I love it when it’s normal and I love it when it’s political and I love it when it’s stupid; I love everything about it. Hell, I even love Cyclops, at least when he’s well written.
And for the most part, it’s been really easy to be a fan of the X-Men when it comes to films. X2 and First Class are both straight up classics, and X-Men and The Wolverine are both solidly entertaining superhero flicks. But, on the downside the bad X-Men movies are REALLY bad. X3 probably holds the record for the most disappointed by a movie I’ve ever been and memories of Origins make me want to drink. So hopes were high but expectations were low for this latest installment.
And it all turned out okay. X-Men: Days of Future Past may not hit the lofty heights of X2 or First Class, but it’s still a damned fine little action movie. It’s well paced, got some great action scenes, the cast is still first rate and while the script and story can be a little comic booky (if that makes any sense) it’s still a workable story. And outside the two great movies (X2 and First Class) it’s probably the best of the series.
The plot is adapted from the famous…cover of the same name. Okay yeah, it’s technically a full comic, but really it’s most famous for its cover. Anyway, at some point in the future, the world has gone all Terminator due to super advanced mutant hunting robots called Sentinels wandering around killing all mutants…and all mutant sympathizers…and people who might one day have mutant kids, they’re really not very discriminating. Anyway it turns out that all of this can be traced back to Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killing the Sentinel’s creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) which just set the stage for the program to come back worse.
So future Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) decide that the best way to solve it is time travel (hey, it’s how I solve most of my problems). They decide to have Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the body of his younger self to unite younger Xavier and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) to stop Mystique and the war before it starts. Oh and no, they don’t explain how Kitty can send people back in time, so stop asking.
I mentioned the top notch cast and I stand by it. Basically the entire cast has been in Oscar nominated movies or been nominated/won themselves…well except Dinklage, but he won an Emmy, so close enough. Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman have been playing their characters longer than almost any other superhero actors and they know how to do it better than anyone. McAvoy gives a really interesting and dark take on Xavier and Fassbender brings his A-game from minute one, despite supposedly not wanting to return.
On the new character side of things, Dinklage is a great actor and while he doesn’t get a lot of screen time, he does a pretty solid job with the time he has (now let’s see him in more movies). Evan Peters only gets limited time as Quicksilver as well, but he is easily one of the most memorable parts of the movie (more on that in a moment). In fact, if there’s a letdown in the cast, it’s everyone’s favorite overexposed actress, Jennifer Lawrence. I don’t know if it’s because she very vocally didn’t want to be there or because the femme fatale doesn’t fit on her, but she is pretty dull in this, especially when you consider how good the original actress was in the role.
The other major draw from the film is the action scenes, and it might have some of the best action sequences of the summer (can’t say yet, the bar keeps getting raised). Quicksilver might only have been included as part of Fox’s pissing contest with Disney, but I’m glad he is as his action scene is one of the highlights of the movie. Sure it’s basically just bullet time, but it’s uniquely and cleverly used. Other scenes, such as Magneto’s big final plan or the first big dust up with the future Sentinels are inventive and exciting. It’s also nice to see the franchise getting out of its original boxes and getting some new abilities to play around with, like Bishop’s gun or Blink’s teleportation (which, outside of Quicksilver’s action beat, is probably the best used ability in the movie).
But, if I’m being honest, the thing I like best about it is that of the X-Men films featuring Wolverine, it’s probably the least concerned with Wolverine. Oh he’s in it a lot and he drives a lot of the plot, but it’s not his story. The main focus of the story is Xavier and his arc, and while I do love Wolverine, it’s nice to see him finally manage to take backseat to other characters.
Despite all that, it’s not perfect. The story is, as I said, is a little on the comic booky side, which means light on explanation. Nicholas Hoult’s Beast seems absolutely vital to the plot but weirdly never seems to do very much. The future finale gets a little repetitive at times and there isn’t a lot of time to give the future characters much characterization. And having the vast majority of the characters from First Class get killed offscreen does seem a tiny bit…petty?
The plot as a whole might be one of the biggest mulligans in movie history, but you know what? If this mulligan can erase X3 and Origins from the franchise, then it can’t be bad. And Days of Future Past isn’t bad, it’s quite good and at points it even approaches great. It’s not perfect X-Men, but it’s damn, damn, DAMN good X-Men. And if you’re a fan of the comics, its hard not to come away from the post credits scene feeling pumped for future installments. So Days of Future Past comes away with a pretty enthusiastic recommendation. I liked it, and if you liked any of the previous films, you might too.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to thank Fox for continually convincing Hugh Jackman to show his ass.
– great action scenes
– good acting
– story is imaginative
– they don’t explain a lot
– the future action scenes can get reptitive
– Jennifer Lawrence is pretty bad