Hugh Jackman - Logan/ Wolverine
James McAvoy/ Patrick Stewart - Charles Xavier/ Professor X
Michael Fassbender/ Ian McKellen - Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence - Raven Darkholme/ Mystique
Halle Berry - Ororo Munroe/ Storm
Ellen Page - Kitty Pryde/ Shadowcat
Nicholas Hoult - Hank McCoy/ Beast
Peter Dinklage - Bolivar Trask
Shawn Ashmore - Bobby Drake/ Iceman
Omar Sy - Bishop
Daniel Cudmore - Peter Rasputin/ Colossus
Evan Peters - Pietro Maximoff/ Quicksilver
Fan Bingbing - Clarice Ferguson/ Blink
Josh Helman - William Stryker
Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books
Running Time - 131 Minutes
In the year 2023, there's a global apocalypse due to a war between mutants and sentient robots known as Sentinels, which has pretty much made mankind a casualty. Hiding together somewhere in China, frenemies Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) have come together with other mutants with a plan to go back in time and reverse these terrible events. Using Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) new ability to phase the consciousness of someone to their younger body in the past, Xavier and Magneto send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 due to his healing factor.
As Wolverine wakes up in 1973 and adjusts to a time before his events with Weapon X, he learns that this was the year where a military scientist named Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) attempts to build funding for a project to capture and study mutants, known as the Sentinel Program. Shape shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) wants to murder Trask due to him participating in the deaths of many of her FIRST CLASS friends, which would be the catalyst for the terrible future Wolverine has experienced. Wolverine hunts down the younger, yet disillusioned Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to rescue Magneto (Michael Fassbender) from a government prison [he apparently assassinated John F. Kennedy] in order to stop Mystique from creating a future where all mutants will be hunted down and killed.
For those who know me really well, the X-Men were always my favorite comic book heroes. I have a bunch of X-Men comics in my basement somewhere, watched every episode of the cartoons, and have seen all the films. Yes, I'm an X-Nerd and proud of it. And while the film franchise has been a struggle at times [X-MEN: THE LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE come to mind], I always hoped the series would find its way again - especially after the awesome X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and better-than-expected THE WOLVERINE from last year.
While X-MEN: THE LAST STAND ruined the "Dark Phoenix Saga" for me, I was hoping better for X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - a sequel not only to FIRST CLASS, but for THE LAST STAND as well due to a time travel narrative. The comic book arc of the same title is one of the most famous stories in not only X-Men history, but comic book history as well. While the robotic Sentinels had appeared in earlier comics, and the mood of the comics were getting darker due to the Dark Phoenix stuff, it wasn't until "Days of Future Past" where the X-Men really became the X-Men. The idea of the Sentinels eradicating the mutant race in the future, even keeping some of them as slaves, is one of those plot lines that still resonate within the comics today. It's also one of those plot lines I was hoping the film franchise would eventually take.
Bringing Bryan Singer back on board after X-2 to tie together the two X-MEN movie timelines was a stroke of genius, regardless of what you think of the man personally. And trying to connect the two timelines was a much needed fix to lessen the amount of plot holes this franchise suffered from. And while the film doesn't exactly portray the "Days of Future Past" done in the comics, Simon Kinberg redeems himself for THE LAST STAND by contributing to the best X-MEN film in the franchise so far.
Time travel is usually a tough subject to write in terms of a screenplay. It usually leads to confusion due to all the timelines in the hands of a less capable screenwriter, never making it clear what year you're watching. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST never has that issue, taking its time to show you how different the past and the future are. The past is a more colorful, groovy tone. The future is a dark, bleak, desolate place no one wants to live in. The story goes back and forth between the two timelines every now and then, but never becomes convoluted or confusing. In a lot of ways, the two times parallel each other in a nice touch. While certain plot issues still need to be resolved due to the past changing the future [and how was Charles Xavier still alive after THE LAST STAND?], it never ruins the film as you're entertained constantly and glued to what you're seeing onscreen.
The use of the characters is done well. Obviously Wolverine is the anchor of the film, as he's seen as the main protagonist of this franchise. But for the first time, I didn't feel that Wolverine overshadowed anyone in the film because he really wasn't the focus. Sure, he appears in both timelines as the same character [one older, one younger, sharing the same memories], but the film never feels like Wolverine and the X-Men. He's used at all the right places and actually helps advance the story, giving the franchise a full circle turn as he helps young Xavier find himself again, just like old Xavier had done for him in the first X-MEN film. It also looked like Hugh Jackman was having fun as well, which we haven't really seen in an X-MEN film since probably X-2. He also doesn't have the adamantium in 1973, making him more vulnerable in battle, which was refreshing. And for those who fancy Jackman in that way, he does have a nude scene in it if you're into that sort of thing. I know Jackman realizes his time is running out with the character due to age, but he's still fantastic as Wolverine after 14 years.
The real focus of the film belong to Charles Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Young Xavier's struggle to find hope again after he lost everything at the end of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is a great arc, with James McAvoy kicking ass in the role. He may not look like Patrick Stewart, but McAvoy's serious acting in the role makes you forget that fact. Speaking of Stewart, he brings a ton of class as the future Xavier. Even while facing death at the hands of the future Sentinels, Stewart convinces us that Xavier still maintains hope that Wolverine will change things in the past. I wish they had explained how Xavier survived THE LAST STAND and got his body back, but it was something that didn't register until after the film ended. Hopefully they'll explain that someday.
Young Magneto, facing imprisonment due to murdering John F. Kennedy supposedly, still struggles with his humanity and his urge to maintain that mutants are the superior race. Michael Fassbender doesn't get much to do in this film like he did in FIRST CLASS [where he was clearly the focus], but his Magneto is still that cool anti-hero that convinces you that his way may be the right way. His scenes with Beast, Mystique, and during the final act are great. Ian McKellen doesn't get a whole lot to do as older Magneto either, but again he brings some needed class to the role. McKellen shows that Magneto is still someone you can put faith in, due to his actions in the future, regardless of what he does in the past. Both versions of Magneto are so different, yet so similar. You believe Magneto will eventually find his way, although you know it'll take decades to reach that point.
As for Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as a cold-hearted villain who is struggling with her humanity. She's the catalyst that leads to the events of the future, wanting revenge on Bolivar Trask for murdering her friends. Xavier is the angel on her shoulder, telling her that she needs to let go and come home. Magneto is the devil, teaching her that she needs to do whatever's necessary to get what she wants. Lawrence is great in showing how Mystique straddles the line, focused on her mission while hurting to remember the goodness that Xavier had given to her as they grew up. If you're not a Mystique fan, you'll probably not be a fan of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. But I thought she was used really well and look forward to see what is done next with the character.
Speaking of the special effects, I thought they were all done fantastically. The 70s Sentinels looked pretty awesome in terms of design. The future Sentinels were even cooler, being more evolved and sentient, doing cool things with their bodies. The mutant powers looked great for everyone - and it was nice that the characters actually had the RIGHT powers for a change [sorry Calisto and Viper]. Quicksilver's powers were used the best, but I loved Blink's teleportation portals and Iceman's ice slide [yay!]. The budget was $200 million and it was used in all the right places.
Bryan Singer stumbled since leaving the X-MEN franchise with SUPERMAN RETURNS and JACK THE GIANT SLAYER. But he's back in fine form with DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. The sound of that original X-MEN score tickled me silly and Singer's interpretation of both the Seventies and the future were a nice contrast from the other. The film was very well paced, the shift in timelines were handled perfectly, the use of the special effects were excellent, and the visualization of the narrative was great under his eye. While Matthew Vaughn directed FIRST CLASS as a 60s spy thriller with mutants, Singer brings back the tone from the original X-MEN films. Scenes aren't just there to showcase cool effects and action-oriented moments. Singer allows character and plot to move the story forward, grounding all these characters within different timelines with ease. It sort of makes me bitter than Singer couldn't have stayed to direct THE LAST STAND, knowing the plans he had for the Phoenix character. But I'm glad he's returned to reinvigorate the franchise and tie up some loose ends. Some plot holes may remain, but future films can fix those if the thought is there. So I think Singer did an amazing job keeping DAYS OF FUTURE PAST together, despite its complicated narrative. Regardless of his controversial personal life that's been playing in the media, the man knows how to direct an X-MEN film.
THE FINAL HOWL
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is a film I've always wanted onscreen, and I was more than satisfied by the results. It may not be as fresh as X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and it may have characters who get the short straw in terms of screentime. But I never had more fun watching an X-MEN film like I did watching X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. It was nice to see Wolverine used the right way, other characters getting more of a focus [Quicksilver is the highlight], and a narrative that seemed to have a massive stake going for it - as well as fixing some big mistakes the franchise had made prior. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER may still be my favorite film of the year, but DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is definitely a close second. Bring on X-MEN: APOCALYPSE!