X-Men: Days of Future Past
The X-Men are back in a big way and looking to become a franchise that competes with The Avengers. Days of Future Past is a big-budget action rush with smart enough writing to keep things fresh, fun, and engaging.
The planet earth has become a bleak place. Sentinels fly through the skies and have nearly wiped out all of mutant-kind. In a last ditch effort to save their race, Professor X and a team of mutants send Wolverine back into the past to set things right. There, he must recruit both Professor X and Magneto to his cause and stop Mystique from committing to an act that will doom mutants forever. Working simultaneously as a prequel and sequel to the first trilogy of X-men movies, Days of Future Past also positions itself as a direct sequel to the excellent X-Men: First Class.
I have to hand it to the team of writers that penned the script for this one. Days of Future Past works to be a lot of things, but rather than losing focus, it manages to hold all of its intersecting plotlines together and still move along at a breakneck pace. Its story is consistently engaging, and, unlike the most recent Captain America movie, I couldn’t predict where it was going. That said, it is a superhero movie, so naturally the heroes win in the end, but the journey in this film is always fun and exciting. Characters act and react believably, and while it requires some suspension of disbelief to buy into the time travel, there is nothing in the film that makes you question it. Tension is built well, and the final scenes are truly epic in both scope and in intimacy with the characters. It’s a film that will keep you enjoying it from start to finish, chock full of edge of your seat moments, genuine laughs, and characters you’ll care about.
My only complaint here is that while I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, it didn’t leave any lasting impression on me the way movies like The Dark Knight or The Avengers did. Days of Future Past succeeds in everything it sets out to do, but despite its best efforts, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it’s a carefully crafted amalgamation of all the best ideas from the Marvel movies we’ve seen so far and a few other classics. It has typical X-Men themes of tolerance and hope, pulls in some of that Captain America (or Thor, or past X-Men films) self-acceptance, adds a hint of pre-destination a la Terminator, and utilizes the wittiness Marvel movies are becoming known for. While I can’t say this is a bad thing, I do believe it will keep this film from becoming a classic or something people feel the need to watch again and again. It just doesn’t have that added touch that would make it truly pop.
Don’t let that dissuade you though. Days of Future Past is an excellent movie and well worth your money. If you like superhero movies, this is one you won’t want to miss, and I’m confident it will do extremely well for itself in the box office. There’s something about the X-Men that just feels more human than most other superhero movies, and at the same time, there are so many powers at work here that it’s just freaking cool.
Technique & Direction
Bryan Singer can now officially call himself a master of pacing. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film that just moves the way Days of Future Past does. Everything from the action to the witty moments of dialogue feels perfectly placed, and there’s tension and relief at just the right moments. Every shot of the film serves the story, and while there’s little in terms of innovation, the visuals are a perfection of what Marvel films have done right so far—much like the story itself.
I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a technique, but this movie also excels at fan service. There are more Easter eggs in this than you can shake a stick at, and Days of Future Past uses character cameos in fun and creative ways. While I’m not sure it was truly necessary to the film and I believe it falls more under the category of sequel set up, there’s a scene with Quicksilver that will bring a smile to your face and probably be the number one talking point of the entire film.
In terms of direction, Bryan Singer did a great job of pulling engaging performances from each member of this ensemble cast and in balancing the movie overall. He gives each moment the time it deserves, but nothing more and nothing less. There may be little in the way of true creativity, but Singer has crafted exactly the X-Men movie that superhero fans want to see.
Days of Future Past has some incredibly high-caliber actors. Hugh Jackman. Jennifer Lawrence. Ian McKellen. Patrick Stewart. Michael Fassbender. Many of these have been at least nominated for Oscars, and we’re all well aware of some of their brilliant turns in recent classics. Each of them are in excellent form here, but at its heart, Days of Future Past is a high-paced action flick and thus lacks scenes with genuine emotional resonance in which these actors could truly shine. Still, it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s subtle facial expressions that bring Mystique to life, Michael Fassbender’s careful mix of concern and cold calculation that make Magneto fascinating, and James McAvoy’s balance of tears, hate, and understanding that lend credence to Profesor X’s struggle. Patrick Stewart is the perfect mentor, and Hugh Jackman once again nails Wolverine’s inner conflict. While there are too many characters to allow any individual to stand out, each performance works in unison with the others to make this alternate version of our world seem real.
The Sound, 3D, and CGI
Like everything else in Days of Future Past, the sound doesn’t stand out as anything amazing or genuinely innovative, it just works and works well. The soundtrack is suitably energetic without interfering with its viewer’s experience of the film, and the sound effects are spot on.
The CGI looks great, which is important since there is a lot of it here. Other than a couple of moments in which I didn’t completely buy how some characters moved, there is absolutely nothing to complain about and there are many moments that are both awe inspiring and highly impressive. I especially loved watching portals, the way the sentinels interacted, and some of the awesome things Magneto pulls off.
The 3D is cool in this movie, but not necessary. There were times when things in the background looked a little off, and other times when the 1970s feel of certain parts was lost because it seemed too modern in technique to me. For each moment in which I didn’t like the 3D though, there were others where I thought it was pretty darn cool looking. You won’t miss much if you see it in 2D, and I’m confident that this is a good enough movie to hook you either way.
What All of This Means to You
I don’t think I’ve emphasized it enough yet: Days of Future Past is damn fun. The story is engaging, it has a great pace, the actors are convincing, and at the end of the film, you’ll have had a great night at the movies. This is the best X-Men movie yet, and a great kickoff point for some exciting sequels.
The Bad: Ultimately doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before