Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, some suggestive material, nudity and language
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Evan Peters, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, with Halle Berry, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart
Written By: Simon Kinberg
Directed By: Bryan Singer
Superheroes and time travel in one movie? Now we’re talking. X-Men: Days of Future Past, which serves as a sequel to both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s prequel/sort-of-reboot X-Men: First Class, is an ambitious blockbuster that gets nearly everything right.
Among the best movies of its kind and arguably the best entry in the X-Men franchise thus far (X2 is up there), this is a smart, fun and character driven action-thriller that offers both a satisfying story and extravagant summer movie spectacle.
First Class brilliantly reinvigorated this waning series after the mediocre The Last Stand and two underwhelming solo Wolverine outings. But Days of Future Past manages to improve upon its predecessor in every way, this sequel is bigger and better – and now that the origin groundwork is all laid out – the filmmaker’s are really able to amp up the tension and character dynamics.
If this sequel proves anything, it’s that director Bryan Singer – who helmed the first two X-Men movies – is the best person to handle this franchise. Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) did a solid job with First Class, but Singer seems to really understand these characters and has a fantastic eye for visuals and choreographing exciting action sequences to boot.
In combining the characters of separate sequels set in different eras, the film features a plethora of actors – many of whom get pushed to the side as there’s only so much screen-time. Luckily, they push the right ones to the side and highlight the mutants you’re likely the most interested in.
As we are dealing with time travel, the plot-line is somewhat complicated yet screenwriter Simon Kinberg lays out the story with complete coherency. Opening in a not too distant dystopian future of New York City, the world has been mostly destroyed by the Sentinels, large robots designed to take out mutants. Only, the Sentinels malfunctioned and began to wipe out mankind as well.
After a fantastically impressive opening battle in which many of our favorite mutants are taken down by the robot army, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) teams with his former enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) in a plan to use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) powers of sending mutants back in time and circumvent the earth’s destruction.
The man for the time travel job is fan favorite Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Kitty is able to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 and transport his present mind into his old body. Once Wolverine arrives, the plan is to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating mutant hater Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), as this single event is pinpointed to the creation of the Sentinels and beginning of mankind’s anniahaltion.
In order to accomplish his mission, Wolverine has to convince a strung-out, depressed young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to get on board. He also begrudgingly needs the help of a young, angry and unstable Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who may just complicate matters.
If the plot sounds a bit convoluted, perhaps it is, and there’s actually even more going on than mentioned. Others involved in the action include Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho). Not to mention cutaways “back to the future” where old-timers Storm (Halle Berry), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and others are featured in what amounts to extended cameos. However, despite the cavalcade of characters involved, the story rarely becomes muddled or unfocused which is sort of an amazing feat.
The best single sequence in the movie is also perhaps the best single sequence of any summer blockbuster in quite some time. Details should be kept to a minimum, but it involves a prison break that plays out like something out of Ocean’s Eleven, only if the Ocean’s team had superpowers. It’s during this section that the “particular set of skills” of newest mutant Quicksilver are displayed, and it’s a showstopper. If years down the line, you don’t remember much about Days of Future Past, chances are this scene will be stamped into your memory.
What really makes these X-Men movies stand out is the stellar casting, with almost every actor perfectly fit for their role. Hands down, this movie belongs to Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Highlighting their complicated character dynamics, what’s special about their development is that these superheroes aren’t clear cut good or evil. Magneto and Mystique are bordering on the “dark side” but still likable, while a young Professor X is not yet wise and selfless, he’s depressed and self centered. Then there’s Wolverine, undoubtedly the hero if there ever was one – but then again, he’s kind of a prick.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an example of this genre executed beautifully. The film manages to juggle a tone of bleak dystopian future and deep character development but doesn’t forget to be a hell of a lot of fun in the process. Days of Future Past isn’t just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie in general. If there’s any downside, we may have just gotten the best movie of the summer before June has even arrived. This is certainly the one to beat.