Friday, May 23, 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past": A New Challenger Approaches

Now In Theaters
Wow.  Just… wow.

Remember in my First Class review when I said that the X-Men franchise was probably going to be the best contender against Marvel’s Cinematic Universe?  Well, I had no idea how right that statement would be.  Days of Future Past is not only a good movie, not only is it a great movie, but it is easily the best X-Men movie ever made.  Just about everything I didn’t like about First Class has been addressed, and with some very welcome nods that tie the X-Men universe into a cohesive narrative (as well as retcon out some of the series’s dumber notions), Days of Future Past is going to surely end up on many people’s top five lists of greatest superhero films.

The film’s story is a complex one, but here it is in broad strokes: In the near-distant future, indestructible synthetic beings called Sentinels have taken over the Earth in a hunt for mutant kind, enslaving any human sympathizers and eradicating any mutants they find.  The mutants’ only hope is to send someone back in time to 1973 to prevent Mystique from murdering the man who invented the Sentinels, thereby stopping a martyrdom that would jump-start the mass-production of the killing machines.  Wolverine is the only person who would be able to survive the process, so he volunteers to meet up with a young Charles Xavier and Magneto in a quest to change the future.  If this all sounds a bit overblown and silly… well, I won’t lie, it kinda is.  But the film plays its premise so seriously with character performances that emphasize the gravity of the mission’s success, one can’t help but become engrossed.

Speaking of the characters, my gods are the performances in this film stellar.  Director Bryan Singer understands that the characters are what make the X-Men universe so rich, and he focuses on making them as compelling as possible.  Hugh Jackman was born to play Wolverine, McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence all reprise their roles from First Class with style, and the returning actors from the original trilogy make the future sequences anything but filler.  Even newcomer Peter Dinklage as Sentinel creator Dr. Trask is phenomenal in what could have been some paper-thin villain characterization, though I do think Mr. Dinklage’s American accent needs a bit of work.  The film throws so many characters at you, new and old, that it would have been very easy for the film to become an overcrowded mess, but thankfully, it puts the focus directly where it needs to be when it needs it.  Wolverine, Xavier, and Mystique all have character arcs that trade off seamlessly throughout the narrative, and the supporting cast supports in all the right ways.  Some characters serve as needed comic relief (a particular sequence with Quicksilver comes to mind), some characters serve to emphasize the gravity of the future timeline by fighting the Sentinels (and losing fatally), and some characters just lend the film gravitas by their mere presence (both Magnetos and future-Xavier in particular).  Yes, there are a lot of people to keep track of, but so many of them have such limited roles that the film never feels bloated, and none of the characters overstay their welcome.

Just a quick note on the special effects this time around: They are much better than they were in First Class.  The Sentinel designs are fantastic, the mutant powers pop with color and energy, just about nothing looks fake or phoned-in.  The fact that so much detail could be placed in the special effects without sacrificing the brilliant storytelling of First Class is perhaps what makes me the most hopeful for the future of the X-Men.

I must say though that this film is not kind to newcomers.  If you have not seen First Class and do not have some familiarity with the events of the original trilogy, much of the film may seem a bit foreign to you.  The film has so much plot and characters to get out there that expositing the backstory necessary for its foundation would have made the film’s first act much too bloated.  There are some important reminder flashbacks here and there if you aren’t a diehard fan (which I really wasn’t until this film), but that familiarity is probably crucial for the best experience with this film.

If you can’t tell already, I absolutely loved Days of Future Past.  I may be anticipating this August’s Guardians of the Galaxy with more bated breath than I did this movie, but this is going to be a hell of an act to follow.  When the worst I can criticize a film for is Peter Dinklage’s American accent, you know you have a winner.  If you are a fan of the X-Men, this film is a must-see.  If you aren’t, spend some time with the originals and First Class and then catch this one.  It’s worth the homework, worth the price of admission, and worthy of all the praise in the world.

EDIT: It was pointed out in the comments that Peter Dinklage is, in fact, an American actor.  My assumption that he was British was based on his frequent appearance in British cinema and in Game of Thrones.  However, I think it does beg the question as to why Dinklage's native accent sounds like a poor British imitation of one.  Therefore, I think the point still stands.

What’s your favorite X-Men movie so far?  And why the hell isn’t it this one yet?  Let me know in the comments below.


  1. I love reading your reviews! Keep them coming!

  2. I loved the concept of using a time travel story to do a reboot. And the story, character focus & development, pacing, acting were all excellent.

  3. But...but...Peter Dinklage IS American...