In the year 2000 and 2003 respectively, Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2 put superhero movies on the map. These two films showed audiences and filmmakers what could be done with the genre and their success paved the way for how we view the cinematic adventures of superheroes today. When Singer left the franchise to bring a certain DC hero to the big screen, X-Men lost its stride. The third entry, 2006’s The Last Stand, simply couldn’t compare to its predecessors, and the horrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine from 2009 went on to put the last nail in the series’ coffin. Or so it seemed: Matthew Vaughn’s 2011 effort X-Men: First Class resurrected the franchise and James Mangold’s 2013 outing The Wolverine proved to be a serviceable film as well. Now, in 2014, Bryan Singer has returned to the movie series he helped create and with X-Men: Days Of Future Past he has delivered far more than just another sequel: it’s the best X-Men movie yet and quite possibly this year’s best blockbuster.
Days Of Future Past starts out in a grim future where most of the mutant population and mutant sympathizers have been killed, and where even the earth itself has been damaged beyond repair. Sentinels, highly advanced robots with the sole purpose to search and destroy, roam the world, tracking down the few survivors that are left. These fugitives have come up with a plan of their own though: to transport the consciousness of Wolverine back in time to the mind of his younger self to change the course of history, making sure the Sentinels would never be/have been created. Despite the fact the plot of the film dabbles heavily in the complicated realm of time travel, its premise is easy to grasp and its execution smooth as silk: there’s a clear visual distinction between past (the 70’s) and future, a different set of actors for each timeline and whenever the movie switches periods it has a very good reason for it. Days Of Future Past is surprisingly streamlined, wonderfully paced in general, and the clear agenda of its characters never makes the events confusing: after the first few minutes you know everything our heroes need to achieve and why, because of an impressive opening that’s both mesmerizing and brutal. We see a group of mutants square off with a pack of Sentinels and, let me tell you, the mutant’s unique powers have never looked better.
It’s immediately apparent that Bryan Singer has upped his game as far as action is concerned. From the get-go he has great fun with the Blink character, a woman who opens portals that allow for unique methods of transportation; something that has to be seen to be believed. But even the more standard fights between the Sentinels and mutants that command fire, ice or are just very strong are marvelous: the camera gets in there to register every painful blow and Singer takes full advantage of the powers these characters are gifted with. A moment later in the film, featuring Even Peters’ Quicksilver, is both tremendously cool and very funny, evokes the fantastic opening of X2, where Singer also showed his penchant and love for the cinematic possibilities mutant powers offer. But despite the fact the action is top-notch, Days Of Future Past is hardly an action film. The action moments are great, but the tone of the film is closer to that of a global thriller, a feeling that’s enhanced by the wonderful attention to detail during the moments spent in the movie’s 70’s setting. But most of all the film is a character journey, the movie’s premise just a linchpin for the development and drama of some very interesting characters.
Days Of Future Past brings in the cast of the old X-Men films, as well as the cast of First Class. Because most of the film takes place in the past, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult carry the bulk of the film, as Wolverine, young Xavier, young Magneto, Mystique and Beast respectively. While Jackman and Hoult do a terrific job, play great off each other and the rest of the cast, they’re basically the supporting players: this is the story of Professor X, Magneto and Mystique, three characters with unique arcs that intertwine and make for a moving, warm and tense plot. McAvoy is especially impressive as the young Xavier, a man who’s lost all faith when we first meet him and gradually learns to trust others and himself again over the course of the movie. Because of these three very real performances, Days Of Future Past is utterly engrossing and in the end it’s its heart that makes the film the resounding success that it is: despite its premise the latest X-Men tells a character-driven story that makes the dramatic, dark and uplifting scenes really resonate, resulting in a satisfying story about hope and perseverance.
Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past is the blockbuster you’ve been waiting for because it fires on all cylinders. It’s smart, funny, moving, thrilling and some of its glorious action scenes really have to be seen to be believed. 9/10