X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Editor’s Notes: X-Men: Days of Future Past opens in wide release today, May 23rd.
I grew up enamored by the world of X-Men. While the comic die-hards will most likely fault me for this, the X-Men of my youth were not found on the page, but rather on the small screen. I tuned into FOX weekly for the latest installment of X-Men: The Animated Series. I lived in a world filled with purple Sentinels and muted violence, punctuated with gruff Wolverine one-liners and the wisdom of a perpetually young Professor X. I cherished my Gambit action figure and never understood the appeal of Jubilee. X-Men: Days of Future Past is exactly the film that my inner child yearned for, but constantly felt lacking to my outer adult.
…with so much high caliber talent, not everyone is offered a chance to shine and the already crowded X-Men universe is getting even tighter.
The year is 2023, and the world is a shell of what it once was. Mutants have been branded the enemy, and all those that help them are treated likewise. A new model of Sentinel is nearly unstoppable in its destruction of the mutants and threatens to end them entirely. As factions of mutants come together in hopes of survival, a plot is hatched to fix the event that ruined it all. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) notes the event that started the world down this path, the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) at a peace summit in 1973. The abilities of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) allow her to send the consciousness of another into the past in order to right the problems of the present. Her reach is only limited by the mortality of the one she sends back. With his ability to heal, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) takes the trip back in time.
The X-Men franchise has always benefitted from exceptional casting. Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart were the ideal Magneto and Professor X, and when it was announced that X-Men: First Class would feature younger versions of the characters, fandom waited in anticipated terror. The casting of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy relaxed the fans, inspiring them to believe that even if the movie was awful, at least the acting would still be on par. It is odd to say that the acting is one of the most praise worthy elements of a comic book film, but these are the times we live in. Throughout the majority of X-Men: Days of Future Past this holds true. James MCAvoy is able to lend depth to a character that has largely been represented by persistent right, and Jennifer Lawrence continues to give a voice to what was once a largely silent character. The only problem is that with so much high caliber talent, not everyone is offered a chance to shine and the already crowded X-Men universe is getting even tighter.
Fassbender goes largely wasted this time around and the depiction of Magneto as a man unable to grow and change is a bit simplistic. Even Lawrence, who seemingly can do no wrong in the eyes of the media, delivers only perma-frowns and despair with little reasoning. Complex backstories are hinted at, while most of the dialogue is utilized to fulfill exorbitant exposition. So much of the film’s runtime is spent explaining to the audience just why everything is happening. Additionally, writer Simon Kinberg is hopelessly enslaved to the legions of fanboys, spending so much time shoehorning in little nods to the comic faithfuls that the story suffers. The more dramatic elements of the film hint at a darker story in which its characters are deeply rooted in the real. Themes of drug addiction, the nature of civil rights, and a true sense of self are struck down by an endless string of hamfisted attempts at humor that are far too cartoonish to be satisfying. This is not to say that humor should not exist amongst the more dramatic themes, but wit is preferable to mediocre punchlines.
Regardless of the films many ineptitudes, it is an absolute feast for the eyes. The return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair results in action sequences that are mesmerizing to behold.
Regardless of the films many ineptitudes, it is an absolute feast for the eyes. The return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair results in action sequences that are mesmerizing to behold. With so many mutants, and an array of abilities, the complexity of the sequences threatens to be confusing; but Singer moves his camera gracefully, allowing the audience to see exactly what they need and missing nothing worthwhile. The balance between future and past is fair, and the bringing back of familiar faces more than justifies itself. The film moves along at a rapid clip, while not feeling rushed. Where the story is occasionally hurt by the dearth of new mutants, the many riveting action set pieces make the hindrances seem worth the added weight. Singer has a firm grasp on what attracts audiences to the X-Men, and in this knowledge is able to deliver an endlessly entertaining film that should at least satisfy the kid sitting next to you in his Magneto costume. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that Singer accomplishes what so many X-Men fans have longed for: creating a world where X-Men: The Last Stand never happened.
Before Marvel came in and raised the bar of comic book films, it was forgivable for this genre to come lacking in story. The spectacle of it all was of higher importance, and studios cashed in on the excitement of anticipation. In our post-Avengers world, we now expect more from the genre. The X-Men franchise as a whole trades emotional connection for exquisite set pieces when with a little more effort it could deliver both. The pieces are there, but the franchise isn’t quite able to put them together properly. X-Men: Days of Future Past is perhaps the most entertaining and worthwhile in the entire X-Men franchise but is that even enough anymore?
The X-Men franchise as a whole trades emotional connection for exquisite set pieces when with a little more effort it could deliver both. The pieces are there, but the franchise isn’t quite able to put them together properly. X-Men: Days of Future Past is perhaps the most entertaining and worthwhile in the entire X-Men franchise but is that even enough anymore?