Out of all of the superhero franchises that have been introduced to movie-goers, the X-Men franchise has had the most unstable past. Bryan Singer presented the X-Men to theaters way back in 2000, and subsequently resuscitated the superhero genre that had flat-lined as a result of 1997’s Batman & Robin. Or perhaps…the genre was just left…in a deep freeze.
Working with a low budget and a relatively unknown cast, Singer played off of the emotional aspects of the mutant plight to build these characters up. He then started showing what their mutant powers were made of in the much more action-heavy sequel, X-2: X-Men United. It wasn’t long before the momentum of the franchise became too unstable–resulting in X-Men 3: The Last Stand and the follow-up X-Men Origins: Wolverine–two movies which nearly pushed the franchise past the point of no return. With the help of Matthew Vaughn’s pseudo reboot, X-Men: First Class and James Mangold’s well-received The Wolverine, faith has been restored in these characters. Luckily, the newest iteration, X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to arrive as a vehicle for Mr.Singer to dust off the characters he introduced us to and clean up many of the elements that have dirtied the mutant team’s cinematic past by refocusing the series’ cannon and clearing the way for more worthy sequels.
Days of Future Past wastes no time exposing the viewer to an oppressive and lifeless future that makes the wasteland of the Terminator films look like a ride at Universal Studios.
There was a Terminator ride at Universal Studios?
Well, the Days of Future Past ride would be much scarier.
In a way reminiscent of the uber-memorable opening “Nightcrawler scene” of X-2, the film cements the threat of the film with a blowout action scene, full of impressive mutant powers and even more impressive mutant TEAMWORK! The first 30 minutes or so waste no time setting the stakes of the plot. Sentinels have run rampant, killing both humans and mutants at a rapid pace. With all life on earth shoved into a corner, the world’s last hope is everybody’s favorite Canadian Samurai–Wolverine. Mr. Bub proceeds to travel back to the year 1974 via some strange form of dream/consciousness time-traveling something power that Kitty Pryde apparently acquired at some point.
From here on, Wolverine becomes somewhat of a backseat driver for the plot as he works to unite the very disjointed and fractured former members of Xavier’s School that were last seen in X-Men: First Class. The movie carries on to present a very healthy amount of varied action scenes–including the first great foray into an action scene fueled by a super-fast character. Days of Future Past also leaves room for great comedic bits and emotionally-gripping dramatic moments that take advantage of the chemistry and relationships established between all the characters. The result is a nearly two-and-a-half hour movie that feels appropriately full.
Despite all of the well-done action scenes the movie presents, Days of Future Past once again excels most where Singer’s X-films always have–in dealing with the warring viewpoints of the mutant characters, mainly Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique. The younger versions of these characters present much more raw, conflicted performances than we have seen from their older counter-parts. That leaves so much more room for characterization and helps to blur the moral dilemmas these characters frequently face in their actions and paths that much more. Most notably, the movie manages to revisit the past of these characters before cleaning up many of the gaffes made in some of the weaker iterations of the franchise.
Like Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to step into a very conflicted timeline before setting former mistakes right. The most blatant flaw of the movie stems from its unapologetic ignorance towards certain plot-points from X-Men 3 while also requiring a high-suspension of disbelief regarding the time-travel methods. If you can brush those fairly glaring story aspects, then you can sit-back and enjoy the ride while Bryan Singer steers the franchise he built back on the right track.