X-Men: Days of Future Past Review (Spoiler Free)

BY CODY SEYMOUR Let’s imagine I’m explaining a movie to you. This movie is a sequel to a 2011 film that served as a prequel to a trilogy of films from the 2000’s. However, this film also serves as a sequel to that older trilogy. So for all intents and purposes, this film I’m explaining is a sequel prequel sequel. Or something.

This is exactly what X-Men: Days of Future Past is. On paper it just shouldn’t work. Luckily, I have some good news for X-Men fans. Days of Future Past is not only a great film, but it serves as an ingenious continuation of the entire X-Men film series.

As I said before, Days of Future Past serves as a sequel to 2011’s X-Men: First Class while also continuing the story of the original X-Men trilogy that began in 2000. We are introduced to a bleak future where the mutant killing Sentinels have turned Earth into an apocalyptic wasteland in their mission to kill all mutants and any humans who have helped them. A select few of the X-Men still remain, with some familiar faces from the original trilogy mixed in with fresh characters. In order to stop the war that the X-Men cannot possibly win, Professor X and Magneto hatch a plan: send someone back in time to the 1970’s using the (mostly unexplained) powers of Kitty Pryde to end the war before it ever starts. To do this, they must stop Mystique from assassinating the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask.

To most this will sound horribly confusing and I’m sure it could have been in the wrong hands. Luckily, Bryan Singer is in top form here, backed by the solid writing of Simon Kinberg. The best decision that could have been made was having Wolverine serve as our guide. Due to his enhanced healing factor, Wolverine is the only man whose mind could survive such a long jump in time. We are so familiar with the character (he has literally appeared in every single X-Men movie) that it just feels right that we are to follow him through another story.

And of course Hugh Jackman, who is the absolute embodiment of Wolverine at this point, is just as good as ever. At this point for Wolverine however, there is not a great deal more personal growth to be gained. This leaves the door open for the younger generation of X-Men actors to step in and take the show, especially James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr.

Both of these actors excelled in First Class, but their characters have grown a great deal since that film and the actors are given more to do. There is more meat on the bones of the story for each of them to tear their teeth into and they happily oblige. James McAvoy was the standout of the main cast for me. His struggle with anger, sadness and guilt are played big here. Charles Xavier is a shell of the man he was and will be; he is broken and powerless. And because of this, McAvoy’s performance is perfectly human in a film full of mutants. He gives us our best view yet inside the mind of the man who will one day lead the X-Men.

And my praise of McAvoy is not to say that Michael Fassbender isn’t fantastic. It’s just that we have to come to expect near perfection from Fassbender at this point; thankfully, he does deliver.

However, and this may serve as a shock to many, the most intriguing parts of the film involve Quicksilver. This is an opinion shared by other reviewers and it is most certainly true. It’s easy to feel skeptical when viewing some silly publicity shots taken out of context, but Quicksilver is quite a scene stealer. To be honest, I believe he is responsible for one of the best sequences in the film. Without spoiling anything, the sequence I am speaking of is easily one of the best displays of mutant powers in any of the X-Men films. Also, for any of you out there who are comic readers, you will be pleased by a brief allusion to the identity of Quicksilver’s father. I honestly hope that the Quicksilver we will next see in The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be this good.

 

However, our time with Quicksilver is fleeting as the movie steers towards darker territory. This darker territory leads to some of the better moments of the film, but also gives us some of the most dull.

Many of these duller scenes are due in no small part to Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. The entire plot of the film revolves around her character and we have plenty of understanding for her motives. However, those motives are just a bit thin. Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actress, but she doesn’t get a chance to act off some of the other fantastic actors in the film. She is essentially a fugitive for the entirety of the film and while this isn’t a problem in and of itself, we don’t get to spend enough time with her to feel sympathy for her plight. We have sympathy for her that carries over from First Class, but it’s hard to agree with her plans.

Bolivar Trask, played by the fantastic Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame, serves as Mystique’s target and truly the central antagonist of the film. We know that he designed the Sentinels so he really is the driving force behind the entire conflict of the film. However, Trask isn’t an exciting character. Dinklage squeezes every drop of life from the character, but there just isn’t much there. Trask essentially serves as a walking, talking MacGuffin.

When it comes to new characters, well… There isn’t much to say. We are introduced to and become familiar with a lot of cool new mutant powers, but the mutants who wield them are left to be little more than background characters. You can probably count the lines of all of the new mutant characters on two hands.

But with these few character missteps, the movie still comes to  strong conclusion. There is an intense catharsis for fans of the original trilogy and fans of the newer First Class. Indeed, the filmmakers found a very unique way to essentially reset the timeline of the X-Men series. In this sense the film does double-duty; it gets the characters to the right places and mindsets, and also prepares the timeline for new events that previously never happened. I applaud Singer and Kinberg for giving fresh hope for the future of the franchise.

My complaints for Days of Future Past are few. It is a well-acted, intelligent film that does it’s best to keep the audience from getting confused by its concept. It also sets up a whole new plethora of possibilities for the future of the franchise. I left the theater not only excited by the movie but also excited for the next movie. That’s how you know it was good.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

9/10

 

Cody Seymour

Creator of NerdSpeak. Writer, filmmaker, nerd and lover of good food.

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