Though cumbersome and clunky at certain moments, X-Men: Days of Future Past still manages to deliver on its promise of bringing together the well-remembered cast of the original “X-Men” trilogy with the newcomers of 2011’s X-Men: First Class. It all melds into a highly enjoyable time-traveling period drama thrill ride.
For the casual moviegoer with a taste for sci-fi action, it has plenty of exciting set pieces and eye-popping visuals to complement some very strong performances from the film’s leads.
Just how much it will satisfy hardcore fans of the characters and the iconic comic book story upon which the film’s plot is based is sure to vary. But one thing is certain, comic book geek or no: the film should leave audiences with lots to ponder, especially about the implications of the film’s breathtaking conclusion and epilogue.
What’s it about?
The film opens in a Terminator-like apocalyptic future where cities and nations lay in ruins and in which mutants and their normal human allies are hunted and killed or imprisoned.
Hiding amidst the blasted and burnt wreckage of civilization are the few surviving former students and teachers of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, the one-time home of the X-Men.
Faced with the prospect of inevitable capture and/or death, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Eric Lensherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen), and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), band together with former proteges Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Bobby Drake/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Peter Rasputin/Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), and others to enact a last, desperate gamble to save the world.
The plan? Use Kitty’s newly-developed power to phase another person’s consciousness through time itself to a pivotal moment in history, the moment that the world was set upon the path to ruin that led them all to the fight they know they can’t win.
Only one among the group, Logan, has the resiliency and regenerative ability to survive the journey. Once there, it’s not just a matter of popping his claws and hacking his way through bad guys.
His mind will have to inhabit the body of his younger self (not really a change, since Logan’s abilities dramatically slow his aging), bring together the younger Xavier and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and unite them in order to stop the one mutant whose actions inadvertently set off the destructive chain reaction, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
Sound like a tall order, especially for Logan, for whom diplomacy and patience are most certainly not strengths? Well, that’s just the broad strokes.
Bringing a fan favorite story to life
This is easily the most epic and ambitious of the X-Men films, not just in its scope and reach, but also in the stakes inherent in adapting one of the most beloved storylines in the 50-year publication history of the source material.
It’s clear that the filmmakers saw this time-spanning source material as the perfect means to begin to bridge the gap between the original trilogy of films and First Class, and on paper, it might just have looked perfect.
Unfortunately, the finished product falls short of its full potential in part because it has so many moving parts. In fact, it feels like two separate films mashed together unevenly.
Of the two, the one set in 1973, focused on Logan working with the younger Xavier and Eric to alter Mystique’s course, is the stronger, more compelling one. McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), reprising his role from First Class as the young Hank McCoy/Beast, all get the opportunity to build on the character development that was begun in the previous film entry.
Conversely, the scenes set in the future period do lots of telling rather than showing. For all the big name cast members that inhabit this portion of the film, very few of them are given much of any value to contribute.
With the exception of Jackman, they end up feeling rather like glorified cameos and nods to what came before, rather than fully-fleshed out roles. With what audiences are given here, it’s fair to suspect that a great deal ended up on the editing room floor, and might show up in a future home video release.
AHS, GoT stars shine in showy roles
All that said, there’s still much to enjoy here.
Visually, the film holds its own with any and all of the other sci-fi and superhero feature offerings we’ve seen in recent years. In 3D, the mutants’ powers, as well as the Sentinels, truly pop off the screen.
In terms of supporting performances, watch for American Horror Story‘s Evan Peters playing speedster Peter Maximoff in a sequence of scenes that are arguably the most outright fun moments in the film. Game of Thrones‘ Peter Dinklage, meanwhile, delivers a thoughtful and nuanced portrayal of the film’s primary antagonist, the brilliant and driven inventor of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask.
And yes, of course, having Jackman basically leading this cast is nothing but a boon to the film. Jackman has been portraying Logan now for 14 years. Though he made the role his own the first time out, he’s added something new to his portrayal each time, as Logan’s understanding and acceptance of himself grew and his personal losses mounted.
The Wolverine that inhabits and fuels just about every frame of X-Men: Days of Future Past is the logical evolution of the character across all the films. That character comes together because Jackman’s portrayal makes the difference palpable and meaningful.
Might make you wonder how else the producers of these films and Jackman himself might continue to evolve Logan in future films.
And speaking of finality, this film’s ending might prove a little confounding to folks who go in without having seen the series’s previous entries. Plan accordingly and have someone with you that’s better versed in X-Men film lore.
Be prepared, though. Even that person might well leave the theater stunned at the implications of the story’s resolution and what it means for the series as a whole.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, and Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Directed by Bryan Singer.
Running Time: 131 minutes
Rated PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.