Over the last month I’ve managed to see X-Men: Days of Future Past twice, so with the film fresh in my mind, I thought I’d do a review. The film is the seventh addition to the franchise, and marks the return of Bryan Singer as director.
I’ve had a mixed past with the X-Men in general. I’d say I’m a big fan of Wolverine, and I used to watch a lot of the cartoon series in the 90s, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m that much of an X-Men fan. I haven’t read much of the comic books, and among the series I’ve ever followed with single issues, I’ve never bothered to pick up an X-Men title — versus the countless Avengers titles I’ve ended up following over the years. What I’ve always kept up with, however, is the films. I make a point of bringing all this up because I want it to be understood that although I know a little about X-Men storylines through osmosis and the odd trade I’ve wound up reading, I’m not coming at this with substantial knowledge of the comic book universe.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fantastic film. While the X-Men franchise experience a resurgence of quality with 2011’s First Class and even 2013’s The Wolverine, this film marked a significant return to form in my eyes for the series.
First of all, the film did an excellent job of marrying the original cast and storyline to the newer iterations introduced in First Class. Wolverine having been a significant player in all the original storyline films I was happy to see it was him who got sent back to try and correct the future. In many ways Wolverine would steal the spotlight in films that are supposed to be about a team, so at the same time I was happy that they kept the story centred on the younger Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Wolverine was always present and active in the plot, but it did not feel like he was hogging every scene, nor that the film gave him too much attention. He was a part of a larger story, not the focus, and that was executed beautifully.
The film also did a very good job getting me invested in the conflict. It was exhilarating the first time around watching the film and not quite knowing how everything was going to play out. I was at many points on the edge of my seat, concerned that a fatal error would be made, ultimately costing them the future they were working toward. The two conflicting ideologies between Xavier and Magneto played a pivotal role in creating this tension. While I ultimately sided with Xavier, I could also understand Magneto’s perspective, and even acknowledge that his own machinations could also produce a more favourable outcome for the future, despite the morally questionable methods used to achieve it.
I also think it was worth noting that while the film is very action packed, it never felt like the action existed just for the sake of it. All moments where action took place were in service of the story, and while doing so they were still able to create some very memorable sequences — notably Quicksilver’s highlight moment. The film stands as a good example of how you can still make great action sequences while putting the story first, rather than using the story as a vehicle to take the audience from one sequence to the next.
Speaking of action, I personally had an appreciation for the fact that Wolverine was significantly less formidable in the past, due to the absence of his adamantium claws. While he still posed a threat to most human beings, and an even greater one to Magneto — who could no longer stop him in his tracks — he was essentially useless against any sentinels. It wasn’t a significant plot point in the film, but it was a detail I noticed and appreciated for increasing the tension in a scene that could have otherwise ended quickly with Wolverine tearing robots apart.
A brief shout-out to Peter Dinklage’s performance as Bolivar Trask: he did an excellent job portraying a villain who was both detestable in the horrors he has committed against mutant-kind, while at the same time understandable in that his motivations are not purely based on hatred — he is the human race’s Magneto, concerned that the differences between humans and mutants will only lead to conflict, and is thus working toward protecting humanity from a threat he believes will annihilate them if left unchecked.
There are some issues people could note, such as the lack of addressing how Xavier has his body in the future, or why Magneto’s supposed involvement in the assassination of a United States president was not enough to push the sentinel program forward on its own, but ultimately these issues are minor to me. The type of story their telling requires a lot of willing suspension of disbelief already, and I’m more than happy to continue to do so even when confronted with issues like these. They do not take away from the skillful execution of this movie as a whole.
Even if you’ve only seen a few of the X-Men films, I would highly recommend seeing this movie. It may be a little inaccessible if you’re behind, and I would not recommend it as anyone’s first X-Men film, but it’s definitely one of the best superhero movies ever made, and this is in a time where big superhero releases are now occurring several times a year. It has rejuvenated my interest in the franchise, which had become lukewarm, and I eagerly await the next installment.