Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
I need to stop worrying about new X-Men movies. FOX knows what they’re doing. Ahead of X-Men: First Class, I thought it was going to just be a terrible, desperate attempt to hold on to the franchise – but it is now my favorite X-Movie. And I thought X-Men: Days of Future Past was going to be a mess of time travel and too many characters. Boy was I wrong about that one. X-Men: Days of Future Past is an enjoyable X-Flick, with a solid cast, an important plot and some quality, unique mutant action.
I wasn’t as blown away as some critics have been, but consider me a firm believer that the X-Men are in good hands.
Movie Rating: 7/10 – Good.
I think what Days of Future Past lacked, at least for me, was a uniquely X-Men story element to grab onto. There were some great super-powers on display, especially Quicksilver and Blink, but they were minor elements of the much larger, less captivating film. Instead of starring the actual X-Men, Days of Future Past was about the trio of Wolverine, Xavier and young Hank McCoy running around trying to catch up to the rest of the movie. The really compelling characters, the ones who drive the plot, are Mystique and maybe Magneto, but both of them are relegated to side character status.
Mystique may do something evil, and Magneto will definitely do something evil, and it’s up to Wolverine and his Amazing Friends to try and get there in time to stop it. Compare that to X-Men: First Class, which had the recruitment and training of the new students, the formation of the X-Men, and the evil Hellfire Club, all while really focusing on the Xavier/Magneto friendship. First Class had a lot going for it in terms of mutants and the X-Men, but Days of Future Past is just a movie about the heroes racing to save the day. Fortunately, it has some fun on the way there.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is not a disappointment, by any means. It’s a solid, entertaining entry into the X-Men franchise. But for me, I would have liked a bit more Adamantium on the claws – though not literally.
Join me after the jump for the full review!
X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn’t star the X-Men, and I think that counted against it, for me. It features the X-Men, to be sure; multiple, different versions of them, in fact. But the movie instead stars Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine teaming up with the First Class versions of Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy, played by James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult respectively. And while all three actors do a commendable job, I just didn’t find this trio all that compelling, especially not when compared to other relationships in the movie. There was no great drama or urgency between Wolverine, Xavier and Beast.
All of the good drama and action seemed to be relegated to characters on the sidelines.
Mystique was the true star of the movie, but we never really saw the film from her perspective. Even with the great Jennifer Lawrence returning to play the character.
Picking up several years after First Class, a combination of the Vietnam War and the horrible, anti-mutant atrocities of Trask Industries have split the X-Men asunder. Xavier is lost in a depressed stupor, his school in ruins. But Mystique is active and out to get revenge against Bolivar Trask. Mystique shows real concern for her lost friends, and real motivation in her desire for revenge. But she’s a side character, with the real focus of the movie on how it’s important for Xavier to pull himself together and reach out to Mystique to stop her destructive path. It’s apparently only through Xavier that Mystique can be saved.
For the character that really carries the film, Mystique gets too little screen time.
Magneto, likewise, kind of gets the shaft. Michael Fassbender is amazing in the role. He’s dynamic, forceful and larger than life, like always. And when he joins the lead trio for part of the film, he makes the group interesting. His conflict with Xavier is just as strong as it was in First Class (and all the X-films, for that matter), and he even has great scenes with Jackman and Hoult.
But about halfway through, it’s like someone flipped a switch, and Magneto goes from compelling character with genuine emotions to megalomaniacal super-villain. He’s separated from the rest of the characters and just turns into his generically evil self. It’s fun to watch, and beholding his power is a great visual. But once he goes full super-villain, all of the drama just evaporates from his character.
The rest of the movie is kind of just fluff. Awesome, superheroic and visually exciting fluff, but fluff nonetheless.
The plot involves the X-Men of the future, trapped in a Sentinel-infested apocalypse, sending Wolverine into the past to change the future. And the movie is about Wolverine hanging out in the past. But there are large portions of the movie set in the future, featuring a new, varied team of X-Men. Those scenes are fun, and I’m pleased to say that the time travel aspects of the film are very, very easy to understand. I thought it might get a little confusing, especially for non-comic book fans, but it’s all quite simple.
The future X-Men are some of the most stylish parts of the film. They’re a mix of old characters and actors, like Halle Berry as Storm, Daniel Cudmore as Colossus and (my personal favorite) Shawn Ashmore as Iceman; mixed in with newbies like Bishop, Sunspot and Blink. But the team is little more than fodder for action scenes – great, exciting action scenes – but there is little to no depth behind them. Blink, in particular, is a real stand-out. Her teleportation power – which uses portals, like the video game – is probably the second coolest power in the film.
But the Future X-Men don’t really have much to do but look cool and be awesome, at least most of them. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are back as the old Xavier and Magneto, and they’re just as good as we’ve come to expect. But again, this whole group is secondary to the real movie. They’re look bookends, and while it’s fun to watch, it just wasn’t very deep – even if Iceman was actually a pretty major character in those scenes. Go Iceman!
Likewise, the scene with Quicksilver was pretty much just fluff.
Everybody is right to say that Quicksilver was probably the breakout character of the film. He was new, interesting and definitely unique, both in terms of his powers and personality. Quicksilver, of course, has super speed, and his one big scene in the movie is just as good, if not better, than Nightcrawler’s assault on the White House in X2: X-Men United. It’s just a great scene. But then once it’s over, Quicksilver drops out of the movie. Even though Wolverine and his gang could use his help, and he seemed to enjoy working with them, Quicksilver leaves for no good reason, taking his fun personality with him.
And therein lies the reason why I just didn’t go gonzo for Days of Future Past: Instead of taking advantage of the truly unique world of mutant superheroes, the film focused instead on Wolverine and some of the franchise’s more boring characters. No other superhero film franchise is as filled with such wonderful and varied characters. No franchise has this many different super-powers to play with, and clearly the people behind the X-films can think of some really great things to do with those powers. But Days of Future Past treated those interesting powers and characters as back-up material, relegated to the fringes of the movie while the real action starred Wolverine again. Even the Sentinels were kind of relegated to the sidelines because the movie just had to make Magneto the big villain in the end.
I liked X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters were strong enough to carry the film, the plot felt important and meaningful to the franchise, the action scenes were great, and the super-powers on display were truly a sight to see. But all of the newest and most interesting ideas and character motivations were pushed to the side to make way for the big franchise stars, and I think that hurt the film overall. Hugh Jackman may be pretty great as Wolverine, but Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique could be so much better.