The newest X-Men film combines the casts of the original trilogy and the prequel film, X-Men: First Class. Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back in time from the distant future to 1973 where he must help Professor X and Magneto stop an event that will ultimately lead to the genocide of all mutants. I watched the original trilogy as a lead-in to this movie, mostly because I hadn’t seen them in ages, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be totally lost without a recap. Fortunately, you don’t really need to have seen the previous movies to enjoy Days of Future Past.
With that being said, I would still recommend watching First Class and the original trilogy just to get a sense of who the characters are, and to better understand their relationships and what drives them. Days of Future Past can be viewed as a standalone, and it holds up surprisingly well, but for maximum enjoyment, you’ll want to be versed in as much X-Men movie knowledge as possible.
First, the good.
1.) The movie is tightly plotted, and the story moves along at a good pace. While there are plenty of moments for dialog and reflection amongst the characters, there is never a dull moment.
2.) The acting is top-notch, with good performances on both sides of the temporal schism. All the older actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and Hugh Jackman fit comfortably into their well worn characters. McKellan is, sadly, given very little to do in this film, and it seems like a waste of his talents. But hey, he’s a part of this franchise and he and Stewart are SUPER BEST FRIENDS, so he might as well be in it. The younger actors turn in better performances, and James McAvoy, whom I usually find to be mediocre, actually surprised me. Professor X’s grief is dramatic and convincing. Of course, Michael F. Assbender is fantastic as the villainous Magneto. Jackman is present with both casts, and, once again, he is perfect as Wolverine.
3.) The action scenes are excellent and by far the best in the entire franchise. The opening battle sequence against the future Sentinels was amazing. In particular, a character called Blink is able to open portals which allow for narrow escapes and seriously cool attacks on the part of the mutants. The highlight, however, (as everyone on the Internet has already mentioned) was Quicksilver’s scene, taking place in the Pentagon in 1973. His super speed makes everyone else move in slow-motion by comparison. This kind of thing has been done before in other movies, but the creativity the filmmakers used for his scene will be hard to top in other films.
4.) The directing was also very good. It’s actually hard to believe Bryan Singer directed this movie. Yes, he directed X2, but he also directed Superman Returns, which didn’t instill me with a lot of confidence. He has definitely become a more competent director over the years. He managed to hit all the right notes with drama, humor (especially with Quicksilver), and suspense. The action scenes are well designed, and he paced everything perfectly.
5.) And the best part of all? We get to watch Halle Berry die. I only wish I could have watched it on an infinite loop.
Now, the bad. Of course there’s bad. This wouldn’t be Awesomely Shitty without it.
1.) The original cast is severely underutilized. With the exception of Wolverine, there is very little time spent on the original cast. Professor X does get a slightly beefier role, but that’s about it. Everyone else: Magneto, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Pyro, Rogue, etc. are barely present. Some of them only have seconds of screentime. They could have had more to do, and it’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t find some way to get them a little more involved. Most of the original trilogy actors are reduced to cameos.
2.) Jennifer Lawrence. My opinion of her acting ability is like a yo-yo. She’ll turn in a shit performance in one movie, and then she’ll be fantastic in another. She was ridiculous in The Hunger Games, but very good in Silver Linings Playbook. I wonder how much of this has to do with the directors of these films not utilizing her correctly. She can be dramatic and believable in scenes with intense emotions. But she is absolutely, eye-rollingly terrible as an action star. She unconvincingly smolders in her scenes, barking like a spoiled brat, and shedding crocodile tears. Considering her role is extremely important in Days of Future Past, getting past her mediocre acting is hard to do.
3.) There is no clear villain. Not every film needs to have an obvious bad guy, but Days of Future Past is confused about who the bad guy is supposed to be. At first, it’s Bolivar Trask, who created the Sentinel program, but he’s actually pretty likeable (thanks to some good acting by the always dependable Peter Dinklage) and his motives make a lot of sense. Later, it turns out to be Mystique because she won’t listen to reason and her motives will still lead to the bleak future. Finally, Magento decides to become bad again (and stupidly too, because he has no reason to do so), but only for a New York minute. James Bond films are great because you know who the bad guys is, he sets up all kinds of dastardly traps for the hero, and you cheer when Bond finally dispatches him. Days of Future Past doesn’t have any of that because it can’t figure out who the villain is.
4.) Professor X is alive again but without any explanation how. I guess the filmmakers were banking that we forgot he exploded in X-Men: The Last Stand. For fuck’s sake, they couldn’t at least give us a throwaway line like, “A powerful mutant brought me back from the dead.” Nope, guess not. I’m sure Bryan Singer was thinking, “LOL PROFESSOR X IS BACK BUT ITS PATRICK STEWART SO NOBODY WILL QUESTION IT LOL!” Come on guys, it’s like you didn’t even try.
5.) Kind of like the finale of Fringe and every anime ever, the ending of Days of Future Past is a RESET ZA WARUDO scenario. Everyone comes back to life, and none of the bad stuff from the previous films ever happened (oops, spoilers – but honestly, did you expect it to end any other way?). This pisses me off because, for better or worse, the films were following Wolverine’s character arc. At the end of The Wolverine he finally let Jean Grey go, and he grew as a person. But now HURR DURR she’s back to life, so he can regress. That’s the way comic fans like it. They like the same shit over and over again, fuck having character development.
6.) And finally? It still has Halle Berry doing her shitty portrayal of Storm. But like I said before, she dies, so it’s cool.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a high mark for the franchise. The X-Men films are B-Grade. Nobody is going to look back on these films 50 years from now and laud them as cinematic masterpieces. Hell, they aren’t even the best of the genre. But the characters are fun, and the stories are good enough to sustain the films. Days of Future Past manages to inject some new life into the series. It’s a good entry that will keep the X-Men afloat. Another bomb would have probably put the final nail in the coffin.
I like the fact that they utilized both casts, and I like that they used Wolverine to go back to 1973 instead of Kitty Pryde. It wouldn’t make sense for Kitty Pryde to go back to 1973 (as she goes back in time in the comic), because the character wouldn’t have been born yet. Plus, as I’ve said before, Wolverine is the series’ anchor, and he manages to bridge the gap and reduce some of the weirdness of having two completely different casts.
I also like that they acknowledged all the previous films in the series, included the maligned X-Men: The Last Stand. Fans hated it, but it’s just as good/bad as the other entries, and there’s no need to completely shun it. I think embracing the entire series as a whole, and then using that as a springboard to a new direction (i.e. timeline) was a good move. Wolverine still remembers the old timeline, and by doing so, it does not invalidate the previous films, and does not tell the audience we wasted our time watching those films.
Objectively, this is the best X-Men movie.
X-Men movie rankings:
- Days of Future Past
- The Wolverine
- First Class
- X2: X-Men United
- The Last Stand
- Origins: Wolverine