As the seventh X-Men film to come out from Fox, Days of Future Past looks to correct the bad taste left in most fans mouths after the the combo that was The Last Stand and Origins. In the franchise’s favor, it had the films First Class and The Wolverine as solid entries that managed to rekindle the spark and this film only continues it, to a lesser extent.
Before I go on, I must confess that I am not the world’s biggest X-Men fan. I’ve never really connected with the characters all that much as I was more focused on other comic book heroes such as Spiderman and Batman. I consider the first X-Men film to be boring, X2 to be watchable, X3 to be just mediocre, Origins to be terrible, but I do find First Class and The Wolverine to be excellent films and the standouts of the entire franchise. I don’t contain the rabid hatred that many fans have for the third and fourth films because, like I said before, I was not much of a fan with the characters to begin with.
Nor was I with director Bryan Singer. I’ve never really liked the movies that he’s made in the past as I thought that his two X-Men films were snoozefests, Superman Returns was just plain boring, as was The Usual Suspects (except for the ending which did manage to partially redeem it in my eyes). So when I heard that he was rehired for this film, I was a little skeptical. I would have much preferred director Matthew Vaughn to continue with the direction but…alas.
A good reason why the first few films never really connected with me is because I felt they introduced way too many characters in the beginning. In essence, that problem is replicated here in Days of Future Past (from here on out I’m just going to call is DoFP). Unfortunately, there cast is way too large to allow proper growth and development and the only reason why this film squeaks by is because the characters have already been developed for us at this point. It’s kind of cheating but I can understand the reasoning.
The basic plot of DoFP is that in the future (presumably taking place after X3) mankind has been pushed to the brink of extinction in which robots called Sentinels are tasked with eliminating mutants altogether. However, these Sentinels do not discriminate and they target not only mutants, but people who help mutants, or people who carry recessive mutant genes so they are unable to pass the traits on. The result has left the world in ruin and to try to stop this event from happening, Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back to the past to prevent a fateful event that will unravel in the termination of all mutants. Along the way, he will need to convince the younger Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Magneto to team up in order to carry out his mission.
To properly understand this film, it is basically required that you should have watched X2 and First Class (at least) before going into this film, otherwise you’re just going to be lost. The film has no time to wait for lollygaggers and will not waste a scene in trying to bring everyone up to speed. You’re on your own for that bit, sorry.
The cast of the film is huge, but it isn’t as well developed as you might think. The majority of the film takes place in the past timeline meaning that the mutants in the present get shafted in terms of screen time. Sorry to fans of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, but you’re SOL. Mainstays from the first trilogy make an appearance such as Colossus, Storm, Iceman, and Kitty Pryde but they are also hideously underdeveloped. It isn’t even explained how Kitty (whose main power includes warping through solid objects) has the ability to send a person’s consciousness through time. That was a development that was sprung upon the audience and it was an ability that I thought should have been attributed for Professor X.
The past timeline also reintroduces us to the younger versions of the Professor and Magneto. In First Class, Michael Fassbender stole the show but here it’s James McAvoy’s turn to shine as the disgruntled and hopeless ruin of a man. McAvoy’s performance in this film is definitely the heart that this story needed and was a nice way to center the story around him. Michael Fassbender, this time, spends most of the film looking quite bored and his turn as Magneto was nowhere near as compelling as his first outing with the character, sadly.
For all you Game of Thrones fans, Peter Dinklage plays the nebulous baddie, Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels. Dinklage gives a solid and unflinching performance here as Trask and tries very hard to underplay his character. It might come across as a bit underwhelming but his straight arrow portrayal makes his devotion to the character all the more realistic.
The next cast member (*deep breath*) is Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique/Raven. Lawrence channels her inner Katniss as this Mystique hearkens to the first three X-Men films where the character was colder, willing to get her hands dirty. Mystique is brutal here as she frequently gets into fisticuffs much more so than her previous incarnation, and her…uh…shapely form leaves nothing to the…um…imagination?
Finally, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is also a badass here, but it’s a little more interesting considering that we spend the most time in his body when he hadn’t been weaponized by Stryker yet. This means that he is a little more vulnerable and does not have his adamantium skeleton or claws, using those creepy bones to maim and slash instead. Of course, the movie goes nowhere with this fact but it would have been a nice point to see more of. However, I felt that Wolverine was more background noise in this film as, like Fassbender, he seemed to traverse this film with the exact same damn expression on his face the whole time.
The music of the X-Men franchise has always been a little disjointed. Multiple composers have come and gone during their tenures, the likes of which include: Michael Kamen, John Ottman, John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams, Henry Jackman, and Marco Beltrami. John Ottman returns with director Bryan Singer to give a workmanlike outing that sounds very…dull. I’ve never been an Ottman fan as his music always sounds so pedestrian, so average. It’s exactly the same case here and there’s nothing that would make me want to listen to the album in full. Hell, the only bright spots in the music have to be when Ottman reprises the X2 theme in the beginning and the ending but those performances are few and far between and Ottman’s themes go absolutely nowhere.
Digging a bit deeper, I did not like how this film portrayed some of the mutants as many characters who were hyped up by the marketing team only got five minutes of screen time total (Quicksilver and Bishop being the most obvious cases). Also, several of the mutants that we were introduced to in First Class were revealed to have been unceremoniously killed off in the time that the movie jumped, which was a shame because I liked some of those characters. Add to it all of the relentless cameos that went nowhere and you have a cast that is too bloated for its own good. I will say that the ending scene does make sense in this regard and is quite a nice way to end the film, hinting at a better future for the franchise as a whole.
Another point which bothered me about the film is the fact that it seemed like the writers cobbled together a bunch of random setpieces and threw it together to make this film. Sure, there is a decent story in the mix, but it seemed like the script was focusing more on the action and not enough on the characters. It was just one implausible situation after the next, augmented by some decent CGI or some horrible, horrible CGI, depending on whatever company was handling their respective scenes.
In the end, DoFP is a decent flick in that it focuses on the characters that need the most development and shunting others aside that weren’t worthy of the attention, which is a adage that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should have stuck to. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll like this film but there are some topic here that will require you to suspend your disbelief (for a short while, though). Is it the best X-Men film yet? Pfft, no way. That honor still belongs to First Class, and I consider The Wolverine to be a close second. DoFP will have to settle, in my book, as the third best X-Men film which isn’t a bad feat considering the tumultuous nature of the franchise as a whole. To me, DoFP lacked that “tingle factor” when you get all excited when watching a movie, a sensation of awe and wonder as you shake in your seat. Godzilla had that factor, DoFP did not, which was a real shame because I wanted to love this movie, not like it.
Also, for casual fans, the post-credits scene (at the very end of the credits) may be a little confusing if you are not familiar with the lore. Even I had to look up the significance of it before I understood what I just watched. As it is, it promises something very interesting, once you understand it.
Final Score: 75/100