By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The newest installment of the X-Men movie franchise is more of a psychological dramatic journey and less of a comic book actioneer with themes of restoring hope and correcting mistakes from the past. That is exactly what Bryan Singer and his writers do with what I consider to be the best X-Men movie of the series. Singer, and writers Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan have restored hope and corrected some past missteps of the series with this engrossing and powerful chapter of the saga. They have proven that there is still life in this film series and have completely revitalized it at a time when several of their fans had already given up on the franchise.
Based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men comic story by Chris Claremont, Days of Future Past begins in a dystopian future where a war between an artificial intelligence, known as the Sentinels, and mutants have laid waste to the planet. The few surviving mutants, including Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) desperately decide to end the war before it begins. Kitty has the ability to send Wolverine’s mind back in time to his younger body and does so to get him to convince the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop the chain of events that will lead to the eventual extinction of the human race.
I must say that it is wonderful to have Bryan Singer back at the helm. Not to slight directors Matthew Vaughan (X-Men: First Class) or James Mangold (The Wolverine) who made worthy installments in the franchise, but an ambitious chapter of epic proportions such as this one, requires the skills and heart of the man who made this entire saga possible. This truly is The Avengers of the X-Men movie franchise, although it doesn’t quite match that high level of comic book storytelling and filmmaking that Joss Whedon has delivered. Still, with another X-Men movie in the works (Apocalypse), Singer has another opportunity to deliver an extraordinary swan song. Until then, though, fans of the series should be quite pleased with the feats accomplished with this marvelous piece.
High praise should be extended to Kinberg, Goldman and Vaughan who have written a screenplay that produces a solid story with top notch character development and gripping drama. The film is not a page for page translation of the Claremont comic, so some comic fans may be disappointed. Nevertheless, this is a Days of Future Past that fits in perfectly with the films that have preceded it. Because of their impressive writing, the movie not only offers compelling drama, but sly wit and intelligent humor.
Singer should also be praised for focusing on his characters and story, and for not trying to deliver nonstop mindless action or violence. The movie does have its thrilling and fun action set pieces, but these are secondary to the emotional and psychological weight of the story conveyed through his characters. I am particularly pleased that Singer and his casting department managed to not only bring back cast members from First Class, but also brought back some of the actors from previous X-Men movies. All of whom perform superbly.
James McAvoy may not look much like Patrick Stewart and Michael Fassbender looks nothing like Ian McKellan, but these talented actors credibly pull off their respective roles because of their performances. Hugh Jackman definitely has his Wolverine down to a tee, as he should considering he has played that character a record total of seven times! I’d be disappointed and devastated if he were to flop in an X-Men movie. X-Men newcomer Peter Dinklage offer a outstanding performance as Sentinel inventor Dr. Bolivar Trask. He is a welcome addition to the X-Men family and I would love to see him back for X-Men: Apocalypse.
Jennifer Lawrence took over the role of Mystique in First Class which, in earlier installments was played by Rebecca Romijn. I do like that this fascinating character has been given better development with a backstory in X-Men: First Class and even further development as a cold hearted villain-in-the making in Days of Future Past. Lawrence’s ability to convey vulnerability and delicacy makes Mystique a more sympathetic character and a more prominent one in the series.
I’m not sure how many times I have used the word character in this review, but I’m sure it is quite a bit. There is a reason for this though, X-Men: Days of Future Past is an enthralling film because of its characters and their stories. Singer and his writers have saved the franchise with an ambitious gamble of a movie that, although not perfect, does so much exceptionally.