Directed by: Bryan Singer || Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker
Screenplay by: Simon Kinberg || Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Halle Berry
Music by: John Ottman || Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel || Editing by: John Ottman || Country: United States, United Kingdom || Language: English
Running Time: 131 minutes
One of the best indicators of Days of Future Past’s (DOFP) quality and thus the X-Men series’ return to form as a whole was the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair. Singer, director of the first two films in the X-Men franchise (X-Men , X2: X-Men United ), and now director of the three far and away best X-Men films to date, was the guy who first put the mutant series on the map and was a key force in legitimizing the return of superhero films to yearly box office dominance. Singer’s original X-Men was also the vehicle for then young, up-and-coming singer/actor/gorgeously good-looking Hugh Jackman to transform into a star and make himself and the series’ most famous character, Wolverine, a modern day cinematic phenomenon.
That’s not to say all is perfect in the mutant universe. The film suffers if you view it as an integral, connected part of a larger series that has repeatedly butchered its own continuity to the point of utter confusion. Various plot-points and character arcs have been altered throughout the series and remain further convoluted in DOFP, namely because the film was conceived as an attempt to merge the original films (X-Men, X2, and X-Men 3: The Last Stand ) with the cast of the movie that was originally meant to reboot the entire franchise (X-Men: First Class ). This inevitably causes problems in narrative continuity to those of us who’ve watched every film in the series.
Given how these problems are symptomatic of the indecisive production of the franchise as a whole, and not necessarily a failure of this film alone, I’m going easy on DOFP’s backtracking of certain major past events within the series’ timeline. That’s not the biggest of the movie’s problems, nor the director’s fault. Each film deserves to be judged on its own terms.
My main complaints with DOFP are some odd directing decisions from Singer that left me annoyed throughout the film. While the bulk of the movie’s run-time focuses on the 1970’s setting, the opposite end of the time-travel plot involves a poorly designed dystopian future that looks terrible. Singer is a better director than this and I don’t know how and why he signed off on these corny scenes. Everything in the future set-designs look lame, from the forced low-key lighting and stormy backgrounds to the awkward Chinese temple decorations that look like rejected props from a 70’s Hong Kong kung fu-movie, and finally to the cartoonish sentinels that pose as the primary antagonists in these dystopian scenes.
On the flip side, the bulk of the narrative taking place in the 1970’s and its younger cast (plus Jackman) are excellent. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as the youthful Magneto and Professor X, respectively, continue to have great chemistry, and Jennifer Lawrence relaxes into her role as Mystique, a character she never appeared comfortable with in First Class. These three roles are the biggest selling points of the ensemble cast as Jackman’s Wolverine plays a supporting role, chaperoning the younger mutants to negate the poorly designed apocalyptic future. Watching Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique constantly one-up each other both with their powers and wits is great fun. Their interactions play out like a rock-paper-scissors game, and the added oppressive element from fearful, ignorant humans led by a smarmy Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) gives yet another level of depth to the conflict.
The starring cast-members are enveloped by an intriguing, dramatic story that feels both timely and historical all at once. The time-travel dynamic is well implemented, guiding the characters through intense confrontations and intimate character-growth moments. Several key scenes are particularly well done, including a mutant brawl in Paris during the North Vietnamese celebration following the Vietnam War, the intense climax at the White House where young Magneto shows what a truly capable asshole he is, and of course the much lauded Pentagon-breakout set-piece featuring a bravado guest performance by Evan Peters as Quicksilver. The fact that Beast (a great Nicholas Hoult) beating the shit out of Fassbender’s Magneto, and later, Fassbender lifting an entire baseball stadium out of the ground to create an impromptu fortress around the White House, are close runner-ups for the most awesome scenes in the movie, speak to the quality of the film as a whole.
In summary, DOFP is a couple cards short of a full house, but the film is without a doubt a superior superhero-adventure. The film is light on the older original cast, placing more emphasis on the trifecta of red-hot Lawrence, Fassbender, and (a noticeably less hot) McAvoy than series’ staple Hugh Jackman, but this works to the movie’s benefit. The fact that this series’ narrative continuity is beyond saving is regrettable, but its real problems are how its story keeps flashing forward to the (albeit brief) less interesting future timeline. Despite these rough patches, though, I’m once again interested in where the X-Men series will go from here, and now that series Godfather Bryan Singer is back at the helm, I have good reason to be hopeful for what the future (past) holds.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Other than X2, Days of Future Past sports the best narrative of the franchise yet and engrosses you in a potent time-travel plot that is as emotionally engaging as it is sociopolitically intelligent. The story is highlighted by some excellent scenes with Quicksilver, Beast, Magneto, and Mystique flexing their mutant muscles to great cinematic effect. As is typical with this series, the cast is great and the lead members shine the brightest. McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence disappear into their roles and have excellent chemistry. Jackman is less a mover and shaker in this story than he is the rock that continues to hold the franchise together.
— However… DOFP makes it clear that Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg are content to rehash their own narrative regardless of previous series installments to the detriment of the audience understanding what the fuck is going on. The scenes in the post-apocalyptic future look like crap, as do the plot-heavy sentinels.
—> HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, nonetheless.
? Logan (to Magneto): “So… you were always an asshole!”