To say X-Men: Days of Future Past has been one of the most anticipated films this year is an understatement. The last truly decent X-Men film we had was way back in 2011 with First Class, with last year’s average The Wolverine tiding us over until now . And the less said about The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine the better. But Days of Future Past is a true return to form by original director Bryan Singer. Successfully uniting both old and new casts, the film starts by portraying a bleak future in which a band of mutants including Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Storm (Halle Berry) in a last ditch attempt to hold off the Sentinels, giant mutant-exterminating robots, while Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) devises a plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973. There he meets with young Xavier (James McAvoy), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in order to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinating the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
The first thing that ought to be mentioned is how well both Singer and Simon Kinberg wrote the script, as the plot summary alone makes it sound convoluted, yet they manage to create a coherent plot that is followed with ease. While the majority of the film is set in the past, it frequently jumps back to the future without losing tension and still making it relevant, and some of the best scenes come from a practical union of the two periods. This also presents a contrast in styles, with one being a distinctly depressing, Terminator-esque future, and the other a snazzy 70s era period piece. And while the past has none of First Class’s quirky charm, it still has plenty of nice pop cultural references.
However, since most of the time the film is set in the future, fans of the “original” X-Men may be a little disappointed. Series regulars Stewart and McKellen get most of the time here, resulting in others like Ashmore and Berry getting a little less screen time. But they were nowhere near as short changed as Anna Paquin’s Rogue, who was practically cut out of the film apart from a small cameo at the end. We are also introduced to other new mutants, with the two stand-out characters being Bishop (Omar Sy) and Blink (Fan Bingbing), who again got little screen time, and I’d love to see them return for future installments. I understand why they did this, otherwise the plot would suffer for it, but maybe a few extra future scenes would have been nice.
Conversely, this intense focus on the past means that we get to see McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult and Lawrence continue their amazing First Class performance. And if that film was stolen by Fassbender’s Magneto, then Days of Future Past is very much McAvoy’s film. His Xavier has changed very much from the first film, and indeed how who know the character in general. He has lost all hope after losing both his legs and Raven to Magneto, and it takes Wolverine to unite the characters in a common cause. Some fans may complain about having Wolverine feature prominently again, but his role as a fish-out-of-water was a different direction for the character, and allowed him to step back a little from the limelight, much akin to Singer’s first two movies in the franchise.
Lawrence and Fassbender give good performances as well, especially Lawrence, who steps up to become one of the main antagonists in the film. This to an extent reduces the threat from Dinklage’s Trask who, whilst being an interesting human character among the rest of the mutants, never quite reaches the same levels of menace of Brian Cox in X-Men 2, and his intriguing motivations could have been elaborated upon and made more personal.
However, the most memorable performance of the entire film was that of Evan Peters as Quicksilver. When the first few photos of his character appeared online, many people (myself included) had their doubts. Luckily, we were all proven wrong, as his pitifully few scenes involving a prison break are as unique as they are comic. The good news is that due to heightened popularity, we should see more of him in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, and it will be interesting to see how this take on the character will differ to the one we’ll see in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
While there still remains some glaring errors in continuity, X-Men: Days of Future Past manages the nigh impossible. It manages to tell a comprehensible time-travel story with such a huge supporting cast that manages to maintain the relevance of almost all of the characters. It essentially fixes the franchise and reboots it at the same time, leaving the door open for a wealth of possibilities.