As Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes back in time from 2023 to 1973, Bryan Singer takes the audience back in time from 2014 to 2003 — a time when comic book movies were strange, unique affairs that were always successful and always really, really good.
X-Men: Days of Future Past, based on the highly popular comic book issue of the same name, sees the Wolverine from after X-Men: The Last Stand sent back to his body 10 years after X-Men: First Class, intent on stopping Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
In the future, Trask’s assassination and Mystique’s subsequent capture launched the Sentinel Program, which pitted artificially intelligent anti-mutant weapons who, using Mystique’s shapeshifting ability, are able to adapt perfectly to combat any mutant. These sentinels will cause a holocaust, killing mutants and enslaving humans. To stop the assassination, Wolverine must find younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to turn Mystique off of killing Trask.
Days of Future Past starts out by falling flat on its face. The film’s extensive brain trust clearly wanted to get out of the pipe-laying stage and into the action, but instead of writing around their problems they rushed and dulled the opening few scenes.
Once past that section, it’s easy to see why they were so eager. This movie is awesome. From emotional plot twists and desperate battles, both verbal and physical, to every split-second Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is on screen, Days of Future Past delivers the goods in spades.
The film constantly gets better as it goes on. The climax is both unexpected and fully faithful to the comics, emotionally gripping and visually stunning.
It’s the film’s several layers of conflict that give it this bite. Almost every major character is, at some point, at odds with every other major character. About half of them are facing difficult internal struggles as well, and the end goal of it all is to turn around and deal with societal perceptions.
Just as the movie evolves from First Class’s rushed, child-oriented filmmaking to a powerful, moving film echoing the initial X-Men movies, the audience gets to see those weird rap-scallions from First Class start to become the sages from the comics. Instead of fighting each other colorful tendrils of CGI, characters fight against their own better natures. The goal is to end the cycle of violence, not just come out on top until the sequel.
This is one of those rare movies that should actually be a lot longer. More and better pipe-laying would help the audience really feel the later scenes’ impact. This isn’t to say they aren’t felt already, but it would be nice to have more than one shot of a mutant internment camp. It isn’t a dystopia if the sky is dark. Twenty minutes to really delve into the human suffering that’s implied would be 20 worth-while minutes by the end of the movie.
There’s evidence that this may happen. Anna Paquin, who plays Rogue, said she was initially in a larger role but was cut to a cameo. Maybe we’ll get to see the three-hour version of this movie.
It’s good to see this series get back to the roots. In the modern movie era, super-heroes dominate the summer box office. Since 2000 when the first X-Men came out, 2001, 2009 and 2011 are the only years that don’t feature a comic book movie in the top 10 earners. They’ve had multiple pictures in the top 10 three times since 2008, and the top two earners this year as of this writing are Captain America and The Amazing Spider-Man, with X-Men poised to join them shortly.
They started as lovingly crafted affairs from Singer and Sam Raimi, but Marvel’s over-ambition has given the more recent ones a manufactured feel and may have started bringing the fad to an end. Days of Future Past is the shot in the arm the genre needs to stay on top.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. Hey, remember when Robin Thicke said his wife was OK with that music video? For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at email@example.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.