Bryan Singer returns to the film franchise he helped create after years of sequels, spin-offs, and a sort of reboot.
Bridging the former franchise with its new First Class reboot, X-Men: Days of Future Past retells the famous comic story in which Kitty Pryde is sent back into the past to keep a dark timeline from happening.
And while Pryde (Ellen Page) is relegated to being the means in which Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness is sent to warn Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and rival Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), Singer’s film in effect clears a path to correct past wrongs, continuity errors, and missteps.
Days of Future Past is a slate cleaner that restores the balance after X-Men 3: The Last Stand, a disaster for the franchise.
It also stands as the most comic-faithful film that keeps the important things front and center as it focuses on the relationships and the reasons why the X-Men are legends in the comic world.
In a future where Sentinel robots have eliminated most of the world’s mutants and anyone else carrying the potential to have children with the X-Gene, the last of the X-Men are hanging on to dear life. Pryde’s ability to send someone’s consciousness to the recent past to warn of future attacks has kept Xavier’s team one step ahead while they seek new avenues to launch a defensive against technological threats with the ability to adapt to any situation and cancel out a mutant’s power.
Hoping to stop the one pivotal moment that launched the Sentinel program, Xavier (Patrick Stewart) sends Logan back to the ’70s to keep Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
To save the future, Logan will have to deal with a drug-addled Xavier, prison-break accused President-assassin Lensherr, and keep himself from stressing himself back to the future, all the while working against the clock as the future Sentinels bear down on the X-Men’s secret base somewhere in the snow-covered Tibetan mountains.
On paper, this X-Men movie is pretty sparse when it comes to featuring its First Class X-Men, most of whom are either dead or drafted into the Vietnam War. The minimalist team working under the X-Men banner has a revolving door and consists of a young Xavier, Wolverine, Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Magneto who takes matters into his own hands for the latter half of the film.
That might sound disappointing if not for the substance that drowns out the need to stuff the movie with unnecessary extras who could have bogged the film down.
In that way, it’s very reminiscent of Skyfall, the Bond flick which rebooted a reboot with some clever sleight of hand and a marked return to the drawing board.
X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn’t settle for just putting on a grand display of superpowered mutants for mere shock and awe — though we do get some brilliant scenes that hearken back to the creative action sequences a la Nightcrawler from X-Men 2 — the audience is treated to more of what made First Class work with a paced movie that doesn’t forget what it’s based on and who’s sitting in the seats.
There’s action, there’s story, and there are complicated situations and plotlines delivered without the kid gloves. And that’s what makes this X-Men movie great — all of the things it’s not.
It’s not a Wolverine-centric film with rookie mutants working contrived storylines that don’t take root. What it is — a sci-fi movie with social commentary that starts from the ground up with eye-level looks at relatable characters as they struggle to hope — makes it the best X-Men film to date.
For the first time in a long time, it feels like home — especially for this fan of the comic series. There’s a respect for the source material and a spark in the actors’ performances that brings the characters to life on screen.
Whether or not the cast returns for another round of films remains to be seen, but the execution, from the filmmakers to the actors, shouldn’t be overlooked because they show us the things that matter most in a movie about mutants: What makes them human.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman