"So you were always an asshole."
Anyone hoping that the X-Men were going to simplify things following the First Class reboot must have been left scratching their head after sitting through X-Men: Days of Future Past. Loosely based on the beloved X-Men comic of the same name, Days of Future Past is an epic time travel story that spans nearly fifty years and gathers both casts of the X-Men films into one gigantic story. It's big, grandiose, and usually pretty fun, but it's also morose and a bit of a step backwards for fans hoping to continue the freewheeling fun of First Class.
The film opens in a dark future where mutants are on the run from shapeshifting mutant killing machines known as Sentinels. When Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lensherr (Ian McKellen) realize that Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has the ability to send a person's consciousness into their younger self, they decide to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to bring a young Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) together to the event that led to the Sentinels' creation. They must prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man who invented the Sentinel program, and whose death at the hands of Mystique allowed the government to exploit her shapeshifting mutant abilities and program them into the Sentinels, making them unstoppable.
That's an awfully long winded explanation, and the film's best asset is that it moves through this exposition with alacrity and more or less gets right to the action. It's an impressive feat, considering how convoluted all of this is, and it also probably helps that Wolverine more or less explains the whole plot to the younger Charles and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and subsequently Magneto. But overall, I was amazed by how well the first half of the movie moves like a bat out of hell. Once they actually prevent her from killing Trask, however, things kind of go off the rails a bit and the film becomes something of a slog.
It certainly doesn't help that Hugh Jackman now looks like an impossible Frankenstein monster, stretching the bounds of believability to the breaking point. For all my bitching about his perfect hair in the other X-Men reviews, his hair looks ridiculous in this movie. I'm guessing his hair just isn't as voluminous as it once was, but he looks like an old man trying to regain his vitality. Jackman's a good actor, but his desire to show how hard he works to do what he does is taxing. It's the same problem that plagues Leonardo DiCaprio, there's no effortlessness there. It's all about how hard he's working to make the movie awesome, and that's tiring after a while.
It certainly helps that the script nails the moments it needs to nail, most of them character moments. Whenever the film devolves into another mindless action setpiece, it goes off the rails, but the character stuff is great. Fassbender and McAvoy once again kill it, though Lawrence seems to be on cruise control a bit, not really seeming to give a shit about the film she's in. Dinklage is a perfect villain: menacing, paranoid, and always standing on ceremony. He continues the franchise's proud history of interesting villains with mad agendas. Most everyone else, including the returning Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, and new additions like Omar Sy's Bishop, just aren't given anything interesting to do.
Of course, the best addition to the film is Evan Peters' brilliant portrayal of Quicksilver. His entire prison break sequence is phenomenal, and more films need to start using Jim Croce on the soundtrack. His scene set to Croce's "Time in a Bottle" is probably the single best sequence in any of these films, and beautifully illustrates what the perfect mix of effects, music, and immersive 3D imagery looks like. It's really a shame that they ditch him considering how handy his powers would have been to them. If only the rest of the film were as good as this scene, though I will give major points to Bingbing Fan's Blink, whose mutant ability to open portals is used to great effect at the beginning and end of the film.
Overall, Days of Future Past is a mostly good movie with perhaps a bit too much bloat and a few too many subplots to be wholly edifying. Singer seems to be chasing the X2 ghost quite a bit in this film, and whether you call it homage or ripping himself off, it's clear that the magic is mostly gone. Thankfully the cast, once again, picks things up and keeps them moving in the right direction. If only as much time, care, and attention were poured into the rest of the film as was clearly put into that Quicksilver sequence, it could've been something great. As it stands, however, it's another solid entry in a franchise full of them.
—That is a fantastic wig on Peter Dinklage. Best wig of the series, perhaps
—Senator Big Fat Bernie Gayle??? They always get the best character actors for these one-off Senator roles
—Once again, why are we using publicity stills from an earlier film as a framed photograph in the current film? Winter Soldier did this too, it's annoying
—Wow, this Mystique pretending to be people to steal classified information scene is almost identical to the one in X2
—JFK was a mutant? Are we going to be doing the same jokes about Obama in forty years? Probably
—Nixon's right hand man is Discount Bruce Greenwood
—Also, this guy looks more like Chris Christie than Nixon
—When the sentinels start picking off our mutant heroes in the future, they kill Bishop and Storm first... What's up with that, Sentinels? You guys got beef with the black community?
—I'm glad Logan got his happy ending and we retconned all of Last Stand, but I kinda hate this ending.
Directed by Bryan Singer
Screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, and Matthew Vaughn
Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, and Hutch Parker
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Bingbing Fan, Adan Canto, Booboo Stewart, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Lucas Till
Running Time: 132 minutes