Back to the future past!
The only actors seemingly capable of producing the same intense chemistry with onscreen conversations as Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan do…are Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. Put them all in a movie together and it’s practically a how-to on acting. Throw in Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence and you now have one of the most talented ensembles ever. Oh, wait, Tyrion Lannister, err… Peter Dinklage, too?! With this billed cast, it could’ve been a biopic about the GEICO gecko and I’d get in line. Luckily for everyone, it’s actually X-Men: Days of Future Past, one of the best entries in the X-Men series (including all spinoffs, etc.) and an insanely fun film.
It’s the year 2023 and our dystopian world has been ravaged by a war initially staged against mutants by giant Government-financed robots called Sentinels (looking sort of like the Destroyer from Thor). In an effort to prevent Dr. Bolivar Trask’s (Peter Dinklage) Sentinel program from ever being approved in 1973, which turns out to have been a byproduct of the violent actions of a rogue Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Sir Ian McKellan) devise a plan with a handful of X-Men including Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and others to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to alter history with the help of then emotional frenemies, young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Yes, this plot does sound very confusing and hard to follow, but X-Men: Day of Future Past handles it well — not giving in to star power or emotional gimmicks, but rather, doing what’s necessary to keep the story engaging and fun and relevant (even in the fly 70’s).
It’s been 11 years since Bryan Singer directed X2: X-Men United and he once again proves that he, more than any others who have taken the helm, has the best feel for the characters’ motives and their relationships to each other. In more ways than one, this film vanquishes the atrocities committed in Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Whew! 2011’s X-Men: First Class was a sensational reboot of the franchise by taking the characters back to their origins. Days of Future Past manages to successfully continue the reboot while also regrouping the scattered former series. And now, I honestly can’t decide for which time period and X-Men cast I’d rather see a sequel for first. Maybe both, again?
The best X-Men movies (that would be X-Men, X2, and X-Men: First Class) are fun to watch because they showcase the characters’ mutant skills and fears against a very real backdrop filled with socially and politically relevant themes. Sure, kick-ass action sequences don’t hurt either, no matter how superfluous they are…within reason. The action sequences in Days of Future Past are thrilling, varied, and choreographed extremely well. Plus, I know I’ll never get tired of watching Jackman’s Wolverine bust out those claws or Magneto controlling bullet paths, and neither should you. But overall, we want to see X-Men movies with either a strong metaphorical point or a plot that truly advances the world in which these characters exist, and not just via emotional quarrels. I mentioned in my review of Godzilla (another recent successful reboot) that the best blockbusters instill in us a sense of fear or anger or exciting questions about our future (or past). Days of Future Past may be a bit redundant in hammering the ‘mutants v. humans’ nail into the ground, yet again, but as long as we are enthralled with the specific occurrences within that battle, something worthwhile is being instilled in us.
Did I just ramble off into unnecessarily serious and faux-deep territory? Ugh, sorry, here you go…
X-Men: Days of Future Past opens in theaters today, May 23rd, 2014.