X-Men: Days of Future Past (DoFP) serves as a direct sequel to 2011’s X-Men: First Class, a direct follow up to 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and an indirect follow up to 2013’s The Wolverine. Following? Good, because it’s only going to get more confusing. Spoilers to follow.
As confusing as DoFP is(and the entire X-Men film series in fact, which is plagued with continuity errors), it is also not just the best X-Men film so far, but also the best superhero movie ever made. It’s superhero-meets-sci-fi, old-meets-new. The Last Stand was panned by critics and fans alike (it’s not a bad movie – in fact the scope of it is the best of the original trilogy – but fans unanimously agreed that the killing of Professor X, Jean Grey/Phoenix and Cyclops and the un-powering of Rogue, Mystique and Magneto was a big no-no) and so returnee director Bryan Singer sought to change these discrepancies.
And come the end of the film, which dips and dives between timelines and countries, the X-Men series is essentially rebooted to sometime prior to X2, meaning that more films in the original trilogy with the original cast are surely to be announced imminently.
But back to DoFP. It’s gorgeous in scope, opening with a bleak outlook at a broken and destroyed dystopian world as mutants are hunted down and exterminated for being different (figures, huh?). We meet up with some survivors (Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Ice Man, Bishop, Blink and Sunspot) and follow them as they reunite with Professor X (who is now alive again – another continuity error), Storm, Wolverine and Magneto. It’s certainly a thrill to revisit these old friends, each one of whom easily falls back into their beloved roles. But our old friends effectively have extended cameos through the film – they are present throughout but they aren’t the main focus. (As a side note I hope Bishop and Blink in particular return to expand their story and bring more badass-ness to the series – they were both executed brilliantly on screen!)
The main focus belongs to J-Law’s Mystique, James McAvoy’s Professor X, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This quartet sets the screen alight and each are given their time to shine: J-Law’s facial expressions throughout are pitch-perfect, and her agonising decision at the close of the film is excruciatingly believable; McAvoy perfectly plays damaged and deranged Xavier, who is a shell of the former man he was, and the man he’ll later become; Fassbender deliciously plays evil once more, in a turn that is uncannily reminiscent of McKellen’s original portrayal in parts; and Jackman plays humour and heart subtly but seamlessly so (with plenty of swearing – this is meant to be a 12A, right?). Their chemistry together simply simmers.
The biggest problem with DoFP is the sheer number of characters we are shown, some of whom are given their time to shine and some who barely feature. Anna Paquin’s extended role was reportedly trimmed to a speechless cameo, and Halle Berry’s turn as Storm was cut due to Berry’s real-life pregnancy. Similarly we are introduced to characters such as Blink, Sunspot and Warpath and expected to mourn them when they die, but with next-to-no backstory given it is a little hard to empathise. Each of these characters is effectively plot devices to move the story forward. Additionally Toad, Havok and Ink barely feature and have no importance to the overall story – so why feature them at all?
But some characters worked better than others. McKellen is sublime in his heartfelt apology (well, almost) to Professor X as he lays dying; man of the moment Peter Dinklage plays Bolivar Trask just perfectly; and Evan Peters is a delight as Quicksilver. The entire sequence of Quicksilver infiltrating the Pentagon to free Magneto is gorgeous to behold, in particular the extended shot of him running slow-motion to change the outcome of the gun fight in the kitchen. It’s simply stunning, and the standout scene of the movie.
The film’s end is likewise stunning. The future battle is seamlessly interwoven with the turmoil between Mystique and Magneto in the 70s and its real edge-of-the-seat stuff. In places it’s hard to empathise with the dying characters when everything is later reset, but it’s still a blow to the stomach to see Storm and Magneto perishing. The CGI is executed brilliantly throughout, creating believable bursts of fire and teleporting worm-holes. But it’s the performances that shine more through the film, cementing DoFP as a gigantic triumph.
Yes, there are too many characters. And yes, some do shine more than others. But regardless DoFP is a worthy sequel to those that have come before it and, retconning most of what has previously happened, results in the best film so far in the series. 2016’s Apocalypse has a lot to live up to, but with Singer returning, more J-Law, McAvoy, Fassbender, Hault and Peters, along with a younger Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey, Channing Tatum as Gambit and En Sabah Nur’s telekinesis as a threat, I’m sure it’ll more than live up to expectations. Even if it’ll be a little crowded.