The film opens in a dystopic future where the original X-men (plus some new faces) have been all but wiped out by the mutant hunting sentinels, robots capable of adapting to and combating any mutant power. The sentinel’s new abilities are a notable deviation from the comics, but one that plays out well. In their last attempt to stop the sentinels, the X-men elect to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 in order to stop an event they believe brought about this dark future.
There are a plethora of characters and moving parts here that screenwriter Simon Kinberg and director Bryan Singer juggle with expertise, setting a consistent pace throughout. The script also has a variety of motivations for its cast of characters; though Peter Dinklage is billed as the villain of the piece, Bolivar Trask, the main struggles seem to come from the different ways certain characters see fit to deal with Trask. You have a couple different camps, all vying to solve a problem the way they feel is right, putting them on a collision course with Trask and each other. That aspect of the plot was on one of my favorites, although there is clearly a ‘correct’ camp, (it’s the one Xavier (James McAvoy) is a part of), you still understand where the other power players are coming from, even if you really hope they don’t succeed.
There’s not a weak link to be had in the stellar cast. Fassbender nails his performance as Magneto yet again, McAvoy’s surprisingly despondent Xavier does most of the emotional heavy lifting, providing the real heart of the piece, and Jennifer Lawrence is given a lot to do with Mystique, providing the right amounts of vulnerability and strength. Hugh Jackman is fantastic, and jacked, as always as our favorite Canadian, and it might please some film-goers to know that while Logan is indeed the tether between the two timelines, he’s not the main character, giving the film a balanced team-oriented feel. Nicholas Hoult is back as Beast, and while good, he’s not given a ton to do as the character.
There was talk of Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) exclusion from the film being due to a big set piece surrounding her and other original X-men being cut. Why? I appreciate the desire for streamlining a plot and keeping things concise, but with a film this expansive, needing you to care about two separate timelines, is a 2 ½ hour run time really that extraneous? For me any additional time with the dystopic future would have helped the finished product.
There was some talk that this film might be fixing continuity errors in the X-men series, but it doesn’t. This isn’t so much a critique of the film as it is an interesting tidbit, but the film basically embraces the X-men film series’ tendency to take what it wants from continuity and ignore other aspects for the sake the current movie. First Class did it with Xavier’s paralysis and Cerebro’s origin among other things, and Days of Future Past continues that trend by having a number of head-scratchers, among them:
-Sentinels never being mentioned in the original trilogy
-Wolverine having metal claws again (after The Wolverine)
Now some of these things have, kind of, been explained in post credits scenes and hand-wavy interviews, but it’s interesting how the film, which will gain most of its box office take from the casual film-goer, not hard-core nerds like myself, seems content to just let the audience decide for themselves how these inconsistencies were rectified.
Overall where does the film stand in the wide quality spectrum that is the X-men films? It’s not the best the series has to offer, that title still goes to 2003’s X2, but it is unquestionably a strong entry, and although marred by the weak future storyline, it’s bolstered by strong performances, a solid script, confident direction and perhaps most importantly a genuine and palpable emotional core.