Believe it or not, there was a time when the release of a superhero movie was a cautious move by that of movie distributors. It was unheard of and it was during this period that superhero movies were believed to be a fad, a gag, a flop. We live in a privileged generation where the release of superhero movies have become celebrated and, for some, a household event. The movie that was the "game changer" was Bryan Singer's X2: X-Men United, a superhero movie that felt like a superhero movie and had all the elements of an excellent one. It was from that moment on that we saw a beacon of hope for superhero films, where we realized that maybe they could stick around for a while. And indeed they have and with every new year we are bombarded with nearly three or four new ones, sometimes game-changers themselves. Certain films such as The Dark Knight, The Avengers and many others have been strong placeholders for the superhero genre and enter, [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942).
Joss Whedon, writer and director of 2012's massive blockbuster The Avengers had a massive undertaking when he had to bring together this eclectic group of superheros and make the threat viable enough to see them on the big screen. He had the responsibility of creating a monumental and credible story while still being loyal to each and every character, giving all of them a balanced amount of screen time, dialogue that would match each character's persona as well as push the narrative forward and cohesively match action set pieces with the correct amount of build-up and exposition. The Avengers was a hit both critically and at the box office. Why am I referring to this film in this review? Because X-Men: Days of Future Past is literally and in all ways 20th Century Fox's and X-Men's 'Avengers' film. In fact, the boundaries it must successfully cross are, in my opinion, even more difficult than those of The Avengers because it has double the amount of main characters, involves one of the most difficult elements in narrative: time travel, and is riding on a lot of expectations. Bryan Singer bought us the first two X-Men films (arguably two of the best of the franchise) and returns to the universe with this film after it was diabolically ruined by Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand and the horrendous X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In many ways, Bryan Singer is the father of the X-Men Cinematic Universe as Joss Whedon is the father of the Avengers Cinematic Universe. It is truly a bold statement to make but it is as true at it is bold. Bryan Singer brought this universe to life and it back again to give us undoubtedly the best X-Men film in the franchise to date.
X-Men: Days of Future Past encompasses a time span of decades and an ensemble barely any other director would have the guts to try to bring to the big screen mainly because it is so massive. We have Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), young AND old Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart respectively), young AND old Magneto (Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen respectively), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Bishop (Omar Sy) and the list goes on and on. The amount of characters they had to fit in a two hour block period is vast and yet, it works perfectly. The moment the movie starts it feels like a Bryan Singer X-Men film. We get the original X-Men theme by John Ottman (who also scored the first two X-Men films and it Singer's main composer) and are immediately thrust into the X-Men universe we grew up with. The story doesn't waste anytime. General audience members who know nothing about the comic book story are brought up speed with a quick and greatly narrated voice-over by OLD Professor Xavier. The first action set piece is literally a condensed version of the final battle sequence in The Avengers. We are introduced to some of our side protagonists and from there the story propels into the time travel concept where Wolverine's consciousness is sent back in time to warn his friends of the oncoming threat. Hugh Jackman has played this iconic character for fourteen years in seven films and he only gets better and better. This is an actor who, everytime he steps on the screen, he is no longer the actor. His intensity and beautiful character study gives him every right to call this character his. However, what makes this movie so interesting and far from the usual is the role switch. Professor Xavier is known to be the teacher, the guiding force and mentor in all of his films and is usually shows Wolverine the steps and leading him. Days of Future Past does a complete and compelling reversal where Wolverine is now the leader and guider. Having been sent back in time and having to get the group of X-Men together to stop a potential threat, it is up to Wolverine to bring the team together and persuade them that it is the right thing to do. The role reversal never feels jagged or unusual, it plays out incredibly normally and is quite a refresher.
As great as Hugh Jackman is and although one can argue that he is the main character for he is literally the bridge between the past and future timelines, everyone else plays a drastic role in this film and there is one word to describe the perfect balance and on screen chemistry, mesmerizing. You can't help but fall in love with every single character for they are all fleshed out so perfectly and each new interaction and moment of tension is written and performed so well. The chemistry between the younger versions of Professor Charles and Magneto is as gripping and heartfelt as the chemistry between the older versions. There has never been as much love as well as sheer hatred between the two and sometimes it is so subtle you can't help but watch these actors on screen and praise them every second. Jennifer Lawrence who plays as Mystique also has a very pivotal role to the story and it's needless to say how great of an actress she is. She completely sinks into all of her roles and in all honesty, I completely forgot that she ever played a girl named Katniss while I watched this film. Of course the blonde hair conceals it as well but she has this character down from the way she walks, talks and her facial expressions.
The story is grim but it mixes a great amount of humor as well but doesn't overdo it. Taking place between two timelines, the production design is a huge element to the film, having to explicitly remind us what time period we're in during certain scenes of the film and one way to do this is obviously the costuming but the beautiful color palettes of each time period is just as important. The past takes place in 1973 and is established with clothing, mannerisms and a dominant yellow color whereas the future takes place fifty years later and is established with evolves suits, technology and a dominant purple hue. There's only one moment in the film where past meets future and without spoiling it, it is easily one of the most touching and satisfying scenes of the movie.
Not only is X-Men: Days of Future Past the best in the franchise, it also writes all the wrongs in X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Certain parts of the narrative explain the bad elements of those two films and makes them better, which alone gives this film so much more credit. The action set pieces, as you could have easily guessed, as massive on their own and extremely gripping. Every character's superpowers are showcased to their fullest potential and there is no wiggle room. Everyone has a moment to shine and to his utmost ability. The character arcs of Professor Xavier and Magneto are a feat to behold, giving us some of the more emotional parts of the film.
John Ottman's score is absolutely one of the best superhero scores and does such a great job as keeping the pacing of the film going. The movie runs at 131 minutes but never feels long at all. Every new scene is just as enthralling as the previous and slowly builds up more and more until a very satisfying finale. Even the element of time travel (which can always be nitpicked upon) makes complete sense in this film and for once, there are no plot holes. I walked into X-Men: Days of Future Past expecting the next "Avengers" if you may and walked out getting something even better. It's the perfect definition of something that loses in itself and is no longer a movie but is an experience. X-Men: Days of Future Past is easily the best superhero movie of the year so far and a worthy addition to the shelf of "the best superhero movies of all time". The only gripe I have with the film and it's so minimal it can go unsaid, is that Bolivar Trask, the man responsible for creating the mutant killing Sentinels, is never given much of a purpose except for that. His hatred for mutants is never really explained nor touched upon and his motives never seem personalized but that on its own is a very minor setback and doesn't take away from the certain gravitas of this film.
X-Men: Days of Future Past had one of the hardest stories to bring to life in the form of a movie narrative and it succeeds in flying colors. I didn't like it, I loved it and it's not extremely good, it's absolutely magnificent and a game changer in the superhero genre.