Expectations were at an all-time high for the new X-Men sequel, much more than the previous installment X-Men: First Class. It takes a far more daring construct than before with more chances of a potential failure to viewers. I had my doubts about it even being good as X2: X-Men United and wished that it was better than X-Men: The Last Stand. But I was pleasantly surprised and incredibly shocked that not only was it better than Last Stand but even better that X-Men United. Having grown up with this franchise and being incredibly attached to it, getting people excited for a sequel which first premiered over a decade ago is an incredibly tall task. Especially in a landscape that is now dominated by countless comic book movies. But it certainly helps their chances since it’s a genre that X-Men help build; they prove why they have much more in the tank with one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen in ages.
The X-Men should have been left for dead years ago. There was no way that anyone could actually see how a sequel to a highly successful franchise which was unceremoniously killed by terrible sequels could ever see the light of day. They both did nothing to add to the mythos of the characters or offer any engaging stories. The hole was so deep that even thinking about a sequel was heresy. But when something is that low with terrible expectations, the only direction to go is up and that’s exactly where X-Men went. By having it be part sequel/prequel added with a time travel element, you have the freedom to change what was wrong and fix it to your liking. There were too many previous plot holes to do just a regular sequel. Something needed to be different and keep people excited. What happens is a total revamp of the entire franchise, characters included. To do such a move is unprecedented but I found it quite refreshing to see a comic book movie fix things in a logical way to a comic book universe. I only wish it could have been done to the Schumacher Batman films. Moments I wish I could have erased forever. We know much about the characters from the previous films, but it feels like new since they are added new dimensions to themselves.
With so many improvements since the last films, the standout has to be the story which is great. I haven’t been this engaged in a comic book movie in quite a while and obviously not since X2. But DOFP utilized the us vs them scenario better than X2 did and having it set in 1973 fuels the discrimination, racism and intolerance of the era that is so important at the heart of X-Men. The late 60s and early 70s was a hotbed for homosexual rights movements and X-Men has always been an allegory for that struggle. It’s only fitting that the movie was set during that period. Spearheading the movement against equal rights and acceptance for all is Bolivar Trask, a brilliant military scientist who fears that mutants will take over the world if no one takes action. So he initiates that giant robots called Sentinels be made to track and identify mutants along with people who carry the mutant gene so they will be eradicated. Eventually this leads to a barren existence where all mutants and gene carriers are imprisoned and the X-Men ruthlessly hunt down. Many people fear what they don’t understand, hoping that all who don’t fit their world stand apart from the crowd to be dealt with. This leads to the remaining X-Men fighting for their lives and Wolverine being sent back by Kitty Pryde in 73 to stop a plot that would decimate the planet.
What I really liked is that they jumped into the story with minimal set up or narration and just letting you go along for the ride. Loved the simplicity and letting everyone jump in but seeing the X-Men battle the Sentinels along the years would have been a really cool visual. I was wary of the time travel aspect even though it’s a major story in the comic lexicon and the translation to the screen seemed dubious. Kind of like a cop out since there is nowhere else to go for the characters. Time travel can get so flimsy and sloppy in movies, but the entire concept of time travel is flimsy to begin with since it’s not based in reality at all with no real rules. But here it’s a clear progression and a logical choice for everyone to go and experience. It’s not some throwaway plot device used simply as “Why not? We haven’t done this before!” But even the time travel plot was usurped by how they could fit in all the characters in one film at once. Juggling all these people in different centuries is no easy feat, it shows why Singer and Joss Whedon are the only two who have done a successful superhero team up movie. So many questions like who deserved more time than another, proper intro for the new characters, logical way of using them and so on. But the qualms have been relieved as everyone got ample screen time. Some more than others but that’s clearly for story purposes.
The script was powerful, funny, witty and sometimes tragic. You really care what the characters are saying and is a truly fresh, invigorating script. Clearly the best written X-Men and comic book movie, expertly handled with tender love and care. Quicksilver brought much humor and an interesting dynamic against the rest of the cast. But Wolverine also has some good comedic moments with one moment in particular giving a shout out all the way back to the first film. Bizarre that Simon Kinberg who wrote DOFP also wrote that travesty The Last Stand, which goes to show you that Brett Ratner who directed The Last Stand is heavily over paid and over hyped as a director.
The acting was amazing all around, considering there was so much content, nuances and characters. Hugh Jackman was believably great as Wolverine as he always was. Hardened badass with a good heart but anchored by incredible angst, even more so than before. Jennifer Lawrence plays another ass kicking femme fatale in Mystique, showing more depth than in previous installments. She plays a major role as one of the iconic villains in Marvel and is great to see her progress into a colder, determined killer while also showing much emotional versatility. Even Peters as Quicksilver nearly stole the show with an instantly classic scene where he broke into the pentagon. The stop motion sequence was brilliant and seeing him mold people into various positions was like an artist finishing up a masterpiece. Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask played a great villain and the much needed human element to go against mutants. I liked his role as a villain better than Brian Cox as Stryker in X2. Wasn’t a clear madman per se but fearful and untrusting of any person with unspeakable power who can look like anyone. Drastically jumping the gun when faced with a person who differs from you is par for the course and helps that it speaks to a certain sect of the population who would do something similar if they could.
Awesome to finally see Bishop as well as other new mutants like Blink, Warpath and Sunspot. I can’t wait to see them fleshed out more in the sequels as well as Gambit. Felt complete to see Colossus, Iceman, Kitty Pryde and Storm like old friends. But the real meat and potatoes lie in the pairings of James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X and Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. Their frenemy dynamic holds the entire franchise together like superglue and is the emotional core of the entire film. Fassbender is beyond excellent going off against equally great McAvoy like their playing an intense game of tennis. Their acting is so well done, you can’t help but feel bad for Magneto and kind of pity Professor X. they go through so much that it resorts to a type of redemption story for both of them. There is such emotional, dramatic pathos for both that it’s easily unmatched by any other duo. But one will always go one way with the other going an opposite way. It’s that dynamic that shows they can’t live without each other no matter how much they despise what they stand for. That’s what makes it that much sweeter later in the film in a future scene between Xavier and Lehnsherr played by Stewart and Mckellen. Knowing that they are the cutest best friends in the entire world brings a tear to your eye. Whether they stand off against each other or team up together, it is always memorable.
The action was top notch and evened out throughout with the drama. Everyone got time to show their powers, but Magneto moving an entire stadium was a great visual. The climax at the ending was particularly memorable. But the pentagon sequence will go down in infamy as one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen. Easily beats Nightcrawler and the white house action sequence in X2, which was amazing for its time. People probably complained about Wolverine being front and center again, but the explanation to why he was sent back instead of Kitty Pryde like in the comics made a lot of sense. And in the end, it’s actually kind of bittersweet going along with his character trajectory. How he reacts to certain people in the past makes it that much more intriguing and really keeps you guessing where they can go from here.
Love the dark, desolate apocalypse of the future coinciding with the bright colors and intolerance of the 70s. It’s all too great to see Bryan Singer in the director’s chair as there haven’t been much success with other directors. Matthew Vaughn did an exceptional job on X-Men: First Class but he isn’t doing another sequel which is a damn shame. He has a great eye for comics and action. Here Singer has done his finest work yet with a great mixture of drama, action and humor elevated by a captivating story. Everything here moves like clockwork and is incredibly crisp. There is so much character to recognize and he has enough room in spades to cover it all without even trying. You can tell that he really cares for the story and characters, wanting to do it justice and rectify the doom from The Last Stand. The after credit scene was well worth the wait and should excite any nerd like it did me in the theatre. It was something I should have expected given how I know the title and direction of the upcoming sequel but it still had me giddy like a school boy watching any Marvel after credit scene.
With the successes of The X-Men and The Avengers, I now am in serious doubt that The Justice League can even keep up with either of them. DC and Warner Brothers have got some serious balls to go toe to toe with well-respected franchises without even showing that they can even be in the same room with them. I loved Man of Steel regardless of what any idiot says and was a great standalone film. But as a sequel and the beginnings of a superhero team up at the same time just seems like running before you can even walk. I still can’t believe they are even stupid enough to premiere Superman 2 against Captain America 3. I have been wrong before on movies, sometimes illogically. But this goes against all logic. Simply put DCs arms are just too short to box with god.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past did something that no one expected and that’s taking a highly successful franchise, raise it from the ashes and bring it back to prominence where it started in an exciting story. In a world that has already been established and built, it was broken down, rebuilt and laid the ground work for a new world. There is seemingly no end to where it can go now as it has been given a new chance to create with a brave new direction. It has the perfect formula for a comic book summer blockbuster but added with a political undertone that appeals to everyone. Now with more comic book franchises expanding their universes more than ever before, it’s comforting to see a franchise that help usher in the era of comic book adaptations back in the spotlight. It learned from its previous mistakes, confident that it can keep up with newer franchise while also showing something that has not been seen before. Five Sentinels out of five.