‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Review: Marvel’s X-cellent Mutant Adventure

'X-Men: Days of Future Past'

Movie Rating:

4

By the time the credits roll on the last screening of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ this weekend, plenty of people in sold-out theaters across the planet will have a new favorite ‘X-Men’ movie. Packed with action, brilliant actors, relentless pacing, and wrapped in a clever conceit, this is easily the most purely entertaining entry in the series to date. Whether it’s the best is up for debate (‘X2’ is preeeeetty good), but there’s no denying that this mutant epic delivers the goods.

Based on one of the most beloved storylines in the history of ‘X-Men’ comics, ‘Days of Future Past’ is a wonderful bit of fan service and a movie that could never have been made when the film franchise began 14 years ago. The technology wasn’t ready, and no studio was willing to fork over this type of cash for a Marvel movie yet. Most importantly, the groundwork just wasn’t in place. ‘Days of Future Past’ is the type of comic book story that can only happen midstream, once an entire universe has been established. It’s the type of epic crossover story that makes fans drool and is delivered rather admirably without any handholding for new viewers. You’ve either done your homework for this movie or you’re cast aside. It’s a parade of cross-references, in-jokes, continuity corrections, and massive set-pieces made by ‘X-Men’ fans for ‘X-Men’ fans. It’s also probably the most purely entertaining movie in the franchise to date. Director Bryan Singer does an incredible job of balancing competing timelines, plot threads and a vast collection of characters without ever losing momentum or overstaying the movie’s welcome at a trim two hours. Sadly, the discrimination metaphors and subtext that made the early movies so intellectually rich have been pretty much abandoned with so much else going on. Yet even though that subtext is certainly missed, it’s hard to complain when the text is this gloriously entertaining.

Things kick off in a dystopian future where mutant-hunting sentinels have killed off almost the entire mutant population and even enslaved most of the surviving humans for good measure. Singer reunites the core of his initial ‘X-Men’ cast (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman and others) in an epic action setting with high stakes that gleefully indulges in the most stylized elements of the ‘X-Men’ universe that simply weren’t technically possible or financially affordable when the movie franchise started in the early 2000s.

Then, to prevent this horrible future, the filmmaker takes a trip back to 1973, where the charismatic trio of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence revive their younger takes on the characters from ‘X-Men: First Class’ in a glorious bit of historical fiction that ties them all into such events as the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War. At the center of it all is Jackman’s Wolverine, and the film somehow honors all of the successful elements of previous ‘¬X-Men’ movies without losing its relentless action-focused narrative momentum or wasting any of the stars. Singer even manages to introduce a couple of new characters like Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and that speedster’s central bullet-stopping set-piece is easily the most inventive and satisfying action sequence in an ‘X-Men’ movie since Nightcrawler’s trip to the White House. The film is a thrilling bit of blockbuster entertainment that balances so many elements so perfectly that it’s kind of a miracle that it all came together.

Much like ‘The Avengers’, any flaws the movie has (and there are a few) are easily ignored in light of the unfiltered blast of pure comic book entertainment on display. This is the type of superhero story that comic geeks used to dream of seeing, yet assumed would never happen. The movie proudly ranks alongside ‘X2’ and ‘First Class’ as the masterpieces of the franchise. Singer even finds clever ways to take advantage of the timeline-altering premise to erase the damage done by the Bret Ratner cinematic skidmark that was ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’.

As a result, the movie feels like a franchise jumpstart that corrects past mistakes and sets the series up for a glorious future. This is also the first Marvel movie from Fox that was supervised by beloved comics writer Mark Millar and it’s a doozey of a statement of intent for where the brand will go from here. While it’s still a shame that Marvel Studios doesn’t own all of its franchises to weave into a single cinematic universe, it’s nice to know that Fox has someone in charge who will treat the properties right. That’s good news for comic book fans, because now Kevin Feige and his roster of talent have some legitimate big-screen superhero competition while Sony and Warner Brothers struggle to figure out what to do with their catalogues of comic book classics.

Clearly, the golden age of comic book movies is only just getting started. What a time to be a nerd.

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20 comments

  1. Timcharger

    Phillip,

    In your reviews, could you add what format you watched the film in
    and review that experience, too?

    If you saw X-men or Godzilla in 3D/IMAX/with Atmos, what are your
    thoughts?

    • William Henley

      With me, I have to choose between 3D and Atmos. The only Atmos auditorium in my area refuses to play 3D on that screen (which many say is a good thing). So with a movie like this, I have to decide between the two. I saw Godzilla in 2D with Atmos. I am thinking I am going to see this one in 3D with Dolby Digital.

  2. Phil Brown

    Generally speaking, I just see these things at a standard (but quality) multiplex in Toronto. But, if I see anything in IMAX or 3D and it makes a difference to the film, I’ll be sure to mention it next time!

    • Timcharger

      When you write:
      “if I see anything in IMAX or 3D and it makes a difference to the film”
      you’ll let us know, it makes me think that you don’t know the type of
      audience here at HDD.

      In the reviews, we don’t want a Video or Audio review ONLY when it
      “made a difference” to the Film Itself. We want the reviews to cover
      it all.

      Perhaps I’m reading into your words, but it sounds like when a
      wife/girlfriend says to us:
      Why are you tinkering with the TV and the speakers again? As if it
      “makes a difference” to the film itself?

      Our eyes flare wide, and we shake our heads. “It makes all the
      difference, Woman!”

  3. Zerozep

    Could not have said it better myself, this is the type of movie us fans only dreamed of and never thought possible, it was amazing and had an even more amazing post credit sequence that I can’t wait for. Very well done action and had its heart filled moments as well. Some how Hugh jackman, when give the right material, keeps making wolverine an interesting character to watch even though he’s played him several times. Although in my opinion it’s James mcaverry that steals the show as he has many well acted and pivotal scenes that made the movie that could have gone way south with a lesser actor. Two thumbs up!!!

  4. Is saw it in 3D. It certainly helped, I think. There was an added and necessary depth. However, the movie itself, in spite of pretty good reviews, I found plodding, and just couldn’t engage. None of the human characters were developed much and I just didn’t care about any of them. The movie took itself far too seriously, which would have worked with more plot and character development. The “hero of S.F” was Godzilla, but his two nemeses, the Mothra like parasites were ill conceived and badly drawn, so Godzilla just didn’t have an adequate foil. For me…huge disappointment. I was even bored and found myself glancing at my watch during the climactic scenes.

    • As this review (and others) have pointed out – you either have invested in the prior X-Men movies or haven’t, and this film doesn’t waste time trying to re-introduce characters. This is VERY much like THE AVENGERS in that sense. And it’s as good as that film, too.

      • RMB

        As this review (and others) have pointed out – you either have invested in the prior X-Men movies or haven’t, and this film doesn’t waste time trying to re-introduce characters. This is VERY much like THE AVENGERS in that sense. And it’s as good as that film, too.

        An ENTHUSIASTIC +1!

  5. Ryan

    Just popping in to say that I loved the movie. Top 3 for sure (including this, X2, and First Class)….possibly the best of the Xmens…though it’ll take repeat viewings to know for sure.

    For my money, it’s the best comic book movie of 2014 by a long shot so far

  6. William Henley

    Well, I really enjoyed this. I think X2 is still my favorite, but I really enjoyed this one. I saw it in 3D, and it did seem to add to the experience.

  7. Chris B

    Saw this last night and really enjoyed it. Great cast, great performances and the movie had a sense of forward momentum that some other summer blockbusters are sorely lacking. However, there were a few minor issues that kinda bothered me.

    1. Towards the end of the movie I sort of found myself wondering how much more mileage they can get out of the whole “mutants trying to save humanity while humanity fears mutants and tries to eliminate them” storyline. I know it was a mainstay of the comics but geez, this is the fifth movie dealing with essentially the same moral conflict. Hopefully next time we’ll just get to see the X-men kick some super-villain’s ass.

    2. SPOILER ALERT
    I hated Brett Ratner’s 3rd movie as much as the next guy, and it WAS cool to see this one fix a lot of the mistakes that movie made. Except at the end I sort of felt a tad resentful of the fact that the writers essentially have a “get-out-of-jail-free card”. It’s as if they figure “Hey, don’t worry if there’s shit that already happened in the last 5 or so movies we don’t like, we can just whip out this time travel plot and wipe the slate clean.” It was already done with Abrams’ Star Trek reboot so he doesn’t have any obligation to make events coincide with the original films, now the DOFP writers use the same trick. It’s starting to feel a little cheap to me.

    3. SPOILER ALERT
    This is really just more if a question. Where is The Wolverine supposed to fit in with the timeline of DOFP? Like, at the beginning of The Wolverine he has his Adamantium claws, then by the end he loses them to the Silver Samurai and only has his bone claws. Then at the beginning of DOFP (in about the year 2023), he has his Adamantium ones back. Then when his consciousness is projected back to ’73, he has his bone claws again? Huh?! When is he supposed to have been taken up north and turned into Weapon X? Didn’t he have Adamantium in X-men First class? (even though he really only made a cameo). Since the events of the new film wipe the events of X3 clean, does that mean The Wolverine events never took place either? This whole time travel thing is making my head hurt.

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