X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Directed by Bryan Singer
In what could have been a fitting conclusion to a franchise that’s getting a little long in the tooth, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” combines everything we love about the franchise (including the best of its celebrated cast of young and old acting icons) and draws us in emotionally by showing the vulnerabilities of the X-Men we’ve admired for so long.
Machines called Sentinels, invented by military engineer Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and funded by the American government, have been killing mutants for decades. Soon, they will eradicate the mutant species entirely. With little hope left for survival, the X-Men (the return of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, and others) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back into the 1970s to rally the younger versions of these mutants (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters) to change the course of history by stopping the event that led to the creation of the machines. In their tense (past, present, and future tense – HA!) race against time, the young X-Men will face enormous obstacles in their quest to secure a future where they live long enough to see another installment of the movie franchise.
Dialogue helpfully explains the complex concept of mutant time travel, and cheesy zingers from McAvoy and Jackman fit the quirky Marvel mold of screenwriting we haven’t really seen since “The Avengers.” It’s everything we love about Marvel! Like they did with “X-Men: First Class” (which is set a decade before the action in “Days of Future Past”), the screenwriters give us a concise historical context. And the action is exciting and extremely unpredictable…but the newest “Twilight” movie showed us you can get away with some shocking things if your story involves time travel or prophesizing, so don’t get too terribly excited.
A superb ensemble gives us just a taste of those classically-trained thespians Stewart and McKellen, but it’s just enough to satisfy our longing. Even less screen time goes to Halle Berry as Storm, but it’s her lack of time in a cameo-like role that makes us love seeing her again. It has been 8 years since “X-Men: The Last Stand,” the last time we saw most of the elder X-Men. Mostly, though (and thankfully), we see the return of McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult, and Jennifer Lawrence from the “First Class” cast that made us question which version of these mutants we enjoyed more. McAvoy gets the highest praises I can give. He’s the most underrated actor of our time, and in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” he’s both a groovy comic and an inflective philosopher – in either mode, he’s a marvel. Fassbender isn’t as incredible as we’ve seen him (either in “First Class” or his Oscar-nominated role in “12 Years a Slave”), but as Magneto he gives us what we come for. They all do. We want superhero action with investable characters. We get it with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
The saga is not over yet, since “X-Men: Apocalypse” has already been announced for almost exactly two years from now. But let’s not dwell in the future as these X-Men do. For now, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is an exciting and entertaining installment in the saga, one with unbeatable acting performances and a story you can really drown in.