Following the disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the immensely better X-Men: Days of Future Past shows what a comic movie could and should be. Director Bryan Singer does a fantastic job of bridging together the original and rebooted X-Men series to create a taut, action-packed thriller.
One advantage Days of Future Past has is that it is almost entirely comprised of characters established in previous films. The audience knows the key players, allowing the focus to be on developing the plot without rushing character development like in the recent Spider-Man film. Although fans of the different X-Men characters will each get a chance to see their favorite play a feature role in a scene, this movie is primarily told through the eyes of Hugh Jackman's familiar Wolverine.
The story begins in an apocalyptic future where Sentinels have been programmed to destroy all who carry mutant genes. The surviving X-Men struggle to defend themselves and survive, and only manage to escape through Kitty Pryde's (Ellen Page) power to project one's consciousness back in time to use as an early warning system. They rest their hopes on sending Wolverine's mind back to 1973 to prevent the events that led to the creation of the Sentinels and the persecution of mutants. Wolverine becomes the bridge between the First Class reboot and the original trilogy. He is tasked with bringing Magneto and Professor X together to change history and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from her attack Bolivar Trask who developed the Sentinel program.
The strength of this film, and the X-Men films in general, is that there is no clear distinction between good and evil. This is a collection of flawed characters, and as the movie progresses Mystique, Trask, and Magneto all take turns as the primary antagonist. I loved that each character is able to articulate their motivations and beliefs without it being forced. Singer does a great job directing, there is an absolutely spectacular slow motion scene featuring Evan Peters as a young Quicksilver. It is beautifully executed while stopping just short of being over the top. The film's finale in 1973 is very well done. It plays out on a large scale without featuring the wanton destruction commonly criticized in recent blockbusters. One disappointment with the direction and story is that it is now possible to retcon everything. Although the original trilogy has now been virtually erased, the denouement gives an emotional payoff that is dependent on those films.
The ensemble cast gives performances that meet expectations. James McAvoy plays a compelling, strung out Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender's Magneto is commanding. Hugh Jackman puts in another solid performance as Wolverine, but I wonder how much longer he will continue to be the focus of these movies. With all of the characters in the X-Men universe, there needs to be more opportunities for others to shine. That said, X-Men: Days of Future Past is likely the best of the X-Men films to date so there is no reason to change from what still works.Our Rating: Observe