Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
by Jason Koenigsberg
Congress should seriously consider passing a law that only Bryan Singer can direct X-Men movies. He really is the only director to add a lot of heart to this movie franchise he started back in the summer of 2000 with X-Men, and I find it to be no coincidence that his return to the X-Men universe is the best entry to the series since he last directed our favorite mutants in X2: X-Men United (2003). Days of Future Past is only slightly inferior to Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men pictures but it is truly a pleasure to see our heroes and anti-heroes back in such sublime summer entertainment.
Action-Science Fiction movies where time travel is pivotal to the story is always tricky. The results could be as rewarding as Terminator 2: Judgment Day or as loathsome as Highlander 2: The Quickening. Often times these blockbusters are filled with continuity errors, yet with the X-men series there are already a ton of continuity errors between each film (Sabretooth anybody?) so who really cares about that. I take a look at each individual film for its own merits and X-Men: Days of Future Past has a lot to cheer about.
The plot is not overly convoluted. In the near future Sentinels (giants robots) have destroyed almost all life on Earth, both human and mutant alike. The post-apocalyptic future New York and China are well done. We meet a small band of mutants fighting off the Sentinels and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) have reunited in an attempt pull off a plan that will stop an assassination and may prevent the Sentinels from being created. Essential to the time travel aspect are Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) and Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman giving his best performance as Wolverine since X2: X-Men United, once again I am sure Bryan Singer directing had some influence).
They send Wolverine back to 1973 where it sort of picks up where X-Men: First Class left off. Logan has to find the young versions of Professor X and Magneto (played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively) to try and stop Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the scientist who invents the Sentinels to wipe out the mutant race.
Peter Dinklage plays the scientist who invented these machines of death and he adds another great performance to his resume. Unlike last week’s Godzilla which features excellent actors seemingly waste their talents for a paycheck, this film has great actors using their skills and giving great performances across the board. These performances all really make the audience empathize with what their characters are going through. Most notable was Jennifer Lawrence. When she first appeared in 2011’s X-Men: First Class she was still an up and coming talent. Now she is an Oscar Winner and a household name, the script was really set up to cater to her talents and make her character one of the most important to the plot.
The lone exception to the cast giving outstanding performances was Oscar Winner Halle Berry reprising her role as Storm. She is barely in the movie, hardly ever speaks and just stares looking concerned. However, that is more a fault in the script than it is her acting. It was really nice to see all these people back from the earlier X-Men movies. I do not want to spoil anything but I will say that it was sort of like a homecoming with some actors and their mutant counterparts.
The action scenes were expertly crafted especially the climax where our heroes from the future are against all odds the same time as our heroes in 1973 have their climactic showdown. Some great parallel editing made the dual final battles suspense exceedingly palpable. One of the other strengths and X-Men: Days of Future Past had was how it dealt with the past. The Nixon impression could have been comical and even though it was not dead on, it worked perfectly in the film. I enjoyed Michael Lerner playing a Kissinger look-alike and the script even worked in some interesting dialogue about JFK that I would not say here to ruin the surprise.
Bryan Singer was wasting his time in the past decade making dreck like Superman Returns (2006), Valkyrie (2008) and I did not even bother to see last years Jack the Giant Killer. But with X-Men: Days of Future Past he proves that with the right materials, a tight script, and a stellar cast, he still can make a good blockbuster adventure.