Mutants. Homo Superior. That would aptly describe X-Men: Days of Future Past; superior.
Once again at the director’s helm, Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-Men films and First Class) takes us forward and back in time in a fight to rewrite the future. It seems typical and overdone, but let’s not stop there. In a futuristic, dystopian apocalyptic-themed future (perhaps a metaphorical teaser for the next X-film, Apocalypse?), Mutants are hunted down by the immensely powerful and almost unbeatable Sentinels, and we see our favourite characters from the first three X-Men films barely clinging on to their lives. Tear-worthy, if you are a hardcore franchise faithful.
Having had enough with their unsustainable lifestyles, the X-team sends Wolverine back in time to find the younger Professor X and Magneto and stop the manufacture of the Sentinels. Why the short-tempered bub? Well, Hugh Jackman‘s iconic character and his claws are virtually indestructible and eternally youthful, thanks to accelerated healing. This conveniently makes him the only candidate for the job. But hey, no one’s hating on Wolverine leading the show for the gazillionth time; he has always been able to hold his own.
Thoroughly powerful in every way, Days of Future Past is practically an X-Men ‘All Stars’ reunion. And that means that the film is loaded on power. Star power, mutant power – there is an immense collection of it, and it will more than please fans.
We see many of our favourite mutants return to the big screen. In addition to the new, current team of James McAvoy as Professor X, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Beast, legends Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprise the older versions of their characters. They are joined by past film favourites Halle Berry as Storm, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, Ellen Page as Shadowcat and Daniel Cudmore as Colossus.
There are also brief but very satisfying cameos by Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, James Marsden as Cyclops, Anna Paquin as Rogue and Kelsey Grammar as the older Beast, which reminds us of how much we have missed these “originals” and the actors who first brought them to life.
Keeping the film fresh, newbies include Game of Thrones‘s Peter Dinklage as the not-really-antagonist Boliver Trask (since the main antagonist seems to be the course of time and fate itself), Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Fan Bing Bing as Blink, Adam Canto as Sunspot, Omar Sy as Bishop and Josh Helman as a young and, dare we say, hot William Stryker.
Having so many of our favourite mutants return means another thing for the audience; greater emotional investment. No one wants to see our old friends die, and this adds to the essential ingredient of suspense that keeps the film on its heels throughout.
While having a standard plot with no major twists and turns along the way, Days of Future Past works because it is, like its predecessor, a character-driven film.
At the core of the path to change Mutantkind’s destiny is Mystique, played by the equally chameleon-esque J-Law. The Oscar-winning actress has proven time and again her ability to carry an entire franchise (let alone, film) on her shoulders, and she effortlessly morphs into the conflicted and emotional soul that the film rests on (McAvoy’s struggling Charles Xavier is the other source of personal struggle). Without Lawrence or the rest of the talented cast, the not so fantastic plot could have easily blown up at the hands of no shortage of Sentinels.
While having more Mutants than ever, Days of Future Past is also the most human of X-Men films. The dilemma and struggle of the characters, particularly Xavier, to fear or embrace their humanity and to allow it to become a weakness or a strength makes these superpowered characters relatable for us homo sapien viewers. The audience will warm up to the main characters’ journeys, and this further amplifies the stakes of the quest.
On the physical side, the action scenes are a comic book fan’s dream. Forget one-hero-versus-multiple-villains or Avengers-style fight scenes; that’s old school. Days of Future Past evolves to the next level with two simultaneously occurring major battle scenes between teams of mutants and the respective antagonists. One fight scene involving Quicksilver takes its time, pun obviously intended, to be entertaining and draws laughs from the viewers in an otherwise intense ride. Mutants are clearly the future, apparently in film-making as well.
Succeeding where other films have failed, Days of Future Past packs quite a punch with the diverse opportunities its large cast offers. It keeps our favourite Mutants enviable and likeable while establishing their relatability. Particularly strong performances by Lawrence and McAvoy bring depth and vulnerability to both their characters and the plot. And, as always, we can count on Wolverine and the smartly-written script to add humour where it counts.
In essence, X-Men: Days of Future Past is powerful material, in every sense of the word.