I really enjoyed X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), the film that chronicled the early relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), the two characters who would become Professor Xavier and Magneto in the X-MEN universe. In fact, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is one of my favorite superhero movies.
So, it goes without saying, I was excited and eager to see X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, the latest in the Marvel X-MEN series, a film which through the magic of time travel would unite characters from FIRST CLASS with the characters from the previous X-Men films, an anchoring both time periods would be the most iconic of the film X-Men, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
How could such a perfect premise go wrong? How indeed!
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST opens in the near future when the Sentinels, an army of robots, are at war with both the mutants and the humans, and it’s a war that the Sentinels are winning. It is learned that the Sentinels are unstoppable because back in 1973, their creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) obtained the DNA of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and used it on his robots, giving them the ability to replicate and take on the form of their opponents, in effect using the mutants’ own powers against them.
Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to convince their younger selves to put aside their differences and stop Mystique from falling into Trask’s hands, all in an effort to save the future. They are able to do this through a new special ability possessed by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), and it is Pride who transports Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 where it enters his body there so that he can find both the younger Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and the younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
So Wolverine returns to 1973 and the time travel game is afoot.
I’ll cut right to the chase and say up front that I was disappointed with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. I expected this one to be a home run, a classic, the best of the series, but it’s not. Is it a bad movie? No. It’s just a mediocre one.
First and foremost, its time travel adventure isn’t really all that exciting. It gets stuck on its one central plot point and never seems to move beyond it. The mission is clear: Wolverine and friends must stop Dr. Trask from getting Mystique’s DNA. This simple plot point needed something else, some complications to take the story to the next level. It fails to do this.
Magneto, for example, being Magneto, has an agenda of his own, and I was eager to see where this sinister side would take the story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take the story very far, as his agenda isn’t all that ambitious and sadly doesn’t amount to much.
For a time travel story, it’s nowhere near as playful or as creative as it needs to be. While there are a few moments here and there— such as when Wolverine pokes fun at Beast’s comment that they have “three main TV channels plus PBS”— there are not enough of them.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are two dynamic actors who dominated X-MEN FIRST CLASS and drove that movie along. They’re very good here once again, but in a larger cast, they have less to do and simply don’t have as prominent a role in the proceedings as they did in the earlier movie.
Hugh Jackman, who in the past has nailed the role of Wolverine and made it his own, is somewhat more down to earth here and doesn’t seem to possess the same energy or spark he has demonstrated in earlier portrayals.
Jennifer Lawrence, one of the most talented actresses working today, is completely wasted here as Mystique. She really doesn’t get to do anything which allows her to show off her acting talents.
While I was happy to see Patrick Stewart back as Professor Xavier, and Ian McKellen as Magneto, neither one is in this movie all that much, and both seem old and tired. The majority of the original X-Men cast are featured in nothing more than glorified cameos.
I did enjoy Nicholas Hoult as Beast, reprising the role from X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and he fares better in these movies than he did in WARM BODIES (2013) and JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (2013).
Stealing the movie however is Evan Peters as Quicksilver, the mutant who possesses incredible speed. The scene where Quicksilver helps Wolverine, Xavier, and Beast break Magneto out of his prison cell deep beneath the Pentagon is by far the best scene in the movie. It’s really too bad that Quicksilver was featured in this movie so briefly.
Director Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, does an okay job here. The film looks fine, but other than the aforementioned Quicksilver scene, there really aren’t any other memorable scenes in this movie, action or otherwise.
Probably the weakest link of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is the screenplay by Simon Kinberg. Oddly, Kinberg wrote the screenplay for X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006), largely considered to be the worst in the series. Why he would be asked to pen this latest film is beyond me. I didn’t really enjoy the story to this one, as it never moved beyond its central plot point about Mystique’s DNA, and it never offered creative diversions and pathways which could have lifted its story to higher levels. It also didn’t really take advantage of its time travel storyline. In terms of creativity, it’s all pretty standard.
The buzz is out there: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is one of the best superhero movies ever made, a topnotch summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it this way.
Rather, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is an okay superhero movie that features a very talented cast working beneath their potential for the simple reason that the material they’re working with, the story, isn’t up to snuff.
The scenes in the future are stagnant. The scenes in the past are ordinary. And the two never really meet to any degree of satisfaction.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST may be a hit at the box office, but it’s not the home run it should have been.