Just under a decade ago, Bryan Singer decided to leave the X-Men movie franchise to direct Superman Returns. Most assumed that this was the end of Singer with the X-franchise. But the director hasn’t been able to find anything that’s really worked for him since then. Superman did well at the box office, but has such a shitty reputation that Warner Bros made last year’s Man of Steel rather than go on with Singer’s love letter to Richard Donner. Valkyrie and Jack the Giant Killer didn’t catch on like he’d hoped. Singer stepped into the role of producer for the Matthew Vaughn directed First Class. So, when Vaughn decided to leave to direct Kingsman: The Secret Service (a head scratching decision), Singer had the perfect opening to step back into the world of the X-Men.
The decision to combine casts was disappointing to me as a fan of First Class. There was an energy and vibrancy to that movie that the other films in this franchise lack. It’s obvious that Singer was dissatisfied with how the characters from his first two X-movies were sent off. Using one of the best stories in comics history to continue with the new cast while bidding adieu to the old one was a risky proposition, but it works well for the most part.
The main issue with a film of this size is feeling overstuffed. The Last Stand suffered from that issue, as they tried to jam Joss Whedon’s Cure into the Dark Phoenix storyline and ended up with a bland frankenstory. Days of Future Past has a few characters that feel like window dressing, but not to the degree that it takes away from the story.
The film isn’t quite as dynamic in its direction without Vaughn, but Singer makes up for it with some superb action sequences. His use of Magneto, Quicksilver, and Blink’s powers are outstanding. The Quicksilver scenes are especially going to be talked about. Singer filmed them at 3600 frames per second and they look terrific.
It’s a relief to see Hugh Jackman get to have some fun with Wolverine too. The solo movies and The Last Stand make you forget that Jackman brings a good deal of humor and charisma to the role. Singer knows how to take advantage of that, and Jackman goes a long way towards making this movie as enjoyable as it is.
While I wouldn’t say the the future end of things was underserved, there are moments where you forget about it. The transitions between the two are sometimes awkward. You get so swept up in Wolverine’s mission and the 1970s atmosphere that you sometimes forget about the people that he’s trying to save.
Singer does a nice job differentiating between the looks of each time frame, so much so that I suspect the future scenes were filmed using more modern cameras. The use of rough Zapruder style cameras for a bit of a found footage feel is especially nice in the 70s scenes.
Days of Future Past does get a little too cheeky with callbacks and franchise self references. William Stryker returns yet again, and hopefully for the last time. He’s used better here than in the other films, but this should be the end for that character. There are also some things that don’t quite play as well dramatically as Singer had hoped. I’ll elaborate on them in the spoiler area, but let’s just say there was some audience laughter when there wasn’t supposed to be.
Even with some goofy moments, Days of Future Past is a solid use of Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s classic. It’s a lot more hopeful than the comic storyline, and serves its role as a proper conclusion for Singer’s cast while continuing the story of the early X-Men.
- Magneto’s reveal that was he was trying to save JFK because he was a mutant didn’t play well in my theater. An entire row of people cracked up, and it wasn’t a scene being played for laughs. That row also laughed hysterically whenever young Xavier used Beast’s serum as an obvious heroin analogue. Maybe they were just really, really high.
- It was a real shame to see the young mutants from First Class get pushed aside like that. Most of them were killed off-screen. Havok finds his way into this movie, but it’s little more than a cameo. The Vietnam mutants feel like they had an entire subplot that got cut out in editing. For a second, I thought they were going to be Mystique’s Brotherhood.
- Singer took a big old dump on The Last Stand with the ending to this one. Rogue and Iceman are back together, even though Bobby Drake spent most of the movie by Kitty Pryde’s side. Cyclops and Jean are back in the land of the living. Hey, look guys, it never happened!
- The Stryker fake out with Mystique at the end was an interesting twist. I wonder if this means that old man Logan has bone claws? Probably not.
- The Magneto Pentagon jailbreak is the most fun and innovative thing ever done in an X-Men movie.
- Singer has always had a great handle on Magneto’s powers. Coating the Sentinels with metal, using the upper half of RFK as a barrier around the White House, and the magic bullet used on Mystique were all highlights.
- An X-Men movie involving Bishop and time travel that doesn’t feature Bishop traveling through time? OK.
- How cool was it to see Blink on-screen? Hell, I would have watched an entire movie about that dystopian future team if they didn’t exist for the sole purpose of cool action scenes.
- Richard Nixon played a prominent role in an X-Men movie? Now I really might have seen everything. Sadly it wasn’t Futurama Nixon. Aroooooooo!
- I’m pretty excited for Apocalypse, but they better find a way to introduce Angel/Archangel for the new continuity. It’s just not Apocalypse without Archangel.