Review by-Jarrett Leahy
In 1973, a military program was given the green light to create Sentinels, highly sophisticated robots whose sole purpose was to protect humans from what the government saw as the ever-growing threat of mutants. Now fifty years later, these Sentinels have dangerously evolved to hunt down not only mutants, but any humans who try to aid them. Despite every effort to defeat these relentless machines, the Sentinels’ ability to adapt to any of the mutants’ powers has made them all but unstoppable. As a last-ditch effort to save both the mutant and human races, X-Men leader Charles Xavier decides to use the unique powers of fellow mutant Kitty Pryde to send Logan (Wolverine) back to 1973 in an attempt to prevent the calamitous event that started this destructive Sentinel war.
After splashing onto the Hollywood scene with his 1995 crime thriller, The Usual Suspects, director Bryan Singer was tabbed to create the first two films of the original trilogy, X-Men (2000) and X-2 (2003). Since then, a string of mediocre pictures that included the botched 2006 Superman reboot, Superman Returns, seemed to derail what looked to be a promising career. After Matthew Vaughn, the director of First Class, dropped out of Days of Future Past back in 2012, Singer was asked to return to the X-Men director’s chair to helm this latest installment. This choice by Fox Studios looks to be a genius decision, as Singer appears to be back on top of his game.
Days of Future Past flawlessly entwines the narrative already established in the previous films with this new plot, interweaving the entire franchise together. This melding of storylines also offers Singer a tremendous assemblage of acting talent to play with. I dare say you’d be hard pressed to find a better cast ensemble in 2014 than that offered here. Hugh Jackman, Sir Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ellen Page along with other stars from the previous trilogy are combined with the current trilogy stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Nicholas Hoult to form a true all-star gathering. While it was clear the previous cast had no problem slipping right back into their well established roles, it felt to me that Fassbender, McAvoy and especially Lawrence looked much more comfortable in their characters’ skin this second time around.
Time travel can be a precarious plot device if not done properly. Days of Future Past skillfully sidesteps many of those dreaded pitfalls by their use of Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) ability to send a person’s consciousness back in time while the person’s physical body remains in the present in a type of suspended animation. This gift allows for one of the most impressive scenes of the entire film, as the younger Charles played by James McAvoy, channels through Logan (and Kitty) to send his consciousness forward in time to converse with his future self played by Patrick Stewart. As I looked upon this interaction between McAvoy and Stewart, I truly felt as if I were witnessing the next great scene in sci-fi movie lore.
Computer-generated images have become a mainstay in today’s big budget films. When used correctly, CGI can create visuals that leave the audience truly awestruck. Unfortunately, when the CGI is not up to par, it can sink a movie faster than just about any other factor. Thankfully, another of the true gifts of the X-Men series is its ability to make some of the most impressive CGI look and feel shockingly realistic. My eyes never questioned sensational visuals that included an entire baseball stadium being lifted off its foundations and carried halfway across Washington DC.
In 2011, after three films and a Wolverine spinoff, Fox Studios and Marvel Entertainment decided to reboot the series with the prequel X-Men: First Class because their X-Men franchise was too valuable to let die. Looking back at some of the comments I wrote about First Class, the remark that best summarized my feelings toward the film was, “by far the worst of the X-Men series. A ridiculously over the top film with a musical score to match.” My disappointment in the film back then was only fueled by what seemed to be everyone else’s adoration of it. I share this with you as a backdrop for my viewing of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I found to be a superb, first-rate action film that surpassed all my expectations. With a tense, skillfully crafted, action-packed script and a cast of gifted A-list actors to boot, X-Men: Days of Future Past threw down the gauntlet to any film that hopes to be called the best blockbuster of 2014.-JL