So many X-Men characters, so little time, but plenty of time travel.
The seventh film in the “X-Men” franchise and the first to return some of the characters from the original trilogy, “Days of Future Past” starts off in a “Terminator” like atmosphere. The film takes place in the not so distant future with much of the mutant race either dead or in hiding and the human race not doing too well either.
The reason for the devastation is summed up in an opening expository dialogue by Patrick Stewart playing Charles Xavier. It’s explained that some time after the events of “The Wolverine,” robots, titled Sentinals, were unleashed to hunt down mutants with the ability to adapt to any power they are faced with.
We pick up with familiar faces such as Magneto, played by Ian McKellen, Xavier, Wolverine (Jackman) and Storm, played by Halle Berry, all of whom are trying to find a way to end the destruction that has been experienced by both mutants and humans, who also became targets of Sentinals.
It’s decided by the group of survivors to send Wolverine back in time to his younger self so that he can stop Mystique (Lawrence) from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Dinklage), who launched the Sentinal program. To do so, Wolverine has to enlist the help of both Xavier’s and Magneto’s younger selves, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively.
The set up for the story seems somewhat complicated but the writing in this “X-Men” film was up to the task and fortunately it was able to make the whole time travel aspect work rather seamlessly. From beginning to end the science fiction elements are done in a straight forward way, which is welcoming in a film with time travel.
Also welcoming was what occurs after Wolverine is sent back in time. During his “visit” to the 1970s where he meets the younger Professor Xavier, Wolverine not only has to worry about stopping Mystique, but also getting Xavier motivated again.
The film finds the younger version of the professor in a sorry state. His mansion hasn’t been well kept, his students were drafted in the Vietnam War and important people in his life have left. Additionally, due to an injury that occurred in “X-Men First Class,” Xavier is forced to take a serum that can help him walk again, but makes him unable to use his power.
This is where the best part of the movie comes into play, which is the reawakening of the intelligent idealist that has been trapped inside the young professor. The film explores how troubled Xavier is and how much past events have been weighing him down. His story arc of trying to rise back up is great to watch.
Unfortunately, not all of the other characters received the same treatment.
Namely Magneto, or Erik and Mystique, also known as Raven. Erik’s character arc in the film starts off alright but he isn’t seen as much after about the midway point. As for Raven, she just doesn’t have enough scenes of interaction with the rest of the cast.
The same can be said about Peter Dinklage, who plays the film’s primary antagonist. Dinklage was another character who just didn’t get enough time interacting and having any sort of personal connection to the main characters.
Moving on to the acting, many of the performances are very good. Starting off with the actor who has appeared in every “X-Men” film so far, Hugh Jackman once again performs Wolverine and captures that character well.
What’s nice about this film is that the character was written with some restraint, so instead of simply slashing with his metal claws (which is still awesome, don’t get me wrong), he is using his powers of encouragement to help Xavier and acting as a mediator between the professor and Erik.
As for the professor himself, James McAvoy is outstanding as Charles Xavier. The pain he has gone through, the difficulty he has with working alongside Magneto, the lack of hope that once ignited his passion is all displayed by McAvoy in the film to a high degree.
Working alongside McAvoy for the second time and also doing a great job is Michael Fassbender. The chemistry that McAvoy and Fassbender had on screen together in “X-Men First Class” returns once again in this flick, creating for very real drama between the two characters the actors portray.
The supporting cast roles were also good for the most part, the only problem, as stated before, was that not all of them really got as much time to shine.
Mainly Lawrence and Dinklage. Both play their characters well enough and deliver solid performances, but they simply didn’t get the right amount of scenes, or at least scenes that included some of the other characters.
Another character who didn’t get enough screen time was Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. Quicksilver, a mutant with the ability to move extremely fast, is a good character, however the film only uses him for a handful of scenes. It felt like an odd choice because the plot could have benefited from him being around more often.
As for the spectacle of the movie, “Days of Future Past” had a couple good moments, but as it was more character driven, the amount of action was scaled back a bit. There are still scenes with plenty of action that are engaging, especially towards the end, however, the X-Men franchise has had better, more exciting moments before.
The one part that is probably the best is where Quicksilver uses his powers of speed in a high stakes situation. The scene is clever, smart and fun to watch, plus it features bullet time being used the right way.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is one of the better entries to the series. There were some really good elements here, Xavier’s story arc, the writing with the time travel aspect, and some great performances all around. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t come without its flaws. This is one that comes really close to a 4, but just not quite there. Very high 3 out of 5.