14 years ago, Director Bryan Singer started a mini-revolution with the first X-Men movie. Once upon a time, superhero movies were just special effects laden cash cows. But with X-Men, studios realized that the superhero genre could be visually appealing while also providing strong social commentary and important messages.
Unfortunately for the X-Men franchise, the series lost its way when Singer departed following 2003’s X2. While it has its moments, Brett Ratner’s poorly executed X-Men: The Last Stand is a disappointment compared to its predecessors and the less said about 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the better. But, as Professor X so eloquently states in this newest installment, just because you stumble, doesn’t mean you’re lost forever.
Bryan Singer makes his triumphant return to the franchise with its most ambitious film yet. Days of Future Past molds key cast members from the original trilogy (Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore) with the brilliant cast of the 2011 prequel X-Men: First Class (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult). Time travel can be a tricky thing in science fiction, but Singer’s script uses it masterfully. Here, the remaining X-Men are now living in a dystopian future where robot Sentinels have triggered mutant holocaust. Their last hope is to send Wolverine (Jackman) into the past to lift young Professor X (McAvoy) out of searing depression and break young Magneto (Fassbender) out of prison in order to prevent Mystique (Lawrence) from assassinating a scientist (Peter Dinklage) and triggering their bleak future.
If you’re hoping to see X-Men 4, you might be a tad disappointed here. While the original cast provides some magnificent action sequences along with a few new characters (Fan Bing Bing’s Blink is my particular favorite), this is most certainly an X-Men: First Class sequel. That, however, isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. McAvoy and Fassbender are once again awe-inspiring. Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto is so passionate that you want to follow him even if you realize he’s a dangerous extremist. McAvoy’s performance as a broken Charles Xavier searching for a reason to hope again is arguably the best in series history. They are the glue that holds the eye popping special effects and action sequences together to form a story of faith and redemption.
There is more plot and emotion in this film than any X-Men movie before it, but it still fits in some of the best action sequences ever seen on film (Just wait til you see Evan Peters’ Quicksilver). Singer not only manages to fittingly bring closure to the original films, but also provide us with a platform to reboot and improve the series going forward. The superhero genre is super profitable, so it is here to stay whether you like it or not. In fact, this is the third one in two months. Yet, Days of Future Past still manages to remain refreshing. It’s fitting that a movie with a message of hope is exactly what the franchise needed to revitalize itself and the genre.
FINAL GRADE: A