X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
What has always set X-Men apart from other superhero-themed movies is that the conflicts present between mutants & humans in their stories very much reflect the predicaments most minority groups around the world continue to find themselves in on a daily basis in real life. Everyone from LGBT community to anyone who doesn’t fit in society’s description of what’s acceptable as “normal” can identify themselves with these mutants as just like them, they’ve faced nothing but unwanted scrutiny from the public and are hated, despised & outcasted by most people who see them as diseased beings. Following the critical & commercial success of X-Men: First Class in 2011, X-Men: Days of Future Past finally arrives in cinemas amidst enormous hype & sky-high expectations and is a sequel to not just X-Men: First Class but the original X-Men Trilogy as well. And by effortlessly managing to deliver everything it promised, Days of Future Past succeeds as a genuine summer blockbuster material and is arguably the most entertaining & intelligently crafted chapter of the X-Men franchise.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is set in a dystopian future & a foregone past with the stories in both timelines taking place simultaneously. In the not-so-distant future, the entire mutant population has been wiped out by the Sentinels; giant advanced robots created to track down & exterminate mutants. On the brink of complete extinction & with little time in their hands, Professor X (Charles Xavier) & Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr) team up with a handful of survivors in their last attempt to ensure the continuity of their species. The plan is to go back in time & change the very event that triggered the creation of these sentinels in the first place. With only Wolverine capable of withstanding the difficulties of time-travel due to his healing abilities, his consciousness is sent back to year 1973 where he must find both Charles & Erik and convince them to work together in changing the entire course of the future, while the remaining mutants make a desperate final stand against an arsenal of Sentinels in order to buy Wolverine enough time to complete his mission.
Ingeniously directed by the very talented & equally provocative filmmaker who successfully transitioned the X-Men universe from comic books to silver screen with X-Men in 2000 & then followed it up with X2: X-Men United in 2003; a highly revered sequel which critics & viewers deemed even better than its predecessor, Bryan Singer returns to helm the director’s chair once again & shows no loss in form whatsoever despite being absent from his beloved creation for over a decade. And what Singer accomplishes here isn’t just an amazing sequel that superbly balances quality drama with spectacular action but he also makes sure that the characters introduced in the original X-Men Trilogy bow out with the admiration & respect they always deserved by bringing their story arcs to a perfect closure after the disaster that was Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. By almost completely ignoring the events of the third instalment as if it never existed, Singer subtly gives Ratner the finger & does a marvellous job in repairing everything that was wrong with the franchise as Days of Future Past eventually turns out to be his finest X-Men film to date.
The screenplay by Simon Kinberg is a gem in itself and the smoothness with which the unfolding of events as well as the flow of dialogues take place in the film makes the complex story filled with plethora of characters much easier to follow. The production design is no short of impressive and it manages to keep most things relatively simple yet meticulously detailed. Cinematography presents a darker, grim & depressing atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic future while the events taking place in the past have a vintage touch to it. Running at 130 minutes, there isn’t a single dull moment in the film and the effective manner in which the tight editing paces the story from start to finish is hugely responsible for keeping the viewers glued to their seats throughout its runtime. VFX is seamlessly integrated into the film and unlike most big-budget features, it doesn’t take away the focus from the drama but only amplifies it further, thus making the whole film an intelligent, enjoyable & immensely entertaining cinematic ride. And last but not the least, John Ottman’s splendid score returns to its X-Men roots to add an energetic, familiar & inspired flavour of its own to the finished product.
Coming to the acting department, X-Men: Days of Future Past brings together the cast of X-Men: First Class & the original X-Men Trilogy under one roof and each one of them has done a fabulous job in their limited screen time. Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the face of the franchise & does a commendable job as Wolverine. Patrick Stewart & James McAvoy play the old & young versions of Charles Xavier aka Professor X; the world’s most powerful telepath, respectively, and although Stewart presents the calm, patient & hopeful side of Xavier, McAvoy represents him as wounded, hopeless & filled with rage. Ian McKellen & Michael Fassbender return as old & young versions of Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto; a mutant with the ability to generate & control magnetic fields. While McKellen’s character lets go of his animosity with Xavier & joins with him to face a mutual enemy, Fassbender still shows the devilry of Magneto & delivers an impressive performance yet again. Jennifer Lawrence is less Raven & more Mystique in this chapter and ends up delivering a swashbuckling performance as more screen time allowed her to explore more dimensions of the exquisite mutant she plays.
Coming to the supporting cast, Ellen Page’s Kitty Pride plays an important role in the story because it’s her phasing ability that enables time-travel to happen. Peter Dinklage delivers a solid performance as Boliver Trask; a military scientist who designed the Sentinels & it’s his fate which decides the continuity or extinction of the mutant species. Halle Berry returns as Storm; mutant with the ability to manipulate the weather, but there isn’t much of her in the film. Nicholas Hoult reprises his role of Beast; a mutant with super-strength, agility & speed, and plays the role of Xavier’s caretaker for the most part. Most of the mutants that were present in X-Men: First Class are killed off-screen to make room for the returning characters from the original trilogy. But the most memorable amongst the new or recurring cast members turned out to be Evan Peters who ended up stealing the show almost single-handedly with his electrifying rendition of Quicksilver; a mutant with the ability to move & think at supersonic speeds, and the very segment featuring him is unquestionably the most enjoyable, exhilarating & funniest moment in a film that has no shortage of thrilling sequences.
Overall, every single element in X-Men: Days of Future Past works together like a finely composed work of orchestra and the credit for that definitely goes to Bryan Singer’s sublime direction & Simon Kinberg’s refined script. Being a sequel to not one but two sets of universe, the stakes are definitely higher this time in what is the most ambitious X-Men film to date yet it manages to balance its resources pretty well & works as both an explosive sequel to X-Men: First Class & an immensely satisfying conclusion to the previous X-Men films. Where most big-budget movies rely on applying layers after layers of sugarcoating & eye-popping visuals over their dumb, stupid & brainless stories which are then sold to unsuspecting moviegoers in the name of ‘entertainment’, it’s heartwarming to see Bryan Singer taking the road-less-travelled by implementing a strong foundation in what’s the most basic & most vital aspect of filmmaking and then letting the supporting elements like visual effects, sound, production design etc take it to the next level. Featuring upgrades in almost all departments of filmmaking, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the most action-packed, relentlessly paced, emotionally gripping & rewarding sequels of its genre that comes highly recommended.
P.S. Don’t go for it unless you’ve seen at least the original X-Men Trilogy & X-Men: First Class. And don’t miss its after-credits scene which offers a sneak-peek at the next chapter, X-Men: Apocalypse, scheduled for release in Summer 2016.