I was in high school when Bryan Singer’s X-Men opened back in 2000. My classmates and I were looking forward to seeing it. We all vowed to see it since classes were over for the summer. Our expectations were very low; most of us thought it was going to suck, but we were still intrigued that an X-Men movie had finally been made and none of us wanted to miss out on it. Low and behold, the film not only exceeded everyone’s expectations but was also a very good movie. The critical and financial success of the film made Hugh Jackman a star and gave birth to a franchise. Two sequels (2003’s X2: X-Men United, 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand), a prequel (2011’s X-Men: First Class), and two solo Wolverine films (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2013’s The Wolverine) have led to 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film that is without a doubt the best X-Men film yet. Days of Future Past serves as a sequel and a prequel, combining cast members from First Class and the first three X-Men films.
X-Men: Days of Future Past starts off in the near future (roughly 2023), but a post-apocalyptic one in which evolved Sentinel robots have hunted down and killed most of the mutants (some have managed to survive). Professor Xavier and Magneto come up with a plan to stop the war on the mutants from ever happening, which involves Shadowcat using her powers to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973. Waking up in his younger body, Wolverine must bring the younger Professor Xavier and Magneto back together in order to stop Mystique from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinel program (it is Trask’s assassination that triggers the adoption of the Sentinel program by the U.S. government and Mystique’s capture that allows scientists to extensively study her DNA and mutant abilities, which lead to evolved Sentinels). It’s a race against time as a large convoy of future Sentinels look to exterminate the mutants once and for all (every minute Wolverine spends in the past corresponds to a minute from his own time).
First Class marked Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise (as producer and story contributor) but Days of Future Past marks his return to the director’s chair of an X-Men film (he hadn’t directed an X-Men film since X2). Simon Kinberg’s screenplay balances the drama, humor, and action quite nicely, and it’s perhaps surprising that the time travel elements aren’t really complicated. The cast was just terrific. Returning cast members include Hugh Jackman (as Wolverine), James McAvoy (as young Professor Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (as young Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (as young Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (as Beast), Patrick Stewart (as older Xavier), Ian McKellan (as older Magneto), Halle Berry (as Storm), Ellen Page (as Shadowcat), Daniel Cudmore (as Colossus), Shawn Ashmore (as Iceman), Anna Paquin (as Rogue), and Lucas Till (as Havok). New cast members include Peter Dinklage (as Bolivar Trask), Evan Peters (as Quicksilver), Omar Sy (as Bishop), Josh Helman (as young William Stryker), Fan Bingbing (as Blink), Adan Canto (as Sunspot), and Booboo Stewart (as Warpath). There are also some special cameos that I will not spoil here.
John Myhre’s excellent production design ranged from post-apocalyptic cities to 1970s Paris and Washington D.C. (my favorite set was the stronghold where the remaining X-Men were gathered to send Wolverine’s consciousness into the past). Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography was first-rate, as was Louise Mingenbach’s costume designs (I really liked the costumes for the future X-Men, and Mingenbach really nailed the 1970s costumes perfectly). John Ottman kept the editing tight, moving the film at a good pace (I especially enjoyed the parallel editing between two different time periods later in the film). Ottman also wrote an impressive score, reprising his theme from X2 a few times and delivering a new theme for Charles Xavier. The special effects were awesome, especially the work done for the future Sentinels (the portals created by Blink were pretty damn cool, too). Singer has crafted an amazing film (sorry Spider-Man) that tells a solid story time travel story featuring the X-Men. Comic book and non-comic book fans should be pleased with the film, and the after-credits scene will get you pumped for the next X-Men film (especially if you understand who is in the scene).