Movie Review: 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' (2014)

The seventh installment in the X-Men franchise comes 14 years after the original film set the stage for legitimate superhero movies and gave rise to an enduring franchise. After so long with these characters, it is no surprise that the latest “Days of Future Past”, feels reminiscent of a family reunion. The storylines have intertwined in the lives of fans for nearly a decade and a half, spinning tales that have been ambitious, while remaining true to the integrity of its characters.

The previous film “First Class” introduced audiences to the youthful incarnations of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), along with a 20-something Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and a bevy of other new characters. In “Days of Future Past,” the two universes collide in an attempt to stop a deadly timeline that leads to the mass destruction of humans and mutants alike. The only portal between the apocalyptic future, and the modifiable past is Wolverine, who can survive the time travel and convince those in the past of their doomed future.

There is little discussion as to the formula that allows the travel and there are some plot holes that occur, as a result. That said, it is easy to get distracted amidst the ambitious scope of the story and like any soap opera “Days of Future Past” attempts to convey its tale with as much emotionalism and action as possible.

At the core of the series has been the battle of Xavier/Charles and Magneto/Eric’s dueling philosophies. In the future they work shoulder to shoulder. While in the past, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) learns more about the dichotomy that has made that a monumental struggle.

The relationship between Magneto and Prof. X is one filled with fascinating intricacies. One man determined to be the victor by any means necessary and the other an idealist whose hope in diplomacy is endless. To put it in layman’s terms, it’s the war between a militant and a diplomat and neither man’s logic being without flaw is where the humanity seeps out. 

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender find a rhythm to their characters’ internal battle that is far more tangible than in “First Class”, McAvoy playing the crushed psyche and compassionate core of Charles with a touch of hardness that makes Xavier dynamically robust.

He collides well with Fassbender who portrays the resolute commitment of the man behind the metal-bending Magneto with the human confidence and determination necessary to correlate to the masterful precedent set by Ian McKellen’s performance.

Sauntering back to the 70’s, the soundtrack echoes the sounds of the era. An especially clever use of the magnificent Jim Croce track “Time in a Bottle” comes into play in one of the film’s best sequences.

The costuming is well done, the effects are spectacular, and Wolverine’s signature acerbic wit brings needed levity, Jackman as always delivering as the gruff anti-hero. This time the humor is aided in a short-lived appearance by Quicksilver played by Evan Peters in a delightful turn.

The downsides to the film include numerous bouts of repetitive dialogue. The arguments with Mystique, in particular, grow tiresome. The beginning is discombobulating as it blasts into a dystopian future that is garbled as characters exhibit powers that are not even understandable.

How Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) is able to send Wolverine back in time, when up to this point, she’d only been able to go through walls is also one of the various plot holes that are left unexplained. However, it is worth keeping in mind that this is the same franchise where Sabertooth and Wolverine were strangers in the first “X-Men”, only to be revealed as bio-brothers in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

Unfortunately the villains that oppose our heroes remain less colored-in than one would hope. Dr. Boliver Trask played with superb resonance by Peter Dinklage is given no backstory and he is arguably the most fascinating villain the series has ever posited.

With the exception of a few questions from supporting players, the reasons for his machinations are black and white. Painting the portrait of a villain with an obtuse brush never adds to the hero’s plight, it simply detracts from the overall story.

“Days of Future Past” ties into the essence of all the previous films and proves why X-Men will always appeal to people. Seeing the characters old and new come together alongside the younger and older versions is excitingly tinged with nostalgia for longtime fans.

To the film’s credit, it gives time where it should be given, as the array of characters are used with apt precision. “Days of Future Past” is a compilation of the franchise’s best features and with that it offers a revitalized interest in its future. Rating: 7.6/10

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