WARNING: Minimal spoilers to follow.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Gosh that was fun. That was my immediate thought as the credits rolled following Days of Future Past. Though the end-credit stinger will be neither surprising (for fans or those who are online/curious/know the next film’s title) nor particularly dynamic for anyone not versed in X-lore, it is well worth sitting around until the end to see what these folks have in store. Honestly, that is the biggest negative I had from DOFP – that I had to wait so long for the after-credits treat. As summer blockbusters go, that should tell you something.
Somewhat like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest installment to the mutant franchise works because the movie appeals on several levels of interest/fandom. Unlike the Wolverine spinoffs or the abomination that was The Last Stand, The first two X-Men movies by Bryan Singer were fun, ahead of the curve even, because they brought a beloved comic book/superhero team to a big screen in serious popcorn fun. Much of Marvel’s current success (whether they admit it or were conscious of it at the time) lies in their strong casting of charismatic actors – a pattern started by the X-Men franchise with the overly qualified and best-buds-in-real-life Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and followed up by the spot-on casting of Fassbender and McAvoy, similarly overqualified actors perfectly willing to buy in to some summer fun (and equally good interviews as McKellen and Stewart, no small feat).
Really, I could write three separate reviews from three distinct mindsets going into the film. Rather conveniently, we have three categories to explore…
Should I pay to see it?
Yes. In the interest of continuing my point, I am going to assume our three categories reflect decreasing levels of fandom.
If you read X-Men, especially, this is a no-brainer. The ‘Days of Future Past‘ storyline sits in a prestigious place in the X-Men history, as it marked a period of growth for the characters and comic at a time in the 80’s when it was much needed. Ironically, the biggest X-men fans are likely the only ones disappointed by the film at all, as it tweaks characters and a beloved storyline juuuussst so.
Even they have to be thrilled overall, though, with the way this movie so brilliantly opens the doors for a much wider X-Men storyline palate, in all the ways The Amazing Spiderman 2 felt forced in doing so. Without sacrificing the story or characters, DOFP manages to rework the X-Men universe in such a way that allows future movies to explore things on both a more nuanced as well as much grander scale (again, comparisons to TWS are valid in this regard).
If you’re a superfan, go see this movie. It seems the folks have a plan for this universe, and it looks like spectacular, epic fun. This movie does BIG things, in terms of scope, ambition and comic lore (Everybody Retcon! Screw you, Brett Ratner! He is the king of overblown mediocrity) – and trust me, fans, the post-credit tease/next movie promises for something even grander. This is the best X-Men movie to date, or at least right there with X2. Trust me, your skepticism with introducing such a cool character as Quicksilver in a fast food commercial will disappear when he gets to show off. His scenes are some of the best in the movie.
Could I watch it with a date?
Again, yes. Days of Future Past remains an excellent movie for semi-fans and people who just plain like movies. If you’re like me, a big fan but not a longtime reader/superfan… that is if you love comics, the established Movie-Universe X-Men characters, superhero stories in general, or like big summer movies, this movie is for you in a big way as well.
The actors, even those relegated to small roles in an overloaded cast (that’s what happens when 2 blockbuster movie casts get smushed into one), are wonderful. There lies a certain silliness in the dialogue of any superhero movie or action film in general, so it takes a certain kind of talent to be both believable and fun. Sir Patrick Stewart gets it, as do McAvoy, Fassbender, Jackman and McKellen. The Magneto/Xavier relationship drives so much of what X-Men is about and why its Civil Rights allegories work, and the younger duo have as crackling a good time as their older peers did in the originals. Additionally, it is worth noting the job of Jennifer Lawrence. In the first three movies, Mystique was… well, it was nice to look at Rebecca Romijn in blue body paint. Where I thought her character at times was ridiculous in First Class, her Raven/Mystique in DoFP proves to be a much fuller character, in both the script and Lawrence’s use of it. Also, she looks good in blue.
Sure, any number of these actors could win/have won an Oscar, but they give these roles credibility while still balancing that comic book fun. This dynamic of extremely talented actors with charisma and chemistry makes lines that could otherwise fall flat fun, and the movie has an excellent blending of humor throughout. I was shocked by the smaller, personal moments and character work in such a summer blockbuster. Again, Quicksilver proves a shining example. A taste – Upon seeing Logan’s bone-claws he quips, “Cool… but disgusting.” Evan Peters was a pleasant surprise, and Nicholas Hoult once again proves to be a valuable casting as Beast (an important X-Men character in many ways), caring for a despondent Charles Xavier. Having watched Warm Bodies recently, I’ll just say it: I am a big fan of Nicholas Hoult. Yes, there are giant robots hunting mutants, but it is the relationships between the mutants that keep you engaged in their struggle as timelines get closer to their endpoints.
However, this is not some talky drama, despite my giving credit to the actors. That is more a function of not everybody being able to carry a superhero film (ahem, Mr. Ryan Reynolds). How about the action? As stated, the Quicksilver scenes are just plain cool. There are some great smaller battles showcasing the characters’ powers and some big ones REALLY showing off. Oh, yeah, and the Sentinels are friggin’ SCARY. The movie wisely tosses us right into the action. So while the ruins and bones of NYC are certainly tone-setting, the real trick was in designing the Sentinels to look like some sort of metallic-liquid/nanotech Dementors. They appear and instantly demonstrate an intimidating threat. The character moments and dialogue back & forth are fun, but the movie doesn’t work without the Sentinels massive and numerable presence.
Could I watch it with my mother?
Yes. Hugh Jackman is big and veiny. For non-fans (in most folks’ cases, yo momma), this is STILL worth seeing, though maybe more a sit-down and catch it on HBO/FX someday. For younger viewers, a parent could easily take a child and enjoy the film greatly.
Part science fiction, part political time-piece thriller, this is what a summer action movie should be like. Good effects, great actors leaning in to their roles, and just the right balance of tension and amusement. The era clothes and nods are fun. The movie skips along at a great pace, and the storyline, despite being about time-traveling consciousness, never feels overwrought. Some might say Peter Dinklage was underused, and I would likely agree. Overall, I was impressed by DoFP‘s ability to make such an entertaining ride, with such a clear plan for future turns. Again, I want to call back to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Just like this movie, the webslinger’s latest installment had a great cast of overqualified actors returning from a fun, well regarded first try. Just like this movie, TASM2 set out to establish a ‘universe’ writers and directors could play with going forward, as Marvel Studios has, and start making some of those Avengers-bucks. Spider-Man 2 was a mess of a movie, mostly because those involved were unsure of how to best balance world-building/ universe expanding, and comic lore with still making a good movie, a coherent story and decent characters. Somewhere along that production line, common sense was lost.
Singer, and really Matthew Vaughn – who brought some of that youthful, Kick-Ass fun back to the franchise with First Class (and who’s new comic-based flick Kingsman: The Secret Service may be atop my list for this fall) – who re-energized the characters with a dynamic cast, deserve immense credit for making such a large superhero movie so easily digestible to all types of viewers. I am a realist. I in no way mean to say this film deserves awards or overdone adulation, merely the proper credit. We get so much garbage each summer, so much bad shoved at us by studios (sadly, you will have to sit through a Transformers 4 trailer, which I, along with others soundly booed), it feels nice from time to time to feel like those behind summer popcorn fun put some thought into what makes something summer popcorn fun. Well paced, well acted and fun, X-Men: Days of Future Past is worth seeing for fans of movies of all sorts, and very much worth any comic fan’s time.