X-Men: Days of Future Past Directed by: Bryan Singer Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage Running Time: 2 hrs 11 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 23, 2014
PLOT: Immortal smart-ass mutant Wolverine (Jackman) must travel back in time to stop the hate-filled Mystique (Lawrence) from triggering a world war.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of X-Men should be prepared for screen-time dosage; those who like Wolverine with metal claws will be sorely disappointed.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rather complicated comic book film in 2014, but certainly not because of its defining debate, whose opposing sides can designated by Radio Raheem's "Love/Hate" brass knuckles in 1989's Do the Right Thing. The idealistic quarrel within this civil rights action movie is simple, but the usage of so many characters within a single film, while trying to have adequate space for the biggest investments, is indicative of how comic book movies continue to expand at the risk of underwhelming entire characters. X-Men: Days of Future Past is a film that wants to eat many cakes, including a diverse group of characters, albeit from five different films, while giving lead hero Wolverine center involvement, while not losing the bromance arc of Professor X and Magneto that made the previous X-Men: First Class so striking. And all of this while using hate as the ultimate force of evil, amongst a drama that factors in two places of time. With all of these attempts at once, including the peppy introduction of an amusing new mutant who emblematically isn't identified, X-Men: Days of Future Past lands somewhere near the middle, without even its charge of spectacle to save it as secondary storytelling to the inspired X-Men: First Class.
A lot has happened in less than ten years for comic book movies since 2007's X-Men: The Last Stand, a very similar film to this new sequel, both within the X-Men franchise but certainly within the science of creating blockbusters out of these comic book entities. Most significantly, despite the creation of a laughably terrible script (pre-Dark Knight renaissance) it featured what seems common today, the presentation of characters from all different walks of super powers, but with distinctively limited screentime. Now that the X-Men films have returned with a new shimmer, in a post-Avengers time, has the way in which these characters been handled improved? Well, looking at the awkward spin-off planting in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and now how certain characters are handled in X-Men: Days of Future Past, it does not seem so.
The gravest loss in X-Men: Days of Future Past is the fortitude of Michael Fassbender. In X-Men: First Class, his performance as a young Magneto legitimized the dramatic story of a character and emboldened a back story that was once only told through the worn down face of Ian McKellen. With his first X-Men film, Fassbender showed why his talent was a special force within this movie. Despite this success within that film, the complexity of this character is underwritten in X-Men: Days of Future Past for the sake of getting to the bigger parts. Magneto remains antsy about which school of Raheem's brass knuckles he wants to publicly embrace, but this time his course is far less interesting. So much that when Magneto performs one of the craziest hostage situations shown in CGI film era, the concentration of his face does not reveal curious conflict, but a dude just trying to get work done.
As director Bryan Singer aims to create something different within the X-Men movies, initially centering its conflict around a personal debate of what is just (Do the Right Thing, indeed), the film loses its steam when coasting its plot on simplified entities. The rude charisma of Jackman may be a nice piece of nostalgia, and has something to offer in other films (last year's The Wolverine), but he exists here to be simply be seen, albeit with the story resisting to substitute his freaky bone claws. The same can be said for this plot' main cause for concern, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique. She reveals the film's definitive flaw, that by framing these events as hopes to win a debate, the movie takes a very direct, lean path until it reaches a "yes" or "no," all dressed up in a massive climax.
What X-Men: Days of Future Past delivers more slickly is its action, whenever it does budge for a thrilling sequence. This is the type of film where slow-motion does well for accentuating the spectacle, allowing the viewer to more immediately absorb thoroughly fantastical imagery. While its courses of action may seem small, at the least the size within this movie's spectacle is fitting to maintain it as buoyant comic book fare.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10