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X-Men: Days of Future Past Movie Review

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) movie poster X-Men: Days of Future Past

Theatrical Release: May 23, 2014 / Running Time: 134 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Bryan Singer / Writers: Simon Kinberg (screenplay & story); Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman (story)

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lensherr/Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven Darkholme/Mystique), Halle Berry (Ororo Munroe/Storm), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy/Beast), Anna Paquin (Marie/Rogue), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat), Peter Dinklage (Dr. Bolivar Trask), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Iceman), Omar Sy (Bishop), Evan Peters (Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Major Bill Stryker), Daniel Cudmore (Peter Rasputin/Colossus), Bingbing Fan (Blink), Adan Canto (Sunspot), Booboo Stewart (Warpath), Ian McKellen (Magneto), Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Lucas Till (Alex Summers/Havok), Mark Camacho (President Richard Nixon) / Uncredited: Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Scott Summers/Cyclops), Kelsey Grammer (Hank McCoy/Beast)
X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100  Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).X-Men: Days of Future Past ranks 24th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Fourteen summers ago, the X-Men made their first appearance on the big screen and became cinema's dominant superheroes, picking up the torch that Batman had dropped. The X-Men soon passed the title to Spider-Man, who eventually submitted to Iron Man, who quickly handed off back to Batman, who in 2012 was dwarfed by Iron Man and his dream team of Avengers.
Two years later, there's nothing to suggest that the Avengers will vacate the throne. If anything, the warmer receptions given Iron Man and Captain America's solo sequels suggest the brand is more popular than ever and certain to succeed again next summer. But that's next summer. This one could very well belong to the X-Men, who reunite in the part-sequel, part-spin-off, part-crossover, all-around entertaining X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The X-Men franchise seemed to reach an organic end with the aptly-titled X-Men: The Last Stand. Directed by Brett Ratner, that 2006 threequel opened bigger and soared higher than either of its predecessors at the box office. But it was not as well-received by critics or, more importantly, moviegoers. The series headed in a new direction with 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a spin-off film giving us the backstory of the most popular character of the bunch. Then, in 2011, X-Men: First Class hit the reset button and went back even further, telling us how the mutants first got together in the early 1960s. Despite a hot cast and exquisite reviews, the prequel set a franchise low at the domestic box office. Nonetheless, unwilling to allow their rights to expire and aware that the public's appetite for solo Wolverine adventures is drying up, 20th Century Fox came up with a plan to continue the saga and to bridge the gap between their original trilogy and First Class.

It's tough to imagine a more satisfying way of achieving those goals and breathing new life into what has become one of Hollywood's oldest active universes than what Days of Future Past pulls off.

Back in the helm for the first time since 2003's X2, Bryan Singer assumes the director's chair from First Class' Matthew Vaughn, who retains a story credit along with writing partner Jane Goldman. Credited exclusively to Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes), the screenplay draws from the best of both worlds (the contemporary trilogy and the '60s prequel).

Back in 1973, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) teams up with younger versions of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

We open in a dystopian 2023. Good mutants, like Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), have their hands full with Sentinels, virtually omnipotent robots with tremendous transformative powers. The X-Men can create tiny openings to jump from one place to another, but the Sentinels are right there behind them most of the time.

This near-future, oppressive for both mutants and the humans who have shown them kindness, must be corrected. In a meeting of great minds, including Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), it is decided that the one act that put civilization on this dark path was the assassination of scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) by Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in 1973. It was an act that changed the young shape-shifter irreversibly and which led the government to quickly adopt Trask's designs for building Sentinels based on mutant DNA.

Wolverine is designated as the only one who can withstand Kitty Pryde's ability to transport him back in time. The experiment is unprecedented, the 50-year trek being close to 50 years further than Kitty has ever been able to reach. The process assigns the 2023 consciousness of the indestructible, slow-aging, fast-healing, retractably-clawed Wolverine to his slightly younger body in 1973. There, he is to track down the younger versions of both Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), unify the friends-turned-enemies, and have them together discourage the consequential plot that Raven is well on her way to executing.

Wolverine finds Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters closed and evacuated save for the ex-professor and the young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), perhaps better known by his monstrous blue alter ego Beast. Both of them have been relying on a serum to control their mutations, keeping Xavier ambulant and freed from hearing the troubling thoughts of other people.

Locating Erik Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto, is a bit more of a challenge. He's being held in a maximum security cell directly under the Pentagon for his role in the JFK assassination. To break him out, Wolverine and company turn to a young troublemaker Wolverine knows as Quicksilver (Evan Peters), whose speed gives him an advantage over the most efficient lines of defense and the film its most crowd-pleasing scene.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) secures an escape from Saigon for her enlisted fellow mutants.

Days of Future Past is well served by its period setting, a feature that immediately distinguishes it from the majority of superhero fare. Placing us primarily in 1973 allows the film to utilize historical events and President Richard Nixon (a possibly overdubbed Mark Camacho). It gives the film an abundance of weight, style, and versatility.
Days of Future Past is able to briefly and effectively resemble a Vietnam War movie, a James Bond film, and a paranoid '70s thriller at different points. The film does not run short on creativity. It is continually finding ways to give us something new and different, a task that seems almost impossible given that these days a new major superhero film comes along every couple of months.

This exciting outing remains inventive and, more importantly, fun at every turn. Untempted by the breadth of the X-Men roster, Kinberg wisely opts to keep the storytelling narrow and economical. Sure, there are a lot more characters who could have featured here, some of whom are killed off in their only mention. But the most colorful and appealing personalities, along with the most talented of actors, all seem present and put to good use here.

You'd think after five movies in the foreground (including something as unfulfilling and random as last summer's The Wolverine), we'd be sick of Jackman's characterization. But sent back in time to change the future of our world, he becomes a suitable and sympathetic leading man. In the hands of performers as magnetic as McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence, the young versions of these similarly seasoned characters feel fresh and worthy of commanding the screen. Meanwhile, no longer burdened by the promise of The Usual Suspects or an obvious desire to make his name, Singer is able to avoid conventionality wherever possible and simply bask in and add to the legacies of characters he first tackled so long ago.

While I must confess that I consider First Class the first great installment in the series, I still find it refreshing and remarkable how easily I am able to now declare Days of Future Past the best X-Men movie to date. So plentiful are the film's delights that they virtually reaffirm my faith in the medium. Although I love movies and can think of no better form to occupy my thoughts and time, sheer exposure to so many (over 200 released last year, for instance) goes far to diminish my potential wonderment. Movies like Gravity, Frozen, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier elicited love and passion from the masses beyond what I could give them. But Days of Future Past, I can get behind wholeheartedly. Entering with optimism but no clear expectations, I left my screening entirely satisfied, appreciative that I finally am up to date on this series and admiring of how far it's come from decent but hardly game-changing pieces of entertainment to something that's basically guaranteed to end up in my top 5 for this year and to have my support for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

The experimentations of Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and Major Bill Stryker (Josh Helman) have far-reaching consequences for mutants in the future.

Although I know a Memorial Day superhero movie has no shot at such an accolade, I am hopeful that Days of Future Past will be widely appreciated by both my fellow critics and moviegoers. There's nothing in the declining returns to suggest renewed interest in the franchise and the addition of 3D seems more a formality than something of consequence to the bottom line. And yet, Days of Future Past seems to hit upon a dynamite idea to take the elements that have worked best and build upon them in a substantial way that please both diehard fans and those simply looking for a couple of hours of multiplex air conditioning.
Days of Future Past has that riveting, all-audience appeal you find in movies that have triumphed commercially, from Back to the Future to Harry Potter. Knowing how touchy people get about their superhero lore and that gushing critical praise is the foundation of most backlash, I don't want to oversell you on this movie. But I do want you to know how thoroughly I enjoyed it from start to finish.

Days of Future Past delivers some outstanding cameos you may very well not be expecting (a number of them uncredited and at least one not even currently listed on IMDb), but to say more about them is to spoil the film's most poetic touch. I will tell you that sticking around through the end of the very long credits scroll is inessential. All you get is a short clip of a character you probably don't recognize being worshipped while assembling the great pyramids in Ancient Egypt with his mind. You're welcome -- I just saved you eight minutes. On the other hand, if your opinion of the film resembles mine, you'll be in too good a mood to mind the disappointment of that post-credits tag.

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Related Reviews:
X-Men: First Class The Amazing Spider-Man Iron Man 3 Thor: The Dark World Men in Black 3
Directed by Bryan Singer: The Usual Suspects | Now in Theaters: Godzilla Captain America: The First Avenger
James McAvoy: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe The Conspirator
Jennifer Lawrence: The Hunger Games The Hunger Games: Catching Fire American Hustle Winter's Bone
Nicholas Hoult: Jack the Giant Slayer Warm Bodies | Michael Fassbender: The Counselor
Written by Simon Kinberg: Sherlock Holmes This Means War Jumper | Written by Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman: Stardust

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Reviewed May 23, 2014.

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