Let the record show that I am not a fanboy of comic book film adaptations at all. That being said, I do enjoy the medium of comic books quite a bit whenever I get around to reading one, with there being some storylines I follow with some enthusiasm and I even have a very modest collection of issues at my home. But I still don’t get uncontrollable with excitement everytime a new film based on a comic book property is announced, and I’ve also been quite critical of the new fad of ‘expanded universes’ within the genre filmmaking sphere lately. Additionally, the recently announced slates of DC and Marvel Studios having planned all their future film releases into the next decade positively makes my head spin and sends me running for the hills in search of the nearest art-house theater that’s playing Force Majeure or Birdman.
Having gotten all of that out of the way, X-Men: Days of Future Past thankfully has no such agenda regarding the setting up of future sequels or advertising the existence of other, unrelated properties. First and foremost, its highest priority lays in telling a good story, and the further development of its characters, which is one of the many aspects that elevates this film among the majority of its more recent superhero film compatriots.
Plot-wise, things get a bit complicated this time around. Loosely based on one of the most famous storylines in the history of the X-Men comics, we follow what’s left of the mutants in a post apocalyptic future where their kind is being systematically wiped out by weaponized robots called Sentinels. In a last-ditch to set things right and potentially stop things from going so terribly south, Wolverine is sent back in time to bring together the younger versions of Xavier and Magneto, to stop Mystique from accidentally setting this whole future into motion by giving the government a reason to get behind the Sentinel project in the first place.
Fourteen years since its initial release and Bryan Singer’s original X-Men film still remains one of the more restrained, mature stabs at the genre since the whole comic book craze kicked in. And that signature sense of mood and atmosphere is kept mostly intact here, while adding a workable upgrade in scope to a 2010’s-friendly sense of large scaled blockbuster filmmaking. But what keeps all the action and set-pieces consistently engaging is the emotional weight behind them. In a refreshing change of pace from the endless parade of nauseating, boring action in the finales of such recent superhero films as The Avengers and Man of Steel, this film culminates in the drama set up in the previous films, with the final battle being between two conflicting ideologies, rather than a contest of who can punch the hardest, or shoot the fastest.
And after being seven films into this franchise, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is at long last no longer the center focus of the story. That isn’t to say that Jackman isn’t perfectly suited for the role, which of course he is. But once the plot starts to get rolling, the focus begins to steadily shift to the likes the younger versions of Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique, which is all for the betterment of the story – heck, Wolverine is all but taken out of the final confrontation. In particular, James McAvoy as young Xavier sells the hell out of his role and is the one who really walks away with this entire film (he he). There isn’t a single weak link among the cast (even the usually weaksauce Halle Berry is put to good use, with only a handful of lines), but at the end of the day, McAvoy is the one who gives the most powerful performance out of the entire ensemble, though that’s also probably to do with his character being given the meatiest arc out of everyone.
In conclusion, out of all the films where President Nixon is tricked into using a giant robot army to unwittingly enslave all of humanity, this one is definitely in the top three.