Simply put, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men movie to date, and a strong contender for best comic book movie as well. DOFP tackles an iconic comic book and handles it exceedingly well. It’s a daunting storyline, complicated with time travel, multiple casts and exceedingly high expectations, but director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg manage it fantastically.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Days of Future Past begins in a desolate and dark future New York City. Some members of the cast from the original X-Men Trilogy are on the run from giant robot Sentinels. They meet up and decide to send Wolverine back in time 50 years to stop this war before it begins. A story like this could become convoluted and verbose quickly, but Kinberg manages to walk that fine line and deliver only a bit of exposition to quickly set the tone and plot.
The time travel aspect of the film does a few great things to the story and franchise. It creates tension, real purpose and “corrects” some mistakes from previous installments in the X-Men film franchise that until recently has been poorly managed. Ultimately, DOFP is packed full of excellent acting (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender shine yet again) and for once, an X-Men movie doesn’t over use Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. As charismatic as Jackman is, it’s easy to make him the focus of the film, and in a way he is, but really he’s just the guy that moves the story along, giving way to focus on the supporting cast.
It is an ensemble movie and wouldn’t work without sharing the screen. The relationships and interactions are what drive this movie along and make it so much fun. There’s the right amount of humor and the best action in any X-Men movie to date. (The scenes with Quicksilver will be talked about for years and his spotlight scene is a demonstration of visual effects mastery.) Singer frames the fights in the future as if they’re jumping right off the page. Kinberg and Singer realize that what makes X-Men fights so great is watching the mutants work as a team. This dynamic is very evident as all the fights in the past are one-on-one, the mutants haven’t learned yet. It’s a small detail, but one that makes it clear that over the course of those next 50 years, these characters are going to learn a lot.
The supporting elements of the film are top notch as well. The set design, costumes, visual and special effects; all combine to really offer a complete experience to the audience. It’s clear that the vision of this film (and budget $200 million+) is grand. It’s meant to be epic and succeeds in hitting all of it’s goals. DOFP is ambitious, gutsy and fun. However, the most impressive element is the pacing. In a complicated story like this, with a huge budget and demand for impressive action scenes, Kinberg and Singer take the time for these characters to talk. There are slower moments that establish motivation, desire and understanding for the character’s actions. We understand why Magneto feels the way he does, we know why Mystique is waking a dangerous path, why Bolivar Trask (the creator of the Sentinels and played perfectly by Peter Dinklage) is motivated by the “mutant threat” and why Xavier has lost his way.
In the end, Days of Future Past really stands out as a story driven movie that also happens to be about comic book characters. While you could argue that the past decade has been overwhelmed by the comic book movie genre, there are examples like this that demonstrate that while the comic book may be the source material, the end result is far better than just another comic book movie.