Days of Future Past is probably one of those concepts that you’re not supposed to think too much about. The writers certainly didn’t, as the whole time manipulation is played pretty fast and loose and exists mainly to let us play around with the First Class era X-Men again. That’s all well and good, especially since First Class is now the qualitative benchmark for all future X-Men films, but beneath the garish flash and sparkle of this newest installment, it doesn’t seem to be doing much more than running in place, so to speak.
Based on a X-Men comic book arc of the same name, Days of Future Past is written by Simon Kinberg and directed by Bryan Singer, also responsible for The Usual Suspects (1995). Though the story is kind of a mess—I’ll get to that in a moment—Singer admittedly has an eye for action and the fight scenes, sporadic as they are, are at least visually interesting and make the most of each of the mutant’s various skill sets. The film, splitting between two distinct time periods, proves to be pretty well paced and keeps the audience engaged between the lengthy interludes and expository dialogue. The film stars and ensemble cast including Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult reprising their roles from X-Men: First Class as well as old franchise veterans Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Jackman, as per usual, is generally entertaining to watch and is able to straddle the line between hulking action hero and comic relief with ease. Lawrence, on the other hand, seems to be strangely distant in this performance, as though she could think of a hundred other places she’d rather be. Likewise, it always seems strange to me that McKellen and Stewart have such small roles in the X-Men franchise and are rarely, if ever, given anything interesting to do. With living legends like those two involved in the production, it seems counterintuitive that they’ve got nothing more then minor cameos.
Luckily, the film is more or less able to stand on it’s action and occasional moments of suspense alone, rather than ask the audience to invest in the mechanics of the plot. The standard school of thought with these kinds of shenanigans seems to be something along the lines of “they’re going back in time. Just deal with it, man.” Days of Future Past decidedly follows that pattern and asks the audience to suspend their disbelief to a rather disquieting degree. On top of that, the actual plot that takes place in 1973 seems to be full of half-baked betrayals and motivations that mostly come off as laughable. There’s a whole sequence involving Magneto threatening to kill the President of the United States and instilling a mutant-led new world order, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why he decided that this was necessary. If anything, it seems like such a course of action would essentially ensure that the mutants would be hunted down and killed in the future as opposed to Professor Xavier’s plan to convince the world that the mutants a such a kind, peace-loving bunch and are in no way a credible threat to the rest of the world. It seems to me like so many of the plot points just weren’t throughout through and Magneto goes berserk, apropos of nothing, simply because the story necessitates a villain. Likewise, the time traveling aspect is a complete contrivance, though the rules governing that kind of thing tend to be a bit more liquid.
Still though, surely the instant that Kitty Pryde sent Wolverine back through time, that alternate time line would cease to exist since he would ultimately be successful on his mission. Instead, we see an extended period of time in which the last surviving mutants must fend off waves of assailants while Pryde must maintain her focus in order to keep Wolverine’s consciousness rooted in the past. Of course, this is just an excuse to build dramatic tension and show off some of the more exotic mutant’s fight scenes, but a little internal logic would be nice. Be that as it may, I think now I’m beginning to strive to find reason where there’s simply none to be found.
The simple fact is that Days of Future Past doesn’t live up the expectations of fans after the success of First Class. Yes, the story doesn’t make much sense. Yes, the time traveling is kind of half-assed. But ultimately I’d say that X-Men: Days of Future Past captures the attention well enough while it lasts, though fails to move the stale franchise in any new, significant direction.
Rating: 3 out of 5