I have to be honest. I have had major doubts about this film ever since it was announced. I loved ‘XMen: First Class’. Going back to the origin of the characters and universe with a whole new and fresh cast was genius. The story was spot on and creating a credible world where Mutants could actually exist and removing the cheesy naff style of the original XMen film series which for me ‘Last Stand’ highlight everything that was wrong with the series. So when I heard that the excellent cast of ‘First Class’ was to be joined by the original cast of the XMen films in one of the biggest comic book stories in the XMen Universe, I had big doubts. ‘Days of Future Past’ had a lot to prove to me and many other fans, so did the film get the job done?
I wont give any spoilers about the film’s plot and key moments but I do want to give my thoughts on why ‘Days of Future Past’ not only appeased my concerns but actually stands up to be perhaps the best of the XMen films, including first class. For those not familiar with the comic book story, Days of Future Past is a story that connects the past of the Xmen and their future all in one story. It was always going to be a tricky task to fit such a story into one film.
The film starts by showing us the future. A Future where the Earth has been ravaged by a war against the Mutants, with only a handful still standing against the dangerous Sentinels, large robots designed for one purpose, to hunt down and kill all Mutants. The only solution is for someone to go back in time, and change the one key moment that led to all the events that caused the war to happen in the first place. In the original comic book story it is the character of Bishop that is sent back on this mission. For the film, and not for the first time, the character of Logan (Wolverine) is the only one capable of surviving the sending of his conscious back through time, into his younger body, tasked with getting the original XMen together to change the course of history and prevent the war and annihilation of both humanity and Mutant kind in the future.
The decision to use the cast of ‘Xmen: First Class’ for the bulk of this story and film is a good one. First Class was set in the 1960’s and the setting and time suited the telling of their character’s origins as well as introducing the world to Mutant’s and their powers for the first time. ‘Days of Future Past’ jumps them forward into the early 1970’s, a much different time in the world. The film quickly uses Wolverine as the vehicle to catch us up on what has happened since the closing moments of First Class and where all the different characters are. I will admit, Hugh Jackman blends in with the original cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Holt ( Professor X, Magneto and Beast) beautifully well. It is not long before their interactions lead to great dialogue for the characters as well as genuinely funny moments as Logan, having known their older selves, now gets to meet them as their younger selves who are meeting him for the first time.
McAvoy is just superb once again as Charles Xavier with a performance is that by far more vibrant than Sir Patrick Stewart had the chance to give in the original XMen Series as Professor X. For me it is the very reason why the cast of First Class outshone those from the original films in so many ways. McAvoy gets to show a full range of emotions as a younger Charles. The same goes for Fassbender as Magneto compared to Ian McKellen’s performance in the original films. That is not a judgement on the actors, as the material for the original XMen films were very limiting to them in terms of what they could perform as the characters. But for me, ‘Days of Future Past’ only works because of the talent of the new cast.
Jennifer Laurence returning as Mystique plays a big role in the story and once again her performance steals the screen in her dialogue exchanges with both Fassbender as Magento and McAvoy as Xavier. The Character of Mystique has evolved perhaps the most since First Class and you can see the bridge between her character in these “early” stories and the Mystique we see in the later films. It is not easy to show facial emotion under all the make up but Laurence delivers every time she is on-screen and really gives the story and film the extra kick it needs. As one of the key characters in the story, Laurence holds the camera and screen time well, clearly the advantage of her time as a leading lady in ‘The Hunger Games’ and as a team character in ‘American Hustle’. Laurence will be key to how the series of XMen films continues.
Like First Class, there are big set pieces that showcase the mutant powers in effect. In the future you will see the last band of mutants working together to take on the most advanced Sentinels yet, the much-anticipated ‘Nimrod’ class of Sentinel. Seeing all the powers in use is great, and while I only watch the film in standard 2D on a normal screen, I can imagine that 3D would enhance these scenes as well as on an IMAX screen. In the past, it is Magneto that mostly gets the big special effect treatment when he displays his power with some amazing moments that will impress but also for the story showcase just how humanity would be scared of the capabilities of Mutants. The film feels as big as the story its adapted from and that was a big relief for me as a fan. First Class was almost a test run to see if it could reboot the XMen franchise which it did successfully. Days of Future Past is a superb sequel which adds to that success. It enhances the younger characters whilst taking steps to move the series forward whilst respectfully giving a nod to the original set of films.
I absolutely loved this film, far more than I ever expected to. The mixture of original film cast and new cast works brilliantly on-screen with the focus more on the new cast which is the only way the series can continue in my opinion. Special Effects really bring the XMen universe to life and each character gets their chance to take centre stage both in the past and in the future. For fans of the original series there are plenty of great little nods to moments and characters that fans will relish experiencing again. Those like me who were jaded by the abysmal ‘Last Stand’ will finally get to see the original cast get a much more respectable outing this time round and ‘Days of Future Past’ works well to answer some of the questions left unanswered by the major continuity issues Last Stand left.
With ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ out this summer, ‘XMen: Days of Future Past’ secures the XMen franchise position as a top series for MARVEL. In terms of scope, it delivers with the same impact as ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and the ensemble cast work as well as an ‘Avengers’ film. If the tone, pace and big on-screen moments can continue for XMen, using the new cast, then fans can hope for great things going forward. The concerns I had were quickly allayed and was enjoying the story being told. It has the right balance of story, fan service and comedy moments that even if you are coming to this film without seeing any previous XMen film you will not feel lost but it rewards those who know the original films and First Class. This is a great Friday/Saturday night film, one for comic book fans and fans of the films.
I saw the film in standard 2D, but will point out that whilst the Future events are set at night so will be very dark if wearing 3D Shades, the big set pieces in the past are set in day time so the 3D effect should be much clearer defined. I would like to see the film again on an IMAX screen, especially for the displays of Magneto’s powers. There is a post credit scene that is definitely worth sticking around for, but it does come right at the end of the credits so expect a rather long wait for it, but it is worth the wait.
I hope you all enjoy the film as much as I did and get to enjoy it soon. ‘Days of Future Past’ is out in the UK on general release from today, another MARVEL film we get to enjoy a day before the US Release.