Before Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man or Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Bryan Singer arguably kick started the Marvel cinematic universe with his 2000 film X-Men. In 2003, Singer followed with fan favorite X2: X-Men United before Brett Ratner crapped out with 2006’s reviled X-Men: Last Stand (we won’t talk about X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Luckily, in 2011, fans got a chance to see the X-Men in action again with Matthew Vaughn’s snazzy and lucrative reboot X-Men: First Class.
Bryan Singer returns with X-Men: Days of Future Past. The title teased that the story would follow the legendary Uncanny X-Men #141-#142 comic storyline “Days of Future Past” and feature Singer’s original cast as well as the First Class team. Sadly, rather than being set in a post apocalyptic future, the majority of Days of Future Past is just a pretty workmanlike, albeit decent, sequel to X-Men: First Class that is set firmly in the early 70s.
To make a long story short, the movie opens in the future which is pretty sucky for the X-Men due to mutant killing robots called Sentinels. Professor X shows up and says, “Wolverine, we need to send your brain back in time so you can stop the humans creating these robots!” and Wolverine says, “OK bub!” and as fast as you can say naugahyde… Wolverine finds himself in the 1970s in a pretty by the numbers sequel to X-Men: First Class. There are no bad guys, just bad haircuts.
Most of the antagonists in this movie are portrayed as well intentioned but misunderstood and that’s kind of boring. The closest thing we get to a bad guy is Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels, wasting his talent in this movie as a creepy scientist who needs mutant DNA to build killer robots.
1970s Professor X (James McAvoy) mostly mopes around over his failed romance with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and his failed bromance with Magento (Michael Fassbender) and aside from a great little bit with a speedy mutant called Quicksilver, the plot moves along for the inevitable showdown in Washington D.C. which involves President Richard Nixon (seriously).
The promotional material for this movie hyped the “future” versions of the X-Men in sci-fi armor and apocalyptic battles, but these scenes in this movie really just serve as bookends to the main 70s plotline. It’s also pretty obvious that this footage was shot very quickly on a set with the original actors and as such they really don’t get much to do other than be cannon fodder for the Sentinels.
It’s not all bad though, Singer obviously knows how to make an effects laden movie and he has some nice tricks simulating 70s film stock to give the action a sense of verisimilitude. Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Michael Fassbender give the movie some much needed gravitas and it is nice to see the entire original X-Men cast make an appearance to wrap things up in the end in a neat finale.
For die hard comic book fans, look out for cameos by legendary Uncanny X-Men writers Chris Claremont and Len Wein. There is also the now obligatory end credits scene promising more X-Men movies to come, as if there were any doubt.