X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

film x-men smIn effect, X-Men: Days of Future Past is an X-Men crossover with itself.



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When The Avengers came out a few years ago, I got into a lot of fights with people about its quality. This isn’t an uncommon thing to happen to me, but usually in these scenarios I hate a movie everyone else likes. With The Avengers, it was that I thought it was just okay, where everyone else loved it; I didn’t like it “enough” was all. One person I talked to suggested that perhaps why everyone loved The Avengers so much is because it has a bunch of superheroes, and they’re all superheroes the whole movie—unlike, say, the Batman movies, where there’s basically only one superhero and he’s only doing heroic stuff maybe one third of the time.

This argument holds water, I think, but my rebuttal to it is: What about the X-Men movies? X-Men, X2, and X-Men: First Class are all superior to The Avengers (vastly so in the case of the first two X-Men movies), and all have a bunch of superheroes who are doing superhero shit the whole movie. That is to say, I was looking for the new X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, to help make this argument for me, as I still find myself having this debate more often than I’d like. Days of Future Past is a fairly direct sequel to all of the X-Men movies that came before it (which is a trick, considering that First Class was a reboot; it’s not far off from if Batman Begins had been faithful to both the Tim Burton movies and the old TV show), and has director Brian Singer at the helm for the first time since X2. I have some reservations about supporting Singer in light of the allegations that have surfaced against him in the past couple of months, but before those turned up he was a director I often admired, and I think his work on laying the groundwork for the original X-Men movies is comparable to the quality of work Chris Nolan did in Batman Begins.

But, like the terrible X-Men: The Last Stand, Days of Future Past starts off big and loud and dumb, and I spent the first half-hour or so hating it. The opening action scene is long and stupid and mostly nonsensical. We come to find out that sentinels, which are machines designed to attack mutants, are attacking our mutants. Despite the mutants’ powers, the sentinels are pretty effective at winning, and things look dire for the X-Men. Once we get out of this extended pot-clanging episode, the filmmakers have an excuse for what has to be the most hackneyed plot from any of the X-Men movies: They have to send Wolverine back in time to 1973 to stop a key event that led to the creation of the sentinels. As such, Days of Future Past features both characters and actors from the original X-Men movies and the First Class reboot. As Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) switches from modern times to 1973, he interacts with all of the X-Men characters (and actors who’ve played them) from all of the movies so far made. So, in effect, X-Men: Days of Future Past is an X-Men crossover with itself.

If this all sounds terrible and contrived, it is. But once all of the initial bad action and bad plot gets out of the way, Days of Future Past starts becoming kind of enjoyable. This begins with some clever stabs at the JFK assassination, which reminds us how effective X-Men can be at weaving its own goofy logic into actual historical events. Also, not long after Wolverine goes back to 1973, he encounters Quicksilver (American Horror Story’s Evan Peters), with whom the movie has a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, the movie can’t maintain how fun it becomes upon Quicksilver’s arrival (partially because he disappears for unexplained reasons after a small amount of screen time), and is only intermittently entertaining from that point forth. There are other good scenes, and I still like most of these characters, but it’s hard to ignore the flaws, too: The action scenes pretty uniformly suck; there are some pretty serious leaps in logic (how did one man make eight of the incredibly technologically sophisticated sentinels in 1973?); it maintains First Class’s schizophrenia regarding who is a good guy, who is a bad guy, and their motivations for being such; it keeps Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in medium shot all the time so you can consider just how much of her boobs you’re really looking at; and in general, it just isn’t as smart as the good X-Men movies are. Also, some parents might find themselves regretting bringing small children to this: Despite its PG-13 rating, there are several fairly graphic deaths, four “shits” and a “fuck,” a naked man ass, and the aforementioned thing where they constantly tease Mystique’s nudity (which is, of course, nothing new to the X-Men series).

So the final verdict is that X-Men: Days of Future Past falls in the middle of the X-Men movies continuum: better than the two standalone Wolverine movies and The Last Stand, worse than the first two movies and First Class. But Days of Future Past isn’t going to do me any favors in that Avengers argument; I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding people how good the earlier X-Men movies really were. | Pete Timmermann

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