“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is a grand finale to a spec of storytelling. Like that of “What If” or “Marvel: The End,” Marvel likes to look at it's universes as monuments of reality. They're spectacles of opera-like drama that can be torn down and restarted at will. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the same event for 20th Century Fox’s cinematic universe of mutants, but the allegories for puberty, sexuality, and racism have all gone away.
This time around, the focus is climactic, set in the distant future in which shape-shifting and mutant absorbing Sentinels have launched a war upon mutantkind and the few groups of humanity that stand alongside them. Mutant versus all is the setting, but it's a war that hasn’t gone well for the evolved versions of humankind. Nearly wiped out, the benevolent Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and former foe Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen) are left with no choice but to rewrite history. They gather a team of young mutants with familiar faces like Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Kitty (Ellen Page) and new faces like Bishop (Omar Sy) and Blink (Fan Bingbing).
Needing someone who can heal at a constant rate, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the only choice to make the trip. Sent back to 1973, Logan (Hugh Jackman) has to convince a younger and distraught Charles (James McAvoy) to reconcile with a younger Erik (Michael Fassbender) and stop Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) whose death would send mankind on a fear mongered obsession to halt mutant kind from ever-evolving past them. It’s a mouthful of a story, but one that is handled with a surprising amount of consistency and emotional heft.
The best moments of the film is when we are allowed to glimpse into these heroes motives and resolves. Like that of the younger Charles (James McAvoy) whose losses have amounted to so much emotional grief that it has driven him to a drug obsession. It’s not an ordinary drug though, it's a type of medicine that Hank (Nicholas Hoult) manifested to allow Charles (James McAvoy) to walk, but his self-guilt and self-hatred consumes him too much. Always taking too much, so much that it dwindles his powers completely.
It’s an emotional subplot that carries his character to the film’s most captivating moments, one in which he looks into Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) mind to seek advice from himself in the future. In the process, he gains recognition of Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) pain, stating “I don’t want your suffering. I don’t want your future!” It’s a remarkably crafted scene that is carried by another captivating performance from James McAvoy that gives Patrick Stewart a run for his money.
Logan (Hugh Jackman) kind of fades into the background in an attentive manner. Though Hugh has another decent outing as the character, he carries the plot instead of himself, rarely given any moments in which his character grows. The writers (Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn, and Jane Goldman) have so much on their plate that they forgot to give one of their most popular character any growth. We don’t learn more about him, but instead, see things happen to him. He grows to the same extent that the film’s runtime increases with every minute passed.
The massive array of character lends to a blend of worlds that is almost seamless. Bryan Singer carries this film with a remarkable outing as director. The visual can be spectacular at times, and the characters gain heft from the emotional conflicts they face. It’s like a lesser version of “Infinity War” in which the losses are felt, but are never earth-shattering. The camera remains quite colorful, and the seventies atmosphere gives the X-men a Watchmen-esque taste that evokes excitement. We lean into the screen, ready to be taken on a journey.
One of the most exciting moments of that journey is when we get to meet Quicksilver (Evan Peters). One half of the Maximoff twins (watch “Avengers: Age of Ultron” if this confuses you or read some comics, obviously), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is a charismatic and charming individual that is given an magical sequence that has Jim Croce’s enchanting “Time in a Bottle” set as the background theme. He zooms past in slow motion, fabricating comedic slapstick set-ups, and saving his newly found friends. Singer earned a directional nod for me with this one scene, a tough act to follow up. Yet, he finds a way with both the bombastic finale and the snippets of action involving these frightening Sentinels in this worthy and grand culmination.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is 20th Century Fox hitting that reboot button that opens up questions surrounding it's newest films, creating a rippling effect that can manifest more confusion than you would think. One example, does “Deadpool” take place in the same universe? Or is this like a comic book in which “X-Men: Days of Future Past” took place in the reality of Earth 616 and now the universe lives in the existence of Earth 821?
Either way, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has a lot of stories to tell, and it handles all of them in a fair balance. Some fade into the background and arrive without impact, and the time traveling of it all can become a bit of a burden, but Singer’s return is met with emotional heft and a challenging narrative that is brought to life by superb performances and exciting direction. It may take awhile for it to sink in, but go read “Final Crisis” or “Flashpoint” and understand where these kinds of superhero stories stem from. It’s a lot to digest, but it's incredibly riveting nonetheless. It’s explosive, consequential, and tiring. Watching the Rogue cut of the film can be especially exhausting, but “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is still one of the best depictions of this world of mutants, if only there were some Avengers to back them up.