Dir. by Bryan Singer - 2 hrs. 11 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
Although it's been played out over a longer span of time, we're about as deep into the "X-Men" cycle of movies as we are the "Avengers" cycle. And while the Avengers movies have been more consistent, the X-Men movies have had some great moments, nearly all of which involve director Bryan Singer. "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is his return to the franchise, his first film since 2003's "X2." It's a welcome return, considering the source material and actors are generally the same from film to film. Here, we get the opportunity to see some of the actors from the first batch of films come face-to-face with their younger counterparts, from "X-Men: First Class," and it works well. Not "Avengers" well, but still well.
At some point in the future, the Sentinels have taken over, hunting down mutants and killing them whenever they get the chance. The Sentinels are giant robots, programmed to identify and kill mutants, the pet project of Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). The mutants are down to their last few, including Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan), as well as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry). They've figured out what the point in history was that unleashed support for the Sentinels as a government project, and have the ability to send someone's consciousness back in time to do something about it, but only Wolverine has the ability to physically survive the trip. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) sends Wovlerine back into the 1973 version of himself to unite the then vehemently-opposed Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Xavier (James McAvoy), to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Trask.
The story itself is kind of complicated, probably more so than it needs to be, so it's better to just focus on the broad strokes than trying to figure out all of the science-fiction elements. I feel like, if you were so inclined, you could pick apart the story. But this is also a pretty enjoyable movie, so the real question is whether or not you, as a viewer, want to get in the way of your own enjoyment. Thankfully, the story itself doesn't go in for treating another era as the basis for a series of anachronistic jokes (that's pretty much limited to Wolverine dryly being "impressed" by a system that's set up to record "all three" networks). There's bigger fish to fry, and once again, the issue is the ideological battle between Xavier and Magneto. For me, the most compelling material in the film involved young Xavier's struggles. To some degree, seeing Xavier struggling with literally everything in his life, and having turned somewhat nihilistic over the events from "X-Men: First Class," is heartbreaking and a fascinating peek at Xavier's journey, as a character. Patrick Stewart's Xavier is a full-on God - he's in control, has a vision, and is seeing it through. He's more than capable of helping others, a true role model. He's Yoda in the second "Star Wars" film, a guru that the others look up to.
James McAvoy's Xavier, on the other hand, is broken; his dreams have been crushed, he's physically a wreck, and has no hope or confidence. He doesn't know where he's going anymore, and doesn't seem to care. As a fan who's watched every film in the X-Men cycle, it's hard to watch someone who ends up such a strong, confident character who is a source of hope to many around him, and is nearly always presented as such, flailing around, rendered impotent by drugs (literally), failure, and the loss of those close to him. The greatest success of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is that the thing that needs to happen for the hero to save the day remains very much in doubt for the bulk of the film. It feels impossible that Xavier can become what he needs to in order to do what needs to be done, and his barriers are very human and relateable. Xavier has a real journey in this movie, and it's great stuff for people who have been on the X-Men ride for a while.
I'm not going to claim that this "X-Men" movie is a complete success. It's pretty good, and I'm sure I'll watch it again. But a lot of the focus is on long-term repercussions of one's actions, and that's something that's hard to make an action movie about. I felt like it was explained enough, and the foundation of the idea was successful, but I also feel like correcting one error in history doesn't mean that everything's smooth sailing afterwards. So maybe there's room for more installments down the road. There was one thing that Xavier said in the film that really resonated with me, and even though it came out of a time-travel movie, is something that people now need to hear. In a time where saying one wrong thing on the internet means that a great number of people will instantly, and forever tune someone out, Xavier provides the ideal: "Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn't mean they're lost forever." It's a timely message, one that the people who most need to hear it, likely won't.
3 / 5 - Theatre